All This Fucking Peace

I long, as every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou

“One day’s worth of grace at at time,” I tell myself daily.  Sometimes it works and I’m all wiggly inside from feeling all groovy with my infantile walk in faith. Infantile isn’t even really an adequate term for the undeveloped and ineffective sense I have each day I navigate this daily “God-sparked ride on a meat covered skeleton.” (I have no clue who wrote that, but I’m too bleh to Google…so anyway…) Maybe my doctor is right and I am bipolar.  Or maybe I’m right and I’m actually experiencing a crisis of faith triggered by a spiritual awakening.  Either way, it’s a crisis.  Truly.  And as I sit here and write, I’m not completely sure if I’m on my way down the rabbit hole or on my way up out of it.

I’ve placed myself squarely in the middle of the most isolated place I could find and I’ve separated myself from almost everyone I know.  It’s time to find out the answer once and for all…Am I a middle-aged woman having her last and final breakdown before acquiescing to my incurable madness?  Am I a broken woman healing from  lifetime of emotional turmoil and damn-near-epic path of destruction? Are my daily mood swings the result of an incurable chemical imbalance in my brain or am I just experiencing a completely reasonable imbalance due to my recent choice to move away from everything and almost everyone I’ve known?  Am I doing the right thing for myself and my mental health or am I once again choosing my own happiness over the best interests of my children? Am I completely batshit crazy or am I more sane that I’ve ever been before?

When my old friends text me and ask how I’m doing, I’ve very quick to answer with my token answer “It’s so beautiful and peaceful down here.”  Aligned with my self-aligning quest to always speak the truth, I’m being honest.  My new home is beautiful.  And my new home is peaceful; a nine-acre tract of lush timber with fawns lying by my pond, extraordinary vibrantly colored butterflies, the constant chorus of singing birds, a comfortable hammock in which I can relax and enjoy all the beauty around me and, the real bazinga, the almost complete absence of the toxicity of human beings. Complete and absolute isolation in nature….my dream for the past four years.

Seeing this place for the first time and writing up a contract to buy it that same day wasn’t the result of my past characteristic nature to be impulsive.  I’ve dreamed of finding a writing retreat in nature for many years and, while there are some finishing touches needed to truly make this my dream home (read fish in my pond and chickens in a coop), this home and property are perfect.  My new home is exactly what I have dreamed of and planned for…the place where I could finally find peace.  “Lynette,” I say to myself when I struggling to be peaceful, “what in the hell is wrong with you?  You’re in your dream home and you’re still not happy?  I mean look around! How in the hell can you live in a place like this an not be peaceful? Look at all of this fucking peace!”

The truth, as I’m discovering, is that I can’t buy peace and I cannot find peace.  Instead the task before me is to become peaceful.  Just now I’m starting to recognize the error in my thinking I could obtain peace like a commodity.  If I had stopped for a moment to truly examine my expectations in finding peace by moving to a peaceful place, I’d like to think I would have made an adjustment…made things a little easier for myself as I navigated all of these decisions and big life changes.  But better late than never, I guess.  It’s become clear to me that I can buy property and a home that provides the kind of boundless beauty only nature can display and isolation from the toxicity of others and an incubator for my gestational faith and inner tranquility, but that is extent of my purchasing power when it comes to peace. My new home is not a cure…it’s a place to heal…a sanctuary where healing can take place. I am living in a peaceful place and I’m isolated, but I’m in the constant companionship of the one person who threatens my peace the most. And in order to heal, I have to meet, get to know and learn to love the one person I’ve hated most all my life…myself.

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to avoid myself and succeeding in the most spectacularly destructive ways by creating personas and existences built upon the expectations and approval of others. I bobbed and weaved and evaded reality like a champion until four years ago when I was right-hooked by life and knocked on my ass.  Looking back I find some level of grudging, and perhaps questionable in terms of mental health, respect for myself in the acknowledging the lengths I traveled and the stamina I demonstrated in maintaining a life, in the form of multiple false lives, other than my own.  Today, however, I have no stage upon which to portray a character for others. No more smoke and mirrors, no more costumes, props and engineered realities…only excruciating isolation forcing me to face, examine, conquer my demons. The only path to true peace for myself is to find myself…and be myself.

