Spiritual Winter

spiritual winter1We are reborn many times throughout our lives. With each New Year we grow and change, becoming more than we were. Time and experience alter us physically, mentally and spiritually. Sometimes these evolutions are brought on by joyful happenstance and sometimes they occur through a trial of pain, illness, loss, or grief.

Early last year, my life came to an abrupt halt. My energy left me, I lost all my ambition and hope for my writing and wish for an independent career. I experienced what can only be described as a small death. I couldn’t feel God, I lost faith; both in a higher power and in myself. Life dragged on in a never ending cycle of exhaustion. I thought I knew my purpose in life, but suddenly I was no longer sure. Was I a writer even when I’d stopped writing? Was I a healer even when I felt unable to heal myself? Was I a good mother even when I felt too tired to give the care and attention I used to? Was I still capable of being a good wife or even a fulfilled human being? I felt lost in all these questions.

I was in fact experiencing a spiritual winter. Spiritual winters kill everything you thought you were and everything you thought you believed. They wipe your slate clean leaving you empty and purposeless. My spiritual winter wasn’t depression. Instead it came on my like an illness of body and soul, an exhaustion so complete that the garden of my life was buried under ten feet of ice. But was it a death or a rebirth into something more?

Like grief, spiritual winters stop the natural flow of living. Like a cold snap, they come upon you unexpectedly; changing the way you view the landscape of your life. Everyone will experience a spiritual winter in their life. It may come to you in the death of a loved one, the illness of a friend or in a change so unexpected that at times it seems unendurable. They occur in every culture, in every religion and in every corner of the world. But as unbearable as they seem, they often end with a melting away of old ideologies and preconceptions, making way for a spring-time filled with new and unexpected perceptions. When old beliefs die away our point of view opens, becomes vast and new forms of understanding are able to shine forth.

I survived my spiritual winter by letting go of the idea that, “This shouldn’t be happening.” I chose instead to love what is and to return to what really matters in my life: my family, my beloved friends, my country, my planet and my faith. In truth, I embraced everything that is good about living and I let go of, and took action against, the things that endangered the way of life I love. I prayed, I protested, I wrote congress and the senate and I reached out to those with the power to make a change to better our world. In reaching out I made a difference, I took back my strength and emerged more empowered to act than ever before. And you know what? It worked! I have seen the results I prayed and acted for. I have made connections with people who have the same passions and ideals while expanding my perceptions and awareness of this great universe we live in.

We all suffer. We all endure the trials and tribulations set before us to make our spirits strong. That is why it is so important to be tolerant with strangers while we remember that inside each person a great story is unfolding. For good or bad, we are all waging our own battles with ego, self-judgment and the often heavy realities that come with living. My advice to anyone facing a spiritual winter is to take action, ask for help and comfort, return mentally and emotionally to what really matters in your life and remember that we are all, no matter our beliefs, in this together.

 

With Ease and Grace we move forward in Love.

EE Orme

spiritual winter

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On the Seventh Day She Painted Her Nails

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Nail polish isn’t just some chemicals in a bottle, it is light and color measured out in droplets of perfection, at least that’s how I see it. I pick out nail polish with all the reverence of a devote, matching base color with glittering top coat, pink on pink, gold on gold, disco ball silver glitter over moonstone white with rainbow opalescence. God I love nail polish. I have jewelry and clothes, but only with nail polish do I feel that girly sense of wonder when I sit back and look and my frankly adorable toes and say wow…that’s awesome. I’ve just recovered from yet another bout of clinical depression, the kind that makes me wish for death while I cling to life through long naps, dried fruit, my cat and a good book. In depression I can’t write, I can’t eat, I can hardly do any of the things that a competent successful, vital person can do. Instead I feel childlike, lonely, useless and afraid. No one can help a depressed person unless it’s to get them a blanket, make them eat or get them to talk. A depressed person can’t be helped because the pain comes from nowhere; the medicine does more harm than good and all the bleeding is internal, intangible and imagined. When it passes it’s like having survived a hurricane which blew only in your soul; you look around expecting the house to be gone, your possessions strewn across the road but everything’s in place and you are you only with a little less sparkle than before. Maybe that’s why I love glittery nail polish so much. On the seventh day she painted her toes! This act marks my Sabbath, my holy day, my healing time of rest and revitalization. I know I’ve reached recovery when I pick a new color, look myself in the mirror and say, “I’m feeling pink today.” Today I was feeling pink and my new nail polish reflects that. I may never publish any of the wonderful books I have written, I may never ride a camel around the great pyramids, I may never hike in the alps or walk the grand Camano through the Pyrenees mountains but I’m here today because of you, because of my husband, my son and because of the little things, like nail polish, which make life sweet. God bless you all, and thanks.

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Choosing Healthy over Hellish Love: Understanding the Trauma Bond

I’ve known several people who believed in this phrase, “We always hurt the one’s we love.” These people weren’t naturally abusive but each had a brutal past, a despair based perspective and an intangible grief. They lived in a state of bitter despair, their days clouded with careless words, biting comebacks and bursts of violence. There were constant stories of war, drunkenness and past wrongs depicted so vividly that, even though I wasn’t there, I experienced them vicariously.

