The Soul Shed Blog

Tools for Transformation


by | Sep 13, 2015


That’s how I felt a good portion of my life. I was born not fitting in. I was different. Being born in an elevator should have given me a clue of the ups-and downs that were to come. Maybe it was my warning.

Being sensitive & shy didn’t help at all when at 12 years old my loving, self-sacrificing mother lost her long battle with lung cancer. I felt so alone & lost, like an orphan, despite being the youngest of 7 kids. I sank to the kitchen floor clutching her tan pocketbook the moment my sister & father returned from the hospital with the news. They didn’t have to say a word. The scent of spearmint gum mixing with tobacco wafted up from inside. The pain was unbearable. There would be no more of her lovingly brushing my hair, of me laying on her lap, or of her driving me to gymnastics every day, annoyingly jingling the coins in her pocket. I would have given anything to go back in time and not be embarrassed about the jingling and her baldness when we were in public. Anything to have her stroke my hair, dry my tears, and tell me everything would be okay. Anything for her to keep me safe. But I couldn’t go back. And it wouldn’t be okay. Elevator down. Far down!

From that moment on, the world was a darker, scarier, sadder place than ever. There would be no more of her telling me stories, making me laugh with her pills pressed into her fingers like little people, smiling and laughing through her pain, her nausea. No more of choosing from her wig, kerchief, or bald scalp. There would be no more love. I was lost without her and endured a deep deep sadness.

I retreated even more into my inner world and was punished for it by the outside world. Though I tried to be a sweet, perfect little girl, kids would tease me. One threw a stone at me, and another slapped me for no reason. I wanted to dig a hole and hide, especially as a poor kid in a rich neighborhood. I wasn’t invisible enough.

I’d to love to tell you all about my kind, loving father who held the family together in the aftermath of losing my mom, but I can’t. I can tell you about my angry & selfish father. I was physically abused only once and threatened a few times, but the emotional abuse was constant. I can tell you about the father who treated my mom like a doormat & could barely put food on the table. The one who brought one unstable woman after another to live in our house to wait on him, as my mom had done. One woman stole from us, another threatened and abused us. One even rented the apartment downstairs and her son started a fire in the neighbor’s house. Add unsafe to the list of “un”s in the title above. I wore my hand-me-downs on the outside, & the bruises on the inside, in my heart.

And while we struggled to get by on as much PB & J, pasta, and government cheese as we could stand, I had fleeting dreams of a better life. My mom had told me a couple of weeks before she passed that she wasn’t going to be around much longer and that she had saved up some money for me to go to college. She worked even when she was sick because she wanted a better life for me! My father, however, thought solar panels and a new car were more important. And so both the money and my dream were gone. Elevator to nowhere.

So how did I cope? Drugs & alcohol? No. Rebellion? No way. Not on the outside, anyway. Food? Well, sort of. I did what any other unworthy feeling 12 year old girl who didn’t want to exist, whose life was totally out of control would do. I became a perfectionist and developed bulimia. I took control in the few places I could. I guess somewhere deep inside, I thought that if I were sweet and nice and did everything right, my dad might love me. I. Was. Wrong.

Though I let that dream of a better life die for a while, feeling defeated, I DECIDED at 16 years old that I could not allow myself to live that way! I grew determined to make a better life for myself and that nothing would stop me. I had already been working since I was 12 to pay for gymnastics, but it now it was serious. I declared myself independent. Most of my siblings had already moved out, but 1 sister stayed behind to protect me. I finally left home when I was 18 to live on campus, determined to never go back to that nightmare, that hell-hole. I received a good amount of financial aid and a small scholarship. I worked during the school year and sometimes 80 hours a week over the summer to pay for the rest. Elevator up!

I did it! I had put myself through college so that I could break the pattern of pain and struggle. No more feeling sorry for myself! I had triumphed!! I earned a Bachelor’s & Master’s with a double major and a double teaching degree from Stony Brook University!!! Whoa!! I started teaching middle school Spanish and E.S.L.! I bought my own CONDO when I was 25 years old!!! I bought my first new car & got married when I was 28! Yay me!!!! No more suffering and struggling! I was FREE!!! FREE!! (Or was I???)

