Today is a Winding Road

by Susan Pogorzelski on November 17, 2008 · 4 comments

Today is a winding road
That’s taking me to places that I didn’t want to go
Today in the blink of an eye
I’m holding on to something and I do not know why…

Boys Like Girls, “Thunder”

Susan Pogorzelski, France, November 2008

Note: this post was very difficult to write, as it’s deeply personal and emotional. I debated on whether or not I should post it, but I feel as if there is so much I have learned from this experience, and so many ways in which I‘ve grown. No apologies, no excuses. This is just me, bare naked.

When I first started talking about coming to France for the artists’ retreat, I thought it would be a great opportunity to focus on my writing, get back into that creative mindset, and rediscover a passion that has so long seemed dormant. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was clearly an excuse for something more. I was searching for something…something that had been missing within myself. Why I had to travel to another country, I have no idea, especially as most of my time here has been spent worrying about the place I had just left; but still, what I was looking for has been found: a realization, a truth, a transformation, brought on in the most unlikely of ways.

Last week, I broke down. My anxiety came back in full force and merged with my sensitive nature and the desperation of homesickness. While one of the owners of the retreat encouraged me to continue on, knowing that this was a journey of which I would be unbelievably proud, I still harbored intense emotion. I was writing, I was laughing, I was smiling. I was making what may hopefully be lasting connections with wonderful, talented people, accompanied by the types of discussions I’ve always longed for — writing, arts, culture, books, food. Potluck dinners and shared stories, impromptu writing exercises and group encouragement, warm fires and an inviting library collection all made this a home. But there was another home, with another family, that held my heart, and I couldn’t get over the fact that I had left — for a short duration, to be sure. Yet on the cold nights, under the covers in my room, I would look at the clock on my laptop, see how slowly time was ticking back in the states, think about what my family and friends would be doing, and the heaviness in my heart would drown out all of my other thoughts like thunder during a storm.

That heaviness, I have realized, had been with me even before I left, following me around, clinging to me as I have clung to comfort. Last Thursday, a bit of that weight was lifted.

One of the owners talked to me early last week about a friend of theirs who lives in a nearby village. He has a gift, she said, as a healer and a medium. He had helped her little boys with some physical ailments and wondered if I was interested in meeting with him for my anxiety. The analytical side of me is always skeptical; the spiritual side remains an open-minded believer in a practice so ancient. Something had to change, I had decided, and as there was no charge (but rather he accepted what would constitute a donation), I readily agreed and felt my anticipation building.

I understand more French than I can speak, and Yves spoke little English, so come Thursday morning, the owner of the retreat accompanied me as a translator and for support. Because I don’t want to lose all credibility, and despite the fact that I wrote it all down so that I can remember, I’m going to share only what I feel is relative.

He asked me for the spelling of my name, my birth date, and my mom’s first name, to which he wrote my responses down on a half sheet of paper. Then he jumped right into it: did I have any problems with my mom? My mom and I are incredibly close, and the only problem I could think of was separation anxiety, which I’ve felt so acutely on this trip. As I said this I remembered the day when she dropped me off at school — pre-first grade. I was crying as she walked down the stairs, calling after her, begging her not to leave me.

And I know that I still fear people leaving me. Whenever people go, a part of me, internally, at least, still begs for them to stay.

And that was the key, Yves said. I’m not a nervous person by nature, he told me, but I have so much fear locked up inside of me — I fear death and I fear life and I cling to that fear because it’s what I know. He said it began in adolescence and has continued into adulthood, and I know this to be so true — my fear of growing up, my fear of change. My fear of letting go of a childhood that has always provided such comfort. He said that I need to let go of that fear, and as soon as I do that and start thinking positively again, good things will happen. Negative attracts negative, but the reverse is also so very true.

My parents want me to be autonomous, just as I want to break free and find independence and be the adult woman I know is there inside of me, waiting to break through the surface, but drowning in all of my fear and emotion. A huge lesson I need to learn is how to let go of others, to not cling so tightly, to understand that loving someone doesn’t have to mean being close to them in distance, but rather bound together in heart.

