The slap that landed on the right side of my face came strong and fast. The sting and pain that remained in its wake lasted much shorter than the long drawn out emotional confusion, mis understanding of myself and how to navigate inter personal relationships.
It was Christmas day more than 20 years ago. I had tested the boundaries for it. In my early teenage years, I was a bundle of anger, rage, hurt, fear and frustration. The physical impact of hurt and abuse was not something I ran from in that moment. I went right towards it.
I did not understand then why I stood in the direct line of impact, all I knew in that moment was that I deserved it and it was the only way to feel something, anything, that could take me out of the deluge of mental suffering and inexplicable reality that we were all part of. It took me years to feel any sense of love for what I was trying to do, and who I was trying to be.
Growing up as a child of an alcoholic and in a home that was soaked to the bones in it brought a cacophony of unhealthy developmental mechanisms. That Christmas day was not one filled with cuddles and teddies, laughing and love.
Everything I felt in my youth was out of my control. What mood we needed to be in, what mood we were to expect. How the day would unfold, would it be filled with tension waiting for the volcano to erupt or would be spending the day running from the hot heat?
I cannot remember what proceeded the slap that day, I remember vividly that moment.
I did not deserve to be treated that way, but I did not know that at the time, nor did I for many Christmas days after.
Winter and the season around Christmas can be hard for many of us, with memories, pressure, expectations and stress making a perfect cocktail for inner and outer turbulence. The reasons or uniqueness of our own particular situations can vary but in the dark days of winter there can be a resistance to oneself and others.
Following the pain of loss, maltreatment, neglect, abuse or conflict, I know what it is like to place those events in a place I would rather not look at again.
Our make up and navigation through life and ourselves is so complex and vast. I spent years looking outwards, perfecting all in my life or striving towards perfection with enthusiasm and passion. I used to dislike the winter a lot. The sense of turning in towards oneself did not bring heart warming feelings or a sense of joy. There were elements I was so ashamed of and believed were mine forever to be held secret.
I am not scared of the dark any longer, for in there I know there is growth. It is so hard to acknowledge memories like that Christmas Day, and have a sense that it is not something that I need to carry any longer as my burden to why I am not enough, do not deserve more or cannot be at ease. That is only one memory, I could list many more. Memories that built up over years and years, imprinting themselves bit by bit on my psyche.
There is no meaning in those memories, there is no figuring out why they happened. They are raw, most certainly un glamorous and not ones for sharing around the dinner table.
Where there is meaning however, is in how we find ourselves in all of our memories, our past and our present. Can we look those memories right in the eye, and find a way to accept, understand, forgive or let go?
I needed to release the stigma, the knots I held in my stomach for years that I would be judged, or seen in some way negatively for the actions of someone else. It is not my fault my Father was an alcoholic and it is not something I need to hide down in the dark any longer. This is not easy.
Approaching this years Winter Solstice, I have at this stage of my life come to embrace the dark and shine a light in there.
Over the last number of days, I have shared on social media some fun and beneficial ways to move physically that can help us in our bodies. These moves are great for sure and provide great benefits but the real moves we need to make in life may need to be some move towards ourselves deep down and getting to know who we really are.
This does not have to be tragic or full of woes. For me it certainly has been hard over the years, trying to develop and gain a healthy sense of myself. An important part of this process is going right in where I think it is darkest.
I believe that doing this is possible and that no matter what, we can find ourselves and find a connection to others in ways that help. It takes work, the same way developing physically does. We have to put in the effort and believe in the outcomes.
Where we fear so much may hold the keys to us truly finding freedom in ourselves, where there is really only love and potential.