And so, for the next 30 years my strategy worked like a charm. Anger? Run. Negativity? Run. Confrontation? Definitely Run. Hurt, Pain Sadness? Run. Argument? Who needs resolution when you can Run. Relationship, job or whatever giving me guff? Just Run Run Run!
So sure, my runaway habit may have led to wrecked relationship and forgotten jobs, and yes I had lost more than a few friends and a couple of husbands along the way. Yet the fallout seemed a small price to pay for the benefit of never having to feel and deal with anything uncomfortable. I was winning the race, right? Maybe not, as my race was about to turn into an obstacle course and I was soon about to find out that all this time I had simply been running from myself.
She may never walk or talk again, I vaguely overheard over the din of monitors, bells, and hallway chatter. I was just opening my eyes for the first time in over 10 days not quite sure of the events preceding. “It was a hemorrhagic stroke” the doctor said, “we have no way of knowing the extent of the damage.” I didn’t like what I was hearing, so true to course, I closed my eyes hoping to run from this horrible dream. I was released a few days later complete with a wheelchair, tons of medication and a full-time nurse.
Physically, the doctor was right. I couldn’t walk and my words, that sounded fine to me on the inside, came out like a garbled mess. There I was, stuck, a prisoner of my own mind with no way, nowhere and no how to run.
Nietzche said, “If you stare at the abyss long enough it will stare back at you”. Oh yeah, I was about to be in the front row for that show and it was going to get rough.
Have you ever had moments when the prospect of revealing your real self-caused you to quake? When sudden feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment popped out of nowhere? When you fumed about someone’s words or actions for days? Well, that was me, sitting there, stuck in my head, all my fears, unhelpful thought patterns, and stifled emotions - the whole lot - revealing themselves to me in phenomenal clarity. I couldn’t run from them, physically or mentally. It was like the tape was stuck on repeat over and over in my head. The more I would try to ignore them, the louder and more creative they seemed to get, begging for attention. Then one day, exhausted by this mental marathon, I stopped. I took a deep breath and just stopped. I surrendered.
The next few months was a headfirst dive into the abyss, I leaned way deep down into my darkness, cried myself into exhaustion and gave myself permission to accept and to experience my grief in whatever way it chose to manifest: Depression, anger, despair, isolation, tears and rage. I felt them all, deeply, to my core, but then an amazing thing happened. There was a gift. Facing these wounds one by one in the intimate setting of my own mind was by no means fun. They were truly are awful, to say the least, but one by one a gift arrived when I allowed each wound to heal. It arrived in the form of deeper self-awareness, wisdom, strength, self-love, compassion, empathy, clarity, faith, acceptance and forgiveness. This gift came from owning my feelings and taking full responsibility for my choices. The good, the bad and the ugly.
This deep dive journey has strengthened me, and taking responsibility for all the events in my life has allowed me to embrace myself completely. It has given me the gift of living my own truth, and has led to my most profound healing and the ability to take back my power. I take responsibility for everything that happens in my life and I believe it takes courage, faith and a sprinkle of optimism to see that regardless of all the pain, there is always valuable treasure if you just look.
I look back and know with all my heart and soul that my stroke was the best worst thing that has ever happened to me. It led me to cultivating my own self-love, reconnected me with my true self and my fundamental goodness. I learned how to live dead center in my true self rather than at the edge of my being, scanning for external validation and running from discomfort. My life is filled with beautiful, real, authentic and loving relationships and I have found the joy, fulfilment and inner peace that was waiting for me at the finish line. Funny thing is, it wasn’t out there somewhere… it was inside of me the whole time just waiting for me to stop running.