The truest sense of safety come from a place so deep in you it is out of sight. Yet it is filled with the richest of love, the purest of insight and the warmest compassion. Once activated its brilliance can flood light on even the darkest, coldest and scariest of places within you.
As a child my safe space was with my nan. Every school holidays I longed to be with her, in her home surrounded by her love and embraced by her presence. It was here where I felt accepted for who I was. There was no fear of reprimand, abuse or isolation. Her house was tiny, run down and in need of restoration. Did I care? No. Did I see this? No. That tiny single fronted weatherboard house in Richmond was a beacon of love. A refuge for a child who craved acceptance and a space to be who she was.
As I grew this home continued to be a place of nurturance. Eventually spreading its love to my children who quickly realised the depth of love their great nan radiated and held for them too. Looking back love was the only thing she had to give. She wasn’t a financially abundant woman. Born during the Depression she grew up in an inner city suburb of Melbourne which was heavily hit throughout this period of time. Times were tough. She married young, supported a husband and raised 2 young sons, lived through World War 2 and once her sons were married looked after their children (me being one of them) through their formative years. Family was her life, her centre and everything gravitated around it.
It was a natural evolution for me to see family in this way too. A product of my environment. “Blood is thicker than water” I would hear many a time. Referring to the importance of family and blood ties. This conditioning of your biological family being the single and prime point of focus and safety would prove to provide me with a constant source of reflection and reviewing opportunities as I moved through extreme periods of loss and grief. I still come up against an internal conflict in many moments of what is my primal importance? Where does my biological fit in the scheme of my existence, where do I as spirit fit in this mould? What is my centre and what do I orbit around?
I sense it is a natural necessity that a child relates with their family as their centre and primal provider of safety. As an infant and then a young child we have no other family as a reference point. We experience what we have and take it as the way. We realise quickly what we need to do to be loved, to receive care (in whatever form we can) and to survive.
So my family, albeit not perfect was my centre. I gravitated around my family, with my nan at the core.
As we begin to gravitate around someone else we move away from our own centre. Our reference point is no longer authentic. We can lose our ability to know who we are and make our own choices. in the incessant need to orbit around another we can unconsciously seek to be like them, live like them and perhaps become them.
In my craving for the sense of safety, security and love my nan provided I began to mould myself. I looked to her. Like a sponge soaking up water, I began to soak up ‘her’. I took on her perspectives, her stories, her parameters, her way and in every single adaptation I lost more of myself and my ability to know who I was and how to ultimately stand on my own.
Somewhere within me I must’ve thought that if I could create the life she had that this would make me feel safe. That the experience she gave me could be recreated by giving myself a life she had. It seemed a simplistic life model, one that many used to seek. Get married, have children, support your husband (who will in return support you), run a household, provide a home for the family, grow old together and look after grand kids. This to me was my sign of safety. It was based around another and the environment one live in.
As I moved through my life I rarely queried the parameters I had put around it, around myself. I rarely looked around or stepped back far enough to look at this model, this family through a different window. I was in one room of a house and never ventured out. Later in life I was able to see my nan’s life in a different light. I saw her struggles, her fears of a husband that drank, spent many hours at the pub and in moments was abusive. I witnessed her attempts to keep us safe in a way that she most likely longed for. She was giving to us what she crave for herself. I became aware of the lack of financial security that existed, yet also a mother who gave to her sons what she could financially to ensure they had a good life. I began to feel a woman who never allowed herself to dream, to never ask herself what she wanted. Her life existed purely for another. How suffocating that must’ve been. Yet I sense she never realised she could consider something else. It wasn’t what you did then. You took your lot in life and got on with it. She left school at 14, worked in a shoe factory, married young. She spent her whole life in one house, only moving out when her health deteriorated to such a point she needed 24/7 care. As I grew and began to see her life more clearly I realised it was her and her love that made me feel safe, not her life or the environment.
So as I grew I fell in love with a young man who became my husband. We married young, travelled overseas and had steady careers. We built a home, had 3 children, went on family holidays, moved interstate a few times. Our life together was mutually supportive and the foundation was steady. We shared dreams and our 3rd space our relationship, our family, our life was precious. I gave myself to it in such a way that on reflection was unhealthy. I was doing what I thought was necessary. I too wanted to create a family life that provided me and my children with a sense of safety. I invested my life in my family. Craving security from it, getting my identity through it and handing myself over to something outside of me. I had found my new centre to gravitate.
My safe space was in my family.
When my marriage ended, it felt like I ended. My world imploded. I had no centre. Nothing to gravitate around. I was completely devastated and utterly lost. I had no reference point to be my own centre, to find within myself what I needed to give myself, I had no ability to feel safe within me for me. I had never experienced myself like this before, I was freaking out because I didn’t know who this person was inhabiting me. I felt like a complete foreigner. Yet for all that I screamed no one heard, no one saw and I couldn’t get out. I was in this experiencing in this life and I didn’t want it.
Throughout those initial despair ridden months i was surrounded by few people.
My children by necessity were in my space. How confronting it must’ve been for them to watch a mother crumble. A woman who previously held a family and home together, who was efficient, functional and always present. A woman who know could barely move, cried continuously and was engulfed in grief that looked like it would completely swallow her up. It wasn’t for them to save me, yet I know they tried. I had to protect them from my experience. It was a continuous dance of feeling my way through without impacting them too much, yet also being in the space as they moved through their own feelings and allowing them to do so with as much love, support and respect for them I could muster. It was tricky and messy. I knew I needed help and it wasn’t for me as a mother to lean on my kids for it.
We were all going through this family breakdown individually yet also as a whole.
My external family were on the other side of the country, and whilst my mum came over for the first week , after that we were all on our own. I knew my kids had their friends who would provide support as needed.
My prime support system consisted entirely of one person – my counsellor. One sole being who stuck close by me and gave me what I needed until I reached a point where I could start to give to myself. Sometimes this is the way. Temporarily we may need support from another and that is okay. I was guided to find my way through this fog. Time and time again I was encouraged to go within myself, deeper and deeper, feeling by feeling to discover my own answers and truth.
She was my sounding board, my reflector, my compass, my beacon. It was not a place of dependency, it was a space of confront through truth, it was a place I could be messy. I felt cocooned, embraced, championed and supported. Where every thought, feeling, word, action, reaction, response I brought in was okay. Everything was validated and in allowing this – I began to realise that one of the first steps is to allow yourself to be exactly as you are. For as long as I tried to ignore what I was really feeling and hear it and feel it and see it and touch it – i was being untruthful to myself.
I was pushing away huge parts of myself that i didn’t want to own. Once I was shown and encouraged to lean into myself, true healing commended. I discovered how to hold a space for myself wherein I could be okay with whatever was going on – I learned to listen to me, to see me. I dove right in.
It was a space where:
- the words could just come out
- the emotions could be expressed
- congruency was beginning to establish between my inner and outer worlds
- the connection with self as a human spiritual being was strengthened
- untruths i had told myself for years were lovingly confronted
- time and time again I was encouraged to go beyond my experience and look for the gift
- I would continue to look for where my choice is in what i am experiencing
- I would rise above by going to the depths of my existence
- I could heal through compassion, nurturance and integrity
Nothing was ever skimmed over, being thorough all the way in, nothing was left unturned.
Transformation through acceptance.
This was the space I was held in and ultimately I learnt to give to myself.
This is the safe space.
That I have co-created and continue to nurture and respect.
In this safe space.
I am okay.
And therein began the process of creating my own safe space, a place that already existed and in doing so began the process of finding me.