Waking Up

By Elizabeth Love Kennon

Sobs I can’t control wrench my body, making it hard to see the trees and plowed fields rolling past the windshield.

Every time I drive alone, the anguish jumps me, like a delinquent, lurking in a parking lot.

The keening… howling…  I don’t recognize my own voice. What the hell is going on?

The car is my only place of solitude. As I can see, car park painting can be just as creative as the motorsport circuits we work on, and rarely even then—without my boys, without my husband, without the responsibilities of the house and farm. Am I going crazy? I don’t even know why I’m at the edge of my life—my normal, good life—hemorrhaging grief.


and rarely even then; without my boys, without my husband, without the responsibilities of the house and farm. Am I going crazy? I don’t even know why I’m at the edge of my life – my normal, good life – hemorrhaging grief.

Only that this, somehow, is the most honest I’ve ever allowed myself to be.

And that thought terrifies me.

It all started as an innocent whisper, a faint scent on the breeze – the coming of spring that beckons wintering birds to renounce their exile and wing their way home.

It didn’t start as grief…  but a stirring.

Waking up.

How long have I been sleeping?

Why is it hard to remember the past 20 years?

Halley. My mare. Trust an alpha mare to wake a woman up!

She is the fruition of a lifelong dream.

We bought the farmhouse. Built the stalls, cleared and fenced the pastures and rings, built the hay shed, the hitching post, and after 39 years of longing, of lessons and leasing, of working as groom, trainer, instructor in others’ barns, I brought home Halley, my first horse.

I can’t stop the grin, as I picture pointing my finger at her. “She started it!”

I didn’t mean for it to go here.

I just wanted to have my own horse.

But she taught me the dance of her language…  body, focus, energy, movement, emotion, congruence. She was my Rosetta Stone, taking me from the world of riding, jumping, training, showing – and initiating me into a world of energetic connection – teaching me to whisper with her.

All the while, bringing me back to my native tongue.

… that first scent of fertile ground opening to the sun.

It’s dangerous to wake up. To remember who I am.

Like the recurring dreams I have each month – have had for over a decade, of a tidal wave eclipsing the beach I’m standing on, swallowing people, buildings, cars… everything in its path. And there’s no escape. I’m running and running, but it roars over me, over everyone around me, bringing total destruction – and I wake up shaking, gasping for breath.

I love the ocean.

But there’s something in those depths that will consume me.

Consume the life I’ve built.

What have I built?

Over 20 years of marriage to a good man. Two fantastic boys – homeschooled for years, and now happily enrolled in a local charter school. My farm, my horses…

So why do I get hives every night before my husband comes home?

Why does he get up in the middle of the night every night to sleep till morning, on the couch?

I’m haunted by the recurring dream that he walks up to me and tells me he never loved me, and doesn’t want to be married to me anymore…   I watch helpless, as my life crumbles around me, and he walks off, indifferent.

With each dream, because they happen so often, I’m convinced that THIS time it’s real. All the others were dreams, but now the unthinkable is happening.

We’ve only ever had one fight…  or one topic to fight about. Though we’ve fought it over and over and over, for 20 years. And it always ends the same.

I need more from him.

After the tears, the desolation, the loneliness and aching for connection, I put the walls around my heart again, and resign myself to accept what he can give me and not ask for more.

Reconnecting with a soul friend…  it begins with a single email, asking for my help, after 10 years of silence, of separate lives, to protect the worlds we’ve chosen…  and out in the ocean a wave is building.

Something’s been stirring in me.

There’s more for me to give. More that my life is about than family and farm. The boys are in school now, we could use the extra finances… and Life is calling me to share my gifts.

But what are they?

A trip out to California. All the way from North Carolina.

Months of prayer, research, looking within. I’m wired to help people. No surprise there.

I need more training.

Counseling or Life Coaching? Never heard of Life Coaching before this. Everything in me says, YES. So I choose a training.

I’ve never been this far from home, and never been away from my family alone before.

