My Introduction to Mindfulness – Darkness and Light
I always dreamed of the day I would get married. The man waiting for me at the end of that aisle was my knight in shining armor, my protector, my lover, my friend, the father of my future children and the one I would grow old with…I think that a lot of us feel that way as little girls. I paraded around in veils made out of anything I could find, with flowers in my hair, wearing my mom’s high heels.
It wasn’t long into my new marriage that I realized that the little girl’s dream was disappearing like a wisp of steam on a creek in the winter. The man that I had pledged my love and life to was not happy with me. The strong-willed, hard-working, intelligent and independent woman he had married was just that, and although it had seemed romantic and tantalizing in a girlfriend, it simply was not something a wife should be!
I did the good Christian wife dance for a long time. I changed my hair, I changed what I cooked, I cleaned the house even better and found even cuter clothes for our beautiful daughter. I agreed to move away from my family in Dallas and move closer to his family in Austin. I threw myself into our new church, read the entire Bible for the first time in my life, found a wonderful mentor and set of friends that I loved. I was the volunteer of the year at our church, led Bible studies and wrote curriculum for the Sunday School.
Yet, it was never enough, I was never “right”. Words like stupid and idiot were sent my direction, in front of our closest friends and in the “safety” of our home. I should have felt lucky to have a husband providing for my needs, allowing me to stay home with our daughter, yet I was heartbroken. Slowly my confidence was eroded, my anxiety rose and depression was knocking at my door. In addition to the endless attempt to be what my husband wanted me to be, we had decided to have another baby.
We tried unsuccessfully for two years to get pregnant on our own. Remember, our daughter had been a wonderful surprise! A trip to the doctor confirmed that the endometriosis had scarred my fallopian tubes and we would have to try IVF. Anyone who has faced infertility knows of the darkness that accompanies the helplessness of being unable to get pregnant. It was a heavy burden on an already struggling marriage.
The blood draws, injections, examinations and procedures were all a blur. Looking back, I realize a lot of this time I was frozen…checked out…disassociated. With great joy the first embryo settled and our beautiful son was on his way! Having been a bed rest for five months with my daughter, being able to wear maternity clothes and have a life as a pregnant woman was new! I looked forward to this new life and had renewed hope that my marriage could be saved. The pregnancy itself was uneventful but tragedy struck on 9/11 and then the surgery and paralysis of my dearest friend due to glioblastoma. The reality of our own morality was brought sharply into focus.
About this time, I started fighting back, motivated by the spirit of my brave and beautiful friend who had always supported me being me. I no longer was a doormat; my soul just couldn’t take it anymore. Needless to say, this caused conflict with a man who was interested in control. I had the incredible blessing of being able to escape to my father’s home in Colorado, and there I found safety and peace. My soul was at rest and I could renew my spirit surrounded by beauty and nature.
My son and daughter were my joy and as they started school and I started working with horses, I noticed strength returning, but still the sadness and disappointment of my marriage haunted me. I was trapped, with so much to be thankful for and yet so much to grieve.
Grief. A word that I have just now come to understand, a decade later. I cried many tears in my 10-year marriage, but never did I understand it was because I was grieving the loss of my dream. The dream of a partnership that would last a life time. The dream of celebrating 50 years of marriage surrounded by my grandchildren. Looking back now I realize I was in survival mode most of the time. I checked all of the boxes to be a “good mom” and “obedient wife”, yet my soul was dying. Those days are hard for me to remember, which is another tragedy for me. The loss of memories of my kids growing up is something I still grieve. Now I give myself grace though, as opposed to guilt or shame about not being a good mom for forgetting important pieces of our past. Now I understand I was suffering from trauma, PTSD, and did what I had to do to survive.
This journey called life has many curves, valleys, mountains and pathways. Learning to allow myself the power of listening to my gut, honoring my soul and desiring to have a life that I live fully is a direct result of the journey I have had. Forgiving myself and forgiving those in my life who have hurt and disappointed me is freedom. I hope that sharing my story will connect with you all and knowing that life is hard and disappointments are guaranteed, but learning to live life boldly and love without fear is possible. Take that step. You can do it, I promise.
For my first timers, increase the quiet breathing time to two minutes this week. Keep a journal close and jot down any thoughts or images that bubble up. Remember, if you notice your thoughts start to stream, gently go back to breathing and listening to your breath. Don’t be disappointed or feel guilty, be gentle with yourself and allow your brain time to learn it is ok to be still. Mindfulness is just like learning to play an instrument, you have to practice! Next week I will talk about some activities that help!
For my mindfulness gurus, have you been able to clear your mind and allow for the space to be filled? A state of allowing? Are you able to connect to yourself, other people and nature? One of my favorite meditations is sitting within eye sight or underneath a tree and close my eyes. I can see the roots of the trees underneath me, along with the rocks and dirt, roots of the grass and flowers. Then I see the connection we all share, including the carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange happening in order to bring life. I listen for the breeze, feel it on my face and notice how it stirs the leaves.