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The Journey of My Becoming

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

I'm one of those gals who cuts her own hair. I've been doing it for well over ten years now, but thanks to hair cutting tutorials on YouTube, I've gotten somewhat better at it. While admiring my handiwork this morning, I thought about my old therapist for some reason, maybe because she always had such nice short haircuts herself. And then I remembered the phone call made years ago to me by her daughter, who had called to tell me that she'd finally passed away of early Alzheimer's.

I was a patient of this woman (who I'll call MH) for about 18 years, right up until I could see that something was terribly amiss in her behavior in the last year I was with her. It was an unbelievable loss, to feel her slipping away like that. In my youthful notions, I thought she would always be there for me, but, of course, life doesn't work that way. It was her strength, courage and fearlessness that popped into my mind today, and how she taught me over the years to never really fear what was in my heart, no matter how dark it felt at any given moment.

No matter how distraught I could get over things in my life--past, present or future--MH always helped me face my fears head-on, particularly the ones I could have about my own sanity.

She seemed to embody a fundamental truth about life, which is that in the realm of emotions, there is nothing so dark that can't be faced, as when a truth is spoken, you truly are set free.

In that moment, one realizes that the agonizing torment of a particular situation doesn't really need a resolution at all, as when that spark of insight occurs, all things really do feel right again. For me, faith wasn't just restored; it was perhaps born for the first time--faith in the therapeutic process, faith in a power greater than myself, and faith, true faith, in another human being.

This was the wondrous feeling I'd so often get while driving home after a session with MH. Never would I feel so relaxed, so at home in the world, as when I'd leave her office after an incredibly intense and satisfying therapeutic exchange. It was such a comfort, and so empowering, to feel that I no longer needed to cower, to appease, to ruminate, or to obsess in order to feel safe in a dangerous world. As time went by and my true self began to emerge (I actually began playing guitar at age 35, then painting at age 40), it was as though an inner garden had sprung to life, and I was embarking at last on the journey of my becoming.

Of course, life didn't get any easier, as I thought it would after 18 years of working so hard on myself, as I was then stricken with such pain and illness in '99. Everything I thought I knew shattered into a million pieces, and shattered even more in '05, when the pain took up round-the-clock surveillance of my soul, seeing just how much pressure it could exert before I cracked. It didn't take long.

It seemed right at the moment that life was blooming, after nearly two decades of hard work, the Jenga game of my life crumbled. The unfairness of it alone was enough to cause a psychiatric collapse.

It was a blog I created about my chronic pain, called The Drawing Board (which I kept for three years}, that brought me to a place of acceptance and I was able to move forward (albeit with great difficulty). But when I look back upon the arc of my life, the number of bad breaks has truly been astonishing. Yes, I know everyone suffers, but there is indeed something very unusual about the constant barrage of unfortunate events since as far back as I can remember. I'm not bitter, oddly enough (not anymore, anyway), and can still get excited about creative endeavors. But it's taken an additional two decades to get to THIS place.

The moral of the story? We never really arrive at a safe place in life, although we do get a bit smarter and wiser. It will always be dangerous, whether we take chances emotionally, physically or spiritually. When you dare to get happy, you risk heartbreak, and that's a fact.

The new heartbreak in my life is that I'm still grieving my mom (and the accompanying fracturing of my family), who died last year. She was truly a soul mate, and her loss has been devastating. So life never really gets easier, which is why creativity of any kind is so important. I dare say human suffering is the reason any of the arts were born at all. And that's why I encourage anyone who has an aching heart to just get it OUT and on the page, whether you write it down, paint it, compose it, start a business, whatever. Had I had not had these things in my life, I know, with certainty, that I would not be writing this essay right now.

So do it. Express yourself. The world wants to hear it. And be brutally honest. Hide behind a pseudonym if you must, but just get it out authentically, as the last thing the world needs is more frilly bumper-sticker affirmations to just "Be grateful!" As a friend once said, "Action is the solution to everything." I don't know if that's true, but it sounds right.

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Mary Ann Farley
Mary Ann Farley
Oct 16, 2019

Great feedback, Randi. Hey, I hear you. The trick, for me, is to try and not lose momentum. When that happens, it really is tough to start the cold engine again. That's why I try to always have unfinished pieces around. It's great to have two paintings or two blog essays going at the same time. Last night I did my first YouTube vlog, which I've yet to post as that has, ya know, my FACE in it. Lol! OMG, it's so uncomfortable to look at myself, but it's a video about living with pain, created as a means to help others. Will any pain patient care that I'm older now and not so pretty? I don't think so. But…


Thank you for your encouragement to be brave and authentic. I am too often a skittish shadow of my true self. And then when I do something well, I savor the feeling, which is good, and soul affirming... except that I rest on my laurels a bit longer than is productive, and fear sets in that I won’t be able to achieve that level again. (Self-fulfilling prophecy that protects me from disappointment... and success!) I really need to get over my perfectionist tendencies... get messy, loose, make lots and lots of mistakes. It calls to mind what I once heard about charitable giving: don’t give until it hurts, give until it stops hurting. Thanks again for the nudge toward expressing…

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