I know that I died at a very young age. This sounds extreme and I know that the ME I am, the true essence of me living my truth in the world effectively died when I was five. Before I turned five, I was bright and inquisitive. I loved to run and explore. I was wonderfully ingenuous. I trusted everyone in my world and wanted to be around them. I was an immense presence in my world. I had a positive impact just by being mySelf in that world.
When I was five, I learned that the world was not a place full of joy and laughter and magic and wonder. Rather, it was a place filled with people who hurt me and rejected me and punished me just for being mySelf. I learned that adults were not to be trusted. I learned to live inside my head and never to let anyone in to know me. I learned how to keep mySelf safe. I learned that I was safer alone. I learned that for my own protection, it was best if I was smarter and louder and bigger than everyone else. I learned to expect rejection for all the things that I AM. And I learned to garner approval for those parts of me which were valued by the adults around me – my being a tomboy, my ability to swear like a sailor at five (which got me a very weird form of approval from adults who laughed at how cute I was), and my intelligence. And at an early age, I learned fear and confusion and began to feel intense rage. I became two people – the one everyone saw and the one I kept protected and whom only I knew.
And then I was eleven and the ‘me’ whom I had projected to the world – the tomboy with the brain and ‘the mouth’ died. I remember wishing that the floor would swallow me up the day my mother informed my father, “Today our Jean became a woman.” And the things I had come to enjoy as the public persona I presented – being a tomboy and going to work with my dad and playing handball with the guys on the street and speaking bluntly using two-by-four language – were no longer acceptable. I was now a ‘woman’ capable of bearing children. So I was supposed to change again and be attractive to boys and be interested in all the things that girls were expected to be interested in – dolls, playing house, learning things domestic, wearing makeup, giggling about boys, being private about my physiology. All this so that I could get married and have children and fit into the cultural ‘norm’. I didn’t want those things. That way, to my mind, led to pain and giving myself over to a male-dominated world. That way meant being vulnerable and unsafe. That way was to become someone who had to deny ‘self’ yet again and live a lie. And I felt that the only part of me left that was valued by the adults in my world was my intelligence. So I capitalized on that and, as I began to live in my head and use my brain to dazzle and astound those around me, I hid even more of myself inside. And as the truth that I knew at five of who I AM was driven deeper inside and became more and more compressed, my rage at the violations I had suffered and the distortions I was expected to accept grew in intensity and immensity. And I was not even two people anymore. I was a talking head walking around on two feet.
I didn’t know how angry I was until I was sixteen. That was when I scared even myself. I have no memory of the day except grabbing my mother’s right hand and lifting my fist but that is the day when my rage came spewing forth like Mount St. Helen’s pyroclastic flow. The day after, I asked my mother how she had gotten such a big and dark bruise on her right arm and she told me that I had caused it. And I got scared of myself. (To this day, 46 years later, I have no memory of what I did.) If I could do that to my mother whom I loved, what else might I be capable of? I could not trust myself to behave in a culturally acceptable manner anymore so that I could ‘fit in’. And if I couldn’t do that, then what would happen to me? What would be left in living for me? I was afraid that I would do something – anything – that would cause my death.
So I did the genius thing. I asked for my Christmas present early. I asked to go see a psychiatrist. At sixteen, I began my journey to look for ways to ‘fix’ me. I spent four years in therapy. I learned how to be the best therapy patient I could possibly be. By that time in my life, I was adept at judging what I had to do to be valued and I would ‘do’ that and ‘be’ that. I learned how to hide my rage and how to fit in and how to be acceptable. The first two years of therapy gave me what I needed to learn in order to do all that.
And then even therapy started not to work. As things got uncomfortable for me and what my therapist wanted to get me to discuss went into areas that I either didn’t want to face or for which I had no language to bring out and understand, I would change the topic or retell the stories of my life – anything to try and still be the ‘good’ patient while effectively doing nothing so that I did not have to show the world and myself who I really was. I was so worried that I would not be able to recognize my true self and that, if I did recognize myself, I would not like the true me I was. I knew that there must have been a reason why I chose to hide mySelf. And the only reason I could think of was that who I was had to be so awful that she would be rejected by everyone else in my world. I could not see that I had chosen to keep my true self safe. I could only believe that I had changed her and driven her so deep down inside because she was defective and deformed.
I did learn to march in step, single file, Indian style. I learned how to fit in. I learned how to manage my state so that I would not scare others away. I completed university finally and in a subject which I love. And I became an educator so I was involved in working with kids while still being able to learn – something I have always loved to do. As I look back now, the reason I was a great teacher was that I was, for my students, the teacher I had always wanted to have. We had fun and learning was fun and my students knew that they could be themselves with me and that we could share our learning together. As a teacher, I was my godforce speaking to the godforce in each of my students. In my classroom, I showed up – the true me who was bright and curious and inquisitive and who knew that there is magic in the world. It was only when I had to ‘do’ teacher that I had to hide mySelf – when I had to deal with my principal or edicts from the board office or my department head or the joys of marks and the external trappings of the work.
