I woke to a crash at 5:00 this morning. My daughter’s cat has finally managed to do what I have been anticipating for some weeks now—she broke some shit.
I investigated the crash and found that the beautiful orchid that was thoughtfully gifted to me after my recent hip surgery was currently lying on the living room floor, surrounded by chunks of clay that now resembled an exhibit in a museum rather than a pot.
Thankfully, the orchid itself was mostly intact. Though, being a living thing, it has the opportunity, as do all living things, to experience shock, so we shall see if the trauma of being knocked to the ground has a negative effect in the coming days. (Fingers crossed that it stays beautiful and blooming for a long time.)
I swept up the bits of pottery and a bit of dirt. I put the orchid into another pot and placed it back onto the television stand where it resides. And then I tried to return to the warmth and comfort of my bed to sleep again. But the cat had started a chain reaction. Because I was awake, the dog assumed it was time to be up and about, so he continually nudged me and licked at my hands until I gave in to his demands and took him outside. And then, because we had begun the morning routine, he decided he should also have food.
While feeding him, I realized that he was out of water, so I filled that. Then the idea of water alerted me to the extreme dehydration that was causing my tongue to stick to the roof of my mouth. I drank two glasses of water and, when that didn’t seem like enough hydration, I downed a Gatorade. And then, after using the bathroom, I went back to my bed once more.
But sleep would not come. I was now wide awake.
As is customary, I began to think about all sorts of things while I laid there hoping for sleep. I have medications that help me sleep at night. I take the first at 7:00 pm, and take the last at 9:30. There is a complex system of getting my brain and my body into a sleep state. Sleep doesn’t come easy for me because of a few illnesses that I cope with, but I have developed a great system over time, and most nights sleep comes with relative ease.
Morning is another story.
Once I had begun the routine of the morning, I couldn’t get back to sleep. And, while my brain wasn’t as functional as I would have liked—I sent a text to my daughter that said “don’t gorget” when I meant to remind her “Don’t forget to ask about time off for xmas”—I decided that if sleep would not find me, I would simply get up and do things.
The words “wide awake” kept returning to my mind in the semi-dazed moments when I was still struggling to sleep. And while I can understand the connection in the literal sense—my inability to sleep—there was something beyond that use of the phrase that kept coming into my consciousness. I couldn’t help but think about what being wide awake means in a more proverbial sense. I couldn’t help but think of how I became the person that I am today, and how that person is one whom I consider “wide awake”.
People often use the word “enlightened’ as an insult when they respond to what I post on my blog or my Facebook page. Many seem to take offense when I express my views, and they react by making sarcastic and rude comments. A fair amount of those comments includes mocking my “enlightened” state. This past week, I had multiple people slinging verbal attacks at my blog comment section. And those attacks included that term “enlightened”, used as a pejorative and not a compliment.
But as I laid in bed, and remained wide awake, I had the overwhelming feeling that enlightened is exactly the correct statement to describe me. I am wide awake.
Let me elaborate.
I have been through transformation after transformation. And some of those transitions were not easy or came at great personal cost, but life doesn’t easily become other. We like to stay in our little bubbles of safety and familiarity and commonly held understanding. We don’t like change. We certainly don’t like change that takes deep thought, definitive action, and amazing strength.
I never had the luxury of a bubble. The place that is safe and familiar and commonly held never existed. And that safety and familiarity will likely never come to fruition. Mostly because the amygdala doesn’t heal after long-term exposure to abuse, fear, stress, and captivity in developmental stages. You just keep on being in fight or flight or freeze mode for what seems like eternity, but is actually a lifetime. Some people might comment here about how devastating and sad and sorrowful that mode is, and how it needs to be fixed. But they would be wrong.
Here is why:
I’m always afraid, but that fear has made me capable of enlightenment—not in the pejorative sense, but in the literal sense. I have been given this strange and difficult story to live out. But because it is strange and difficult, it offers me reflection and recognition that many do not experience.
I’m wide awake.
