As women, we have within us a sacred power that nurtures and guides us throughout the course of our lives. At times, it seems as if that power has been diminished or snuffed out as we take on the roles that have traditionally defined us as women.
Last weekend, I drove cross-country with my daughter to drop her off in Florida for college. She has been a significant part of my life, energy, and attention for the last 18 years. Now it is time to release her into the world and trust that she will find her own way.
I know parents have expressed their feelings of having an empty nest when all of their children have left home, but I have experienced the opposite emotions. Although my last daughter has left the nest, there is now more room for me to grow and expand. I have not experienced fear, loneliness, or a loss of purpose; instead, I have experienced a reawakening of a dormant and neglected Julia.
Within the last few days, I have joined a gym, started doing yoga again, taken leisurely strolls, and moved throughout my day in a rhythm that feels meaningful and beautiful. Long ago, it would not have appeared that I would even be alive to have this opportunity. Two of my brothers died at a very young age. After the second death, my mother became extremely ill, and my father was no longer emotionally available to anyone who loved him.
At a very young age, I became an emotional orphan, and this had devastating effects on my life. During my teen years, I turned to substances and released a wrath on my mother that took years to heal. In my twenties, I was driving to work one day and had an overwhelming feeling to crash into a brick pylon and end my own life. The feeling was so extreme that I drove myself to a hospital and asked that I be admitted because I believed that I would take my own life.
After that psychiatric hospitalization and another that lasted six weeks, I began to rebuild a life for myself in which I no longer blamed others. I began to take responsibility for my choices and my life, and I began the arduous task of healing. I also began to think about how I wanted to use the pain and trauma that I experienced throughout the course of my life.
Did I want to remain bitter and ill, or did I want to use those experiences to guide and empower others to seek wellness and wholeness?
My decision was the latter. I enrolled in school and received my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and then went on to receive my master’s degree in social work. Throughout my master’s program, I was within the top five percent of my class. As a school social worker, I created Safe Haven Yoga Therapy, which incorporated yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and massage to help children in special-education classrooms who exhibited severe behaviors.
I went back to school to become a certified yoga instructor when I saw that other therapies did not work for many of these beloved children. The program was a success, with aggressive behaviors in and out of the classroom significantly reduced after three weekly one-hour sessions. I have been nominated Staff Member of the Year and Employee of the Quarter while employed by two different agencies.
I am not bragging about myself. I am sharing these accomplishments because they often occurred simultaneously with my deepest bouts of depression and despair. These accomplishments occurred throughout two divorces and while raising my children as a single parent without the support of family.
I am a warrior whose skills have been honed by my losses and pain, yet I have created the most extraordinary life and am at peace. I live a simple life with kindness, love, forgiveness, and tenderness as my guiding mantras. Never could I have imagined that I would have built such a beautiful life back when I was a lonely, scared, and wounded young woman.
If you hold on during your darkest moments and continue to reach for a life that is meaningful and purposeful to you, the sacred power within you will emerge. You will be greater, fuller, and more in love with yourself and others than you could have ever possibly imagined.
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