Emerging From The Fear Within
My life has been a slow emergence from fear, from darkness, and from despair. Fear of being seen, exposed, vulnerable. Fear that something terrible will happen if I ever revealed myself. I so deeply want to do ‘good’ in this world, to be of service to life. Yet most of my life I have felt that I am shameful, bad, and unworthy.
My mother is a Polish-Jew who was raised in Melbourne, Australia. My father is German, raised by Nazis. They somehow fell in love, despite the hatred of my mother’s family toward anything German, and the gut-twisting anti-Antisemitism hidden in my father’s family. Maybe it was my mum’s need to punish her family, or my dad’s deep shame of his. Maybe they truly believed that their love could fix the horrors of the past. Whatever the truth, they gave birth to my two younger sisters and I.
Growing up, I always felt like I was the odd one out, like a stranger looking in the window. I never belonged in the Jewish world, or the German world, or the world of the rural Aussie kids around me. I was the embodiment of everything both sides of my family wanted to repress, deny, ignore, or escape.
My parents are good people at heart, but they hurt me deeply. I grew up with a truly ‘dysfunctional’ family. My sisters and I were parentified young and became the emotional caretakers of our family, without any support. All of my elders were haunted by the trauma they carried. My grandfather was hurt by the war, and so he hurt my father, and my father hurt me. I watched the cycles of hatred play out another generation through violence and abuse. My sisters and I felt the victims and the perpetrators struggle inside of us. We became living examples of an unreconciled history.
From a young age I had trouble sleeping – I had nightmares and was prone to sleepwalking. I thought that there was something wrong with me because I felt such horrible things and had dreams of massacres soaking the earth with blood. I carried an echo of black boots marching, tanks rolling, and camps filled with dying people. I felt my grandfather’s guilt and shame at having participated in genocide. I also felt the frozen cold scarcity of my mother and grandmother. I felt the cries of all my ancestors longing to be heard. I would wake from dreams of war with urgency: I MUST do something! I had a deep sense that something was wrong with the world, and that it was my duty to fix it. But I never knew what to do.
I kept these parts of myself tightly controlled and fought to keep them hidden away. How could I ever reveal the darkness inside? I strove to always be good and kind, so no one would guess my secret. Until, one day, I knew it was time to face it and release what no longer served me. I had reached a point of complete burnout in my life, and suffered a health crisis. I never felt that I was doing enough so I kept taking on more projects until I made myself sick. My body forced me to finally stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’, and in that stillness, I began to see what I had been avoiding all my life.
What I found was that my body was an uninhabited zone, like a foreign country that I had never visited even though I’d lived within it for 32 years. I began to see my body as a map of all I have experienced, as well as the pain of my ancestors. I found the deep darkness that I was always ashamed of and trying to escape. I found places holding tight with tension, clinging to the fear that was my childhood. I found fragments and lost memories. I encountered anger and rage. I’ve experienced such sadness emerge that at times I cannot bear it.
Over the past two years, I have begun to inhabit all of the dark places I abandoned long ago. Yet beneath it all, I have found radiance. I have found the truth of my soul. I have found bright shimmering luminescent light at the core of myself. Where there was darkness, I have brought love and the light of spirit. I have realised that I can never separate myself from all that has shaped me, yet I can use the lessons to become all I long to be. I am the peace that comes with forgiveness. I am the truth of love. I can create compassion and reconciliation within.
Finally, I have found me.
And now the final challenge: revealing myself to the world and facing my fears, without running from the hurt or trying to hide it away. It is time now to be the embodiment of all that I am. It is time to reveal the truth of me. And so I share this story with you.