I knew from the start that I wanted to do this trip alone, not because there aren’t wonderful people who I could travel with or wonderful people I could visit, but because for a long time my soul or spirit or inner voice or whatever you call her has been telling me that I need solitude. I need to engage with all that has been happening to me and what I have done in response and who I am becoming as a result.
I am not yet ready to publicly write about everything. Especially as many things are only becoming apparent to me now, sometimes years later, but I would like to talk about the process I’m engaging in, which is the process of rebuilding. It seems appropriate to be doing this in Bremen, a city that underwent significant rebuilding post-WWII. It seems appropriate that I do this in a house whose outside has been standing for some 600 years, located in the heart of the Schnoor, the old-quarter named after the low Deutsch word for string. The buried meets the new, the internal faces great change.
I am undergoing a process that I will call “learning to love myself”. Let me tell you, despite all the cliche self-help new-age guru pseudo-psych touchy-feely images this phrase might bring to mind, it is not fun. It is really gut-wrenching.
Because to start loving myself I need to see myself fully, without self-deception, all the good and all the bad. I need to understand myself, why I do what I do, why I’ve done what I did. And in twenty-five years of living, I have a lot to process.
There are some very painful truths I need to come to terms with, things like naming abuse, and recognizing my own past sins. Exorcising stubborn unsettled ghosts.
And perhaps most painfully, seeing how little I valued myself all these years. I put up with so much, from casual cruelty passed on by strangers to abuse from people I loved, because I thought that was what I was worth. I held onto friendships and relationships for too long, because I felt lucky that anyone would even talk to me. I found safety and peace in solitude because at least there no one was asking anything of me and I wouldn’t feel torn between doing something I didn’t want to or saying no and feeling guilty.
I guess writing it out like this makes it sound really bad. But it has been really bad. For so long I’ve down-played how I felt. Everything has always been okay. To keep people from worrying.
But things were very bad for a while there. And I didn’t want to see it or say it or admit it. So I’m doing that now for myself on a trip through Europe. And if and when I feel ready I’ll write about it. Until then it is enough for me that I have taken the steps I have, naming it for myself, restoring broken boundaries. Pushing up new walls and creating new libraries of what I have learned.
And this is why I need to be alone, and this is why I needed to travel, because here thousands of miles and years from where it happened I have the clarity to accept myself. Before, I was shutdown, unable to process, in denial of what it was, and how it impacted me. Even as I asked myself questions like “why can’t I be intimate with people anymore?” And “why is it so difficult for me to make and trust in human connections?”
And I thought, up until my last night in Berlin, that it must just be me, a flawed part of me driving people away. Until in Berlin, looking out the window at a street I’d gotten to all in my own, I realized that I am amazing. And for a glowing moment I really loved myself.
I am not worthless. I am alone and raw as hell and in a foreign country and a few days ago I went and saw some baby goats playing in the spring sunshine and yesterday I sat on the beach for a long, long time and I thought about my life and I think maybe if I can breathe in and out and focus on that bright fire in my belly that I will love myself and continue to love myself. And that will be enough.
Forever and ever.