This weekend I went looking for something and fell down the rabbit hole of reading my own, years old, writing.
This is something I rarely do.
For me, writing is as fundamental as digesting food when it comes to processing my life and keeping the channels clear. But if I re-read, I tend to develop judgments about the writing that get in the way the next time I need to sit and let it all out on the page.
I shift, imperceptibly, from author to editor or author to critic, in my own mind.
These are very different roles. The same way the brake and the gas are very different pedals. The need to write, in me, is like the need in a dog to run. When the path is icy and every footstep has to be considered, it’s not the same exercise.
But this weekend I did spend some time re-reading my writing from the months just after the divorce was finalized and I’d moved into my own house with the kids. It was such a specific time in my life with a specific flavor — much like the time of year we’re in right now in New York.
There’s this tinge in the air. The very slightest signal that spring might be waiting in the wings. The very slightest signal that winter might not go on forever. I found myself feeling grateful that I’d recorded the tone of that time. And there was one passage that stood out for me, that I keep thinking about and wanted to share.
I was a few months into the new arrangement: single parenting — not metaphorically, for a change, but actually — living in the new house with no furniture. Unpacking in slow motion. Test strips of paint on the walls. Clipped magazine pictures of what could be dangling from magnets on the giant, barely working fridge the former owners left behind.
The kids had started going to their dad’s place, our old house, with a little bit less resentment and sadness.
I’d come back from a jog to a quiet house at dusk. I fed the dogs, fed myself and I wrote: This kind of happiness I feel right now feels complete. It feels like real peace. I’m full in every sense with nothing pent up or waiting or dreading or anticipating. I’m just OK for the moment and it feels miraculous.
A trick of the Wound is to make everything complicated. It’s a way the Wound keeps us from taking on the work of healing and transforming. It’s a way the Wound guarantees it will have a home in us — by making us resistant to change, stuck in the old ways.
Sometimes we think we need so much in order to be at peace, feel closure, feel happiness or warmth after a long, frigid winter. But the most profound moments of my life have been the simple ones. The ones that didn’t cost anything — and at the same time, cost everything. Because they cost my willingness. My bravery. My courage to try a new way.
We climb and climb and we tend to lose ourselves in the effort. We are focused on the step in front of us or the directions on the map. We forget to look out the window. We forget that the present moment holds more power and more magic than the finish line.
My life was a gigantic mess during the time when I wrote that passage about feeling complete and happy. I had such a long hard road still ahead of me, settling into a radically different life on the other side of divorce, learning how to support myself and my children. And yet, flipping through the pages of writing from that time, there were so many entries about moments of deep joy and peace.
I had done the big thing — I’d left a situation that was creating active trauma in my life. And as a result, I could connect more profoundly with the little things:
Like listening to the birds in the boxwood hedges by my bedroom window in the mornings. Driving with the kids and the dogs over the bridge at sunset with all the windows down. Finding a hawk feather in the woods by our house. Doing the dishes with no music or podcast going. Just feeling the sensation of the warm water on my hands. Learning a different kind of double life. The kind where I could acknowledge everything that was not ok and still find these little rivulets of ok-ness, climb in and let them carry me.
One reality did not negate the other any longer. I was developing the spaciousness to have both in my life. To let both be true. This is the work of healing. It’s available to us at all times.