Sitting on the plane, looking out over the wing, I feel God’s presence there – at the very tip of the wing, as though He were perched out there looking in at me. Beckoning with a finger, for me to follow.

There in the training, overlooking the San Diego bay, with sea lions sunning themselves beside the docked sailboats, I raise my hand. “I didn’t get it right.”

Everyone else is smiling, euphoric.

Seeing visions of who they are, what is unfolding in their lives.

I see myself coming home, walking through the house, and there’s no place for me. I’m old, haggard, exhausted, and a shadow of myself. There’s nothing of mine here, and no place to even put my suitcase.

The shell around my life cracks. I’ve seen what I have vowed not to see.

… the wave is building.

I cry the rest of the trip.

Is this what a baby feels like as it’s being birthed?

Being pushed, compelled away from all that’s been safety or comfort?

I have a body memory, that reaches back to the moment of birthing. Being squeezed so hard it’s crushing my face and neck. I feel fluids in my airway and no thought of breathing, just the discomfort of being born down upon. There’s a weight that feels suffocating, but from pressure, not lack of air.

This feels like that.

Everything I’ve known, everything I’ve built doesn’t fit me anymore. And the only way forward is crushing me. Suffocating fear…

I have this glimpse of what could be – open expanse, wings unfurled, it catches me off guard, delighting my heart. That promise of spring…  but to get there, I have to leave everything I know my life to be. My own awareness is bearing down on me like birthing contractions, refusing me a way back.

The wave is in sight.

After months of fighting – fighting with myself, fighting with my husband, fighting for a compromise that will save what we’ve built, the tidal wave crashes.

I move out to the studio on our farm, and he stays in the house with the boys.

The water recedes, leaving wreckage in it’s wake, and with it, an eerie peace.

The hives are gone.

So are the nightmares. Though in waking moments I sometimes spin, not sure if this is yet another dream of my marriage ending, or if this time it’s for real.

That shakes me.

Now I know why I cry.

And I cry all the time.

The lonely stalks me…  becoming a familiar face now. The grocery store is one of the worst places. Something so innocuous reminding me that I’m no longer a wife, no longer anyone’s partner. That no one has my back anymore. That the life I built is over.

I’m here alone.

Somehow, I’m not afraid of the tears anymore. Or the grief.

It didn’t kill me.

My life came apart, but I’m still here.

I learn how to lean into the pain now…  purging wounds that have festered for decades. There’s no illusion left to protect.

With that fear gone, I’m gaining strength.

I still don’t like the pain. Who does?

But it’s different.

I’m raw. I don’t have patience for protecting illusions.

Many who were my friends avoid me.

More loss.

More tears.

And on the other side…   more strength.

There’s no bathroom in the studio I live in, and at 3:00am, when nature calls, I step outside under the huge night sky. That’s one of the good things about living in the country. No one can see you.

Looking up, from my vulnerable position, I see Cassiopeia, Orion, the Milky Way – the stars leaning down over me, huge and soft, like friends from outside of time.  They’ve been here. Waiting.

A shooting star dusts the Pleiades.

Warmth rises through me, though my breath hangs in the air.

I’m not here alone.

There is a place for me.

I belong.

Something is stirring.

The question, Is it okay for me to be? – which I was too scared to even ask aloud, is receiving an answer.

The answer is, Yes.

I’m no longer afraid of tidal waves. I dream of the ocean still, but now when I do, I’m swimming in its depths, sometimes with heart pounding, but always with a sense of adventure.

I have a recurring vision of a huge wave now, but it doesn’t bring destruction. I’m in the ocean, and it rises up from behind me with irresistible force, propelling me into my calling, into my purpose here.

… without effort, without strain.

I can let myself be held, be carried.

I can trust this. Allow myself to follow it.

I’m not alone.

I’m safe.

Like the birds navigating back to their summer breeding grounds, I too, am finding my way home.

Waking up into my life…

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