Monday, January 28, 2008

Victim, Survivor and Beyond

I feel uneasy when people who’ve been abused or are dealing with chronic illness are referred to or refer to themselves as “victims.” This word choice seems disempowering to a person who’s faced and lived through such life-altering challenges. A better word is “survivor.” Because even to survive what has occurred and its aftermath is a huge accomlishment.

When the people I work with talk about their journeys of healing life challenges, the progression moves from victimhood and ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’.” That’s certainly been true for me personally. Over the years, the more I’ve accepted and embraced what happened, the more I’ve let go and found the learning in it, I feel as though I’ve moved from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’ in my life.

Still, there were definitely days and moments on my journey when I felt like a victim. Looking back now, however, I recognize that even as a child, I had this refuge of strength inside, this wholeness that couldn’t be broken, not by anything that happened outside me. Not by my father. Not by CFS. A part that could not be touched or harmed – this spark of wholeness, ready to burst into flame. That part shines beyond any concept of victim or survivor. And I truly believe that everyone has the spark—always, that I’m not special in having it.

Here’s a quote from my memoir, Riding Grace, about that:

“But even as a flawed, now healthy human being, mucking her way along the forgiveness path, I recognize in this moment that, in the truest sense, I’m not now nor was I ever my father’s victim. For reasons beyond my human comprehension, I chose this challenging path of spiritual evolution to heal myself on a very deep level, and to reverberate that healing out in a way that might touch the lives of others. I accept this and with that acceptance, I realize the anger I carried about the abuse and the CFS is gone.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Embracing Life, Consenting to What Is

When I was on my journey of healing chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and childhood sexual abuse, I believed in the mind/body/spirit connection. I saw CFS—and the abuse—as a giant wake up call to heal not only my body, but my life. As part of responding to that call and fully involving myself in my own healing, I witnessed as the old foundations of my life were stripped away. Because of the debilitating illness, I couldn’t work or participate in life activities as I had. So I slowed down, let myself freefall in the void, listened deeply to my own being. Even though I couldn’t do much in the outside world, I recreated myself as an explorer of my inner world—of consciousness and soul awareness, as an alchemist transmuting darkness into light.

The many lessons I learned while “being” helped me live as fully as possible—with or without the physical limitations of an illness. The most important of those lessons for me—and the most difficult was: To consent, to accept what is. The fear was that to say yes to all life, even illness or past abuse, was to resign myself to it, say it was okay it happened, or to diminish its magnitude. If I accepted it, I’d be giving up. But none of this was true. Instead, truly embracing even CFS meant that I accepted all of myself. Instead of fighting with symptoms, judging them, feeling like their victim, I learned to surrender. Rather than pushing away difficult feelings, I loved my vulnerable messy humanness. At the same time, I did everything I could to get over the illness.

Acceptance on this scale, I found, allowed me to choose life, to move with its flow, rather than to deny. The more I consented to what was, the better I felt, and the more things shifted on their own. New healing resources appeared. I felt more peaceful and had more insights about my next steps.

I saw that even my severely limited life, as a person dealing with CFS, was as valid and important as any part of my so-called “do-er,” productive life had been. I learned to trust in the ultimate goodness of life and the rightness of my own zig zag bumpy path.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Power of Words to Heal

In Riding Grace, I raised my voice, no longer silenced by illness or abuse, and told the story I’d been afraid to tell all my life. This act of writing my story has healed and transformed me in ways I’d almost stopped daring to dream were possible. In listening to the call of the soul to write, I stopped being a victim—or a survivor—of abuse or illness and reclaimed a wholeness that lives inside me, regardless of what happened in the past. So many people who’ve been abused or seriously ill don’t speak out because of fear, shame and societal stigma and denial. It is my hope Riding Grace inspires people who’ve had their voices silenced to reclaim them. I want readers to know and trust the power that their own words and stories have to heal themselves and others.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What I'm Exploring Here

“…Eventually, I fall into and embrace life as it is. I stop pushing my precious life away, even when it’s full of suffering…This is who I am. This is who I’ve become on this journey. And always, always, as I embrace what is, small and large miracles of help and perspective eventually come.”

– From Riding Grace

A friend who had been facing an extended period of challenges once asked me, “What else does life want from me?”

“Everything,” I answered, without hesitation.

I answered because that’s what I’ve experienced. Since the moment I committed to writing Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, at 2 a.m., June 14, 1998, life asked me to give everything to it, from the full radiant glory to the face-down-smashed-in-the-mud messiness of my being.

It first asked me to give everything when I could only concentrate 15 minutes at a time because of a debilitating illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Life asked even though this creative act would also mean delving into the childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the root of the illness.

But my choice to give life everything, to say yes to all of it, has, oddly enough, given me everything—starting 12 hours after I made the decision to share my story, to embrace and accept it, no matter what trials it presented.

At that time, in a workshop led by two healers, I experienced a complete spontaneous healing of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that had been my companion for 12 years and a deep healing of the abuse issues. I’ve been healthy ever since.

Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul is the memoir of what I experienced and learned on the journey, my own gift of everything. Writing it was its own journey of healing and transformation. This blog is a further extension of the journey begun in the memoir. It is about the healing and transformative power of writing and creating from the "yes" of my being--and exploring it in the work and process of other creative people, too. It's about what didn't end up in Riding Grace--the additional learning and growth--but has value to a healing journey. And it's about the healing and transformative process of bringing a deeply personal and transformational memoir out into the world. Thank you for taking the time to explore with me. Alissa Lukara