“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
~ Oprah Winfrey
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Last Monday, in my Doctor’s rooms, I received the best kind of news. Although I am still unwell, I have definitely turned the corner in my struggle against Lyme disease. I am no longer dying. I am healing. My life is once again unfurling a sense of possibility.
On Tuesday we came home from the city to our little farm. That night I stood in my backyard and communed with an Owl. An hour earlier my computer had locked me out, and my other one had powered down, unable to be recharged. I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t be all ‘business as usual’. I managed to get one last message to you. I’m taking time out, I said. In my head were visions of relaxing, laughing, sleeping, a little crying, and complete replenishment.
This is what really happened…
As I stood outside with the Owl, I felt as if somewhere upstairs God, or at least someone with a plan, slammed shut another door in my life, leaving me standing in an empty corridor.
Behind me were all the doors I could have taken, and all the doors I thought I should have taken.
Behind me were all the doors that will never open for me again.
For a moment I felt peace. Relief flooded over me. Not dying. Healing.
And then, and I must be honest here, I was consumed by panic. I looked behind me at all those closed doors.
Oh, I knew that wasn’t the best of plans. But I couldn’t help myself. Even if I hadn’t turned I could feel them. The weight of them. The sound and space of them.
What should I do? Where should I go? Was it too late? Could I rush back down that corridor into the dark and salvage a few things?
How was I meant to do this next bit? What was my life meant to look like?
I couldn’t see any open doors in front of me.
The Owl on my clothesline hooted, getting my attention and pulling me out of the maze of my mind.
What should I do? I asked her.
Breathe, said the Owl.
It was good advice. I stood barefoot on the lawn under the moon, letting air fill my lungs and then empty. Over and over again. Eventually I calmed.
The Owl was still there.
What shall I do now? I asked.
Sleep, said the Owl.
Tearily I put myself to bed.
On Wednesday morning I was bright-eyed with excitement. My new life! All the things I might do.
I made a cup of tea. I sat at my desk.
All of the doors that were closed…
I shed a few tears.
I became angry. I shouted at the walls. At the bigness of the sky, and at the stupid smallness of me.
I pulled myself together.
I busied myself tidying things and making lists. These are the old ways I have fallen back on time and again to soothe myself into that sense of control, although I know it is an illusion. I am fine, I told myself. I am coping. Better than fine. Better!
That night the Owl was there again.
I stood outside with soft rain falling, misting my hair and skin with its gentle caress.
Owl, I pleaded, I don’t know what to do.
Rest, said the Owl.
I put myself back to bed.
On Thursday I breathed out. I mean really, really just let it all go. I felt myself break into a thousand pieces.
They glinted and shone up at me from the floor. It was not frightening. It was simply real. It was what it was.
I knew then, that I had actually been broken for the longest time, but my sheer stubbornness and momentum had prevented those crazy shattered shards of me from falling to the floor. I had only looked intact. That too, was an illusion.
I am not coping, I said to my husband. I am not coping, I said to the Owl.
I know, they said. Rest, they said.
I woke on Friday. Still broken. But knowing that too was an illusion. How could I be broken, surrounded by tiny glistening shards as I was, when part of me was still so solid and whole?
Awareness came. Just like all of the characters in my favourite books, my life hasn’t gone to plan. I have been tested and challenged. I have faced torment, loss and pain. So many of my dreams have been thwarted. There is still a long road ahead of me as I move back towards wellness. But the beauty is that the story of my life isn’t finished yet.
My dear friend, Kim, helped me to put things in perspective;
“All those things you missed… I know they seem real to you, but you have done other things that some of us can’t dream of. I’m reminded of Odin, who gave up one eye so he could “see” and know the mysteries of life. So he has crap depth perception but he can see things nobody else can.”
I am okay, and this is just how my life is, I told myself. And it was true. I was gentle with myself about the grief and sadness still within me. Life touches us all with some suffering. I felt the truth of my friend’s words, and acknowledged my psychic experiences so few others get to share. I laughed at myself a little, for the crazy ambitious plans I’d held for so long, for when I was ‘well’.
Those plans exhausted me just to think about them. I let them slither through my fingers and fall to the floor. I watched those plans streak off to find others to help them with their becoming.
The Owl was sitting in a branch of the old teak tree outside my window, eating her breakfast, as I sat at my desk, sipping a cup of tea.
What do you think? I asked Mistress Owl. This time I was comfortably empty. There was no neediness left inside.
Write, she said. Write.
Write what you know.
Oh, I thought. All the things? That’s a bit provocative. How might people react?
But all the while I was thinking yes, yes, I can write what I know. Who cares how people might react. I shall write. It’s something I can do while I’m healing. It’s a way to contribute.
Even more than that, as I sat with my decision, and this gentle new direction, I found a place of understanding within me. The things that I might write? I wish someone had written that book that for me. To hold something like that in my hand, at the times where I was breaking, reforming, emerging, well, it would have been an enormous comfort.
Beautifully brave Hermione Granger, with her head always in a book. Image from 100 Classics
And then my lovely friend Sally sent me this:
“Yet, I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That’s why I’m alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer, is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine.” ~ Ann Lamott
To help others make sense of their journey, through the sharing of mine. That’s something I am well qualified to do. There has to have been a reason for all of this. My job now is to reflect deeply upon that, and to turn my wounds to wisdom.
Last night there were three Owls. Teach, they said. Share. Help the others.
Mistress Owl is there in the tree outside my window again this morning. We went flying together last night, the Owls and I, and I had a vision of what comes next. There are no doors involved at all. We’d risen way beyond doors to a clear, open space. And it was beautiful.