on my birthday, rich told me my present is going to be a digital camera. (!!! i know. he is awesome.) when i think of the time elapsed since i was first given my current camera (age 22, graduating from college, a gift from my mom and dad) i remember believing that 23 was going to be the ideal age. ohhh my my, was i ever wrong. but then as bad as 23 was, 25-28 was far worse. i spent 23 in a worse bout of depression than the one i had spent age 20 in, but then the late twenties nearly did me in.
i mentioned in a previous post a pregnancy during those years, and as it happens i was in an awful, emotionally abusive relationship at the time, which provides a poor backdrop upon which to have to make such life-altering decisions. i am not proud to say i did not decide in favor of carrying a baby to term under the circumstances i was in, but the decision had in the meantime already been lifted from me, and the embryo turned out never to have made it past a few cell divisions. this was a tough time. it certainly did not get any easier right after that. in fact by the following year i was in bad enough shape to be hospitalized for a couple of days. anyone looking in from the outside would have been able to see that the relationship simply should have ended long beforehand, but i was unable to see that i was the only one with the power to make that choice. or, i was unwilling to make it, or i believed i deserved this punishment, or i saw it as something i couldn’t escape, something that was happening to me. victim mindset = so unsexy.
i don’t remember my exact thought process in finally moving out of that apartment, after which things got so much better for me, through a combination of therapy, antidepressants, yoga and al-anon, and of course love and support from my parents and best friends from afar. but i do know that at some point it was brought to my attention that by not choosing, i was in fact making a choice. my inertia (during my depression, i resembled something more glacial than human) did not divorce me from the responsibility of the results of my lack of choosing, and so effectively, i am always making choices, whether by action or by inaction. somehow this enabled me to become more active in the choices i make, though i will admit i still have the ability to remain immobile while life goes on around me, temporarily avoiding active choosing, hoping the right things will just happen without me participating. but i don’t let it get nearly as out of hand anymore, knowing firsthand how bad things can become if i remain passive.
the person i was leaving in this storyline also happens to be my coparent. yes, you could say the leaving did not really “take” right away but what did take for me when i moved out was that i would never again go back to that lowest of low points, in spite of the fact that i did go back to the relationship for “one last try for the baby.” choosing to never become so depressed again was the first of many more empowered choices that i would make, and probably the most important one.
i mentioned a photo my mom had taken of me “coming back” and today i found it and scanned it. reaching that figurative turning point and taking even just a few steps in the right direction, enough to have the perspective to see how bad it had been and how much better it already was, and knowing it had potential to be even better, i decided for myself that i will never go back there, and i have stuck to it. when i was blessed with quinn, there was never even a second when i considered despairing. i already knew, from having been through that decision-making process once before, what choice i would make, and i knew i did not want to poison a baby in my womb with any negativity or ambivalence towards him. i embraced motherhood and made the best of things from there on out. i was realistic about the risks of postpartum depression in someone like myself, but i was so hypervigilant about it that i would have seen it coming a thousand miles off and taken the steps i now knew to take.
coming back (photo credit: mom, point reyes, 2006)
eventually the choices brought to me by life became more often pleasant ones; instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, choosing the better of two awesomes. or simply saying yes to what the universe is so abundantly laying in front of me. love, belonging, acceptance, family, abundance, wholeness. one of the things i fell immediately in love with in rich (we’re talking, in the laundromat, people), is his similar tendency to see things in a positive light. he could talk about hard things from his past and relate how he looks back on them as miracles, or lessons that brought him to a better place.
every day i have the power to choose whether i am going to look at what i am given through the heart-shaped lens or the shit-colored glasses. the shit-colored glasses are gathering dust, and i have reached for the heart shaped lens now so often, i pick it up almost by default. almost; but it is a mindfulness practice to still notice that choice, and feel how powerful it is to make it, and trust that by making it, i am nurturing that abundance-bringing mojo. neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing. where the forest of my brain used to have a well-worn groove that led me to see everything in a negative light, that path has now filled in with detritus and grown over with vines, and a new groove has been worn in the lush, green, far more adaptive and enjoyable path of seeing through a lens of positivity and love.
it is always possible for new growth to spring up out of old hardened places within us. those old stumps are still there, still a part of my storyline, but surrounded by the beauty of the present moment, they don’t seem so big and scary anymore.
did you choose a word for 2013? please share.