An Ode to 2016
This year I locked myself in a jail cell. I held the key in my pocket, but refused to unlock the door. The absurdity is unreal, except that it’s all too real.
I recently watched a documentary on the 1980s. At the end of the episode, they played a clip of “Ode to Freedom” performed at the “The Celebration Concert from Berlin,” conducted by Leonard Bernstein in December 1989, as the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended.
At the time I recognized the song as “Ode to Joy,” one of my favorites. The uplifting, fast-paced, and I’ll say it, joyful sounds never fail to make my insides dance. You can’t help but be in a better mood after listening to it. As usual, in that moment the song resonated with me, but I left it there and didn’t think much about it again.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to this morning and I’m doing an intuitive session with a friend of mine. We’re having a look at my relationship with freedom. It’s a word that we all toss around a lot, but despite its frequent use, it holds a profound meaning for me in the context of my own freedom. I feel something physically when I talk about being free. It usually stirs up a bit of emotion that I quickly stop in its tracks. Earlier this year in London, I remember attending a Momentum Session where we were doing intuitive readings and the question we were to ask ourselves was: “What would you love right now that you’re resisting in your life?” My answer: freedom.
I’m an American woman living in the twenty first century. At the time I was in the United Kingdom, a place that in no way endangered my freedom. I had quit my job almost a year earlier and had spent that time traveling freely around the world on no one else’s agenda but my own. I didn’t have any real responsibilities. If anyone was free, it was me. But I wasn’t. At least, not in my mind.
On this journey of mine I’ve peeled back layers of myself and revealed pain inside. Intellectually, I’ve been fascinated to examine it and understand it. Emotionally, I’ve been very resistant to facing it, feeling it, passing through it and owning it. Doing this work away from my old life at home was easier and felt safer. So when I realized it was true for me to head home for a while this past summer, I was very nervous. As I mentioned in “My Story: Part 10,” coming home was an enormous challenge — it is by far the hardest place for me to be, and even harder for me to stay focused, work, and grow.
That’s because it is the source of my pain. It’s hard for me to say that without feeling self-involved or foolish or guilty. It sounds like the emotional equivalent of the “yuppie flu.” Poor you, boo hoo, you had a safe, supportive upbringing by a loving family in a relatively affluent suburb in the United States. Get over it. But here’s the deal, every single one of us has a wound, no matter the circumstances of our lives, especially our early lives. Those more familiar with the self development world might be thinking: “Oh God, she’s going to launch into a whole thing about the eternal wound.” A little bit, but I ask you to hang in there with me for a minute because this is going somewhere. What I will say is this — before my trip I was pretty unfamiliar with anything in the self development world. I’ve had a bit of a crash course in the basics this past year and a half and I’m grateful for the knowledge.
Every single one of us is wounded in childhood. No amount of “perfect” parenting can prevent it. Our higher selves actually choose to be wounded to have individual human experiences, otherwise we would all be exactly the same. From that wound we develop beliefs about “the way things are,” and these beliefs are different, which is why each of us sees the world differently. It’s why what we see and experience isn’t always what is actually true, and it’s why we employ intuition to rise above and see what actually is, not what our thoughts and feelings are telling us.
This is important information that can be empowering, but I have a choice now: I can get myself so wrapped up in my wound that I fall down the rabbit’s hole, spiraling downward, giving all my energy to trying to understand it more, blaming my parents for whatever unconscious things they did to me and harping on and on about why I am the way I am and why things are so hard for me (i.e. my stories). Unconsciously, that’s actually what most of us do all of our lives. We don’t even know it, but we’re always trying to make the wound all better — complete what we deem to be the incompleteness of ourselves. We’re always chasing what we think will make us feel better, and we end up chasing our tails.
So when it was time for me to come home for a little while, I knew I was flying into the eye of the storm and I wasn’t happy about it. This was a literal and metaphorical homecoming. I had done a lot of work on myself while away, but that’s just it, I had done it while away. Though it was true for me to take that trip, to gain the knowledge and experience that I did, a part of me got to run away from the pain that lived at home — inside me and with my most primary relationships — with my parents. The next step was to come home, face my wound and live my truth. I was back living at my parents house temporarily and I was so uncomfortable.