Trauma Bonds make you the secret keeper to other people’s traumatic experiences. These bonds hold you hostage to atrocities, forcing you to turn for support to those who witnessed hell with you. Break a trauma bond by starting a better life and you will never be forgiven for leaving your fellow victims alone with their pain.  Stay and you will be forever stuck at the scene of the crime, a captive victim to a hellish past.

Trauma bonds are fused by a love that goes beyond healthy. It asks that you bare your soul, set aside your values and immerse yourself in a cult like existence. The bond is so overwhelming that you forget who you are and what you ever wanted for yourself. Only the trauma exists; the perpetuated recollection of the darkest moments in life replayed again and again within the trauma bond collective.

Trauma bonds are defensive. Everyone outside the bond is viewed as a potential risk, criminal or predator. Within a trauma bond there is no room for growth, no room for happiness, success or healthy relationships with the outside world.

In my book, The Only Home I’ve Ever Known, my character Gidra is trauma bound to her mother Sophia. They survived a war, hid from enemy troops and forage for food through bombed out villages. With the wars end their trauma bond continues. It grows, warps and twists into a new kind of desperation which makes Gidra’s life impossible to endure. At the beginning of the book Sophia artfully recalls their shared past in order to maintain her control over her daughter. You and I have been through a lifetime together and there is no one in this world who will ever love you or know you the way I do. Please remember that when Parker starts to make you promises. Please remember how hard we’ve fought to stay together when life wanted to separate us.” With these well-chosen words Sophia strives to enforce the trauma bond and destroy any hope Gidra may have of a life outside their bond.

Identifying and breaking away from a trauma bond is an important step to discovering your autonomy.  If you are experiencing a relationship that leaves you feeling depleted or depressed it may be traumatically fused. Separation is usually the first step. Only through separation will you begin to gain a new perspective of the world around you. Secondly, forgive your trauma partners for the life they offered you. When you learn to let go of your past you will be ready to embrace your present. Practice self-protection. Set safety boundaries that free you to live authentically. Open your self to new experiences slowly. Too much too quickly can send you back into old habits.  Practice everyday gratitude (this I really can’t stress enough). Chose to be happy and remember that you do not owe your life to anyone. You were born to live each day on your terms. Go forth and truly live.

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The Importance of Relational Intimacy

Society is centered on money and prestige. It’s that simple. Even if you were born a happy hippy kid raised on granola and kisses, by now you know that money=prestige=success in western culture. Our cultivated egos value expensive cars, big houses, designer clothes, and exotic destinations. From the moment we mature to the moment we die, the framework of our life is corrupted by the idea that material achievement is a necessary component of happiness.

We are the wealthiest society in the history of creation. This fact alone should ensure our happiness, and yet we are stressed and depressed because we place our values on things that will never love us back. We cultivate riches instead of enriching the relationships that heal us.

Western culture’s definition of mental health coincides with the dominant values of our culture: autonomy, independence and wealth. We are raised in this isolated society to stand alone, be rugged individuals and to be capitalist ground-breakers.  A healthier way of being productive would be to move, work and create within relationships. I am reading the book Silencing the Self, Women and Depression by Dana Crowley Jack and I agree with Dana that it is natural, not needy, to look for intimacy in relationships; to cleave to a lover, friends, family and community for support.

Women are far more injured by our western role models because a woman is raised to seek intimacy in relationship, to communicate her feelings, to trust in and nurture others. A man is raised to strike out on his own, to keep his feelings subdued, and to be strong, decisive and courageous. This male role model does not mesh well with the intimacy seeking communicative female model. The sad truth is that men need intimacy just as much as women do; they just aren’t raised to know it.

All of my manuscripts are based on the importance of relational intimacy. As a writer of woman’s fiction, I am constantly looking for new ways to show the beauty of deep sustaining love; between friends, lovers, brothers-in-arms, or sisters of a common cause. Nothing we do in life is more important than the people whose lives we touch with care. Intimacy unearths pain, supports healing and is more valuable than any amount of gold. You cannot take your riches with you to heaven, but you can take the love and compassion you’ve invested in others.

The Will to Write

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a writer. The first thing I ever wrote was a water-color illustrated book on sea horses. I was five. What I didn’t know in those early days of creative freedom was that I had a learning disability that would over shadow every part of my education.

Because of my inability to spell, I was told that I would never be a writer. Because of my inability to pass math I was not allowed to take A.P. English classes. Because of my inability to pass Algebra I never graduated from University. You can only flunk basic math so many times before the kick you out.

The truth is that I loved school, I loved history and I loved English and despite all my “in-abilities,” I managed to make it on the dean’s list on several different occasions. I want to write this blog to tell anyone whose struggling that you don’t have to be a brilliant well-rounded “A” student to tell a story. What you do need is the passion and the will to be a writer; the will to take the time to write, the will to slow down and listen to your inner storyteller, and the will to see your story and your characters to their conclusion.