I have spent the last week more or less completely alone (with a brief meeting with my mother and another afternoon with my favorite aunt and favorite cousin). I didn’t have to work and I didn’t want to plan a big trip anywhere, so I mostly hung out with myself. I exercised, I meditated, I cleaned the shit out of my house and I went to multiple libraries to spend afternoons immersed in the words of strangers.
I’ve never purposely spent a vacation this way before. I intentionally set aside the week for myself. Only myself. The timing of it was perfect because, since I’ve started this whole recovery journey, work has been getting in the way of really starting to recover mentally. I needed the time to myself to simply sit with everything I’ve been thinking and feeling. I needed some serious breathing room, just for me. I’m so thankful I got it.
During my marathon afternoons of reading as many books as I could (including some really, really dark novels that even my beloved Stephen King was terrified by – I mean, I can’t read about self-discovery and addiction all the time) I picked up – Broken Open: How Difficult Times can Help us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. The opening page has this quote from Anais Nin: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” As soon as I read that I knew I had found a book that was really going to open my mind and help me reframe the dialogue within my head that I use to shape the valleys and hills of my life.
She references the philosopher, William James who wrote that there are two types of people – the Once-Born and the Twice-Born. The Once-Born people are those that choose to stick to the straight path; they don’t want to veer off into the dark part of the forest. Their choices are safe and acceptable. If life circumstances push them toward the darkness that lies off their chosen trajectory they turn away from it. They are comfortable in what they know and choose to remain there even if something in them (the soul perhaps) begins to wonder if the direction they are heading is the most fulfilling.
The Twice-Borns are the ones who step into those dark and lurking shadows. They probably make mistakes, they may suffer loss and fail spectacularly. But they don’t run away. They continue to risk because to turn back is to remain tight in the bud. They continue to move onward, forward and through the darkness in order to blossom in the light that lies ahead. Neither one is right or wrong.
The idea of being or becoming a Twice-Born resonated with me in a big, big way. I found myself nodding and reacting to the words. Feelings of hope and peace and actual self-acceptance began coursing up my spine into my scalp and down into my gut where I know the truth lives. I am definitely someone who stepped off her path. I felt like the book was speaking directly to my misguided and troubled thinking patterns (the ones that tell me I’m too FAT and undeserving of anything or anyone worthwhile. The ones that have been keeping me tragically stuck in the dark for years), urging them to let me go so that I can find my way out. Apparently, the woods around my path are fucking enormous and dense. But that doesn’t mean they are endless. It just means I’ve been working quietly, growing stronger to focus my energy on finding the light that will lead me home.
And now I’m feeling more and more that I am perfectly beautiful, capable and strong as fuck. I can do this. I can fucking own this process. I’m going to recover. I am recovering. Ha! I love that I was able to write that without feeling completely inauthentic or that I was lying to myself. All I have to do is be consistent. I want to practice making healthy decisions and I will slowly make my way out of my forest. Sure, I have moments of weakness (e.g., finally breaking down to buy some wine and drinking it alone. *sigh* My count is definitely back to zero now), but just because that happened doesn’t mean that I am sliding back to where I was in January when my mother was in the hospital with her immune system at absolute zero so that the doctors could restock her cancer-riddled body with fresh stem cells. Back then I was utterly shattered. Back then I was walking through the days as if my mother were about to die. I focused on the only thing that would help me not feel the pain of how monumentally challenging nursing my mother on my own has been – alcohol. My favorite crutch.
I recognize now how I was using something outside myself to get by. I wasn’t growing or trying to find my way out of a dark place. I was allowing my difficult time to suffocate me. I was choosing to stay numb. But that was January. That was many months ago. I feel the growth and change that has been happening. And I’m proud of myself. I’m encouraged with the progress I’ve been able to make these past few months. The more I talk about it and know that others read these words – even though I babble a lot and sometimes don’t make a lick of sense – the more I know I’m not alone in this. And that alone helps more than I can possibly articulate.
So, again. Thank you for reading, whoever you are.