Awakening Goddess: Empowering the Goddess Within
As above, so below, as within, so without - every thing that we desire, and every thing that we fear, exists within us. This blog explores nourishing our dreams, committing to our highest values, and healing ourselves from the inside out: awakening and empowering the Goddess within our bodies, hearts, and lives.
On the Darkest Night of My Soul I found My Light
This is the story of how I made the shift from a lifetime of negative thinking to a new life of positive thinking.
What does positive thinking really mean? I used to think it meant thinking like an optimist. I considered myself a realist back then, and thought optimists were only able to be optimistic because they had never suffered as I had.
I was miserable the first time I read You Can Heal Your Life, a book about using positive affirmations to make your life awesome. There is a section in that book that lists the most common physical, mental, and emotional ailments and recommends an affirmation to heal each of them. I dutifully went through that section and wrote down every single affirmation recommended for my particular issues. I had two pages typed of affirmations to repeat aloud to myself every day, which I managed to do a few times. I even tried singing it.
My life did not suddenly become all rainbows and bubbles. Actually, I went from “miserable single mother in a bad relationship” to “homeless single mother with no relationship” within months of reading that book.
It wasn’t the book’s fault. I simply didn’t learn the key to changing my life from that book.
I didn’t figure out the key to changing my life until after I’d already changed it. Unknowingly, instinctively, I put the key in the ignition of my vehicle to a better life and turned it on during that first stint at homelessness.
How do I tell this story in a way that wouldn’t make that suffering woman I used to be roll her eyes and turn away?
There were positive key words that repulsed that woman, causing an almost involuntary rejection-reaction whenever she came across them. I am going to do my best to avoid using those words in this telling.
To understand where I am coming from, first you need an idea of who I used to be. I grew up believing I was worthless, unlovable, that I had to earn love by pleasing people – buying them gifts, doing anything I could for them, hurting myself for them. My parents punished me for displeasing them when I was a child, and I punished myself as a young adult. I didn’t know I was doing it to myself, most of the time, but in my lowest moments, I consciously punished myself, cutting my skin, punching my own body, insulting myself, telling myself how horrible I was, just as my mother used to do to me.
My parents didn’t consciously set out to teach me to hate myself, or to believe that I was only worth something when I was pleasing someone else. They were just raising me the way they were raised – with the mentality that they were big and I was little, therefore they were right and I was wrong, and if I didn’t obey them then I was disrespecting them and had to have the disrespect beaten, screamed, insulted, isolated, or humiliated right out of me. They didn’t understand that they taught me to behave the way I did, that all I wanted was to be loved, that I had a biological need to feel loved, and that they couldn’t teach me how to feel loved by punishing me. They had never learned another way to parent, never thought to look for one.
Even as a child, I knew what they were doing to me was wrong, and even ridiculous. How do you teach a child not to hit by hitting her? How do you teach a child to be respectful by being disrespectful to her?
I grew up wanting a baby more than air. I would be the perfect mother. I would never lose my temper. I would never spank, scream, insult, isolate, or humiliate my child. I didn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing, how anyone could do such a thing to someone they loved.
Until I did it too.
I did it too, and I shrank into myself, horrified at the monster that existed inside me, like the Hulk, like a switch suddenly flipped that I couldn’t turn off until the rage was spent and I found myself again sobbing with my sobbing toddler in my arms.
What the hell was wrong with me? How could I hurt my baby, the precious being I loved more than my own life? How could I do all the things I always swore I’d never do, things I vehemently ranted against in public, on facebook, on my blogs?
I wondered if I was crazy. I wondered if my son would be better off if I gave him up, but then I would remember every horror story I’d ever read or watched about kids in the foster system, and I’d imagine him 10 years old and crying because his own mother didn’t love him enough to keep him, to live for him, because I knew that if I gave up, if I gave him up, I would also give up on life. He was the only reason I hadn’t killed myself at that point. I loved him more than I hated myself.
We were homeless, but so far we hadn’t had to sleep in a shelter or on the street. So far I had managed to find help to keep a roof over our heads and someone to keep him alive while I searched and begged for work. We rented a bedroom in South Orlando for a few months, living with a bunch of strangers who didn’t want to hear my son or see evidence of his existence. The pressure to keep him quiet, to keep a two year old who had lost everything except his mother and whose mother had pretty much lost her mind QUIET, was too much for me. I was becoming the monster more than the mother.
I finally found a job, only to lose it before it started over something stupid that I couldn’t change, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The hope I’d clung to, the stubborn belief that I was strong enough to survive anything, my very will to live, nearly died that afternoon.
I lost it with my son. The monster in me held a pillow over his face and pushed, trying to make him shut up, GOD JUST SHUT UP, for a few of the longest seconds of my life before the mother took over, threw the pillow across the room and cradled him to my chest while I sobbed into his golden curls, rocking him, singing brokenly until he finally drifted off to sleep.
