I was out for a walk this week with the dogs and ran into a woman taking some photos. Of course I started talking, because that’s what I do. In the course of the conversation, we were sharing some of our stories, and she said ‘you are so courageous!’
It got me thinking, I don’t always share stuff I’m going through or how I’m living, because it’s become so normal to me. She reminded me that many of the choices I’ve made in the past ten years are incredibly courageous.
This is the thing with normalising our own experience – it’s one of those things I often question about what to share and what not to share. It feels so completely normal and natural to me that it can’t possibly be interesting/useful/remotely important to other people, and yet I know how much I LOVE to hear others’ stories. Stories of triumph, fun, adventure, pain, trauma, love, fear, expansion, failure, success, ALL of it. It’s so deliciously, delightfully human and magical.
So how am I courageous that I’ve forgotten about? 3 1/2 years ago, I left an abusive relationship to land in the UK with $10 left in the world to begin housesitting. Through the process, I’ve had some magical experiences, and I’ve also had the opportunity to be isolated so that I could heal the deeply entangled trauma that goes waaaaaay back.
There are always multiple storylines going on. I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for not being more ‘responsible’ in the external sense of the word, and yet I’ve been deeply responsible to my Self and my soul, which needed this time to recover. It was courageous of me to say ‘no’ to abuse and walk away, without knowing what my next steps would be, or where I would end up. It was courageous of me to follow my heart even when there were times I didn’t know where I’d sleep the next night. Magic has a way of showing up when you surrender to the possibility of it.
Why did I stay so long in a relationship that was so toxic? It’s that same process of normalisation. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually, slowly over time, so that your sense of self is destroyed to be replaced by a creepy overlay that feels like shame, constriction, fear, or whatever, and it becomes the only familiar (and potentially safe) place you know. The isolation from friends and family has likely already begun, and the shame that kicks in is devastating.
You develop a loyalty to the story the abusive person tells, which over-writes your own sense of knowing and autonomy. You become their cheerleader and they become your reason for being. When you leave, you are a shell of your former self, with no confidence, no energy and a shit-load of shame that was never really yours.
The abuse takes place on multiple levels of your being because it is ALL energy. You cannot experience one kind of abuse without it permeating your different energy bodies. Financial abuse, abuse of your time and your compassion, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, taking credit for your experiences, dreams and work, triangulation, gaslighting – it creates a tangled web of confusion and self-doubt that lasts for years.
This was the only kind of relationship I had ever known, so it was easy to stay. I grew up with a narcissistic parent, and I believed deep within myself that I didn’t deserve to be treated better or to receive respect. I was DESPERATE to feel loved and needed. I was willing to accept the smallest crumbs. That’s my shit to heal, and I’ve dug pretty deep.
It takes a different kind of courage to speak out about it, and to stop shaming myself for the horrible person I believed myself to be because of some of the choices I made in the past. Now I understand so much more about trauma, and the way it creates a baseline of uncertainty and instability which is not a great start to make healthy decisions.
And I am taking time every day to honour my courage. That I have the courage to take ownership of my energy in order to keep trying to connect with others. To make amends where I can and keep moving forward into greater and greater expansion.
I’ve done some amazing things in my life, and I’m remembering them daily. I’m an incredibly courageous person, who has travelled extensively and allowed myself and my heart to be opened by life in spite of (and because of) the pain I’ve felt. I’ve kept following the guidance of my heart and soul even when it sounded crazy to me (and probably others). That took courage. I needed to become reacquainted with my inner voice, and remember it is not the same as the super-imposed inner critic that comes of abuse.
One of the different storylines is that through the process of letting go, I’ve connected more and more to the deep knowing that there are far bigger things at play. The individual stories we’re playing out are vital pieces of a bigger picture of 3rd dimensional structures slowly unravelling. So there’s a constant re-focussing of the lens – micro-macro-micro – going on every time something new happens. It’s like my favourite tarot card, The Tower, breaking down the foundations in order to rebuild on firmer foundations.
I’d also LOVE to hear about your courageous moments and choices, if you feel like sharing.
~ Jenny <3