For a while, my life worked. I had a job I was good at. I had a presence with my students and in my school. I was busy, at least during the school year. I made myself as busy as I could. I didn’t say ‘no’ to anything I was asked to do. I believed that if I was asked to do so much, then that meant I was important to someone – that I was valued and my contribution was valuable. (I know now that, for most of my life, I have done more and more so that my true self didn’t have to show up and, in the running, I was running away from mySelf.) And I would talk to myself all the time so that there was no silence. In the silence, I might have to hear mySelf from deep down in my soul.
Then things began to unravel for me. While the presenting factor that made the fragmentation of my life apparent was the death of my father, I know now that my life had been fragmented since I was five. I had just learned strategies to hide that from everyone and even myself – keeping busy, avoiding silence, isolating myself from others so that I didn’t have to show up.
Again, I made the genius decision. I took a year off work and went back into therapy so that I could get in control of my life again so that I could live a life in the company of others. And even as I was working so hard to be able to manage my life, I was being bullied by outside authorities. I was the ‘test case’ for my board which had a reputation of having an inordinate number of teachers out on medical stress leave. I was initially denied long term disability coverage and so the director of my board decreed that I was to return to work at the beginning of the second semester or I would be considered to have resigned my job. When I learned of his decree, all I felt was pain and all I wanted was for the pain to end. I decided that if I just went to sleep and never woke up, it would all stop. I just couldn’t fight anymore. I was so tired of struggling. In the end, I was not able to act to remove my hurt. I did, however, do what I needed to do to keep myself safe. I appealed the insurance decision and, upon my winning the appeal, my director backed off.
After a year on medical leave, I was able to go back to work. I was able to cope but now, when I returned to work and my ‘life’, I had to be medicated so that I could keep everything in control. The problem with anti-depressants is that they presuppose that any person has to be depressed: that it is a natural state of being. Being medicated, my life may have been manageable for me but I was also numb. How would I ever reclaim mySelf when I was so anaesthetized that I could not begin to look for mySelf?
Yet I knew that there had to be more; that there had to be a way to ‘fix’ me and to get my life to ‘work’ all the time and in every area of it: work, family, social, personal. Therapy had only given me so much. I knew that I had exhausted that. So began my search for the next new thing to learn, the next course to take, the next book to read, the next strategy to try.
In the end of my exploration of what outside experts postulated as the way and the truth of how to live a meaningful life, none of it held. My life might work in most areas for a time but something would happen and my life would, again, not work or make sense to me. I was tired of feeling that I had to learn strategies and refer to manuals in order to live my life. I was tired of feeling that my life was made up of disjointed compartments – that there was no wholeness to it.
My oldest sister spoke to me of the programmes her friend, Louise LeBrun, had developed through her own search into how to live a fully alive, engaged and meaningful life. I was just so exhausted from seeking and searching and never finding the one truth that an ‘expert’ would lay on me. At the time, I was so tired of being disappointed that my sister’s words fell on deaf ears. So, I did make a choice to stop searching and merely endure. I had decided that a life that was drab and grey and dreary was all that I was to expect of my life. It was the life I deserved.
And I know that I am very intelligent but I didn’t know anything useful about how to live my life. I have credentials but I had no idea who I AM. I looked to others for recognition but had no idea how to just be mySelf. I felt my sense of identity collapsing in my confusion of wondering, “Now what?” I didn’t know who I was.
And still my journey continued. Eventually, I retired. I thought I was prepared for retirement. While I might have completed all the paperwork to set things up financially, I was so wrong about being ready to retire. All the things I had expected to be able to do to keep myself engaged with working with kids and learning (coaching my school’s gymnastics team, supply teaching), all the things that gave my life a sense of meaning, all the things that helped to fill up my day so that I was busy and there was no silence – none of that was possible through no fault of my own. And in the ensuing silence and lack of work which I had expected to be able to do, there was nothing to stop the outpouring of my hurt and confusion and rage. I could no longer keep food down. I threw up, on average, three to six times a day. My body was letting me know, through that, that I was not able to ignore all that I had kept hidden for so long. That I could not do that anymore.
My body is genius. I’m still amazed at how quickly things that don’t make sense in my life present in my body. I have arthritis in my lower back and my knees and my world rarely felt safe and grounded and secure. I have had spastic colitis and mittle schmertz and I rarely felt that I could express my emotions and be heard in my family. I had an ulcer when I was 14 and gastritis and gall bladder surgery and I felt powerless to act on my own behalf and still know I was safe. I’ve had angina and pneumonia and have felt heavy pressure in my chest wall and felt locked up by the cultural beliefs, values and attitudes that I was expected to accept. Every time I had to perform and speak myself to the world, I would develop a sore throat and false laryngitis. I’ve had ear infections and eye infections and have had difficulty connecting to the truth of who I AM. I’ve endured migraine headaches. My body is truly genius. It was always telling me what was not working. I just didn’t know how to get the message. If I had understood what my body was telling me, I would have been open to exploring what Louise had learned in her own searching so much sooner.