When you see things in the light which I have seen things, you need to change the way you think. You cannot come into contact with new ideas and different experiences and come out the other side with the same thinking you had before those things happened. You cannot see what I see and know what I know and not change the way you participate in life.
I’m an addict. And many people I know would say that this is a choice—a moral failure on my part. But those people are not addicts. Addicts know better. We know that there is no amount of choice and will power that can keep you clean or sober in an environment where drink and drugs are present. We know that this is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and a weird reaction in our pleasure center hastily throws us into the rock bottom of substance abuse. We can manage this disease. We cannot cure this disease.
I’m a divorced, single parent. And many people would say that this, also, is a moral failure on my part. But those people weren’t living in my household, with my abusive partner, and experiencing the terror of never being able to control what happened to me. Domestic violence survivors know that you cannot go back and start over. We know that the violence escalates, and it doesn’t reset at the beginning when you reach a terrible end and decide to “try again”. Instead, you pick up where you left off—in a terrible state and creating greater and greater catalysts for further violence. Sometimes you just need to leave. Sometimes your life, and the life of your children, depends on you leaving the violence behind. But that isn’t easy. Domestic violence survivors know this. And those still in abusive relationships know this too. Because when you have been manipulated and conditioned in ways that leave you isolated and without resources, there isn’t a safe place to go or to be. It is much harder to start life over with nothing than it is to stay and suffer through the abuse, in many cases. We know this. We cope with this. We cannot “fix” this.
I am disabled. People constantly misunderstand or deny that fact. “Get well soon”, is an offensive statement. Because I know what it is to be in pain every hour of every day and night. I know what it is to have to mourn the life you planned and worked for and ran toward. I know what it feels like to always be unable and to always feel insufficient and to constantly be in need. It doesn’t feel good. And the people who say “get well soon” and who suggest I edit my life or my lifestyle in particular ways do not know that feeling. They don’t have to mourn the loss and feel the pain. So, their “solutions” are not only impossible to carry out, but they are reinforcing the idea that I am faulty, not good enough, and not accepted as I am. I understand this disability in ways that most never will. (And thank the Divine for that, because I don’t wish this experience on anyone.) I manage this disability. I work to be my healthiest self. I cannot get rid of the disability. I can’t “change it”.
I am pro-choice. This is one of the things that makes so many people use the term enlightened in sarcasm and mockery. This makes so many people think I am a moral failure. But I live in spaces where choice is essential. I live in a space of poverty. I live in a space of fear, of scarcity, of abandonment, and of desperation. And I should never be forced to bring a child into that space. I was molested, assaulted, and raped. I know what it is to not have agency in your life. I know what it is to not have agency over your own body. I know what it feels like to be used and owned and threatened and left alone in shock and disillusionment, because other people didn’t listen when I cried out for help. So, I know what it is to need control over your own body and your own life and your own choices. Because I cannot let another determine what happens to me. That cannot happen again. I cannot have someone else control me—not after all that I have endured.
I’m wide awake.
I understand why people reject my ideas. I understand that they cannot see from my perspective. I get why they don’t want to hear and accept and work through the things that I say or write. It is hard work to change the way you think and behave. It is hard work for me too. But I know that I need to keep living my life with eyes wide open, and accepting even the most difficult and dangerous of facts and stories.
I didn’t get where I am today without struggle. Struggle was often the catalyst for change, because I was shoving myself forward in ways that meant I met many others on my path, and I encountered facts and stories that I couldn’t have encountered if I hadn’t been on that path. And my path is a rare path. Not many travel through all the levels of hell that I have walked through. So many have not had the terrible blessing of a hard life with life-altering experience. It is awful and wonderful.
There is a quote that I think might be helpful to increase understanding here: “It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.” ― Stephen King
For those of you who prefer religious text to horror and suspense novelists, there is also this passage from Ephesians 5: “but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light’.”
I am wide awake.
