I learned early in life how to erase myself.
I am the daughter of a deeply wounded, overpowering, emotionally out of control, boundary-less mother and a father who could neither grasp nor embody the important role of protector. When things got tough, my dad bailed – either physically leaving the house or hiding out behind a book or a newspaper, while mom raged, threatened, and disciplined my brother and me for infractions both real and imagined.
From a young age my mother chose me as her confidante. She placed me on a pedestal and told me that she wouldn’t be able to “do it” without me. Then, when I didn’t measure up to whatever she needed in the moment, she knocked the pedestal out from under me and I would come crashing down, in a flash brought as low as I had been high. This was a repetitive cycle throughout my childhood, with my father nowhere to be found for assistance or protection. It was confusing, soul crushing, and a setup for how I would enter adult relationships.
My template for what it means to be a woman in relationship with other women was skewed from the start. In my experience, women were not safe; women were not to be trusted; women were scheming, manipulative beings hiding behind masks of innocence and holiness. The only way for me to be safe with women was to erase myself and become only an extension of them – a mirror to them of the illusion they needed to maintain about themselves. I learned well how not to have my own thoughts, reality, voice, needs, or wants. These only resulted in vicious attacks for not upholding my end of the contract – to tell her what she wanted and needed to hear to help her maintain her illusion of perfection and innocence.
This belief became a large part of how I saw myself; it was both a cause and a reflection of my separation from my own feminine nature. It led to a repulsion and dishonoring of my emotions and of my body; to alienation from my wants, needs, opinions; and to developing a victim identity from which I engaged in co-dependence and love addiction in my search for connection and security. As an adult, this was my template for relationships – both friendships and romantic partnerships – and was a recipe for disaster that I repeated until the one that nearly ended me. This last one was my wakeup call – the awareness that I would either find a way to change this template or I would die – because I was no longer willing to live like this.
It happened the night my girlfriend of 15 months broke up with me for the last time. We had been on a roller coaster ride of intensity and had come to our final breaking point earlier that day – Labor Day, 2010 in New York City. We had spent the weekend together exploring Manhattan – an unvoiced, unacknowledged last ditch effort to “save our relationship.” A relationship that was built upon constantly shifting sands of approach and retreat, push/pull, and the usual manipulations that arise when a professional victim and a professional rescuer get together. A relationship that, while it had its beautiful, calm moments, became increasingly overtaken with the drama that we both were drawn to and which, for me, exactly mirrored my relationship with my mother. Despite my fervent belief that this could work if we/I just tried harder, the relationship crumbled under the weight of the unmet needs, unfulfilled expectations, and broken promises that had accumulated during our rather short time together. With it, my belief that I was no good to anyone took hold and I sank into a deep depression.
“Please, God, can it just be over now? Can I please leave here for good?” became a constant prayer. I wanted to die – and I wanted God to take me out. Do a recall – like companies do when they’ve put a defective product on the market. “It’s safer for everyone if I’m not here.” The abandonment wound that was created in my family of origin ripped open again and I could not see how it was possible to continue. I had proven myself unfit to take up space on this planet. Not only did I start to pray for God to recall me and let me die; I started to look for ways to help this along. Today I am thankful that I was not successful in this search.
I will forever be grateful for two things: first, the part of me that advocated for me to live; that knew a better life was possible for me and that kicked in strongly enough to protect me from my self-destructive urges; and second, my psychotherapist, who gently yet firmly saw and stepped into the teachable moment when, in tearful desperation, I sat in her office and said “why does this keep happening to me? And why do I keep wanting to die when I am rejected? I can’t do this anymore!”
I had no way of knowing or believing that day that I was exactly in the right place; that my tearful questions would plant and water the seed of my most significant undertaking and my greatest accomplishment: reclaiming my self, remembering who I am, and rebuilding my life.
What a journey it has been! I dug deep into the heart of what had given rise to my victim identity and, one by one, I dismantled the pieces of that identity. I acknowledged all the ways I had been hurt as well as the ways I had caused hurt even, and especially, from the place of the victim – a truly mind blowing and game changing realization! I felt a great structure crumbling inside of me, and I bravely stayed the course, leaning in to the fear and confusion that accompanied this massive shift, and allowing all that I had used to tell me who I was and how I fit into the world to fall away. It did not happen instantaneously, but in a slow and steady progression where I worked to replace each piece I released with a new, more authentic aspect of self – I was uncovering parts of my true self and I was getting to know each one in turn. I have deep gratitude for everyone who walked this path with me, who helped me remain patient with myself and encouraged about my progress when I was tempted to give up. I have utmost respect for the part of me I discovered to be “A goddess of rebuilding and reclamation” – what a powerhouse she is – unafraid to go to the depths necessary to uncover the beautiful treasure that lies at the heart of the wounded self.
I am grateful for the day I opened myself to this truth: in all my searching for someone who was truly trustworthy and capable of loving me exactly as I need to be loved, the primary one I was searching for all along was me.
I have come home to myself; I am my own best mother now, my own best friend and healer; and am learning to be my own best lover. I am grateful that, today, I am healed enough not only to have the beautiful friendships I have; also, to be open to giving romantic love and sexual expression another try – with whom? I’m not yet sure – but I know and trust that he or she is out there and ready to connect with me in just the right timing.
My calling and purpose to be a compassionate healer and to assist people to connect with their hearts as a pathway of finding authentic empowerment has been infused with new life, energy, and movement with the assistance of shamanic energy healing and the gift of circle.
Shamanic energy healing has helped me embrace my sensitivity and empath gifts AS gifts. I have learned and am learning how to care for my energetic needs and hold my energetic boundaries so that I can give to others without depleting myself. I have learned how to detect and cut cords that bind me to other people or thought patterns that do not serve me nor support me in living in my integrity and purpose. I have learned how to hold space and the great gift of holding space for myself and others; the power of being a sacred witness and assistant to another’s healing work without getting in the way of that work. And I have learned and am learning that one of my greatest resources is compassion – for self and others. This has been a game changer for me and I am so grateful!
In circle, I have learned and am learning how safety and vulnerability go hand in hand; how it is not only possible but necessary to heal the sister wounds and mother wounds that keep me separated from myself and from other women and how circle provides a beautiful container in which to do this; and what fully expressed, divine feminine leadership looks like.
I am amazed at the level of healing and inspired action I have experienced from being in circle with my sisters – women who not that long ago were strangers to me. Circle is one of the great gifts I have found along my path! I wonder how things might have been different for my mother, had she found healing, connection, and authentic sisterhood. As I sit in circle, I offer a prayer that this will bring peace and healing to her spirit and to those women who came before her.
I facilitate circle for those women who, like me, are facing the task of reclaiming their sense of self, remembering who they are, and rebuilding their life. I know the courage, faith, and trust that it takes to do this work. I have travelled to the places where I was completely undone, flattened, and turned inside out and I have come back stronger. I have also experienced the joy, light, love, and pure excitement of life that are the gifts of this deep work. This is the container I hold, the faith and trust I have in each woman to be her own best mother/healer/friend/lover, and the solid ground I stand on knowing the importance of support and sacred witnessing as she journeys to discover this for herself.
When we can do this for ourselves, there is nothing we cannot do, nothing that can hold us back. I dedicate myself and my circles to this vision, for THIS will heal the world.