Growth from Ashes: Rising from the Depths of My Deepest Wound
At a Presbyterian Womens’ Retreat in the foothills of the Cascades, we do an exercise where we are instructed to write a lie we’ve believed about ourselves on our palm in eyeliner. The room is quiet, and it takes me no time at all to figure it out.
I am worthless.
As I smear it with my thumb, my hands are covered with streaks of the things I let myself be worn down to. The weight of it crashes over me, emptying my lungs, pausing my heart. How did I get here?
My understanding of my deepest wound burrowed inside my heart in the fall of 2017, in a room full of writers on an island near my home. During a workshop about character, Sonora asks us: does your character have a wound? What fear does it mask? What does your character believe about themselves?
I think about her words for a long time. Isn’t it funny how one question can spark dozens more? I write memoir, so my character is me. That is the moment my fingers first reach for the surface of my deepest wound, it’s edges sticky with memories.
When we write about ourselves, we are creating a character who tells our story. We cannot transport ourselves to the page, so we do the best we can. Later, at the same workshop, Kerry says there are only two wounds. Only two traumas: I’m not good enough and I’m un-loveable. It’s just how we protect ourselves that’s different.
He stormed out of the house without looking back. He felt something, but what I felt was unimportant, and this is my deepest wound. In the moment I don’t put the name to it, the panic and fear of being so unworthy of love and attention that one cannot be compelled to stay. Why didn’t he know that this abandonment, this being left behind, this watching the man I trust most in the world turn his back on me is my deepest wound. It is the one.
I was just a baby, just a child, sitting backwards, knees stuck to the wood grain of that dining room chair as he carried those boxes out. It’s the thing I remember, it’s all I remember. I’ve never told my father that’s how our relationship began. At least for me. And now I have these children, just babies, and…