Imagine a small cave at nighttime. Look around and enjoy the scented candle’s wicks dancing with fire, a big, black dog resting beside the bed, the pink Himalayan salt lamp sitting on the bedside table and colorful flowers threaded with twine and drying upside down on the paneled wicker screen. There is a lamp projecting stars on the wall and a lava lamp constantly changing to different shades of the rainbow. The TV is projecting the crackling sights and sounds of a fireplace in winter and there is a cup of hot tea steeping on the table.
This is a relaxing cave and a picture of a typical evening in my COVID-19 safe place.
I took refuge here for eight months. I worked. I cried. I read. I studied. I meditated. I learned. I wrote. I raged. I ate. I created. I went inside literally and figuratively. I went still. I pulled a Buddha under the Bodhi Tree move, but in my room with my dog. My spirituality bloomed like a lotus.
From mid-2020 to early 2021, I took the opportunity to meet myself. I had 2 choices. Evolve or Repeat. I wanted to meet the real me. The one I buried a long time ago. The me before I learned to try to please the unpleasable. To accept crumbs and think that was love. To get thrown a scrap and have that scrap ripped away because I expressed my opinions and feelings. Before I learned that asking for help meant certain abandonment. Before my voice was taken away if I said, “No” or set up a boundary. Before I learned that love is a transaction.
I took a headlong dive into myself and I found my shadow. She was buried deep inside. I saw shades of her when I built the courage to leave my marriage a few years ago, but I allowed my shadow to overtake me soon after I left and I fell again into “repetition compulsion” or repeating patterns of behavior which were difficult or distressing in earlier life.
I faced head-on the limited beliefs I have about myself. My inner critic is a bitch and tricky as fuck. She fought for headspace. I pulled her out of the shadows and she came blinking into the sunlight. Pissed.
My inner critic is large and looming and for a long minute, she tried to convince me that focusing on me was futile and to keep my focus external on anyone but me. We fucking grappled and slowly, achingly, guiltily, shamefully I turned to myself first.
“Paige First” became my mantra. I say it often and loud. No more self-abandonment. I raised my vibration.
When I wasn’t working and after a few months of beating back and negating my inner critic; I turned my attention to the Self-Care Wheel, I allowed the kindness of a dear friend and finally I started the healing work.
I don’t remember where I learned about the self-care wheel or where I got a copy of it, but I’m grateful that it came into my life. I keep a copy on my fridge and I make a point to do at least 1 thing for myself from each section of the wheel every single day.
There were some things on the wheel that I wasn’t doing and the imbalance knocked on my front door and said, “Hey, pay attention to me or I will put you into a state of dis-ease.”
“Take Yoga” is in the spiritual section of the wheel. Since the early 90’s, I’ve incorporated yoga into my life; like breathing. I didn’t realize how much yoga helped me to cope with life in general and in my present and past trauma until I didn’t have access to group yoga class anymore because of Covid. I had an inkling that yoga was an necessary part of the fabric of my life, but I didn’t realize it was my life blood. Damn. I went back to yoga class last week for the first time in over a year and I will never ever take the blessings of yoga to my overall well-being for granted again.
I had it all wrong. My long-distance friend taught me what it feels like to be in a relationship and not a transaction. I took a leap of faith during quarantine and allowed him show me what true kindness looks like. His communication was direct and honest from the beginning. At first, I thought he was boring, but that was the traumatized me barging in. The secret sauce to a healthy relationship is the absence of DRAMA.
Unbeknownst to the old me, a normal relationship feels safe and peaceful. Like a soft pillow to land on. I know that now and how it feels. It’s nice. It’s relaxing. How do I know?
My friend’s words matched his actions. We mindfully set boundaries and we didn’t jump them or meet a boundary with a boundary. There is consistency of timely communication, reciprocity and personal accountability for our actions. Blaming others never entered our space. He allowed me to not be at my best and showed compassion when I was down. He helped me when I reached out for help with stuff. He didn’t leave me hanging. He asked meaningful questions and listened to my responses with care. He carved out quality time for me and kept his word.
These behaviors were so new to me that I cried on several occasions because I was completely taken off guard by his respect for me and my feelings. I felt seen and heard and validated. All the hallmarks of a healthy relationship that I had dreamed of and didn’t think were real were present. He taught me that my needs are equally as important as his in every way. Many times, I didn’t know how to act. I was shook to my core. His actions showed me that it’s safe to be vulnerable. It’s safe to express my emotions. It’s safe to be me. It’s safe to be imperfect. It’s safe to make mistakes.
With empathy he said, “Paige, you would really benefit from some time alone.” He was thinking of the best future me. I’m taking his advise and taking the “me” time.
Most importantly, he taught me that I am loveable 🙂
It’s safe to put me first and to allow people to walk their own path. Ding Ding. I don’t need them to feel good about myself. It’s funny, the only part of my life that isn’t functioning optimally is my intimate relationships. I feel like a child and of course I do. I’m starting at the beginning and honoring the little me and doing what is best for her.
Well, we have a new President and the nation is working it’s way back from self-aggrandizement to empathy and compassion. Yay!
I’ll continue to peel back the layers of abuse from toxic relationships. Healing and recovery has commenced. I see the part I played and I choose to Evolve.
And fuck toxic positivity. It’s abnormal to be happy and joyous all the time. That was the “fake” me. She is gone. Blessed be. I stripped that mask off. I’m happy when something makes me happy, not because society says I need to smile and be happy all the time.. for someone else’s comfort.
I’m grateful for the things that passed during the pandemic and especially the time I took to be still and notice the amazing person that I am.