The other side of despair…
It’s 2020, a remarkable time in history ~ a new decade, a new age, a new revolution… transformations abound. Are you ready to get real, to face your deep truth? You can no longer hide. Get real or get left behind. Let’s get real… let’s rumble with despair and see what might exist on the other side.
“You are never stronger… than when you land on the other side of despair.” ~ Zadie Smith
The most desperate heart-wrenching experience that altered the trajectory of my life was my brother’s death in 1992. When people asked if my brother took his life I often wished the answer was yes. I mean no harm or offense to those who have experienced a true suicide, quite the contrary, my heart skips a beat and connects with you. In my brother’s case, in the strangest way, I wished I could have said, “Yes, he committed suicide”. It might have relieved some pressure off me that, in his actions, it would have only been his life taken, not also another’s.
I’ve heard it said the bigger the story the bigger the student. Or as Debra Silverman says, “The bigger the spirit the bigger the story.” This particular chapter in my life was a big story that took me to my knees. My life changed in a New York minute, my spirit and heart were broken… like being sucker punched and having all of the wind knocked out of me. For the next three long, numb, and grueling years I tried to catch my breath. I was in living shock, survival mode. I was stuck in a perpetual whirlwind of fight, flight, or freeze; the primitive parts of my brain had taken over. It is true, it is not actually time that heals but what you do with time that makes the difference.
“A lack of forgiveness ties us down, keeps us bound”
This share isn’t so much about the details of what transpired in that life-altering event as it is the fabric that was woven in the years to follow. When time seems to stand still but the swirling of the world around you continues, well, life gets pin poignantly raw. So ‘ding ding’, this began another round in the ring for me rumbling with hours of reflective journaling, self-help reading, weekly therapy, and blind faith. I was angry. I was devastated. I was in serious despair. I was confused. I was depressed. I was in the throes of PTSD and trauma. I felt isolated. I felt I could have fixed it and made it all better. I felt guilty for not being closer to home. I felt alone. I felt judged. I felt afraid. I felt hopeless. And mostly, I felt somebody needed to be blamed. I blamed the police officers. There’s an African tribe that has a wise saying, “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.” I wanted to get back at them, hold them responsible. Why were so many shots fired? Why could they not have somehow just wounded him? Because they were performing their job to the best of their ability… the way they were trained.
We can use our stories to keep us down or we can use our stories to raise us up… How low you go is as high as you’ll rise. And let me tell you, that’s been one of the lowest, darkest points in my life. There was a lot of accepting, healing, and letting go to be processed. Not to mention forgiveness ~ lack of forgiveness ties us down, keeps us bound. Boy did I have some forgiving to get done. Forgiveness to my brother, forgiveness to my parents, forgiveness to my sister, forgiveness to the police officers. Forgiveness to myself. This was not a one-trick pony, it was an on-going circus (sh#t show!)…. It’s way easier to stay in anger than it is to forgive.
My Mom is my hero. This is where forgiveness became much more than a word that has been tossed around self-help circles for years. The action she took became my greatest treasure, it opened my eyes to the true essence of seeking to understand, unbiased support, and grace.
If anyone could be more torn apart by losing their son it’s a Mother. Yet, with her keen insight and gentle spirit, my Mom sat down a week after that tragic night and started drafting letters. A hand-written letter to each police officer involved in the shooting. My Mom was able to transcend her own suffering to extend compassion in a way I’ve rarely witnessed since.
She not only offered forgiveness for what they knew they needed to do at that critical moment but conveyed such sincere concern for how, in that instant, a scar was forever etched in their souls. It was clear those police officers did not want to take that daunting action. Who could imagine being in their shoes?? My Mom had the innate knowing of the trickle down effect this devastating event caused… it spilled out to the officers, their families, the community as a whole. Setting her own painful experience and broken heart aside she blessed them and wished well for them and their families. It took me three years to unravel what my Mom arrived at in a week.
“A memory without the emotional charge is called wisdom.” ~ Joe Dispenza
I love you Mom… through the uprooting of despair you have blessed me with the strength to always muster forgiveness and grace. And I say muster. It may take me a day, a week, a month or many, but I do always arrive at forgiveness. It always sets me free and lays the path for wisdom.
Mom, you’ve also shown me the way of perspective… zooming out to view from a wider angle. To expand my heart and shine light in the corners where we often want to cast judgement, blame, or just simply retract. To be so aware that every moment has a thousand perspectives – how might it look or feel from another’s point of view. This is humbling… seeking to understand (this doesn’t always mean agree) but it’s where we can recognize that our experience is not the end all, be all.
This is only one chapter of my ‘11 Lifetime movies’. It’s my desire to continue to be vulnerable enough to crack open the dusty and torn pages of my mental, emotional, social, and spiritual adversities, and to share the strength and blessings that are always revealed on the other side. If I offer soothing or ease to even one person, it is worth it. My brother’s death is a powerful and significant gift that continues to mold my spirit and approach to life. If I can overcome such deep pain and shift despair to strength, so can you! Sharing is caring, and I know this is mine to do. No one ever needs to feel ashamed by life’s hardships, guilty from an honest mistake, or berated for a blow-it moment. The entrance point is forgiveness to self. Self-forgiveness makes us more responsible, and self-compassion leads to embracing others. When we arrive at forgiveness, love, and compassion for ourselves we naturally release the grip to criticize, blame, and judge others. Our brain functions in a more cohesive manner. In this space we can then be wide open to have faith that others might arrive with a tender heart and see ‘me just like you, you just like me’.
It’s through the depths of shadows and tunnels I offer my candid heart to you ~
I am not afraid of your darkness.
I am not easily offended or shocked.
I have felt the deep darkness, I will not run from yours or leave you.
Will you stick around?
With our self love and compassion we can feel our way to grace and forgiveness.
We are never alone.
Big love. ♥
*Writing approved by Mom & Dad Naus 🙂
In reflection of this writing, an excerpt of a personal message from my Mom…
“I am so very proud of you and what you have done with your life and how you have overcome that devastating night. I have to admit that I was so overcome with the grief of it all that I was not fully aware of how it affected you and your sister.
I did resonate with the need to blame someone. I blamed myself for some time then realized I couldn’t do that. I did everything I could with the tools I had. And without that “grace” I’m not sure if I would be here. I thank you for your kind words about me but not fully sure that I deserve them. I have found over the years that forgiveness and love is a vital part of my being. I love you. Mom”
Alright, I’ve been wanting to get this in ink for quite awhile. I’m calling BS. Technically I’ve written about this topic in various ways over the years but this time, well, it may feel harsh, direct, or not as gentle as usual, but… it’s time.
It’s time to feel into what we are connecting with and what we are disconnecting from. Quite awhile back I had a bomb drop on my front doorstep. Well not literally a bomb but the visual of what arrived created an unexpected explosive sensation that could only be mimicked by the dropping of a bomb.
The body… the emotional body. We cannot slide out of it. It’s part of all THIS experience. So often, probably more often than I’d like, I get a rush of emotions, energy, currents that take over all my senses.