I was making a great living and I thought life was pretty good. I mean, I was stressed out, anxious, and sick all the time, but that was normal, right?! I had a good income, I started to buy nice things, and I had a loving husband. By all outward measures, I was very successful. Yet I was still unfulfilled. (And I STILL didn’t fit in.) I was MATERIALLY comfortable, but I was EMOTIONALLY NUMB and detached. I was having a near life experience! I wasn’t living AT ALL! Stuck Elevator beginning to short circuit.

And of course, the Universe was still not finished with me. It knew that I had overcome ALL of this struggle and been “successful”, but with an armor around my heart the thickness of poured concrete. If I didn’t let anything in, I couldn’t get hurt (is what I told myself)! I kept my elevator right where it was. No ups. No downs. And nobody allowed in! (Except for my husband at that time ;-))

Enter, Universe. Elevator plunged, concrete cracked! From 1996 forward, my heart continued to break. And heal. And break.  First my oldest brother, a suicidal alcoholic, died of heart attack a month before making it on the transplant list.  Then, after a careful 2 years spent deciding whether or not to have children (I was SO afraid! Can you blame me??!?), I miscarried twice and was told I couldn’t have them. A couple of years later, my dad died suddenly, unexpectedly. He had a heart attack packing to come up from Florida to visit. I never had a good relationship with him, and thought that would make his passing a bit easier. Boy was I wrong! Again! (Dumb elevator!)

There was that orphan feeling again. I was a motherless child and a childless mother. I didn’t have a house, and I couldn’t even get a puppy! I went into a temporary depression after each loss, and eventually came out, stronger than before. But this time it was different. This was no run-of-mill pity party. After my father died, I experienced what is called a “Dark Night of the Soul”. It would be 2 years of daily climbing the stairs at work, choking back tears and trying to get through my day. 2 years of crying, journaling, meditating, and taking Shaman baths at night. Two years trying to release the pain and the patterns of loss that were the tapestry of my life, a heavy, worn, tear stained tapestry. I even lost the ability to wear earrings and to color my hair. I was boiled down to my dullest, plainest self that I HATED to look at in the mirror. I was digging, searching, praying, trying to find solace, to come to a place of understanding. I was broken down completely into tiny little pieces of what I though was me, until all that remained there in the dark was the truth of who I really was.   

Two years waiting for the dust to settle, for the Dark Night of my soul to end. And eventually it did. I finally began to feel like myself, rather, I finally began to BE myself. To allow the real me who was hiding under those layers of concrete to begin to timidly step forward, to begin to walk my talk, to speak my truth, to live my truth. To stand (as)tall (as I can at 4’10’!) and embrace my corny, quirky, super sensitive, compassionate nature. To see what I thought were my weaknesses as strengths, even gifts. I had to go into the darkness to see my own light, to see my own beauty. Inside and out. Even gray haired and earringless. Just like stars, there are so many beautiful gifts that can only be seen in the dark.

I overcame my familial challenges through pure faith, sheer determination, and the CHOICE not to numb myself out. I could have so easily become a statistic, but I wasn’t havin’ that! What has brought me to and through this journey of deep healing as an adult has been the practice of yoga. I finally found a judgment free space where I could be myself. And guess what? I finally fit in!!! I found my peeps!  And through the various teachings in all the classes, I began to explore the idea, the possibility, and eventually the truth, that I am worthy and loved. And my discovery of the healing power of essential oils helped me to create a level of health I didn’t even know was possible.

And though the heartbreak has not ended, (Whaaaat!!??) I move forward with an open heart, an open, scarred heart that is richer and stronger for all that it has experienced. A heart filled with gratitude for ALL of it, for all the lessons my experiences have taught me. For the understanding I now have of why it all happened to me, or rather, FOR me. It took ALL OF THIS for me to feel my worthiness, to feel valuable and loveable and LOVED exactly as I am.

No matter what.


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