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My Ache

My daughter introduced me to Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed”. This book helps me understand my childhood experiences. She helps me make sense of my triggers. This book brings light into my chaotic past and helps me find patience and compassion for me. This book helps me heal from an ache that inhabited my being for over 50 years.

Doyle dedicates a whole chapter on “The Ache”:

“I don’t know when I first discovered the Ache, but by the time I am 10 years old, it has become my constant interrupter.”
“When I am loving my life, I remember this is going to end. So I have to be careful and keep watch for when it is coming.”
“I feel losses before they happen. I’m trained to watch for the worst and prepare for the best.”
“This Ache paralyzes me with ‘you know how this ends’.”
“I don’t know if the Ache is trying to protect me or terrorize me. I don’t know if it loves me or hates me, if it’s bad or good. I just know that its role is to constantly remind me of the most essential fact of life, which is: This ends. Don’t get too attached to anything.”
“It always arrives in words (she’ll die) or an image (a phone call, a funeral) and immediately my body responds. I stiffen, hold my breath, straighten my spine, break eye contact, lean away.”

I play out a familiar scenario when I’m enjoying life. I start dreading when this wonderful thing will end or be taken away from me. I set myself up for the fall. Because I believe it will fall.

I remember decreeing one day in late summer around 1973 while sitting in a car. I was in a parking lot of an apple orchard. I had just learned my horse was euthanized by my parents and they felt it important to tell me after the fact. My Betsy was my best friend. I had no warning, no goodbye. I was beyond devastated and shattered. I remember my words clearly. “I will never trust my parents again. I will never get my hopes up again.” Then I proceeded to eat pastries and other sweets to numb the pain.

I created the Ache, always present in everything I think and do. I don’t trust I have the right to be happy. I doubt positive outcomes.

Words hold power. My decree held power and instilled itself inside my mind and heart as a truth. Everything from then on was filtered through this belief.

Now over 50 years later I have the ability to observe myself having lived through so much. I am dedicated to bestowing gentle kindness on me instead of punishment. I’m moving away from cause and effect thinking. I see the bigger picture and it looks like this. I experienced heartache from loss. I experienced heartache from abandonment. My heart was broken and I had nowhere to turn with my pain so I turned it on myself.

The truth is life is hard and difficult challenges happen to us at any age no matter whether we are mature enough to handle it or not. My parents were acting from their belief that they were helping me, skewed as it was. There was no malice. There was no contempt. There was a lack of understanding.

It’s taken me a lifetime to see the bigger picture. Life gives us hard things to handle. Doyle wrote, “We can do hard things.”

Matt Kahn talks a lot about trauma response. He encourages us when facing terrible actions and beliefs by others.

“Instead of asking what’s wrong with them or why can’t they be the way I like them to be, the question is how much pain and trauma must have they endured from this lifetime or before in order to act this way? When you recognize someone’s behavior that is annoying, triggering what is not reflective of your highest values or ethics, there is a trauma response going unrecognized."
People “may not be fully aware of the trauma response occurring within them because they may be so identified with their defense mechanisms that their trauma response is so well hidden that they are even hidden from the person having them.” - Matt Kahn

So it’s a revolution of sorts to nurture the evolution of kindness on ourselves. Deliver the patience, compassion and love we deserve. We all have suffered trauma of one sort or another. We all have trauma responses. It’s my intention to be aware of trauma responses and remember, the next time I am faced with an atrocity committed by another human being, I want to ask myself how much pain and trauma they must have endured from this lifetime or before in order to act this way?

The more I heal, the more I discover the answer for myself. I am well in my soul. I learn from every situation. There is a greater process in life and as it unravels before me, I allow healing to happen.

I looked in the mirror.

I saw not just a face

But a reflection of my past,

Accomplishments laced with mistakes.

I saw one space

Collecting all of my fears.

I saw tears held back—


Held back too.

How many years I have not known myself.

As long as it has taken to get back to you,

I would retrace every step

Just so that I could be here to say

I love you.

Because now I know the truth:

Love runs deep in the veins of the pulsing


Love is my name, and

I’ll not soon forget who I see

When I catch my reflection

Gazing back at me.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you so much. You made the same decision that I did about the same time in my life. There was a roller coaster I was on and sometimes I was up and happy and other times I was down and sad. I was at such a low point, I decided I didn’t want to be on the roller coaster anymore and I got off. It took me about 20 years to recover from that decision and to learn to live life one day at a time in acceptance. I’m grateful for the reading today and reminder how important it is to accept life on life’s terms no matter what is given to us. There’s good. There’s bad and it all just comes. I enjoy the moments that are enjoyable and grieve the moments that are sad and just accept life.