They welcomed me: I wasn’t given any time limit as to when I had to leave their home, they gave me space to figure out my next step and they were open to this new life I was creating for myself. Pretty awesome — I’m lucky, I have amazingly loving parents. But in my mind, not much of that mattered. My stories were running in overdrive. Stories like, I’m a bother — my existence on this planet is a bother — my conception was unwelcome and so I am forever unwelcome no matter where I go and who I’m with. I was a disappointment because I was born a girl and not a boy so I unconsciously play down my feminine (including my imagination and intuition) and never feel like what I’ve done or achieved is enough, or that my father is proud of me.
Rationally, I know that this isn’t true, and I feel guilty for even feeling that way. Both my mother and my father have loved me every moment of my life and I know they are proud of me. They’ve taken care of me and given me everything, they’ve worked hard to provide a stable home and life for me. They have been active participants in my life — volunteering to coach my sports teams, teach my CCD classes, always helping me with homework when I needed it, reading me bedtime stories, going the extra mile to make sure I was always safe and taken care of and loved, and always encouraging me to be happy and healthy.
But my stories were formed unconsciously when I was very young. They may or may not be based on anything truthful (it could all be misunderstandings — something a 1 year old made up but wasn’t actually the case). The point is, I started believing those stories and those are what play on a loop all day, everyday of my life. They are what unconsciously drive my life and they feel 100% real. I was armed with this information and understanding from the work and learnings I had done while away, but it didn’t make it any easier to come home and have to live in the same space and try to rise above the stories and create and live anyway, let alone heal.
When I arrived home, I started the “My Story” blog series and that was no small thing for me. It was extremely confronting to tell the truth about my illness, my struggles, my travel, my experiences and breakthroughs. To put myself out there was terrifying. I started doing intuitive readings, very begrudingly at first, but I’ve come to really enjoy them and appreciate now how much I would really love coaching.
But I am the first to say that I didn’t dive in as fully as I could have. I knew I was at a place where an entirely new life lay at my feet. I just had to claim it. And I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I inched closer, but I put a lot of energy into putting the brakes on the whole process. In many, many intuitive readings by others, people would say to me: “You have everything you need to create what you’d love right now.” And I’d say “I know.” I was my own worst enemy and I knew it. I was SO frustrated. And meanwhile I’m living back at my parents’ house, dying to hit the road again.
Over these past few months, I’ve been staying here and facing my wound. I see how my stories play out, and they continue to be disproved over and over again. I’ve seen my father put himself on the line to stand up for women. I’ve heard him tell his father how much he believes in me. I’ve seen my mother through the lens of her own wound and my compassion has grown. Even so, I’ve noticed how in light of evidence contrary to my stories, I immediately try rationalizing my stories, making up excuses for why things aren’t as they seem to be.
I’ve started to let myself open up to receiving the love that exists for me. Not in every moment…the ego is powerful and I’m human. It’s been painful, and there’s still work to be done with certain relationships, but I’m making progress. Most of all, I’m grateful for this time and opportunity. I still may not love it every moment of the day, but I’m starting to embrace it more and recognize my role and my end result here.
Recently I wrote a post on Facebook about completion, specifically completion on the year, though I noted that completion can be done for anything. (I’ve made it a post on Medium here for reference.) Having already completed on 2016, and in the midst of all that’s been transpiring these past few weeks and months, another friend of mine noted that it was true for me to complete on my childhood. My stories will always be there, but I can choose to complete on the chapter in my life when they ruled my life. So that’s what I did this week, under the full moon, in the house I grew up in. It’s time for me to graduate from the role of child to a powerful woman sharing her knowledge and experience and leading where she can. I’ve started taking that role on more in my family, and I look forward to embracing it more.
