Finding my Watch Woman
| by Katie Morris, Co-Founder of Speak Your Story |
[Full disclosure: I never intended to share this journal with anyone. I didn’t know what words or expressions would flow out of me and onto the page when I started my solo journey. I hadn’t written consistently in years, all the creativity seeming to have evaporated out of me long ago. I knew why. My depression had come back, and I was doing extremely hard work in therapy in ways I never knew were possible or necessary. That period of my life stretched on for almost two and a half years, and it was often dark and lonely. But around January this year, something started to shift inside. Light was flowing in, and instead of the heavy pit I thought had taken permanent residence in my body, I began to feel a calling to transform my loneliness and isolation. Speak Your Story was, in part, brought to life by this new wave of light.
My calling also asked me to take a leap of faith and courage, and go out into the world on my own. Literally. I knew in my bones that I needed to take a solo trip. So in February, with a trembling hand I booked a roundtrip ticket to Budapest. I had never been more excited and simultaneously terrified in my life. Three days before I left, I bought this journal, my first one in 10 years. Turns out the two most important things I packed were this journal and a copy of ‘Eat Pray Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. And just like I knew I needed to take the journey, I feel certain I need to share this with my community. I did not know what I would find out there in Budapest, I tried not to build my expectations up too high. But what I discovered, what I hope shines through in these words, is my redemption, my transformation, my most authentic story.]
“I am alone, I am all alone, I am completely alone.
Grasping this reality, I let go of my bag, drop to my knees, and press my forehead against the floor. There I offer up to the universe a fervent prayer of THANKS.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
April 25 (barely)
As totally, absolutely improbable as it is, I heard “Your Guardian” by Alanis Morissette at dinner tonight. In Etterem Ruben on a small street in Budapest. I had to strain to hear it from the tiny speaker on the ceiling in the corner of the room behind me, over the very loud banter of the table of 14 men seated next to me.
But when I finally confirmed it was my Alanis, I had to hold back the tears. That song used to drive me to despair. I used to have to turn it off before the first verse was complete. The thought of someone being taken care of by a guardian with such unconditionalness, such fiercely protective love would cause my heart to break in half.
I read back sometimes to the emails I wrote to my therapist, JRS, when she was pregnant. That song was intolerable for me because I couldn’t imagine life without her caring for me exactly like that. Some things I wrote:
She is someone who creates a safe space for me, who calls to my most scared self, and makes her feel safe…She has heard what I am ashamed of, that I can admit at least, and she hasn’t turned away, and barriers have been broken, not formed. It is the first relationship in my life that is true…She is my healer and my closest confidant.
~ me, November 8, 2012
Here’s the thing. I realized tonight, in that small Hungarian restaurant, now I do have a Guardian.
I am nurturing my inner self.
I will be my WARRIOR OF CARE.
I keep showing up to therapy, even when it scares the shit out of me. Even when the goodbyes and secret-telling and limited-love receiving are so incredibly painful. And they are. More figure-eight craziness of pain than I could ever anticipate. But I do it because out is through.
And even if there is no “out” of longing and having unmet needs, there is HEALING. And that is the most love I can imagine giving.
You know what? I haven’t laid awake, consumed with worry or sadness since I got here. Could it be the solitude?
I was most afraid of being sad to be alone – that must be what “lonely” is.
There’s the “alone” I’ve felt after therapy sessions with JRS, and when I’m in a group of people and feeling unknown or unseen. But this ALONE, here in Budapest, is not that.
It is feeling content, known and seen. By myself. And that is suddenly enough.
That is the ALONE to be thankful for, over and over again.
The ALONE that gives space and self-love and options, and asks the question, “what now Katie? Where do you want to go? What are you wishing for?”
It is the ALONE that lets me take deep breaths, allows me to linger, encourages reflection. There is no shame in this ALONE. This ALONE says I cannot possibly ruin anything. It is here, ALONE, that I truly and deeply love all of me. Nothing stayed behind. Wholly I came to Budapest. And this ALONE welcomed me with outstretched arms, heart, soul and said “HERE is where you belong. Where you will be held and loved. ALONE with me. It will be beautiful.”
