Sunday, April 22, 2012

This IS my life...Now.

I doubt that most people reading this have quite the precise, vivid memory of exactly one year ago as I do.  Unless you were in labor or on some exotic beach or in jail or something.  It has been one year since I wrote anything on this blog.  That has been intentional.  My personal life has had a complete overhaul, and while writing is incredibly therapeutic for me, pouring out the details of the last year in a public forum seemed sordid and inappropriate.  Like wearing a tube top to Christmas dinner.  I don't want most people to see that much of me.  And it tends to hurt others more than help.

Those of you that know me well already know what I have been through in the last year.  I have allowed details of it to slip out to those in my inner circle, trying my best not to point fingers or name names or hurt anyone in the process.  But we all know that, despite our best intentions, that never happens entirely the way we plan.

On this anniversary of my new start, I feel the compulsion to reflect on where this year has gone, how it has changed me, for I am barely a shred of what I was a year ago.   That is a great thing.  In the days leading up to the last post, I consciously and purposefully decided to examine my life.  Time away, and the grace of angels in my path, shown a bright light on things that I could not ignore any longer.

The beauty is this--  that painful reflection, with all the tears and hurt and fear and doubt, is the sword that cuts a path through that jungle of chaos to a new life.  To that new path you are meant to find, if you will admit to yourself that you are, in fact, lost.

I was completely and totally lost.  There is no better way to say it than that.  I wandered for years, thinking I was pushing steadfastly down the golden road.  I had no idea that I was ridiculously disoriented and off track.  One year ago, I stopped pushing, looked up, and saw myself surrounded by vines and leaves and winding branches in the middle of a dark forest.  I was hurt, resentful, introverted, weighed down with guilt to the breaking point.  I was ashamed to admit I was even lost.

And just when my crushed soul cried out for guidance, and tears of ugly humility poured down my face, a light began to peak through the overgrown wilderness.  It was actually always there.  But it took a conscious, purposeful decision to stop, look, and trust.  And then to follow it.

That has been the hard part...letting go of all I have known and clung to for years, and trusting that this was right, that I knew best for me and my life.  I have heard that phrase so many times in our self-obsessed culture, to "trust ourselves".  It has usually been in the setting of a some girly Lifetime movie or after-school special where some girl ends up in a mess and (in a disgusted, mocking tone) "doesn't know how to trust herself anymore."  Until it happened to me, I hadn't given a lot of thought to what it actually meant, not really.  I could not get my mind around how someone couldn't know themselves, how they let that happen to them.

I have always been strong-willed, strong-minded, opinionated...a decision-maker.  *Been* would be the keyword here... I was not any of those things a year ago.  I could barely order dinner off a menu.  Every decision was a struggle.  There was a right and wrong answer for every choice.  What if I made the wrong one?  What if I chose... poorly... would my head melt away like the guy in the Last Crusade who drank from the wrong goblet?  I never realized how much I needed other people's approval to back-up my decision-making.  It was never really conscious or out-loud, just quietly there.  Without it, I was completely alone with no idea where to turn or what to do.  In hindsight, I wasn't without support, honestly.   This was simply a life-altering decision that had no right answer.  And that scared me to death.

About that time, I started seeing a magnificent counselor who, along with so many others in my path, helped show me my truth.  I will not name names, since I will invariably leave someone out.  There are not enough words to tell how important they were and how much they impacted my life.  Just know that I am forever grateful for all of them.

One decision turned into another, and another, and another.  Trusting myself turned into simply choosing what felt right for me, regardless of popular opinion, and not looking back.  And I did it again and again.  And the snowball began to roll downhill, gaining size, strength and speed.  Some choices were not great.  Some were exactly right.  All of them led me to right here, right now.

Those that have been along this road with me, and those who have known me before, know that I am not the girl I was a year ago.  I have been completely inverted, turned inside-out, still the same shell but with different parts showing.  I am more honest, vulnerable, brave, loving and introspective.  I am becoming the parts of me that I was searching for a year ago, that I always wanted to be.  I am thankfully a work in progress, as are we all.

My heart will never be the same.  Once broken and cracked, time and love has healed it.  First and foremost, love of myself, then the steadfast and unfailing love of others.  The scars remain, but have given it a character and color all its own.  This newly forged strength can now afford the purposeful vulnerability of love again.

One of the fruits of this new fearlessness has been a new job in California.  This summer I will start work at Children's Hospital of Orange County as a Pediatric Oncologist, with a mentor in my research area who is enthusiastic and energetic, and a group in which I seem to be a great fit.  I could not have conceived of this future for myself a year ago.  Without this journey, I would never have had the courage to pursue it, to believe in myself.  Now, others believe in me too.  I have not only found the door into a vast open room of possibilities, but opened it and walked through, without hesitation, as though it was my door all along.

This IS my life now.  It feels as if I have trekked through the dense jungle of an Indiana Jones movie, choosing purposefully to brave the rickety rope bridge over the ravine rather than face certain captivity.  Standing at the other side of that tattered span, I turn to look back at that which I have overcome.  I am giving myself this moment to reflect on what this means, to appreciate it, to congratulate myself for being brave and facing fears and trusting what was right.  This moment is brief.  Now I must steadily turn towards the path in front of me.  It is uncharted, unwritten, and still covered in thick woods.  That is how all great journeys begin.  No one remembers those that followed the path already paved.