By David Ortmann, LCSW.
I’ve avoided writing for weeks because I am shattered – emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Writing will help, though I feel no good can come from a mind and heart this broken. Enter Hindu mythological figure Akhilandeshvari, the goddess of “never not broken,” meaning that when we’re lying on our bedroom floor, crying and screaming into that pile of dirty laundry, we are at our most powerful. Did I mention she rides a crocodile?
The double negative of “never not broken” when translated from Sanskrit has Akhilanda “broken” down to her very name. Perhaps wholeness or complete integration is overrated, or simply unattainable? Does the power for transformation, for recreating ourselves, come from those scattered shards on the floor? We are constantly in a state of change, as is the universe around us, and thus limitless in our potential to be and to become.
My sister died suddenly under mysterious circumstances ten months ago; the grieving process haunted by the taunting spectre of questions that remain, and will likely stay, unanswered. Eight weeks ago my relationship with a primary partner ended in trauma, distortion, and misunderstanding. Last week, my other primary partner abruptly aborted our, until that moment, increasingly evolving and loving relationship. Though my sister died ten months ago, these recent romantic whip lashings tore the fresh scabs of grief from my recovering spirit.
I meditate, exercise, and have a spiritual life. I consult a therapist who’s raised me into authentic adulthood. I have friends, love, support, a career – a life worth living and being grateful for. But, I am broken, and what will grow from this brokenness is unknown.
Yet even from the vantage point of a dropped mirror, I realize two things: 1) my cleaning woman does a remarkable job on my hardwood floors, and 2) I’ll get through this and not only survive, but thrive and become whatever it is I’m becoming.
As yogi and spiritual writer Julie Peters points out in her own musings about our crocodile riding goddess of broken, the choice of a crocodile is fascinating in that it represents our reptilian brain, which is directly connected to fear. We hide, deny, and even combat our fears, but our girl rides on her fears. She rides right in the face of myths about “holding it together” or “appearing strong.”
I have fear writing this. We’re taught not to share our feelings – certainly not this deeply (or publicly). We New Yorkers have lifted appearing “always together” to an art form. Additionally, psychotherapists aren’t supposed to talk about their personal lives. I’m sure a patient or colleague will read this. Life is risk. Let it be, David.
I am no longer on the floor. The sun is incandescent and Spring has sprung delightfully early in Manhattan.
Before I tackle that laundry, I cheer you for embracing your brokenness and talking about it. Isolation and self-criticism can be poison. Cherish life’s inherent imperfections and keep on riding that crocodile!
David M. Ortmann, LCSW
Psychotherapist and Sex Therapist