I’ve been on this beautiful and remote island off the coast of Maine for over a week now.
It’s been years since I’ve had a real summer vacation. So much time has been dedicated to growing my business, to raising my daughter. So much time has also been wasted in less than ideal relationships, chasing after something that could not be found outside of me.
A wholeness and a connection, that was always elusive has come together for me in the last few years. I’m walking through the same world, but in a different way.
The change has come from learning to “hold.” Holding, in the way I mean it, has to do with the act of not abandoning myself. Holding also involves avoiding the act of projecting negatively onto other people or expecting them to be responsible for my own unprocessed feelings or longings. Holding also, and perhaps most importantly, includes the willingness and ability to hang out with feelings of grief, anger, overwhelm without overly identifying with them.
Some people bottom out early.
Alcoholics and drug addicts often do. They know they will not survive without addressing their own ability to “hold.” It’s life or death.
The act of staying sober can offer them the gift of learning to “hold.” As they do not pick up a drug, or a drink, they have the possibility of learning to “hold.” In my experience, some take this invitation, some do not. This is the difference between a recovering person and a dry drunk. But I digress.
As a classic co-dependent, I’ve been around many of these people in my life time. I’ve loved and been in love with several…both versions.
Addiction to mood altering physical substances has never been my issue. It was always do-able for me to take them or leave them. In the past several years, I’ve chosen to leave them….I like my head and body as clear as possible. Even a glass of wine has lingering effects the next day that I don’t need in this ever changing menopausal body.
I’ve gone to Alanon meetings for twenty six years, where kind people there have spoken of struggles and successes in learning to “hold” with their feelings as well. Co-dependents do not drink and drug to avoid their pain. They focus on other people. Sometimes it looks like “help.”
But it is generally control masked as help. It’s an ugly avoidance strategy yet it’s validated and even celebrated in this culture.
When we are compulsively filling up holes inside (or trying to) by attempting to control other peoples choices, being too involved in other people’s businesses or lives, do-gooding, neediness, criticism, or an endless quest for a “perfect” love, we have thrown our essential self outside of ourselves. The by-product of this misguided action is that we are essentially unable to “hold” in our own core. We can miss our entire life as it goes by, while we focus outside of ourselves, on other people and what they are doing or not doing, being or not being, and demanding or coercing them to change. This is all an attempt to bypass our own pain, discomfort and the unknown in this lifetime.
Years ago, I was at a spiritual retreat in Estes Park, Colorado. One morning, in the group gathering, a man said to the teacher, “I had a dream that I was being chased by a tiger last night. I was running and running and running.”
The teacher said “If you have that dream again, stop running. Turn around and face the tiger.”
“Even if it eats me?” asked the man.
“That would be a delicious meal,” said the guru.
That seed was planted in me twenty five years ago. In the last three years, I have allowed the tiger to eat me.
Though I had been peeling layers of the onion for over two decades, this piece about holding with myself fully, emotionally only happened a few years back
I believe the final turn started for me, in earnest, when my father died in February of 2015. This coincided with my daughter’s graduation from high school a few months later. Life had radically changed and I just couldn’t continue to avoid myself at the deepest levels anymore.
There are days when I still wake up sweating and panicked, moments of tears, days of despondency. There are also more and more days of peaceful sweetness that I could have not imagined, if I had not learned to “hold” emotionally, in my own life. Days of joy. Days of awe. Then, more days of grieving, what was lost, what might be.
This is the rhythm. This is the dance. My focus is no longer on avoiding the hole inside nor changing it. Rather, the emphasis is on feeling the whole.
That shift has brought me freedom and to the place of sharing intimate love, with myself and others, that was beyond my reach, yet has manifested beyond my wildest dreams.