I couldn’t sleep.
Trapped in the horror of what might of happened, of what could happen someday if I didn’t change something RIGHT THEN, I curled up in the floor sobbing for hours, reliving every horrible moment of my life, hearing my dad’s voice mock me for my pity party, hearing my mom’s voice mocking me, “poor poor Ashley; she’s just so sad because she’s so stupid and ugly and no one will ever love her!”
F*&% YOU, I told those voices. MY SON LOVES ME!
I clung to that thought. My son loves me. My sister loves me. My brother loves me. My best friend loves me. I chanted to myself the litany of friends who loved me, of people I barely knew who had been helping me, checking up on me. I hadn’t done a thing for any of them since before I had my son, but they loved me anyway. There was something in me worth loving. Even if I couldn’t see it, they could, so it must be there. Right?
I had a choice. I had to make it right then, in just that moment, while the pieces of me curled around each other on the cold, dirty floor. Give up or keep trying?
It wasn’t the first time I found myself in pieces on the floor facing that most basic decision, but it had to be the last time. Every time I found myself there, the pieces were smaller and harder to put back together.
As it turns out, that was the last time, because I never put that woman back together. The pieces were too small, too damaged. I couldn’t even find them all. I lost parts of me that I’d once thought essential. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know what I liked, or what I wanted for myself, except one essential thing.
I wanted a home.
Not just a roof over my head, not just a place to sleep and keep my stuff. I wanted a place where I belonged, a place that wanted me as much as I wanted it. I just wanted to belong to someone, to something.
Drained, broken, run out of pain, fear, anger, and even tears, I turned my head up to the sky, to the Goddess I wanted to believe in but didn’t know how, and I prayed. I really prayed. I poured my soul out through my heart, through the raw ache in my throat and sent it out to the universe with my voice, my breathe and I found that though the rest of me was utterly destroyed, what was left was hope, was faith.
There is that word, the word that would have made the woman I was before roll her eyes and turn away. Faith. A hated word, a word that conjured for me zealots and crackpots, Bible-thumpers and hypocrites, but also, beneath all that, images of Buddhists and other people with a mysterious peace in their eyes, their faces, a peace that I had never understood, and thus never trusted.
Well, I found my peace that night. After finding my peace once, I knew it was there, underneath all the fear and pain. All I had to do was expel that fear and pain, and the peace would be there, waiting for me.
The key to changing my life was changing my goal, my focus. Before that night, my goal was to find what I needed to survive. After that night, my goal was to get rid of the fear and the pain that prevented me from thriving.
I didn’t consciously think all this out. Consciously, I just begged the Goddess, the Universe, and Everything for help – help in conquering the monster in me so I could be the mother my son deserved, help making myself whole and healthy, and help finding a real home for us.
In finding my peace, I found my faith – I believed that I could do all these things, and I started looking for them.
That is the essence of positive thinking: looking for what one desires and being aware of every little thing that brings one closer to that desire.
Positive thinking means obsessively thinking about things that make us feel good: seeing the beauty in the world around us, giving the most attention to the kindness, love, and joy we witness every chance we get. Remembering those amazing feelings. Getting passionate, excited, enthusiastic and staying there. Not just thinking, but also doing these things.
The night I found my faith – the unbreakable hope at the core of my being – was the worst night of my life. I will never have a night that bad again. I can’t ever bring myself down that low again. I am fundamentally changed.
It was the rockiest of my rock bottoms, and the climb from that low place was slow-going at first. My emotions were still all over the place. The monster in me still found her way out.
The main difference, in the beginning, was a heightened ability to recognize when negative thinking was getting in my way. Negative thinking is focusing on what is missing, on the things one does NOT want – worries, hurts, frustration, anger.
I met my primary goal within a year of making it – I expelled my pain and lots of my fear, enough that I could forgive my parents, myself, and build a happier, healthier self. I am finally the mother my son deserves. We own our home and we have an extended loving family. Now my goal is to help other people, people like the woman I used to be.
I practiced the skill of shifting my mood. I got happy, and then I got my life together. Now I’m writing the book on how I did that, and blogging, teaching classes, and providing healing and coaching services to help others do it too.
If you are like the woman I used to be, I have a few recommendations to help you make your own shift:
- 1) Understand, internalize, and repeat many times a day the following essential truth: You can’t do better by making yourself feel worse.
- 2) Apply the same concept to others: you can’t inspire people to do better by making them feel worse.
- 3) Make a list of jokes, memories, videos, books, movies, songs, and activities that make you feel good, and practice making yourself feel better. You won’t always be able to go from feeling awful to feeling great, so remember that feeling less awful is a victory!
- 4) Make feeling better your goal. Better, not happy, not healthy, not perfect – just better. Tell yourself that you are feeling better every day. Every day feel better than the day before, and celebrate every little victory.
What can you do to feel good right now?
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