For me, for many others, and more generally for the world, 2015 was the year of “Yes” and 2016 was the year of change. I thank you for your gifts, 2015 and 2016, including the lessons you gave to me. And I let you go now, welcoming the new energy of 2017 and all that I will create.
My resistance has been falling, like walls inside of me collapsing one after another. I’ve been growing more confident in my intuitive abilities, in my power as a woman. I’ve been feeling the shifts within myself and growing excited, but still conscious that what feels like one last final line, the stronghold of my resistance if you will, remains.
So this morning as we intuitively looked at my relationship with freedom, and how I have been bringing this heaviness to my life, this seriousness that makes things unnecessarily harder (because I don’t believe things can be so easy!), my friend again noted how everything I wanted was right in front of me. And then she used the analogy: “It’s like you’ve built this jail cell around you. On the other side of the door is everything you’d love, but you’ve closed the door and locked it. You’re sitting in the cell now, and you know what’s on the other side of the door, and you know you’re holding the key, but you refuse to open the door.”
It was a vivid and very accurate description. Ordinarily, my response would have likely been something dark and heavy and depressing like, “I know. I can’t get out. I’m so mad at myself. I hate it.” That sort of thinking just keeps me sitting in the proverbial cell longer, and maybe even looking for alternative ways to break out of the cell (unlocking the door with the key would be too easy, so to fulfill my belief that things have to be hard, I’d probably convince myself it was the key to another cell or somehow it wouldn’t work...!)
Instead, my response was one of humor. “Well, that sounds like a Greek tragedy unto itself,” I remarked, laughing a bit. “And how ridiculous is that!” I was finally able to just see my current reality for what it is and laugh at it. I saw the humor in the absurd severity with which I view and judge myself (I’d cast myself as a failure, at least partially, for failing to achieve all I believed I should have this year). I recognized the unnecessary darkness and heaviness I carry around. This jail cell scenario is a short story waiting to be written. It’s full on Freudian.
Then my friend said: “You’re keeping yourself locked in there because those things on the other side of the door are what you desire, and you believe you’re not allowed to have desires.” Again, sad and true, but also absurd and humorous. And let me add one other bit of ridiculousness. I was having this session while experiencing almost complete hearing loss in my right ear thanks to a fungal infection. The gross element aside, it was laughable what I had manifested. Going through what I’ve been going through recently, my ego didn’t want to hear my truth. It’s time for me to live authentically — to completely own the bullshit of the past and let it go. But my ego is resisting massively, especially as I get closer to doing so, so it manifested a fungal infection in my ear and I quite literally can’t hear out of it right now. Once you get past the “Geez, this shit is powerful” moment, you can laugh at it. And that’s what I did.
A new door has opened for me and this is how I get out of that jail cell. I’m recognizing now at a deeper level the ridiculousness of my stories, of my ego, of what my current reality is, but I’m also recognizing that that’s all that it is. It’s not as serious as I have made it out to be in the past. I don’t have to analyze it to the nth degree, I can just acknowledge it, laugh at it, and move on. I get to choose to disempower it and create what I want anyway. And during that session this morning, I realized that from that perspective, everything is a gift. Everything is a lesson. I left the place of pulling myself down into the abyss, the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I suddenly shifted into this place of gratitude, and everything was lighter.
I told my friend, “I have to write a blog post about this jail cell thing. I’ll write it as an ode to 2016.” It wasn’t until I sat down to actually write this that I remembered the “Ode to Joy” I had heard a couple of weeks earlier, and it felt so appropriate. If I were to name in one word what is waiting for me on the other side of that jail cell door, it’s joy. I have been dying to grant myself freedom to dive into the joy of life. As the walls of my resistance fall, just like in the jail cell, I’m ready to bask in my joy this holiday season. I’m claiming my freedom and giving myself the gift of joy.
When I went to search for the particular version of “Ode to Joy” that I had seen performed in celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I learned that it was in fact “Ode to Freedom.” That ending is pure joy. There are no coincidences.