  • Great perspective. Not only are we triggered but others suffer out there and sometimes act out. What I’m hearing when we learn to be compassionate with ourselves, we can cut others some slack as well.

  • I’ve always talked to people easily when I’m out and about. I’m finding with Covid, our time together is very short and I’m discovering a certain bravery in being able to say deeper things because I don’t have much time. I was at a doctor’s appointment last week and my husband’s death came up. I said life is like a roller coaster, ups and downs, and we’re all on it. I really felt it touched the doctor like it was something they needed to hear. Thank you for reminding me of that moment. It’s important to share these thoughts as they come through.

  • The meditation with the mirror, I was seeing myself at different ages. It was easy to love and forgive myself as an innocent child, but as I grew older it was harder with the mistakes and some of the choices I made. I had to intentionally send love. It wasn’t easy. It was a difficult journey for me realizing the judgment I have for myself over different periods in my life. So thank you.

  • This meditation made me go back somewhere between 2016 and 2018 after the election. I committed myself to be a source of kindness in the world. I was in a laundromat. I was waiting and writing political postcards. Sitting beside me was a couple and we had a conversation. My purpose in writing postcards to wanting change. The couple was happy with where things were at. I knew it was important to keep the conversation going. We talked for a while and neither of us brought change to the other. It’s a work in progress to open to wider viewpoints. I can have compassion for someone and still disagree with their choices.

  • I am working to grow a muscle to not expect loss which is what I grew up with for a variety of reasons and it’s quite liberating. I’m not good yet at doing it but I’m working on it.

  • Unfortunately, it’s part of living and loving. There’s a difference between expecting and living in expectancy. One is like a shield blocking life and the other is living life openly trusting we’ll weather what comes our way.

  • We began learning a new song last night and it’s really beautiful, the title of which I’ll leave with you—The Way Knows the Way.

  • A beautiful meditation. Part of my recovery was from making that decision at a very young age, cutting myself off from love, feeling and receiving love because I didn’t want the pain or cause the pain. Part of my recovery was recognizing that jumping back on the roller coaster, I always liked the roller coaster better than the merry-go-round anyway. When I cut myself off, it’s more like I’m stagnant, living a flat line and the roller coaster is more of a heartbeat. In addition to that, when I think of a roller coaster, at any given time even with the highest of highs there is always some sadness and even with the lowest of lows there is always some joy. It may not always equally balance but it’s part of the beauty of life. In the past when I created art, everything had to be entirely symmetrical. Once I started abstract, it took on a whole new more beautiful life. Thank you also for the wonderful reminder to be aware of the trauma response in ourselves as well as other people and to have compassion and be aware when trauma happens, the sooner and more adequately we deal with it, the less the long-term percussions of trauma.

  • I wrote down something you said because it struck me. It was “I can’t tell if this ache is here to protect me or terrorize me.” It was like, oh you met my sister. It was very familiar. What bubbled up was ‘be the peace that you want. Be the change that you want.’ I received a nudge to create a zoom with family and see if I can get them all together. I’m not sure where that’s going to go. It feels like it’s part of me talking to the Universe asking to be led. I’m surprised this is what I got, so I’ll let you know what happens.

  • As everyone is talking, years ago I was moved by a sermon that a pastor gave entitled “Drop the Rock.” As we live life and experience pain, if we turn it inward, it’s like we are putting rocks under our armpits and live with this discomfort (see April 25 blog). As I put rocks under my armpits, I’m not honoring my feelings; I am stuffing them in my armpits. It’s hard living life in this discomfort. So I drop the rocks. It’s a metaphor I’ve never forgotten.

  • I’m enjoying the rain on the roof and the birds chirping which is such a comforting sound. You have given me a lot to think about. I’m a work in progress. I can look back to some events and feel compassion but there’s other instances that I cannot do that. I don’t know if I can ever do that.

  • Thank you for joining today and being part of this rich community, and being part of the listening process opening your ears and eyes and heart. We are all growing together. We are all on our roller coasters and merry-go-rounds. I even had the image of Kinsugi, the art of putting together that which is broken. We’ll be here tomorrow. Have a gentle day.

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