The month leading up to my 37th birthday was the hardest I've ever experienced. The aftermath of my Breakthrough Crisis was a frightful and perilous time. I had never faced true depression before, but for those months I looked it dead in the eyes - operative word being dead. I felt dead: dead to the life I had known, dead to any coherent sense of myself, dead to hope, dead to the world. In fact I spent the month of September 2012 getting my affairs in order. I wrote a living will and planned a trip to Israel, half expecting and half desiring to become a victim of imminent prewar bombing. Truth be told, I longed to die.
The inside of my hands are lined with wrinkles the likes of which I have never seen on someone my own age. Everyone close to me who has looked at my hands says the same thing; we often joke and lovingly refer to them as my "grandma hands." So in my mid twenties when I visited a professional psychic she took one look at my palms and said, "you must be joking." She proceeded to mention enough relevant details about my current and heretofore life that made me feel comfortable with and confident in her skills. She foretold many things that have come to pass in the last 10 years. I know this because I made a brief list of her insights shortly after our visit and have referenced this list on many occasions since. She ended our conversation by telling me that I have an old soul.
The psychic told me one thing that has stuck in the forefront on my mind for all these years. She relayed that I would witness a miracle by the time I am 37 and that I would write a book about it. I have oft wondered what that miracle would be. A sign from God? A healing? A baby? A walk on water? Some way I might change the world? I avidly awaited this miracle and the chance to share it. 37 came and went. I felt I had failed somehow, and that the hope of my miracle was dead, just like everything else in my life. It morphed from a source of inspiration to a plague of devastating disappointment.
Do you know what happens inside a cocoon? I mean what really happens? The caterpillar basically disintegrates; he melts into primordial goo. Total cellular destruction all except a few extraordinary pieces of embryonic tissue called imaginal cells that enable the transformation to take place. These imaginal cells lay dormant in the caterpillar for all its life until the special moment of transformation. Once they sense the state of goo around them these cells devour the nutrition from the melted caterpillar and begin forming the new structural body of the butterfly. All of the goo is consumed, and the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis fully intact. It takes complete and total destruction of the caterpillar to create the beautiful butterflies we so enjoy and love.
The butterfly has become a symbol for my healing process. Today I feel differently about my experience, about the prophecy, about everything. The great miracle in my life is the unfolding of my story, my truth, and my transformation. Real transformation is a miracle, like the lifecycle of a butterfly. It is hardly explicable by science, for healing doesn't come from the explained. The cycle of samsara - birth, death, and rebirth - is as endless as it is mystical. And through this blog, I am sharing my mystical miracle with the world.
Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has a wound to be healed. I want to believe there is beauty and meaning here. I need to believe this. Pema Chodron speaks about the human addiction to hope in her discourse on Fearless Nontheism. I do not believe there is some 'great babysitter in the sky;' I do not believe God is actively intervening in our lives. I do believe that the truth is inconvenient and that suffering is a natural and inescapable part of life. But I have also come to understand that this suffering is necessary for transformation. And in the midst of suffering I need hope, for without it there is no meaning in my life.
Jane McGonagil's TED talk is a powerful argument for the relationship between suffering and transformation. In this talk she speaks of research done with hospice workers - those who care for us in our last days - and what has been documented as the top 5 regrets of the dying. They are:
1. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.These things are sad, mostly because they are true. And yet there is a ray of sunlight inside this sadness. The crux of Jane's talk is that in certain cases, experiencing trauma can produce a state of betterment. Instead of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, about which we hear all too much, there is a possibility for Post-Traumatic Growth. Some people can actually get stronger and lead fuller lives because of traumatic experience. In fact, the 5 things that those who experience Post-Traumatic Growth have in common are:
2. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
3. I wish I had let myself be happier.
4. I wish I'd had the courage to express my true self.
5. I wish I had lived a life true to my dreams instead of what others expected of me.
1. Our priorities change and we are not afraid to do what makes us happy.These five effects of PTG are oddly the direct opposite of the top 5 regrets of the dying! In this I find great hope, immeasurable strength, and renewed purpose. I have transformed a great deal in this past year and I'm not finished yet. I am hopeful for what I may become on the other side. What matters now is that...
2. We feel closer to friends and family.
3. We understand ourselves and know who we really are now.
4. We have a new sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
5. We are better able to focus on our goals and dreams.
I know that my suffering has produced a stronger state of me.
I know that my experience - awful as it has been at times - has shaped my ability to relate to others truly, deeply, and authentically.
I know that my truth and my story have helped me create a system of priority in my life that supports Who I Really Am.
I hope that a year from now I will be ever better, that maybe I will even be thriving.
I hope that by sharing my story I am able to help others do the same.
But most and best of all, I have hope.