Growth is not a crisis

I was talking to a friend earlier this week about all the ways I’ve changed in the past year. I jokingly said “I think I’m going through a midlife crisis!”

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that since I said it. Because here’s the thing… I’ve definitely grown and changed more this past year than any previous year since childhood. But it isn’t a crisis. Far from it.

The word “crisis” indicates a falling apart. What I’ve experienced this past year is a coming together. All the pieces of myself that were scattered by trauma – the trauma of childhood, the trauma of a toxic marriage, the trauma of divorce, the trauma of long-term critical illness; all these pieces of me that were lost are finally being rediscovered.

And each time I put a new piece of myself back where it belongs, a transformation takes place, my light shines a little brighter.

Some people are attracted to the light. I’ve made so many new friends, had new experiences, created new connections with people I didn’t even really know were there. I was blinded by the dark and couldn’t see all the beautiful colors around me.

Every day is like a gift of new discoveries, new nuances in a world that was right in front of me all along, but were only vague shapes in the semi-dark of my trauma.

Others around me are repelled by the light within me that shines ever brighter. Like flipping a light switch on in the middle of the night, they are left blinking, disoriented, and baffled. They were accustomed to my darkness. Their eyes struggle to adjust to this new technicolor version of me.

And it’s okay. I know deep in my bones that I don’t need to be understood by everyone. With new awareness and vision, I can more clearly see what really matters. Being understood, being liked, being affirmed by others isn’t the point. It’s being loved and accepted by myself that gives life joy.

Others may or may not see and appreciate all the ways I light up the world, and that’s okay. All that matters is that I see it. Because if I don’t, I can’t surround myself with others who are emotionally safe. If I don’t see it, I can’t fully lean into my own gifts; I can’t leave the world better than I found it. And isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what we are meant to do?

I’m still processing the shame that comes from not seeing my true self sooner. But every day, as more lost pieces of me are found, the my ever-growing light dissolves a little more of the darkness of that shame. With the light comes forgiveness, grace, and peace.

Sometimes the light exposes the mess. This is inevitable. After all, I’d been stumbling around in the dark for over 40 years. When you cannot see clearly, you fall, knock things over, mistake one object for something else. As the sunrise slowly dawns, I begin to see the wreckage left by the me who could not see.

I have this intense sense of urgency to get to work tidying up, to tie up loose ends, to make things right. But the truth is, there is only so much time and energy left in me to clean up the mess. So I must prioritize. I must choose what is necessary to fix, and what can be left behind in the wreckage of my trauma.

That is the place I am at now. A place of prioritizing, of choosing to repair or walk away. It is painful sometimes, but also beautiful in a way I didn’t know was possible. I chose the wrong word when describing my life earlier this week. What I’m experiencing is not a crisis. It’s a rehabilitation. A rebuilding after the tsunami of trauma. An awakening. A sunrise.

No, what is happening to me is not a crisis. It is a becoming.

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