“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. Resilience does not come from avoiding pain, it comes from feeling pain and finding the support you need to keep your heart open in the midst of it all. When we face our fears head-on, we transform the power they hold over us. When we allow our hearts to break open, we increase our capacity to embrace the inevitable changes and challenges of life.” Joanna Macy
I am in the midst of grieving and healing one of the greatest losses of my life. Everything that I put my heart and soul into the last three years disintegrated, except for my relationship with Eros. I am pretty damn certain my Sexy Man is the primary reason I am not losing my shit. It’s a strange paradox, Eros and I are healthier and happier than we’ve ever been, partly for navigating together the tragedy that befell us over the holiday season. We are learning from the emotional violence that destroyed our adoption triad and learning how to better hold space for all of ourselves and each other. We are gentler with one another and give each other the benefit of the doubt more often, rather than assuming the worst and acting out of that fear. We are learning how to care for our traumatized selves so that our pain does not rule our lives. And we are happier for it. While we’re navigating big hardness, we easily find joy with one another.
A primary aspect of my self care is focusing on the potential for post-traumatic growth. While I have come to recognize that I have PTSD related to long term and recurrent emotional abuse in my past, I know for certain that I have a much stronger propensity for Post-Traumatic Growth. PTG is positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or traumatic event. PTG explains my life story.
I transmute my suffering and pain into healing and beauty. That’s what I do, who I am, and in a way I think it is my purpose in the world. Or maybe I just need it to be my purpose in order to find meaning in a life filled to the brim with emotional hardness. Before I even heard of Victor Frankl I knew that meaning is vital to resilience, so I always sought ways to transform my traumas into some kind of positive meaning, growth and healing for myself and others. I was a single teen mom that partnered in creating a home for homeless teen moms at 19 years old. I kept and raised my daughter conceived in rape without letting that experience tarnish my presence as her Mom or her identity as a person, to the degree that she developed a relationship of her own authorship with him, her half-sister, and her nephew in her late teens. The Yoni Endeavor was an art and web project that turned my woman-based traumas into writing and art that reached thousands of people. I turned my stagnation with my marriage into The Conspiracy of Blessings, which likely helped catapult me out of that dysfunctional relationship once and for all. The Impropriety Society addressed a whole slew of deeply personal relational issues for me to grow through and support others in growing through – self acceptance, belonging, community, healthy relationship, vulnerability, identity, polyamory, power, all aspects of sexuality, etc.
I know I will transform this latest trauma into something beautiful. I’ve already started by focusing on the opportunity for growth. I may not have faith in some God outside of us, but I do have incredible faith in myself. I even have a recipe for this, a recipe I’ve been following since my late teens, adding and subtracting what works for me in my current stage of April-ness.
Ingredients for Nurturing Post-Traumatic Growth
- Daily Reading Poems that Turn Me Inside Out: The Return by Geneen Mari Haugen, The Sovereignty of Joy by Alla Renee Bozarth, Now is The Time to Know by Hafiz, What No One Tells You About Love by Omid Safi, and How the Light Comes by Jan Richardson
- The Wisdom of Others Who Walk Through the Dark With Intention (books/authors I’m reading for comfort and learning): Rising Strong by Brene Brown, Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, Entering the Healing Ground: Grief, Ritual & The Soul of the World by Frances Weller, Isabel Abbott, Marybeth Bonfiglio, and Jeanette LaBlanc.
- Getting Lost in Novels That Make Me Feel All the Feels – the grand stories and complex family histories of Isabel Allende (House of Spirits is my favorite), sci-fi and fantasy stories by Dan Simmons (the Hyperion/Endymion series is expansive and thought provoking), and the artful rendering of the extraordinary in ordinary humans with Alice Hoffman (known for Practical Magic).
- Music – All The Music. I have over 150 playlists on Spotify, some with specific albums and/or artists, some cultivated playlists (like Women I Love), others are a random compilation of the most recent artists I’ve discovered, or a combination of a few artists who elicit similar feelings in me. The current mixed list includes: David Bowie’s Blackstar, Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff’s musical love letter to Bowie (the string arrangements are phenomenal!), Jherek’s solo album Composed, Anna Calvi, Kan Wakan, Borns, The XX, Todd Terje (psychedelic mix of old 70s-ish lounge with modern composition and beats), Rob Dougan (best known for Clubbed to Death), Kishi Bashi, Fink, The Few Moments, Jonsi (lead singer/guiarist from Sigur Ros, one of my forever favorite bands), and Sia’s new album This Is Acting. It’s fair to say that my tastes run toward the unique and very far from the mainstream most of the time. Musicians, and artists of all kinds, that are authentic to their unique, surreal, and strange expressions resonate with me the strongest.
- Singing as Long and Loud and Often as I Need to Express All The Feels
- Time at My Altar – Prayers and Intentions Spoken Aloud
- Rest – Lots of Rest in My Soft Bed (especially late afternoons when my energy lags)
- Candlelight and Strings of Little White, Pink and Red Lights (rather than glaring lightbulbs)
- Burning Palo Santo and Sage – Purification of Self and Space
- Touches from Eros – Soft kisses, Hugs in the Middle of the Room on Our Way to Somewhere Else, Holding Hands and Snuggling as We Watch TV, Spectacular Sex (Every. Single.Time.)
- Reaching Out to Heal Other Relationships – My Sister and My Daughter
- The Grace of God Between Us – Kindnesses from Friends and Coworkers
- Honoring and Expressing My Anger Safely When It Comes – Trusting It will Move Through to Grief, Compassion, and a Greater Understanding of My Boundaries
- Letting Go, Letting Go, and Letting Go Some More
- Daffodils Breaking through the Soil on the Verge of Blooming – Knowing that Spring and a Million More Flowers are On Their Way
- Watching Ducks Play in the Creek
- The Roar of Waterfalls and Breathing Forest Air
- Taking Walks Outside with Eros (even when I don’t want to)
- Reaching Out and Trusting in Others even though it Frightens Me to be Vulnerable with Anyone
- Trusting Myself – My Insights, My Intuition, My Emotions (which are different than feelings!)
- Living with Integrity – Living My Values No Matter the Consequences
- Trusting the Long Game – Choices Made Now May Become Different Choices Later
- Following My Creative Impulses – Right now it’s (I don’t like crayons.)
- And as Always -Writing Like a Mother Fucker