To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees— these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.Brené Brown
Last year during this week, after selling my house in Colorado and all it’s contents, I arrived at my beautiful new home in St. Croix, USVI. My new life was full of new dreams, hope, love and infinite possibility. My sweet old dogs and I were joyously anticipating island life, a simpler lifestyle and many happy years. The carefully planned life journey would be worth all the effort, all the goodbyes, tears, fears, all the self-questioning and “what if’s?”
I was confident and completely trusting in my deep love, strong belief and devotion to my significant other and our relationship. We were a strong team and we were in this journey together. How exciting, fun and romantic this adventure would be!
There are many reasons Caribbean island life is wonderful, yet just as many why it can be extremely challenging and tough. Even before the two Category 5 hurricanes in two weeks, lack of power for almost four months, limited supplies like fuel and food as well as a badly damaged house, an underlying storm was brewing. I will spare the TMI details, but suffice to say “paradise” was not as it seemed. My relationship, like peeling each layer of an onion, revealed more ambiguity, lack of integrity, commitment and many tears.
The devastation caused by dishonesty, secrecy and deceit proved to be profoundly more damaging and life altering than any natural disaster. After finally learning some very dark truths about the person I thought I knew, I chose to move off the island, feeling that the excruciating pain was too overwhelming on a small island where a life together had been built. My heart was shattered, my dreams were blown away and my soul was pulverized. The logistics of moving from an island with two old dogs, my very few belongings (10 boxes) and maintaining some sanity was daunting, to say the least. I had no house to move to, no car, not even a fork.
Angels, disguised as friends, welcomed me into their home in Colorado and away I flew with my babies, having no idea what steps to take next…yet, I needed to take stock of what I DID have.
- What was reality? I had my job (OMG, I was a wreck! How could I talk in front of people?), I had my sweet dogs, I had AMAZING friends, I had my always supportive and loving Mom and I had my health (although it needed to be strengthened for recovery).
- AND I had a small rental condo on the beach in South Carolina. And it had forks. And sofas, beds, showers and a coffee maker. Although I knew only one person in South Carolina, it has become my home.
With the help of a forever friend, I rented a van in Colorado and drove the 30 hours to my new “home.” Another move of my life… which was now down to 2 dogs and 8 boxes, 2 of which were ski gear.
What do you do when your entire world is blown apart in a day? When the life you gave up for the life you have is gone? When you are quickly ripped not only from your dreams, but the life you built in a difficult environment that now is more precious than ever? How do you find the strength, energy and motivation to get through each minute when you can barely breathe? When your heart is so broken with pain that death would be a relief? When even your skin hurts?
Whew. Take a breath with me…enough for now.
I’ve learned that you can’t selectively numb emotions. If I numb the pain and sadness, I also numb the joy and gratitude.
So, this I know for sure. Resilience, recovery and letting go is a choice.
It is gut wrenching, soul bearing, existence-questioning and requires vulnerability that will bring you to your knees. There is no going around it, only through it. It’s allowing, not pushing away, the surge and intensity of each painful moment and praying for any sort of temporary reprieve. It’s walking the fine balance between allowing others into your suffering, yet being alone to grieve what must be grieved. I’ve learned that you can’t selectively numb emotions. If I numb the pain and sadness, I also numb the joy and gratitude.
Though battered, I found the strength to move forward daily in several things:
- The faces of my sweet old dogs, who had only me to care for them. As they mirrored my sadness, I did not want them to suffer the fallout of this sudden event. The emotional connection between my babies and me is palpable and they can read me like a book.
- The absolute truth that I had been loyal and devoted to my SO. The secrecy, betrayal and lies were not mine to repair. I was not responsible for another’s lack of integrity and deep issues.
- The absolute belief in a higher power. I was enough, deserved better, and l was loved.
- Brutally honest and open conversations with close friends who loved me unconditionally.
- The absolute determination to save myself, no matter what it took. I had been through difficult challenges before and survived, and I knew I would again.
Recovery and rising more resilient than ever is possible… and new life, hope and big, deep love are waiting for that beautiful door of our heart to crack open just enough to soften and soothe the soul.
The moment of release, even ever so slightly, is the moment when unimaginable blessings begin to pour forth like a river with no end. Naturally, effortlessly, transparently.
Possibilities blossom from ruin. I’ve been blessed to find that to be true.
Suffering and recovery is delicate and sacred, yet ugly, all at the same time. (And if one more person tells me, “You’re such a strong woman, you’ll get through this!” I will vomit. Seriously. Stop.)
The universe has a way, although not always pretty, of course-correcting our lives, moving us away from people who disrespect and dishonor us. Divine intervention can be harsh, yet if we allow ourselves to be humbled and ultimately grateful for the experience, we find a life much more aligned with our heart values and purpose.
The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.Brené Brown
Unanticipated, sudden change may be ruthless, but it moves us closer to the gifts of our soul, ultimately saving us and deepening our life meaning. I choose to be “all in” my life and the risk was worth the unanticipated blessings I could never have imagined. Hope and courage are a function of suffering and struggle.
I have the ability to choose the ending for my traumatic story and I chose hope and new love. I refuse to be a victim.