Sometimes, we are wise enough to recognize when life is handing us something to free us of long-held patterns. Sometimes, we circle around for years only to find ourselves where we started, at which point, we walk the same path until we have found what we need there and are ready to walk in a different direction. The past few months have been full of revelations for me, openings to a consciousness I could never have imagined possible in my life. I don’t know if turning forty changed something in my wiring, or if it was just time to wake up. What I do know is that today, when I was talking with the amazing coach I’ve been seeing about what I’ve been working with and am ready to let go of, the two words that leaped into my head were “self hatred.”
For months, I have struggled to find words for what is happening inside of me, waiting for language to take root and rise out of my throat. I have been terrible at returning emails, have had little insight to record in my journal. I have just been aware that everything is changing rapidly, with such depth that I have no idea what might be on the other side. A dear friend characterized this state as “beyond words,” and that felt entirely right on.
I had no way to predict that I could ever feel actually, truly ready to let go of self hatred. It has been a constant in my life, keeping me from realizing the depth of connection that was always available, keeping me hiding in a corner instead of feeling fully alive and able to embrace the moment, no matter what other people might think of my presence. While it has been lonely to reside in the depths of self hatred, it has always been a safe cocoon, something familiar woven in childhood, a cloak I could put around my shoulders whenever the world felt too scary. Instead of acknowledging the risk involved in being alive and present in the moment, I shrouded myself in the story that no one wanted to know me, that the world did not need me to be here and it certainly did not need my voice, that no one would notice if I disappeared. I ignored friends who told me about my value. I squelched my own sense of utter disconnection through self-destruction. Self hatred has been a near constant companion, no matter what else was happening in my life.
Now, at a major transition, which is full of grief and possibility (or fear and courage, if you like), I find that the same old stories are not there to lull me. It is not that I am a terrible person, or that I have some unseen flaw that would alienate everyone if they knew. Instead, I am living a human existence full of pain, pleasure, joy, longing, sadness, loss, and the whole range of lived experience. Things arise and they fall away. We meet and are met, or we are not met and we must let go. Either way, none of it is permanent, and we don’t get any other chances in this form. I have had too many flutters of growth these past months to let myself retreat into darkness again. No, instead, I am choosing to embrace joy, fully and wholeheartedly. I find it in the twitter of birds when I am waking, the new leaves growing taller each day as the spring turns toward summer, the slight touch of skin on skin, the beauty of a simple meal, flowers left on the doorstep by a friend, the brilliance of the sky after the rain. Of course, there are wilder forms of joy that I hope to embrace too, but until those come, I’m learning to be with these small moments of possibility and connection.