I remember about three months after my marriage had ended, a family member commented on how well I was doing, how I seemed to have shifted into new energy. She was right, I had decided that I was ok. I had got my head down and done the work, and I thought I was now over it. At the time it was a refreshing feeling, albeit a naive one.
Whilst people often say healing or grieving a person or a life you thought you might have lived is not linear, I have found healing from anything is an ever-evolving process over a lifetime. I see healing and growth more as layering, rather than lines…bear with me.
My family member was right...
...in that, I had added a layer onto the wound and was now able to get through a day without falling to the floor, maybe without crying, and I could hold a conversation with people and really listen. I could talk about my life and the situation with a level of coherence.
But I had not reached the destination of ‘over it’ that we all believe to be out there. There were many more layers to be added over the years, through therapy and all sorts of other holistic methods. And here's the thing, the layers will just keep on building if you allow them to.
I understand why my marriage ended,
I have made peace with it, and I am grateful for it. This moment, and some of the moments that followed, were points in my life which cracked me wide open. Yet, in sharing my story through my show, it has meant that others have opened up to me about their stories, and I now know we all have moments in life which will crack us open. None of us are getting out of this life unscathed.
But we do all have a choice, we can either face what's inside after this massive exposure, or we can paper over the crack with distractions, or try to ignore it completely by numbing ourselves to it. I have tried all methods and each time been reminded that it will simply manifest somewhere else. Similar to anytime I’ve ever worn shapewear. Sure, it makes my tummy flat (in the best case scenario), but the flesh just gets pushed elsewhere and I spend the entire time in agony - hence why I have knocked shapewear on the head, my tummy was never flat,
I’m done trying to convince people otherwise.
I have exchanged enough stories over the years to understand that the most courageous thing I have ever done (aside from letting my tummy hang out), is to sit with the mess rather than sweep it under the rug. It isn’t the easiest option, but it is worth it, and I can confirm, it is a choice.
When my Dad died, I had a similar feeling of being cracked wide open, (again!). After initially pushing those feelings down and having them manifest in all manner of other ways, like anxious thoughts or living in the past, I remembered I already had the knowledge that I needed to sit with this. I needed to explore all the feelings and be gentle with myself. I also knew, not because someone had told me, but because I had lived this before, that it would pass. I wouldn't always feel this way. It was comforting.
There was an upside to being cracked wide open,
to being exposed and feeling everything. It turns out that my capacity to feel and let the pain in would not only ease my own suffering, but would also match my capacity to feel and let the joy in. And connecting with myself fully, whatever the feeling was, would ground me in the present moment.
My ability to connect to others was also in direct correlation to how much I did with myself. That thought alone kept me going because I want to connect to my people, especially my children, in the deepest and most profound way. So on the hard days, when I felt like I couldn’t show up for myself, I did, because it meant that I was showing up for them.
Motherhood is by far the most guilt-inducing experience and I am not getting it all right, but I am trying and I can say there hasn’t been a day gone by where I haven't shown up for them. I think as mothers we can forget all the things we got right and focus only on where we fell short, because we live in a society that benefits from that hugely. If you have a day like that, or even just a moment, bear in mind that showing up is enough. It’s all they need.
There is this moment, when the kids wake up, at the crack of dawn of course, and they climb into my bed. They cuddle in, lay their heads on my chest, close their eyes again and we all breathe together in silence, for about 3 minutes if I am lucky. And I breathe the moment in.
I breathe them in,
I breathe us in, this little trio who is about to embark on the chaos of the day, school runs, book bags, football kits, clubs, the lot. But at that moment, in absolute peace and quiet, it is just us. I am content.
Had I not committed to feeling it all, I know I would have missed this moment, it would have passed me by. And I would not trade that moment for anything, not even a long marriage.
But you don’t just arrive at joy, you have to choose it. And joy is different from happiness. Joy, for me, is a deep knowing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and it is sweet. It’s not anything outside of you, nothing big or grand thing has happened. It is an acceptance and appreciation for that moment.
For me, I couldn't choose joy if I didn’t choose to sit with the mess. I couldn’t heal if I didn’t choose to sit with the pain.
Healing is also something you have to choose every day, and part of that is addressing the things about yourself that you might not like. We can only change things if we acknowledge and address them.
How to do the work – Dr Nicole LePera
I didn’t realise that I would also have to choose to move on, I thought that naturally over time, by moving through life it would all eventually pass. And it does, to a certain extent. But once I had unpacked the stuff, processed all the emotions, and popped it all back in a healthier way, I then had to choose to close the chapter, to put one foot in front of the other and move on. To know my experiences, from growing up with an alcoholic father, a divorce, or the death of a loved one, do not define me. It is of course a part of the tapestry, but I get to decide how I want to create the rest.
I am sure life will present opportunity after opportunity to heal, more new layers to add, probably when I least expect them. It won’t feel comfortable, but I will remain open to them because it is only then can I put another foot forwards and move on.
All Too Well – Taylor Swift