The End

The End

One of the most important things I have learned in recovery is that everything is temporary. And in recovery, this is not a bad thing. Most of the painful emotions can only be tolerated with the understanding that they are temporary. Of course, it has also brought the understanding that the joyful moments are fleeting as well. Sometimes that knowledge helps me to savor them. Sometimes that knowledge causes me to hold back.

The idea that things of this world are temporary has been around a long time. It is not new. If we wait long enough, everything, from our physical bodies to planet Earth, will be gone. And yet, most of us live our lives under the notion that we can change that. We spend a lot of time trying to prove that it’s not true. We hold on to things. We hold on to our kids. We hold on to relationships. We hold on to emotions. We try to tell ourselves that it will always be like that. And when it isn’t, we pine for what used to be.

But I don’t believe we do this because we are foolish. I think we are trying to reconcile our outside world with an inner knowing that something isn’t temporary. Deep down inside, we know there is something that transcends this world. But there’s a problem. We can’t touch it. We can’t see it. So we try to find it in the things we can touch and see.

As a child abuse survivor, I am grateful that my childhood was temporary. I am grateful to have cheated physical death and irreparable mental illness. I am grateful that painful emotions subside. I am grateful that those horrific relationships are over. I am grateful that buildings crumble and that abusive people die, not because I am vindictive, but I find them to be much more pleasant in spirit form. I am even grateful that eventually, my poor body will be laid to rest, because honestly, the Earthly experience is exhausting.

With all that being said, the idea that everything is temporary is terrifying for one reason. I might lose what defines me as a person. I might lose my labels. I might lose myself. And this has nothing to do with physical death. It has everything to do with who I think I am. In spiritual circles, it is referred to as the “ego self”. Most of the time, that part of us runs the show. It creates the definitions of reality. And it wants that reality to stay the same. It hates that something might be temporary if that something is critical to the world it has created. Some labels are less important, like good cook. Some labels are critically important, like parent. But the ego fights to maintain them all.

Don’t get me wrong, the ego is essential to our well-being. We must have one. My ego literally saved my life by deploying defense mechanisms that kept the pain of abuse away from a child who could not bear it. But the ego expected those to stick around. The ego doesn’t like that those were temporary. And I hear about it every time I recover a memory. “This was for your own good.” “Why are we going down this road?” “We’ve got a pretty good thing going here. Why mess it up?” “We have always done it this way.” You’ve heard these sayings. Maybe you’ve even heard them daily. Sometimes they come from other people. Sometimes they are an inside job.

So now I am in a phase where the old labels are dropping away. My clearly defined corporate job title is no longer a label available to me. This would be less of a problem if the new labels were defined, but they are not. My future labels are unclear at the moment. I could certainly call myself a writer. I could call myself a founder, but with a nonprofit in its infancy stages, it hardly seems quite right. I’m not an author yet. I can use words like advocate. I can use words like speaker. But right now, they are not defined. There is no clear job description or name tag to adhere to my lapel.

Needless to say, my ego self is NOT happy. Who am I? I don’t know. What am I doing? I am unsure. Where am I going? That is not clear. There is a void. There is a nothing. There is an ending without a beginning. And when people ask what I am doing with my life these days, there is no easy answer.

For an abuse survivor, with an over-developed ego self, this is a crisis of significant proportions. The labels that I create are a survival tactic. My mask of overachievement and success is so important that it’s removal would mean the death of my ego. And while physical death is scary, the ego death is much more terrifying.

Maybe I equate my ego self to that part of myself which I know to be permanent.

Maybe I think the end of my labels means the end of me, the real me, the me that cannot end.

Or maybe I am scared to see myself as more than the labels.

Maybe I don’t want to think of myself as permanent, as powerful, as transcending my Earthly experience.

Maybe I don’t want to consider the possibility that some aspect of me will live forever because that means the abuse lives forever.

Or is it the healing that lives forever?

Or is it both?

Maybe temporary is more comfortable because eventually, it ends.