So each day, even on the bad ones, I’m going to remind myself that I’m not striving for perfection.  Instead I’m striving for progress.  I’m going to follow my original plan and read, write, paint and pray in a way that leads me through this existential crisis.  On the bad days, I’ll remember that I’m experiencing my own authenticity and forgive myself when my own soul itches in all the wrong places or feels blistered in the places it rubs.  I’m going to get used to my own company and learn how to feel comfortable in my own skin while I focus on the beauty around me when I’m having a hard time finding it within myself.  On the good days I’m going to take the time to reflect on the bittersweet blessings that have brought me to this beautiful sanctuary and just breath in all that is around me.  And maybe someday, if I keep focusing on the good and finding my reasons to be grateful, I’ll be able to say “It’s so peaceful here” regardless of where I’m standing.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

train-quote

In every situation a person can experience, I think a big part of whether that situation was a “bad” experience or a “good” experience is measured by how the person feels about themselves in the outcome. For example. witnessing and being a party to a train wreck would never really be labeled a good experience on the surface. However the ways various individuals involved in the wreck contributed to, were injured by or were otherwise affected by the wreck will greatly determine how they feel about the wreck itself. The conductor of train will feel much differently than the emergency personnel who arrive to sort out the emergency and rescue others from its aftermath; the former likely to feel guilt or an intense loss of job security for having been involved in the same wreck, while the latter might feel pride and even security in a job done well. The wreck has still occurred and it’s still overall an unwanted experience, but what individuals take away from the experience will depend on the role they played or the actions they took or didn’t take.

I keep reminding myself of this little analogy because I, at this very moment, am experiencing an emotional train wreck. To clarify, I am not a train wreck…but my train has been wrecked and as a result my emotional stability has been taken off the rails. There are a lot of things I could take away from this wreck – anger at the person who derailed me by betraying my trust, irrevocable determination to never trust anyone again, further psychological trauma created by unhealthy behavior in response to having my train wrecked, man-bashing camaraderie with other angry women, substance abuse and addiction, and (maybe the worst) a reaffirmed belief that my train has been wrecked because it wasn’t a good train.

All of these things are easy outcomes…they don’t take a lot of work or mental effort to accomplish. My anger is all mixed up and ready to be felt with a vengeance. Closing up my heart and never trusting again is instinctual for me at this point in my life. Unhealthy self-destructive behavior is something I physically and emotionally crave while “off the rails.” It’s not hard to find angry women who want to bash men and I could have an ounce of marijuana in my hand within an hour if I were to make the right phone calls. And finally, feeling unworthy, or “bad” about myself is my lifelong default – it’s not hard to convince myself that my train isn’t a good train.

See? It is very easy for me to take away the “bad” side of this train wreck and have it added to my list of life events from which I needed to be rescued or by which my children have been scarred. I’m very good at bad…bad is easy. Bad is my forte. It is the place where I am most comfortable and where my tired mind and soul want to run. What I’m not so accomplished at, however, is the aftermath of being bad. As a mother, sister and friend, I can be an exceptionally energy draining person in crisis and I excel at making poor (“easy”) decisions for myself. I am the person standing at the wreckage of the train, screaming and pulling my hair, jumping in front of and onto other trains, running around and bumping into others who are trying to deal with their own trains and generally making a bad situation worse. And when my own train has been wrecked in the past, like it has been this last week, those who love me have had to patiently contain me, love me, listen to me, watch me spiral out of control and finally rebuild me when I’ve calmed down enough to feel remorse for having made my own train wreck so much worse than it actually was.This is, without a doubt, the hardest parts about coming down from a manic love high – looking around at all of the destruction and the tired and weary group of my loved ones who have unfailingly come to my rescue yet again.

I am an exceptionally blessed woman to have such a strong and unwavering support network of people who love and understand me when I can’t love or understand myself. And also beyond doubt, my rescuers have proven over and over they will climb on my crazy train over and over in order to protect me from the damage I am prone to inflict on myself and my life while I’m off the rails. These beautiful people have done the hard work while I took the easy path for myself and I’m immeasurably grateful to still have people who love me enough to say “I’m still here.” Many people who fight mental illness aren’t blessed with such unshakable love and commitment. I can’t even imagine how scary it would be to be a train wreck in the woods where no one can hear you.

So here I stand at the site of my latest derailment and I’m trying something new. I’m whole, I’m healthy and I’m completely and absolutely capable of coming out of this wreck with a good feeling about myself and the choices I make for myself. In fact, if I examine the situation with wisdom rather than unbridled panic, I can see good within this wreck. My train has been wrecked because I was on the wrong train and heading full-steam ahead on the wrong tracks. It’s not going to be easy to clean up the debris of yet another wreck and it’s going to require me to do hard things I’ve never done before, but I think I can, I think I can.