When I look back I've learned the most valuable lessons from some of the most bizarre experiences.
My friend John with schizophrenia I often write about? I thought I was helping him, when in fact, he helped me. I learned to see the goodness in a person with mental health issues. I learned to look beyond behavior. I learned how to quiet the noise of quirky behaviors or maladaptive behaviors to see his goodness and value and the true person he was. This lesson has given me the ability now to have established some of the most fulfilling relationships of my life.
I recently had an epiphany driving home looking at the beautiful fall trees here in upstate NY. I was noticing the vibrant colors and changes in the leaves. While I'm sad to see the warm weather go, it's in the dying off that I get to experience the beauty of fall and the rebirth in spring.
I started thinking on how, like the leaves, I have changed. I started thinking on how each experience I've had has helped me grow.
Tomorrow I'm facing a very challenging circumstance because of a cause I have undertaken, a person I love.
Because of this, I have found myself back in the exact room I sat in 5 years ago, fighting for that cause & defending myself from untruths. 5 years ago, it was a horrific and devastating experience. I so badly wanted someone to save me. Someone to help me. Being the youngest of 8, I think I expected to be protected. I expected someone to fix it all. I had no belief in myself that I could stand tall on my own two feet.
But I did.
I came out of the experience stronger. In hindsight, it was in the standing on my own two feet that I finally separated in many ways, from who I used to be.
And guess what?
I was fine.
The outcome of the experience was in my favor. I didn't need to be saved. And I've since realized no one could really save me and it wasn't fair to expect that. People can't give you what they don't have. I get that now. Our mother had died months prior and we were all grieving in our own ways. My family, like I, were doing the best they could. It reminds me of one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes,
"We do the best we can. And when we know better, we do better."
The anger in the room, though directed at me, wasn't really at all about me.
I realized driving today, 5 years later, that the woman walking into that same room tomorrow, once again to fight for her cause, to defend her name, is nothing like the girl that walked in 5 years ago.
I am 50 pounds lighter physically. I have a confidence in myself that is brand new. I feel completely in my integrity.
Most importantly, I have the deep belief that I have done all I can do, and no matter the outcome, I'm going to be ok. There's nothing that anyone can say about me that will define me.
I define me.
I also realize now that even this experience, while it has been extremely painful, is an opportunity to grow and learn a lesson.
It's an experience that is challenging me to grow in areas I need to, just manifested in the circumstances of my life. Through all the noise of behavior, I'm able to see a person's actions are really about them, not me. I can only stay in my integrity, defend myself, and hold onto who I am. I'm actually grateful for the opportunity to finally realize my own strength and my own goodness.
Maybe, that's what forgiveness is really all about? I don't know.
I do know that I wrote this poem a very long time ago about a barren tree on a cold winter day. It comes to mind today, as I stare in awe at the exploding life in the trees now before me and the exploding life now within me, even on the eve of a very painful day.
Tall and strong
Warmed by the sun.
Her barren bones
Stark and sleeping
In the snow.
Look at me
I am more
than this tree.
Yet to be.
But for today
She stands alone
Tall and strong
Warmed by the sun.