A few friends of mine recently asked me “what is happening to you?”. They have asked this because I may have told them about some of my recent experiences, or shared sorrowful memories or am embarking on new experiments regarding my ways of living.
I have been trying to figure out what to call it and I think the best term I’ve found is “spiritual awakening”. Now, don’t freak out and stop reading here just because you see those words together. I know they can sound extremely hippy dippy or “woo”. I assure you what has been occurring is not some sort of new age magic with crystals and incense burning (although the thought of building a sort of meditation shrine has popped into my mind, sorry about that).
Here is the best way that I can explain this from what I have learned thus far; in no way have I learned everything, I am only just beginning and that to me is so exciting. Things have happened to me in my life, shitty things. A sexually and mentally abusive relationship at 13 years old, a long and tenuous battle with various eating disorders and obsessively exercising, family instability, depression and anxiety as well as severe postpartum depression after my first child was born.
What I can see now is that each of these things were a little wake up call in their own way, but I didn’t hear them.
Every time one of these life events occurred it was an opportunity to learn. I did in fact learn something from each of them about myself. However what I didn’t see is how connected they all were and how they all stemmed from the trauma that happened to me at 13. This is what I am thinking now but perhaps something else will reveal itself in the years to come.
What makes my latest life event so different is that it woke me up from sleepwalking my life away. In February 2020 I was laid off from my job. This was the first time in my life that I lost a job and it ripped the ground from under me. It was part of a larger restructuring and I completely understand why it occurred but it shook me deeply. I had thoughts such as, “am I not good enough?”, “am I not valuable enough to them?’, “am I not smart enough”, you get it- the list goes on and on.
This was not the only thing going on at the time — you know how they say shit hits the fan all at once? Well that is what was happening. My husband had also been laid off in October as his company went bankrupt. Luckily he had a part time job so at least a little income was coming in but nowhere near enough to sustain us. Then a little something else was thrown into the mix in March — a global Pandemic! Good times. I knew this was happening to millions of other humans across the world, and likely many of the cases were much worse than ours. In someway knowing that so many were going through difficult times gave me solace as I knew we were all experiencing this together. Humanity was sharing a connection, albeit not a very pleasant one.
I was very fortunate at this time as I was able to cue up some consulting work quickly due to some amazing friends and contacts. Within a week I had two contracts. Thank you friends and colleagues for helping me! I knew that to not completely lose my nut I needed to do something to help myself cope. The anti-depressant and running likely weren’t going to carry me on their own. I had taken a Buddhism class in University and found it fascinating. I went to the University of Montana in Missoula, MT and at the time the course was taught by a visiting professor from Stanford.
I remember his closing line to the class (which he took from the Rolling Stones but it was so apt), “you can’t always get what you want, but you just might get what you need”. Little did I know then how prescient that line would come to be.
I started voraciously reading and listening to materials about Buddhism and mindfulness. Pema Chodron became my guru. I would listen to her teachings and find myself saying “yes, exactly” over and over again. The ideas she spoke of resonated with me so clearly. I found a podcast and meditation app by the name of 10% Happier with Dan Harris which opened my mind. Since then I have found many more gurus and guides — Sam Harris, Joseph Goldstein, Jeff Warren, Tara Brach to name a few. I am particularly interested in the science of the brain and how mindfulness can connect us to our conscious mind. The more you learn about it the more mind boggling it becomes.
The initial spark of awakening began in February 2020 , slowly and surely. Christmas came around and my body and mind decided to throw me an anxiety attack for 3 straight days. I truly believe this was my body saying “wake the fuck up, no more messing around here!!!”. It was December 26th and I was making breakfast and seemingly out of nowhere my heart started to pound, my mouth went dry and my mind started to spiral into the future. The best way to describe this is a bad acid trip for 3 days straight. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, my mind was on fire with anxiety. I have experienced these types of issues in the past so I knew I had to get help fast. I needed to figure out why this was hitting me with such force. It had been 10 years since I had any sort of major depressive episode.
I forced myself into action mode. I emailed my Dr, I booked an appointment with a therapist, I booked an appointment with a naturopath and I reached out to my friends and family for support. At the time I had a few ways to explain this episode. I had been using my Mum’s CBD/THC cream which she uses to calm her arthritis on my back and legs for quite a few days. I thought perhaps this had a negative effect on me and that is why the anxiety started to slowly pass after a few days. Then I found out something else. What I thought was some serious perimenopause (I am 45 so ’tis the time) sore breasts, inability to sleep, constipation… but no, I was PREGNANT! My husband and I thought WTF?! How does that even happen at our age and not only that it could have only happened once in the last month! This blew my mind, my hormones and my body right up. I won’t go into full detail here, but I am no longer pregnant and there are many reasons that I and my husband made that choice.
I am also currently not drinking. My husband, mum and I embarked on an experiment to not drink for 30 days through a program with the Naked Mind that I heard about on one of my many podcasts. I am almost finished and I feel amazing. I have imbibed in alcohol since I was 13 years old. This started as something I did with friends and at parties for fun and laughs and became a daily ritual of a few glasses of wine a night and more on the weekends. I rarely get drunk but tipsy yes. I think there are many many reasons why I have been drinking that are only becoming apparent now. Will I stop drinking outright? I am not sure. I don’t think I will stop entirely but I do know that I am a happier person and I feel better NOT drinking.
All this is to say is this: the lesson has been made very clear to me that it is time to “wake up!” and awake I am becoming. It is frightening at times. It is overpowering. It is awe inspiring.
It also feels so very moving when I feel a strong connection to my child and my son says to me “you’re laughing a lot more than you used to mom, I like this you” or when I feel such a strong connection to another friend when they share a story with me. It is as if I can feel their soul. Whatever this ‘thing’ is, whatever you want to call it I’m going with it, and wow it feels good!