Have you ever witnessed a woman’s face when she is giving birth? I’ve only seen it on Call the Midwife and a handful of movies or television shows but it’s usually the same experience so the people making these films must have some intel on the situation. It looks like a lot of pain. I guess that’s what one can come to expect when giving life to a person.. or an idea, a project, a work of art. It doesn’t really matter what you are creating, the process is going to be painful. Maybe that is what makes it exciting.
I’ve been in a lot pain. Recently. In the past. In the long past. It has been a lifetime filled with pain. It has also been a lifetime of pure joy. After all, consider the look on the woman’s face when, first, she holds her baby. Pure joy. Oh, sure, there are times when that’s not the case but those must be extreme circumstances. Usually a woman wants to have that baby and is happy about it. Usually an author wants that volume, usually an actor wants that performance, usually a tech wants that ap. People work to create something that they want, something that will give them satisfaction.
I have been in the process of creating and my creation has begun to come into the light. Dare alla Luce is an Italian term meaning ‘to bring to the light’. That is what is happening to me right now. I am bringing to the light my latest creation.
I have spent my life in pursuit of something. The something may change but it is always a pursuit of something. Sometimes I am not successful in my quest. Sometimes I am successful with an unsatisfying result. And that dissatisfaction has controlled me for decades.
As a child I wanted to be liked. It is a basic need, one most humans have. To be liked, to be loved, to be wanted. I wanted to be wanted. I wasn’t. I had few friends and a father who didn’t like me. It was my ambition to turn that around and it became the focus of my life – until I found a new focus. My new desire was to be an artist, to make people feel with my art, to make my fame and fortune with my art. I spent my adulthood in that pursuit, also continuing the quest to be wanted. Racking up years of rejection as both an artist and a person, I turned to alcohol to escape the reality that I had failed. Continuing to rack up failures, I crawled deeper and deeper into the bottle. I used drugs occasionally for fun but it was alcohol that helped me to escape reality, for that was my true addiction: escaping reality. I spent decades battling alcohol and the escape of my dissatisfying reality, to the dismay of my husband and loved ones. I would protect myself from further injury at all costs, even the cost of the love designed to save me from the pain.
Today I am free. Free of the pain, free of the addiction, free of the root of the problem.
Today I step, fully, into the light.
Today I darre alla luce the person I was born to be.
In my therapy session this week my husband said something that was the catalyst to the beginning of the journey into the light. We do our therapy together because, together, we are always stronger. When we are with the therapist together we can help each other to be honest, to remember the things we would rather forget but which are essential to the healing process and we can assure each other that we are not going to be alone during our healing. My husband said “I want to protect Baby Stephen from any more pain.” I turned to him instinctually and said
“Baby Stephen is just fine.”
I hadn’t really acknowledged this, yet, in my adulthood. It was true, though: my inner child is fine. Sometime in the last years this grown up crawled inside himself and had a come to jesus talk with his inner child and laid to rest the pain from being the school kid nobody liked, the son whose father didn’t want him, the outcast on his own. That baggage we create in our formative years that weighs us down for the rest of our lives had been unpacked and put away. The pain of criticism and rejection from years past was no longer coursing through the veins of the person who was the remains of Baby Stephen. My inner child was perfectly happy and I didn’t even know it, until those words came out of my mouth without the benefit of pre-meditation.
Baby Stephen is just fine.
I took this sentence into my meditation the next day. I reflected on the need for approval, for validation, for love, only to discover that I need no approval because I approve of myself. I require no validation, for I validate myself. I crave no love for I love myself and I have a family who provides me with more love than I will actually require to be happy for my remaining days. I meditated on my relationship with my father, the one who never liked his gay son. I thought on our last few phone conversations and these last decades of growing friendship. My father has verbally admired me, appreciated me, approved of me and authenticated the father-son relationship that we have designed, in spite of his early appraisal of me.
Baby Stephen is just fine.
But what about middle aged Stephen? How was he feeling? For years he had worn the badge of the failed artist, having created a place in the show business community that culminated in the publication of a photography book that nobody bought, relegating him to The Room of the Failures. Years later he had an idea for a movie, saw the documentary created and sat in the cinemas that were empty of other patrons. Devastated because this time he had drawn three loved ones into the creating process and, thus, inflicting them with the Sword of Failure hanging over his head. The cross he bore after this was spine-crushing, which is probably why middle aged Stephen has been in and out of doctor’s offices for six years, dealing with crippling back pain. What about that Stephen? How was he doing?
I meditated on these events, my reactions to these events and the quest to let them go.
Only, like Baby Stephen, it turned out middle aged Stephen was closer to letting go of the weight than I thought. As the meditation rolled on a curtain was lifted on the realization that I didn’t care anymore. The movie Married and Counting was in the past and The Sweater Book was ancient history. Even my most recent book Lived In Crazy had to be considered. After all, my agent hadn’t wanted it. Some of my closest friends hadn’t bought it. My own mother had never cracked the spine and my husband’s copy remained on a book case, the bookmark in the same spot it had occupied since January. Did it hurt? Shockingly. No. It is none of my business or concern if my loved ones don’t want to read my book. It is no concern of mine, though they are missing out on a very entertaining read. It matters not.
What a surprise.
Notorious for holding grudges, I was stunned to discover that I didn’t care if they don’t read my book, I don’t care if nobody bought The Sweater Book, I won’t care if Married and Counting didn’t get a wider audience. It is none of my business. And what of the future projects? How would I feel if those endeavors failed? Would it land me in emotional distress? Or, worse, a bottle?
There are no future projects. I am not working on anything right now except myself. I have a job that pays the bills, I have a gym where I can get healthy again after my recent medical woes, I have a happy home life. I have no projects and no ambition. I have no designs that go beyond the door of my happy home.
While watching So You Think You Can Dance this week I turned to Pat and told him “That passion they are talking about in their interviews? That “I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life” and “Dance is my passion, I couldn’t live without it” moment? I don’t have it anymore. When I was doing both of my books and the movie, it was that, morning, noon and night. I had blinders on. The project was my every waking moment. But now I feel that for nothing. The passion I feel now is for my husband, only. I have family that I love, a job that I love, a life in the world of nature and the world of exercise that I love; but I have no passion, no dream, to designs on anything outside of my personal life. In my life I have tried to make art, I’ve tried to make a difference and the only thing I have successfully made is myself unhappy. The only things I want to make now are money and progress in my own personal growth. This time is my time. It is time for me. Time to be free of all the baggage, all the struggle, all the preconceived notions, all the pain and unhappiness.
In that moment of clarity I felt freedom. Maybe it’s just moments of clarity we get but I got one and that was it. Happy at home, happy at work, re-building my health and my body, some financial security, loved by my family, friends with my father, able to self-validate, out of the chains of the past, out from under the thumb of ambition and dreams… free.
I am free.
And free from the alcohol. The words escaped my lips: “I have no reason to drink anymore. I have no desire to drink. I have no reality to escape.”
I am free.
Is the quest over? No. Is the journey finished? Not yet. It is simply clearer now. It will be, hopefully, easier now. A lot has fallen away in this last few days. When what falls away falls away, everything else falls into place.
I am free. Free to live in the light. Free to be happy. Free to let go of the past, the pain and the powerlessness. I am free to darre alla luce, and there is nothing without the light. My face will be turned up toward that light.
Finally. I can move forward in authenticity, joy and peace, even as I learn to walk all over again, in all this newness and wonderment.