Then my niece who had participated in Decloaking and Living Authentically™ and CODE Model Coaching™ training, programmes developed by Louise LeBrun, visited me. I don’t even remember what we were talking about but I do remember that I started to feel agitated and that I felt like I had to throw up yet again. I found myself crying and I didn’t know why. That was typical for me. My niece asked me, “Auntie Jeanie, what is it that you can’t swallow anymore?” And it hit me. I wasn’t able to use food to pack down my emotions anymore. I wasn’t able to talk myself into the ways of coping that had always worked before. I decided almost immediately that it was the right time, now (not 2 years before when my sister had first suggested that I do this, but now) for me to experience Decloaking™ for myself. I was ready.
So began my journey to reclaim mySelf and rebirth mySelf — a journey which started only 18 months ago and which, I know, will continue. Choosing mySelf has the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It has been the beginning of a new world – of a world of my creation. My journey continues through each question I seek answers to, each conversation, each discussion, each connection I make with other powerful godforces. Each time I breathe into what I’m feeling, keep myself in the tough conversations (especially with myself), trust that I am CREATOR – every time that I move forward knowing that I know what is best, that life is about creating and not reacting – every time I remember that I am awake and resourceful, that I am a highly evolved and spiritual person, my life changes in that instant. I know that I am stronger and more powerful than I ever thought I could be. I know that I am safe. I honour mySelf. I trust my life to unfold as I choose it to. I’m present to my world but, most importantly, to myself.
The gift which the programmes developed by Louise LeBrun have been for me is beyond measure. Knowing a new way of living my life in each moment and living it as a frame of reference for inquiry in my life as provided me with an innate way of being. My life works in all areas now. There is no compartmentalization in my life anymore. There is a wholeness to my life such as I have never experienced. There are no blanks or voids anymore.
I have finally, after so many years of looking to someone else to let me know that I am ‘all right’, jettisoned my need for outside approval. I am done with answering the ‘why’s’ of others. I am indifferent to what others think of me. I know that I will always be safe. I understand that vulnerability offers strength and the opportunity for continuous knowing. I see an aspect of mySelf in everyone in my life. There is quiet assurance in feeling that interconnectivity. There is a rhythm in my life which continues with every breath. I now launch mySelf into my world through my commitment to mySelf and my willingness to engage with those whom I meet. I now have language not only for my past but for my future and I bring that into my lived experience. And as I do that, my world shifts revealing to me moments of greatest discovery of mySelf. I know now that I would not have been able to stand where I now do without the collectives and people in my life with whom I can source mySelf.
I respect mySelf and where I am on my journey. Since reclaiming mySelf and my personal truth, I have been willing to be visible and reveal my truth to the people in my life. I now follow the impulse which guides me. I do not edit myself and what I say for fear of being disapproved of by others. I no longer wait for permission to be involved in the events in my life. I choose whether to involve myself or not and the degree to which I will engage. I am now only willing to engage those things that source me and my continuing evolution. I am present to my own reality at each logical level of understanding and in each moment. I am aware of the places and spaces in my life where I’ve held on to the story of my past, seeing myself through others’ eyes and being held in stasis by my fears. I know that my fears live in my undeclared truth. In declaring my truth, those fears collapse. And I know that my past is not relevant to my continued evolution as the immense, intense, and creating godforce that I know mySelf to be.
I have reclaimed mySelf. I have been present at my rebirth. I have held mySelf safe and have gestated mySelf. I have been my own doula and midwife at the same time. I have been the vessel holding mySelf and the support, the creator and nurturer and the guide at the same time.
And it continues – sometimes I notice changes in me in dramatic ways, sometimes the fact that something has changed strikes me quietly and after the fact.
A line which I remember from a made-for-television movie seems very apt now. “The world will tell you who you are, until you tell the world.” That surety is what I have found.
What keeps us separate from each other is our believing that life is comprised of finite experiences. I know that I am never done. I know that I am never ‘fixed’ and that there never was anything to ‘fix’ in the first place. My every inhalation has an exhalation which leads to another inhalation. The process is infinite. It is organic and symbiotic. And as I continue to live my truth and know who I AM, I become the invitation to others to know themselves. What I know is that the absolute truth that I choose to live by is the truth of each moment. It all hinges on me staying connected to mySelf and to my own evolution.
In my awareness of my own vibration as I speak, I have come to know that I must let go of any need for others to understand what I am talking about. I know that as I engage the process of this model and am fully present to that process, I lift myself out of content and story. And I know that as I engage in this way, not only am I changed, but the world is changed in an instant.