And it is. Beyond what I ever imagined.
Something snuck into my apartment, or my spirit yesterday. I came home to rest, and before I knew it, it was too late to go out and do anything. I started to feel paralyzed, and last night I laid awake until 2:30am, not wanting to sleep. Then I didn’t get up until after noon.
I’m afraid it’s all ending too soon. That I won’t take any of this back with me.
I got lonely too. Started doubting my ability to do this trip, and have fun, on my own. If it is just me, will anyone care about this amazing experience? Can I trust myself to carry all of this beauty, adventure, truth and redemption alone?!
This is my city now, every day I become more part of it. I breathe myself out and take it in. The history, the pain, the suffering and loss. And rebirth, and spirit of resilience, and hope and movement.
I am becoming this city. And it is not paralyzed. Imperfectly moving forward, but not stuck.
I am taking myself out to a beautiful lunch in an old café, and then to a Turkish bath. I will walk across a second bridge. Loneliness and Paralyzed and Sadness will NOT win in me.
I AM STILL HERE.
Yesterday I found my Guardian, my Watch Woman. She towered over me, saying, I have stood here for more than a century and you will too. You have already started this beautiful journey to discover your worth and perfect your happiness. Just look up, climb higher than you ever thought you would, and find me in you.
I knew I had to touch her and take some of her home with me. I needed to meet her, to learn how to be my own Watch Woman, always.
And so I did, and I feel eternally grateful. To freedom and her beautiful, Hungarian form.
Maybe my truest Yoga practice is traveling. I always feel most wholly me when I am adventuring, breathing in new places. The sight of the sky above me brings me so much joy. Just this morning, I had to catch my breath TWICE as I walked to breakfast just a few blocks away. The buildings were so beautifully old and white against the blue sky.
It is here, out in the world, breathing and walking and adventuring that I am truly content. Where I feel most connected to my peaceful, joyful inner self. The Divine spirit that is always in me.
“You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not.”
~Epictetus, Greek Stoic
Except I do know it. I feel her breathing when I am traveling. I see her in others, hear her universal tones and love songs, and recognize her beauty and resilience and kindness, all when I travel. She helps me think and act intentionally. She moves me beyond my sadness and beliefs in what I am capable of. She speaks to me in my own voice. She dispels my fear and self-doubt.
How do I hold onto this when I return?
Will she stay with me?
Of course, Epictetus would say. But you’ll forget.
My life will be spent remembering, over and over again, that there is Divine here.
I am in the loveliest sidewalk café I’ve ever seen, drinking the blushiest, palest, prettiest rose I’ve ever sipped, trying desperately not to cry. I would if there weren’t all these lovely Europeans around me, studying physics, debating wealth and falling in love. Oh god, the whole thing is so beautiful and I AM HERE.
My heart has been burst wide open and all that has flowed in this week is love and grace. The Divine spirit, speaking so softly in my own voice. And sometimes in Elizabeth Gilbert’s voice.
I was afraid I’d be consumed in grief while I was here. Afraid I’d think of JRS and my longing and my deepest unmet needs. But I haven’t. I feel deep in my soul that JRS and therapy have been the most beautiful, devastating, warm path I could possibly have walked to get to this place. Therapy has been my safest place, an enveloping presence and unconditional love I had only once dreamed of. But because I pay JRS, and see her only one hour a week, all of the safety and love brought almost unbearable pain and longing.
But NONE of it followed me to Budapest. Instead, all I have found is safety and enveloping and unconditionalness. In myself. In the wind and the river and the baths and the indecipherable language. That is all to say, I found love and grace out here, in the world. And it flowed in and through me. It has been a discovery of deep love and belonging I didn’t know was possible.
This grace in Budapest has been telling me, “Wait till you see how much love I have to give you. It will be limitless and overwhelming, and you will want to cry and hug the air in front of you. There is so much love for you to receive from the world. You belong here with me. I am the maternal you are longing for.”
And I believe her. Every word.
“If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using to [grieve], you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot- a doorway. And guess what the Universe will do with that doorway? It will RUSH IN – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed.”
~ Richard from Texas, Eat Pray Love
And that is EXACTLY what happened.