Last night I went to bed wondering, what am I thankful for? Sometimes I feel so stuck. For instance my gut has been swelling up, it hurts, my appetite low and I’m not eating well. Then I get skinny and I don’t have energy for what I love to do, like going on adventures with my buddies. I went to bed feeling frustrated that my friends are celebrating thanksgiving with a big feast, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to participate… Why am I on the outside?
I drfited off into sleep. I awoke on a train. Many people, busily going to work. On the train, a man approached me, a look of defeat in his eyes. I looked at him and said, “We have been here many times before. I go to sleep, I awaken. I forget my truth, I suffer, I remember.”
“I used to see myself as weak. At school, the kids would be playing on the playground, and I would sulk around the edges. I would try to make friends, or try to play sports, and for some reason people would walk away, and for some reason I couldn’t seem to make my body move in a coordinated way. I was really skinny. I was carrying this deep dark pain that I wouldn’t understand for many years.. I used to be so frozen in shame, I used to cry, what’s wrong with me? Why is this so hard?”
“Many years later I found a circle of men who were helping each other heal their wounds. I found men like me who were hurting. And I started to see. I started to tell of my family. How it hurt. Of how it was being a little boy, when my dad was always away at work, or watching TV, or building something in the garage, but never playing with me, never showing me stuff, teaching me, except when he was taking me to the basement at night, and raping me.”
“For years I saw myself as weak. But when I look into that pain and when I sit with myself, it changes. All that is trembling, sitting on the outside, stuck… it changes. I change. I sit inside myself, I change to strength and I change to purpose. And the unrest in my body, I see how it’s connected to the traumas I inherited… Sitting in time-out with myself, wondering why am I not like the other boys? Sitting with this difficulty doesn’t chain me… it frees me.”
At that moment, the stranger’s eyes and mine both filled with tears, as I shared from the heart and we rattled forward on the train.
An elder in my mens’ circle said to me, “You’ve been carrying around a big ball and chain, Mark. I look forward to the day when you have let it go.” He’s now passed on to the next world, bless his heart, but each day I face the trauma in myself, I become more connected, more strong, more compassionate, more a healing force and less a victim. I can go out into the world and play like a boy, and heal like a man. And then I come back, sometimes, holding my gut, hurting again. That’s the journey.
I’m thankful for it. Even though I may miss some thanksgiving dinners because my gut is sore. Even though I may have missed out on friendships and sports because I was holding my tummy, hiding from relationships, because my body hurt, because I was frozen from panic, from those moments in the basement as a little boy.
As I do the work, as I listen to my body, breathe, meditate, pray, work with plant medicines, heal in Nature, find a circle of caring people, tell my story, support survivors, I am put back together again. I am reassembled from the wounded person I was into someone greater. Every time the moon and the sun and the Earth turn around one other, every time I go from health to disease and back to health. I come back to myself.
And when I meet a stranger on a train, I can see the pain held in his eyes. And my heart can open up to you, and say this. It frees me. And it frees you too.
That’s why we do this healing work. That’s why we walk this difficult road, sometimes alone and in the thick night. That’s why I go to sleep, wondering, what am I thankful for? That’s why I awake in my dream, meeting a stranger on a train, to share my walk from defeat to transformation. Because it frees us.