Yves said that I had been humiliated and that I’m struggling to build myself back up from that, and I thought back to my former job, where I had been essentially broken down, the beginning of this whole quarter-life identity crisis. He said that I need to deflect what other people say instead of personalizing it, because their emotions and words towards me are due to their own feelings toward themselves. He repeated that my karma is my own karma, my path my own path. I can’t control people, anymore than I want them controlling me. Even though I feel a need to fix whatever is hurting those who are closest to me, I can’t control their lives, either — it‘s something that we all have to do individually, for ourselves. This has been a weight that I didn’t even realize I had been carrying, a lesson I can’t learn quickly enough.

He continued to mentioned some medical problems, of which I had previously told him nothing, and he explained that I have an energy knot in my stomach. I knew this to be true, as this has been the source of so much discomfort in the past few months, before I received a proper diagnosis. He said that these problems have stemmed from holding everything in, and that I have the beginnings of other problems from being afraid to speak up, not voicing myself properly for fear of hurting other people. And although I knew all of this already, to be able to hear it confirmed from a stranger, to voice it out loud, was something transformative.

And as he mentioned that I feel a lot of guilt, something I haven’t really admitted to anyone emerged, and I nodded and tried to wipe away my tears and put into words what I had been holding onto. I knew where this guilt, this loss of faith — in God, in myself — began: I pegged it to the loss of Lucy. When Lucy got sick, I was so foolishly certain that I could save her — through prayer, through believing. And when she died, there was more than the loss of her, but an anger and a resentment that I had never known towards God. My Grandmother’s death a year or two earlier, my first experience with death, I had understood. She was sick, she was in her nineties, and she was at peace. I remember her funeral as a warm celebration, full of family and memories. So why would the death of a dog be so different, so much more difficult to take? Was it because I thought that love could really conquer anything? Was it because I so desperately prayed for a Christmas miracle that year, that I foolishly believed it would come true? Was it because my Grandpa had died the year before, and I was still trying to come to terms with that loss?

Is that why I cling so tightly to what I have now? Why I’m so afraid to let go? Because in the course of five years, I’ve lost two grandparents and my three beloved dogs, and that heartache is worse than anything I’ve had to face?

I hold on to what is dear to me for fear that I will lose it, never realizing that I’ve cultivated such feelings of fear, not realizing that I can love just as much, even through letting go.

I need to let go. I can’t be afraid of life, and I can’t be afraid of death. I just have to live for myself and find and follow my own path. My parents have cocooned me just as much as I want to cocoon them, and as much as they want me to be independent, they unconsciously know that I‘m afraid to let go and thus provide the comfort that I sometimes so desperately seek. But to break free of that comfort zone is exactly what I need to do. It’s exactly why I needed to take this trip.

While I’m a huge advocate of self-awareness, while I’ve opened up and shared my heart with the world through my blog, while part of me already recognized these emotions and fears, Yves helped to further recognize truths and discover emotions that I never realized I had been harboring, so thick was this mask I’ve been wearing, even when trying to be honest. This is exactly why I came. Writing was the excuse, of course, but this is what I needed — a way to restore myself, to open up and be honest about what I feel, to let go of everyone else’s pain and heal myself. Negative energy attracts negative energy, and sometimes it’s easier to just give into that. Yet by not giving in, by not clinging to comfort and fear, I can become stronger.

I feel stronger already…like something is slowly awakening, changing inside of me. It’s not miraculous, it’s not a grand transformation, but it’s a new way of thinking, of viewing my life and being certain that I make the most of it. It’s something that will take practice, that I’ll struggle with and contend with, but I can’t, and won’t, revert back. While I can cherish the past and look forward to the future, I need to let go of that comfort and not fear change. My life is here, my life is now.

I can be a powerful woman, full of strength and courage, rid of anxiety and fear. And I believe that this journey, this trip, this meeting, was the first step towards getting there.

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