In the old farmhouse where my children were born, there is a first floor bathroom with a mirrored vanity. The day I went into labor with my first child was a glorious day of unseasonable March warmth. I was ready; I’d been ready for weeks. I walked in our woods and fields, and pruned the raspberries.
Although the details get a little hazy, I recall that things were pretty easy from about 6am until about 4pm, by which time I was walking around my house wailing like a theremin through the rushes of pain. I have few distinct memories of the whole process, but there are a couple, and one is of going to use the downstairs bathroom and standing in front of the mirror, hands gripping the sink, and saying to my reflection,
“I cannot believe I am going to do this again.”
My second labor began early in the morning of New Year’s Day – we’d been invited to an overnight party the night before and had wisely decided against planning to sleep on a floor two hours from home. Getting into the bath that New Year’s Eve, hugely pregnant and rather tired of the whole thing, I remember thinking, “I know what’s coming, but I’d really rather just get a good night’s sleep.”
And that next morning, at the same mirror, at the same sink, saying to my reflection, “I am so glad I am never doing this again.”
There are some things you just know, and I just knew. Little did I know why, but that’s a tale for another day.
The labor of birth takes over your body. There’s no arguing with it, no negotiation. No amount of “make it STOP” is going to make it stop. In fact, the more you fight what’s happening, the worse it gets, because now, not only are you powerless over what is happening, but you are resisting it and thus becoming a victim of it. The only graceful path through is one of surrender.
And then it gets more intense. You let go, you give in, you lash yourself to the mast and accept what’s coming, and the gale picks up.
When you choose to heal, for real, that is the moment you depart from the dock. It’s the beginning. You cast off those lines, you commit, and you have no idea what you just let yourself in for. The only thing you know is that you are charting your true course now, and taking responsibility for softening some of the cycle of suffering that persists in each of us as individuals and as part of humanity as a whole.
It is so easy to feel a victim of the process, to feel entitled to quick and tangible relief when you agree to face what is asking for attention. You allowed all the hurt and hardness to come forth, and then you don’t always feel immediately better. It’s outrageous, and unfair. When I say I love my homeopath, I mean it; she is chosen family for me. But I’ve spent many hours furiously angry with her for being the conduit through which I found myself faced with portals into the terrifying abyss, and then not having it be her job to “fix” it.
Because real healing tools don’t do anything to you. They allow your vital force to see the heading towards healing, and to embark upon it; they offer support and insight and expertise as a navigational aid, but all of us must ultimately stand at the helm alone.
There has never been a time, for me, when the answer wasn’t, first and foremost, patience. Presence. Staying with it. Allowing it to be revealed, and continue to acquire tools for navigating it, but with the knowledge that things can only move as fast as the vital force can integrate the work.
A less graceful metaphor than the ship at sea, but extremely apt for this phase of the process, is the karmic dump truck. We are all going through life acquiring detritus, tossing it in the back on top of all the stuff we’ve already tossed on top of all the stuff we came into this world with. We’ve got traumas, suppressions, misaligned moments poorly perpetuated; colorful and chaotic and increasingly repetitive, it’s all adding to the huge pile of quick-sand that’s growing back there.
Then we decide to heal. Either something forces the issue (a fast-moving cancer diagnosis, for instance) or we get sick of being soul-sick, and we tell the universe, “The buck stops here. I’m getting to the bottom of this and setting it free.” Your karmic dump truck has been cruising along this nice track of subtle dysfunction that has been laid out unconsciously by the parts of you that are stuck in these patterns, and you throw a Jersey barrier right up in the middle of the road and say, “I’m done with this delusion.” Every moment in your life has been exactly perfect to bring you here; it’s what you’ve been running towards.
What happens when you’re hauling a load of wet sand and you hit a barrier going a hundred miles and hour?
It surges forward and buries you.
The good news is, you’re ready to heal. The heavy news is, there’s a LOT of shoveling to do.
Take heart! When you choose to heal, you draw to you the resources to support you, and they are your lifeline. Doesn’t mean it’s not dark, heavy, smelly, and suffocating sometimes, but it does mean that you’ve made a commitment, the universe has acknowledged it, and God or Cosmic Wisdom has your back.
When you first find yourself in the mire, the instinct is to struggle.
If you struggle in quick-sand, you drown. You’ve got to take the lifeline, and relax. And then, miraculous moment by miraculous moment, you get increasing glimpses of the edge of the mess. At some point you’re on dry land again, and you can start shoveling it out of your life. New piles come at you sometimes through the proverbial fan that is a necessary part of living in a physical body on a material plane; occasionally you’re under again, then you’re shoveling again. Sometimes you’ve got it all managed on your own, and sometimes you are reaching out for the resources that are always available to you.
But at every turn you are exactly where you’re meant to be, because you’ve chosen. You’ve declared your intention, and that declaration will echo to the edge of the cosmos and beyond.
There are few promises I can make, but I can promise you this: When you take responsibility for engaging in your healing, everything you need will be offered to you, and it will get better. Maybe not always easy, maybe not always fun, but, as Byron Katie says, “Just when you realize life can’t get any better, it has to.”
When you realize this is exactly what you asked for, you are washed in gratitude.
And also sometimes pissed off and buried in wet sand.
There are many times I find myself standing at that mirror.
I can’t believe I’m going to do this again.
And life has never been better.