Many people look at the darkness that is expressed in my posts. They think that these supposed “moral failures” and the challenges that I face are evidences of evil, and of a need for change. And maybe I got to this place because of darkness, in some sense, but that darkness made the light possible. I shine out all the brighter because of the dark. Darkness isn’t necessarily a thing on its own, technically speaking. It is the absence of light—or of light perceptible by the human eye, at least. Light shows up, and then we can see clearly, because of the reflective and refractive rays that show up as colors and shapes that we could not discern in the darkness.
Everything that becomes visible is light. And light is what makes everything visible. Yes, I know that is circular reasoning. It is also true.
Here’s the crux of the matter: I believe that my life is full of light.
I’m wide awake, and the sun is shining down upon me. It took a while for it to get here, and I watched it rise over the city this morning, but it is now shining down upon me. And the light shines out all the brighter because of the contrast against the darkness. Was it devastating and sad and terrible to be harmed in my history? Yes. Was it difficult to find my way beyond the pro-life stance that I adopted to fit in with my friends and neighbors and to step into the truth that science and experience offered, becoming pro-choice? Yes. Was there much that seemed dark and damaging and defeating in my life? Yes.
But there was also light.
There was love, support, grace, the voice of the Divine, strength, fortitude, passion, and purpose. There still is. It just looks a bit different than I had imagined it would.
I’m wide awake, because I let the light of truth transform me, over and over again. Each time I encounter something that doesn’t make sense, or challenges my current belief system, or shakes me out of dissociative states and requires I be present and thoughtful, or offers a story that has new perspective, I let the light shine upon it. And that light transforms my ideas, my actions, and my person in many ways.
Last week there were people who called me names in my blog comments, and made all sorts of assumptions about who I am and how I think and what I do. But today that doesn’t bother me. Because this morning I was wide awake, and saw clearly (with help from some insights borrowed from a friend) that the upsetting thing about these interactions was not that I am morally bankrupt or doing life wrong, but the upsetting thing is that these people are not letting light shine in darkness. They are not stepping into truth and letting it transform them. They are not listening to my story, even though they may be reading my words. And they are not doing so, because it is very hard to do.
Darkness gave me what others lack: the opportunity to distinguish the dark from the light. Darkness pushed me toward the path of the light of truth. Escaping the suffering meant moving toward a new way of thinking and being. And that way of thinking and being is better than the way of my past. Truth and light shine in my present and my future.
I’m wide awake.
I understand my situation, and I know my value, and I feel my emotions, and I acknowledge my weakness alongside my strength. I live in the light, and I seek truth. If you believe that you can know better, and understand more about my life and my history and my current situation or actions, feel free to make your suggestions, but please do not be angry when I tell you that I don’t need your input right now. Because I am walking the path of light, shining out in the midst of the darkness, and I don’t necessarily believe that your comments are contributing light.
I know what I am doing. I know when what I am doing is helpful and when it is not. I can own the times that it is not helpful. But I have an awareness regarding my life and my situation that you do not share.
I was recently reading a book from the Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones series. I was talking with my physical therapist about watching the show versus reading the books, and I told her what I have told others: I like reading the books, even though I know from the show what is going to happen, because the books offer you internal monologue that the television series cannot portray.
I think that this applies to my life too. Others can share my experience to a degree, but they are not allowed the privilege of being inside my head, and feeling and knowing and understanding the depth and breadth of who I am and what I believe and why. You are missing the monologue that shapes the story in important ways. You are reading from your perspective and not from mine. And if you do not seek my perspective when you read my words, then you are not practicing the empathy that is required for change and connection.
My perspective is important. And yours may be too. But insisting that I do not know my own situation or life experience or whatever else pertains to me, and that you know a better way of being me, simply because you say so (with no facts to back that up whatsoever), is not only uninformed, but it is offensive. It is offensive because I am an aware, educated, experienced, adult.
There’s more to me than people know.
And I am wide awake—shining light on my life and my surroundings to continually seek truth.
Whatever I am, and whatever I do, I do it wide awake.
And now, I think it is time for a nap. 😉