I remember this strange limbo after my ex pulled his Copperfield – I was afraid of facing the totality of my new reality and yet I was also afraid of the repercussions of avoiding the truth. In the early days, the decision was made for me; I was barely able to function, much less process. Flaming bits of reality passed by me like meteors falling to earth, moving too fast to see yet leaving behind an uncomfortable heat. But as time shuffled on, I could no longer use the excuse of not being able to face the pain. I had to either confront the truth or accept the fact that I was actively avoiding it.
I applied a logical strategy amidst the illogical domain that I then occupied. I gave myself permission to avoid the pain until a scheduled yoga and meditation retreat. It was the griever’s equivalent of a decade-long smoker going cold turkey. I went into the retreat armed with a journal, my comforting blanket and plenty of tissues. Not present? My phone and any books. There were no distractions. No excuses. This was the time to face the pain.
After registering, exploring the property and meeting the facilitator, I wrapped myself in warm clothing, gathered the journaling supplies and folded myself into a solitary rocking chair overlooking the mountains. I took a deep breath, and gave the pain that I had been studiously avoiding, permission to enter.
It wasn’t what I expected. I held some image of the pain entering my body like a demon possessing some innocent in a horror movie. But my body didn’t jerk back from the shock nor did the chair begin to rock of its own power.
Instead, I felt a dull sort of pain that began to ebb and flow seemingly at random. The tears cycled from monsoon to dry season and back again with whiplash speed. The words inscribed on my pages danced from past to future and nightmare to dream.
I hurt, but much to my surprise, my most dominant feeling was one of relief.
I was relieved to give permission to the tears with no sense of what I “ought” to be doing.
I was relieved to finally face what I had delayed and, in doing so, quiet some of the fear.
I was relieved that the harsh reality didn’t capsize me and that it seemed that I could handle the truth.
I was relieved that the pain felt more like the bombardment of solitary bricks than running into a solid brick wall.
I was relieved that I was finally facing what I had avoided and I held hopes that by facing it, I could diminish it.
We avoid because we are afraid of the truth. Yet fear only builds in the darkness of the unknown.
We avoid because we do not want to suffer. Yet suffering then becomes the background noise of our lives.
We avoid because we want to pretend that reality isn’t real. Yet the truth will always find a way out.
We avoid because we believe we don’t have the energy to face. Yet that’s only because that energy is being expended on running away.
We avoid because we feel that it is someone else’s responsibility to heal us. Yet you cannot outsource healing. You have to do it yourself.
We avoid because we fall victim to the siren song of busyness. Yet that is just another excuse kicked up by a panicking brain.
We avoid because we tell ourselves that we can get to it later. Yet limbo is no way to live.
We avoid because facing it validates it. Yet it was already real even if we refused acceptance.
You cannot accept something until you face it.
You cannot release something until you hold it.
You cannot change something until you see it.
It’s time to face your avoidance.
To trust that you are strong and capable enough to handle whatever hides beneath the bed. Life under the covers is no way to live.