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11 thoughts on “The End

  1. Wow Elizabeth! I sit here fist to cheek with tears streaming down my face. Hearing those words everything is temporary was so freeing! Lately I’ve experienced a deeper healing much like a bomb of emotions going off. Very fortunate for my NAASCA family and meeting you. This deeper healing is Not myself looking at the poor little girl who was abused by her family & cult etc and trafficked out, but ME! I honestly thought my heart would burst and it would never end!

    This week and even into this evening, I battled with the same questions over labels of worth and the value I assign to myself based on those labels that have fallen off due to illness and change. I too am a writer though not published, a teacher, and an artist with an art business in infancy just getting realized. Currently, I share art as a modality to healing for others in art therapy groups. I thought about my worth as a person this week and struggled with some of the same line of questioning you so eloquently shared here. THE LIMBO! I hope we can all come to a place in life knowing that the old labels ARE stepping stones to the bigger picture in our journey and in helping others. When we drop ego it allows for the larger things we never thought possible to happen. Easier said than done, but perhaps as overachievers we can look at the preparation aspect how labels build us to greater things, because success will come! As a warrior, (I don’t use term survivor) it’s tough being faced with the labels we grew accustomed to and the uncertainty of what is to come.
    I hope that there is an end to healing and abuse Elizabeth, because quite frankly it wears you to the bone.

    For some reason I feel I need to share this, though I am not spiritual anymore due to my abuse. You know, God gave me a scripture I memorized at age 8 probably because he knew we (I am multiple) needed it, but it ties into your message here. 2 Cor 4: 16-18 “Though outwardly we are wasting away inwardly we are being renewed day by day for out light and momentary troubles are achieving for a glory that far outweighs them all.. So we fix our eyes on what is unseen, because what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal!”

    The unseen will last forever. Elizabeth, we have such similar stories yet you are miles in recovery over us. I hope you know how your words make a difference! The hope, love and imparting your journey to others who can’t get help means so much! I’m very fortunate to have met my NAASCA family and through them, you! Thank you for pouring out your heart so that others may glean from it like us. If one ounce of our pain helps another than it is worth it right? I want that to be our legacy!

    Peace to you!

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    • Thank you so much for this beautiful reply. I am so glad this piece spoke to you. It sounds like we are in similar places for sure. Limbo is not easy.

      And I love that Corinthians passage. It is exactly what I talk about here. Thank you so much for that.

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      • Your welcome Elizabeth. Life giving things were stripped of all of us in the thick of the abuse such as; affirmation, validation and sanctuary! If once ounce of our pain touches another than it’s always worth it, no matter what limbo or funk we are in at the time! No one knows the true ripple effects in the unseen. Wishing you well in your journey. Thank you! ~K

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  2. Changing labels is scary & I think this is why so many people try to hold onto what they have. I was a parent (I still am, I will always be a parent), but my children are grown now & don’t need me much. So now I am an empty-nester, but does this define me? I don’t think so because I am the same person, just a different label. The only things that has changed is I now have more time on my hands to explore what else I want to become. For a long time I was wary about calling myself a writer, but I swallowed whatever it was keeping me from acknowledging I write & gave myself the title. I have a work in progress, I blog, I used to write ad copy, I used to help people prepare obituaries for their loved ones. I have been a writer for a long time & just didn’t think I deserved the label.

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    • That is certainly hard. When labels are handed to us, it is easier to accept it (if it is a good one). When we are giving ourselves a label, it is much more challenging. I occasionally call myself a trauma recovery expert. It is true, but its hard to accept.

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  3. I have always struggled with labels. For the most part I have tried to not be labeled. I have hated how people always seemed to be judged a certain way by or for their label. I always just wanted to be invisible. Most people want to be noticed but I’m totally the opposite. I want to share my writing and pictures and stuff but I would much rather have someone else do it while I sit in a dark corner to see if people are moved by it. Making people smile or helping people see things in a better way or stopping abuse from happening that is my goal. If I do that it is a great day. I’m ok not getting the credit though.

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    • I know what you are saying. I often struggle between my need to uphold my “success” mask and my need to be invisible. I have so many dichotomies in my life that I seem to be in a constant internal struggle.

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  4. “Who am I? I don’t know. What am I doing? I am unsure. Where am I going? That is not clear” I’m exactly at this stage now and it doesn’t feel good. It feels so scary!

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