Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beginning The Dream Again

The years of 2001-2005 were the greatest challenge of my life where I've faced the hardest situations and redefined myself from the inside out. It started with being unable to shake off the flu which turned out to be sepsis (blood poisoning) and required surgery, an extended hospital stay, and intensive antibiotics to restore my life. I was left with reduced mobility, causing me to move to a one-story home. I'm grateful to report that I've regained nearly 100% of my mobility at this time. I learned a great deal about myself during this well-being crisis, but in summary, it allowed me to rethink everything I had believed about being alive and pick out the old ideas that had stuck around but no longer fit me. Sort of like cleaning out the cobwebs.

A few months after I moved into my house in the spring of 2003, my father (who was almost never sick in his life) went in for bypass surgery and ended up having a stroke and other complications. For the next year and a half, I shuttled back and forth between Phoenix and Ohio to help my family deal with his situation, including his last six months spent at home bed-ridden with my 70-year-old mom as his primary care giver. Facing his death and my own, I came away from this with a greater sense of priorities in my life, and the awareness that I'm now leading my life from my heart more than ever before.

The grief I felt at that time was immense, and I found myself in the role of being a caretaker for my mom and my other family members in varying degrees. I lived with mom for the first 6 months of her new life, helping her to sort out the house and begin to see the possibilities of what she could create with her life. It built a new bridge of understanding between us, it gave us a new common ground for understanding each other. But there was no time for me to deal with the inner costs of this caretaking or my new family role.

I hadn't really had time to grieve the issues around my illness, compounded with the issues around my father's death and my family's strained relationships, and the challenges of rebuilding my business after walking away from my clients for nearly two years. I had a heavy heart. I'm not one to give into self-pity, and did my best to remind myself of how good my life has been, and to remind myself that I know next to nothing about the kinds of suffering that appear around me in the world.

Even so, I would wake up in the middle of the night and sob uncontrollably until I was too tired to cry and my eyes were swollen shut. There was no spark in my eyes and no lightness in my heart in spite of my best efforts to be cheerful. It was like standing at the edge of a clearing, the place where the woods and the meadow meet, and being unable to step away from the shadows into the full light.

Late in the spring of 2005, I took a contract assignment to work in an office an hour drive away form my home out of necessity. I filled my drive time listening to books on CD, which was one of the greatest surprises and delights during that time. But there were a few afternoons where I was either out of books or just wanted a change of pace. On one those afternoons, I popped in C'mon C'mon by Sheryl Crow. When I got to the song Diamond Road, something amazing happened. I felt like I had fallen into a gulch or a ravine of sadness in my own heart, like the flesh had been torn and I was in the middle of the tear, deep inside it. The sadness was overwhelming, and I recognized that this place was the source of middle of the night sobbing.

Feeling underwater and at the same time intrigued by what I observed was happening to me, I replayed the song a couple of times and found that I was unable to utter more than a few words of singing between sobs. I must have been a sight, driving down Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale, Arizona in the afternoon drive time, radio blaring, singing and sobbing at the top of my lungs. But something amazing was happening. I felt like I was really feeling the core of my grief in a way that I had not done before. After a few times through the song, I was exhausted and put on something else to distract me.

During the next weeks, I found that I was still waking up sobbing, and some afternoons, I would experiment to see if I could get through Diamond Road without crying. I could not. Every time I played it, I sobbed, if not at the start, definitely by the time I reached the second verse. I would feel my eyes burn hot and huge tears flow out of them until my clothes were damp. I would do my best to sing, and would play the song a few times until I felt I was done for now.

For the next couple of months, I would test the healing of my heart with this song. Sometimes, I would sob from the beginning to the end. A few times, I found that I only cracked a couple of times, eyes hot and heart torn open, but no real tears or sobs. There was no pattern to this, my reactions seemed almost random. But there was no doubt that my reaction to this song was strong.

And then one day, a miracle happened. I sang the song all of the way though without crying. I was actually able to sing this song to my own soul as a song of my truth instead of a song of my sadness. When I reached the end, I actually let out a wooooo-hoooooo!! while I restarted the song. I must have sang it that day for most of an hour, celebrating the healing of my own heart.

I have always felt that my voice has a strong power in my own life. I learned many years ago to be careful about what I said out loud about myself (and of course what I said silently, too). I am a person who loves chanting, to be around chanting, and to do chanting. I learned a sacred chant from an eastern religion that gives me peace each time I say it. I can feel the power of the sound of my voice after many repetitions in my meditations. I absolutely believe that music, like all spoken words, is powerful.

This song, this wonderful song, allowed me to speak tenderly to my broken heart, but the second verse is about the inner journey of healing for me. "Little bird" [that's my heart] "what's troubling you? You know what you have to do." [emphasis on know-my heart always knows what is best for me] "What is yours you'll never lose" [I'm spirit in a body, having a human experience, but nothing human can take away my core, who I really am] "and what's ahead may shine. Underneath the promise of blue skies, with broken wings I'll learn to fly" [brighter days are ahead, I will learn again what I need to know] "Pull yourself out of the tide" [keep raising your face to the sun and continue to do what you know to do] "and begin the dream again."

It's the last line that hit the deepest when I admitted to myself that I had stopped dreaming about my life. I was afraid to dream, I had started to believe that this sadness was always going to be with me. I had lost my vision for the future.

I still play this song in the truck, and I still sing it at the top of my lungs, but now as a personal anthem, the song of my heart. It did "take a little time" but I find that I've made "it to the other side" of my grief. I'm flying again, and best of all, I'm dreaming the dream of my life again.

If you don't know the song, here are all of the lyrics.


Colleen said...

your post was beautiful... thank you so much for sharing. I hate to admit that I know a lot about where you have been - it is a big part of where I have been "living" this year. Thank you for the inspiration to keep moving forward.

African Kelli said...

Ah, I am in tears at my desk this morning Charlene. Thank you for sharing this. Your story of healing and how this music helped -- simply beautiful. Thank you.

African Kelli said...

P.S. I love the idea of having a personal anthem. Now I'm on a hunt...

Leslie said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing the story of your heart healing.