“Where there is vision, there is hope. Where there is hope, there is energy to bring that vision to life” V.E. Wilde
2018 was the end of a 12-year long life chapter, I life to refer to as my own personal phantasmagoria, equally beautiful AND terrifying. The fears I faced were the ugly ones. The joys I experienced were fairytale like, beyond my imagination and far more rich and interesting than anything I prayed for. And there was even a period, just last year, that I experienced bitterness.
If you've never felt bitter, good for you. I hope you never do. If you have, you know it is small, brittle and confining. Like many shadow emotions and experiences, it keeps you in the dark by convincing you there is no light. But I knew enough to promise myself at the beginning of my midlife-makeover that no matter what happens, I will become more loving, not bitter, as a result of whatever is to come.
So when this emotion hit me, I was a little surprised. I thought my intention of love would help me avoid it, but as you might already have guessed, it’s not quite what happened.
One night, I was walking Oliver and all of a sudden became aware of a heavy darkness encasing my inner world. My heart felt so cold, it hurt. My hips and legs felt like trees, so heavy and tight, with no intention of moving anywhere quickly. Loud and clear, the rapid fire fraidy-cat thoughts spun out of control, and for the first time ever, I felt old and bitter. I hated god, I felt alone, I was terrified of more loss after the brutal death of my sweet little dog, Ozzie, and forget about romantic love, all hope for anything good was obliterated.
I wondered: Is this what it’s like when spirit dies? When what animates us decides to leave?
My body felt stiff and old. I couldn’t shake it off or convince myself I was okay. It was a completely new feeling that clearly needed airtime. It felt like it wanted to wreck me. I was sure I’d wake up one morning with the notorious patch of white hair on my forehead and look 40 years older, or maybe I’d just die in my sleep.
I became curious.
Several weeks of bitterness, curiosity and journaling, I tapped into a deep empathy for those struggling with unrelenting sadness and regret and had a visceral understanding of how emotions impact the body, my own included. My legs still didn’t want to move and I didn’t have the energy to force them. Bitterness, I decided was not only a dream killer, but also a life sucker. A vitality stealer. A destroyer of vision and hope. Death.
When asked how I turned out so normal after my childhood, I like to say “I had vision and hope”. These two besties were unrelenting and gave me the energy to get through it all, even sometimes bypass the shit show of my childhood, in particular. In tandem, they supported me through my experience as a single teen-mom, and carried me on through the decades.
But something happened in my 40’s, when everything fell apart and bitterness came for her visit, I truly felt all was lost, and my precious vision and hope were dead. I didn’t have a back up plan, all I could do was surrender and play along.
What I came away with, it’s not that vision and hope were every truly gone, but my focus had shifted so much to the shadow-self, I was blinded by my insecurities and fears that kept me in the dark. Bitterness was a necessary part of the process, the complete opposite of vision and hope. I learned that to face bitterness is to appreciate the value, power and importance of vision and hope.
The reality of a rich and fulfilling life is the integration of the opposites. The realization of self embraces the chaotic, dark, maniacal, with the tender, loving, vulnerability that is distinctly human. While bitterness was a new experience that took a long time to process, it does not sum up this chapter of my life, but played a vital role in creating a sense of wholeness. As I rebuilt my life, reset my beliefs, I reinvigorated my vision and hope.
My mom introduced me to the world “phantasmagoria”. I don’t remember the specific contexts she used the word, yet it was so often it became symbolic of my childhood experience, life with her, and the last 12 years: beautiful and terrifying, as if something in a dream.
2018 may mark the end of a chapter, but certainly not the story. For the first time in awhile, I have a budding vision that energizes me, and a seedling of hope that will carry me through the inevitable adventures of 2019 and beyond.
A note to you: Don’t let anyone dampen your vision and hope - they are the sacred duo that harbor and guide your dreams. Protect them, out your fears, and try to trust the process. If you happen to lose either one, just remember that maybe it’s simply a shift in how you’re looking at the darkness.
To dreams in bloom,
P.S. If you have an experience you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below. I read all your stories. If you do share your story, please remember to include your take-away as well - what made it all worth it.