Coming Out of the Dark

Uncategorized Mar 07, 2024

The words from this old song keep coming into my head, from Gloria Estefan…”Coming Out of the Dark”. It is hard to describe the tiniest little sliver of light that I started to feel these past few days. It is quite remarkable because as much as I wanted it and looked for it and tried to rush it along, the darkness and grief and letting go that has been at the core of my last three months life experience has a timeline of its own.


Just 6 days ago, I was crying and feeling so much pain in my heart, a seemingly deeper and sharper level than what had come before. As I shared it with a few supportive friends, I remember feeling a fogginess or surrealness that encapsulated every cell of my being. Almost like I wasn’t even in my body. But I was. And it was real. And it hurt.


As I have done way too many times during this time, I went straight to the store for a pint of Haagen Dazs. Amazing how comforting ice cream feels at 10:00 at night, when you are all alone and living “in the dark”. As I repeated this “pint pattern”, I also repeated my feeling of self-disappointment, shame, and a clear knowing that I was punishing myself or at minimum, not loving myself through this journey. That may be the big blessing that is coming upon me through this latest plunge to the pavement of life. Loving…My…Self. Taking…Care…of…Myself. An experiential paradigm shift for this controlling, codependent rescuer.


For whatever reason, all the losses, traumas, self-help, therapeutic interventions, and even 23+ years of recovery were not enough to free me of the deep need to fix, change, save, wake up, and heal…others. I do believe, with caution and humility, that is about to change. In fact, I think that sliver of light that I felt for the first time 3 or 4 days ago was the beginning of another seismic shift at the core of my being.


When John died over 11 years ago, I experienced a seismic shift. For me that was a shift so deep and so powerful, it simply changed the landscape of my understanding of life and non-life for evermore. As those first few months passed, my experience of complete trust, letting go, allowing, and receiving everything taken care of was etched into my being. The clarity that emerged is as crisp right now as it was when so many magical moments were happening then.


However, even in my quest to remain “conscious” and not fall back to the patterns of my past, life and humanness prevailed. For nearly 8 years, my love affair was with work and my fierce determination was to protect Kaya from any more trauma or struggle in life. Moving us away from the country home of her first 5 years; moving in with family to give her stability; moving us to Bainbridge Island to give her the ideal community, best schools, and recreational opportunities; pulling her from public school and placing her in private school to get her away from the bullies and mean girls of 5th grade that were leading her to deep anxiety and the beginnings of compulsive behaviors; taking her to other countries and experiences to shape her leadership, compassion and “worldliness”; and on and on it goes. As hard as I tried, I was not successful in playing God and I did not, and do not, know what is best for Kaya Grace Clifford. Her path is her path. I always said that and believed it from the moment she was born, but those mama bear instincts took over.


Today, I cried and hugged and told that beautiful girl how much I loved her, as I said goodbye. She was admitted to a dual-diagnosis residential program in Northern California. Through grace and incredible generosity of referral resources, I am hopeful that the place she was accepted to and will be living for the next 30-90 days will begin her journey of healing. From her addiction, mental health challenges, and her own traumas. Whatever her experience, I can breathe and believe, that I am doing and have done the best I could. And that is all. The second guessing, guilt, comparison, and self-deprecation have only served in modeling unhealthy patterns for her and everyone else in my life.


Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. And it is time for each of us to learn that we can and deserve to come first. I am so proud of my daughter. She is an incredible, wise, and courageous human being. I believe she has the potential, as we all do, to impact and serve the world in a powerful way, through her fullest authentic self-expression. While I can’t control any of it, I can and will always do whatever I can do to support her, in healthy ways for both of us.


As I sit on this airplane headed back to Bainbridge, the sun is shining through, weight has been lifted, faith and trust are in the driver’s seat of my entire life, and I can taste a new freedom and passion bubbling up inside. More will certainly be revealed. More pain and sorrow; more joy and laughter; more delightful surprises; and more surrender to the real and the raw of life. I can say honestly and unequivocally that I would not have it any other way. The richness of my relationships, conversations, and life unfolding are the greatest gift ever to be received. And as I get closer to arriving home, alone in a different way than I have been for 16+ years, I feel peaceful and trusting that again, I receive everything taken care of, if I just stay out of the way. While I have no idea what life will bring today, tomorrow, or ever, I can make choices and decisions, including taking care of my health and vitality. I have chosen not to take in sweets of any kind for many days in a row. And I am worth it!

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