Rilke says to celebrate the questions.
A truth has circled me like a persistent fly, zooming in close and then away again. When I stare straight at it, it becomes momentarily clear. Then suddenly it’s gone disappearing into thin air.
The truth hurts almost as much as my perception of my Being Broken has wounded me, at least at first. Perhaps that is why we sometimes stay stuck in a static and gray malaise.
Recently the fragments came together – swiftly, an epiphany—through the help of a friend. What I had struggled for so long to understand now made perfect sense and then it was echoed by several other people reinforcing what I heard.
There is a sacredness in tears…They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love. Washington Irving
The last decade has included repeated seasons of depression, ongoing recovery from addiction, and spiritual upheaval. These were all things I had to pass through to become who I am today. I am grateful. Through it all I learned that I am resilient.
I have been stuck.
I’m finished with being stuck in regret, wishing that I had made different or better choices, and imagining who I might have become, and thinking of life with different parents or greater personal fortitude or less fear or more gumption. We don’t get to choose our parents or our family of origin with its dysfunctions and ghosts. It’s all too easy to look back and wish, wonder or hope for something unattainable.
I have lived long enough in the shadows of my father‘s rigid control and in the murky, gloomy regret of my mom’s life. I love them both, but I don’t want to become either of them. No matter how afraid I am, I will forge my own path.
Finally, I have admitted to myself that I am afraid of the future, of autonomy from children, and of a purpose greater than what I can plan or believe for myself.
The years have left their mark on me with many gray hairs and furrowed facial lines. I turn 48 in September and we’ll be married twenty-one years in June; we have three teenaged children and an adult child, who are all learning to fly. I love being a mother, but while my children learn to fly I will also grow some wings. I will search for my voice. And find it. This is frightening for me.
In 2001 I walked away from a PR & Marketing job I was proud of and was successful at by any standard; I was thirty-five years old with three babies under four. I turned my back on my leadership and creative talents. I hid them away. Now I see that I have been like the servant in the Gospels who buried and “protected” her talent and waited.
I accepted a lie that “Being Broken” was the metanarrative of my life – the only narrative I have to offer others, as if it safeguarded me from the uneasiness of finally rising up afraid of my authority. I began to believe the lie that I was broken beyond usefulness, because of the years I spent addicted to booze and healing from the illness of depression.
The hard truth is that my brokenness has consumed and side tracked me. I came to believe in my aching places that at forty-seven years old my life was over.
Every time I imagined otherwise or began to dream fear took over.
Finally it’s time to kneel hard on my father’s grave and say: Daddy, I’m sorry for many things but most of all for how I wanted to hurt you. But this bitterness became a virus in my soul telling me I am the failure you were afraid I’d become.
Only this hasn’t hurt him. It’s become my self-fulfilling prophecy—an obnoxious, stench of a lie that I’ve been living. I’ve been scared to open my mouth. I’ve been too insecure to believe I have anything unique or worthwhile to say or give. I have been waiting for validation from my dead father that will obviously never come and that I don’t need.
I thought I was no longer trust worthy. I’ve written BROKEN on my body; a lasting tattoo reminding me that because daddy said or thought so, I wouldn’t amount to anything. My father has been the Puppeteer controlling me, even now his power looming though he’s been dead eleven years.
It’s time to find another image to prick and stain on my skin! To mark myself with promise. I am a blank canvas full of dreams. I want to believe in me again, to stand up and clear my voice and shout, even if it is shaky and quaking at first. This new thing has been a long time coming.
It is also true that I have used my words and my pictures, quietly seeking to tell a story to help others. And in my little corner of the universe I have made beauty out of shards of my pain.
So I say out loud, I am worthy to speak and it matters little my pedigree or that more than a decade of my life seem to have disappeared like a vapor.
“I think I need a job” I spoke hesitantly to my friend. She asked why, saying “you’re an incredibly gifted writer and a photographer.” “My life feels wrong.” I replied. “I want to contribute. Perhaps I want a paycheck. And I am lonely at home.” I added this as an afterthought.
This friend brings out the best in me. The ME she sees, I don’t see for myself. I tell myself and out loud I tell her, “I am all these bad things.” And she gently laughs and tells me honestly who I am.
I ask her, “How do you have the courage to do something new? What do you do with your fear?” Changing the direction of our conversation completely, she asked the question that changed everything.
“Melody, what do you have that’s uniquely you?” Her question forced me to peel away truth from my regrets, self-doubt and fear.
It came quickly and quietly: “I have my words and my way of thinking. That’s what I have to offer. That I know is true.”
We all get stuck or believe in our own mediocrity. Perhaps your life isn’t quite as ambiguous as mine. But I believe this is true for everyone. As we face our daily challenges, we have to keep believing that there’s a greater and enduring purpose to our life. It may not be a grand opus we’ll compose. It may be much more humble and much less exciting. But whatever it is, it is important for each of us to discover.
It’s never too late. None of us are too broken. We only have today. What will we do with this day and days ahead, together they become our life..
Deep into that darkness peering,
long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting,
dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Edgar Allan Poe
Today has been a long time coming—growing out of distress, blunders, and discomfort. I still have a lot of spiritual work to do, but I accept that embarrassment and shame will be a part of the past and the future is a blank canvas. The uncertainty of tomorrow forces me to deliberate, knowing that life can be snatched away in a moment.
I’m uncomfortable with generalizations about gender but I wonder if this is a particularly female instinct? To have a proclivity toward self-doubt, a desire for external validation, (for me especially) a Daddy hole the size of the universe, to imagine that your life could serve no purpose and to believe that you don’t have anything unique to contribute. Male or female, I know all people experience these doubts at one time or another, Perhaps it is middle age that bring a wondering if your life could be over, when it could be just starting again.
Taking a decade long break from a career is a frightening proposition that is traditional to women. Combine that with my particulars, the idea of believing in my future takes faith.
I believe, help my unbelief.
I’m taking the first shaky steps toward a future still unwritten. My life isn’t over.
Perhaps another way to look at it is that I’m only forty-seven years old. It is time to dream. I have a unique voice and a way with words.
I intend to use them.