I like to prepare well for things, and before my first meeting with the Diocesan Director for Ordinands (person who puts you through the selection for ordination process) I had found out that she tends to ask you for your life story as the starter for ten.
The meetings were an hour long, and so I thought I could fit my life story into one meeting. However, she asked a lot of questions and clarified this and that as we went along, and so as the first hour drew to a close I had only got to the age of about fourteen in my description. She looked at me and said:
'Gosh that is a very, very sad story'.
I could see tears in her eyes, and I felt sorry for her so I said 'Oh, don't worry - it gets better after the age of fourteen'.
So when we met again I told her the story from fourteen until thirty-two, which is the age I was when we met (goodness I'm forty now and I've only just finished training!).
I told her about an attempted rape, subsequent mental breakdown and reliance on alcohol for four years, tricky marriage, the abortion and subsequent depression and childlessness. I told her about the joy of having kids but also the onset of Symphasis Pubis Dysfunction and the chronic pain I endured. Plus I mentioned the struggles that I had engaged with to try to come to terms with the difficulties of the first fourteen years.
At the end of the session she looked at me:
'I thought you said it got better after the age of fourteen'.
'Err.. well it did..'
She looked at me.
'Well it did.... a bit'.
She smiled, 'I think you are called to be a "Wounded Healer". Have you read that book?'
But I wasn't sure I wanted to be a wounded healer.
Nonetheless, what we want doesn't always seem to be the biggest factor in what happens. My brother rather ruefully says that the got older he gets, the more he realises how few choices have actually been available. I can see what he means. As I look back on the landscape of my life, whilst I thought I had massive numbers of decisions to make and that the world was my oyster, the reality was that I had a number of obstacles to overcome and a great deal of growing up to do. And whilst I could change the little things like who I married or what career I did, I couldn't change the big things like how broken I was and therefore the type of marriage that I had or the type of scrapes that my immaturities would lead me through.
And so it turns out that I find myself being a wounded healer by accident. Somehow, many, many people with wounds that are similar to mine have confided in me about their wounds. It is an immense privilege.
I am deeply grateful to the wounded healers who have been alongside me and listened to me for hours. Now I spend more time listening to others I realise how painful it is to listen. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, like all the goodness and happiness and joy in the world can't compensate for the utter leviathan agony that people suffer and that it is possible to witness. And I become even more grateful to those who have listened to me. I wrote this poem about how one of my Spiritual Directors made me feel. I hope I can make others feel loved and restored like she did:
You look at me with a clear gaze
and the kindness in you eyes
amazes me, humbles me.
After the sighs, the ‘whys’, the struggles
the lies, the shame, the pain,
the fear, the horror of being debased.
Nothing ever alters in you,
your love is the same -
consistent, eternal, caring.
Everything about you says,
"I’m still here and glad to be",
sometimes with a humorous face.
You smile at me with sheer joy,
and I know that you love me,
believe in me, trust me.
You enjoy me, welcome me.
I’ve never seen anyone shine
so brightly and with such glee.
It is like sunshine on my skin,
warm, enriching, healing
infectious, expansive, unrestrained.
The freedom of God’s laugh,
and I am the luckiest person alive
for the recipient is so often me.
And you hold me with such tenderness
and generosity when I am in pain.
You comfort me with your love,
your kindness, stillness, patience
You wait with me, watch with me,
speak softly to me in the safe place.
I can feel the touch of concern
soothing me on the nape of my neck
I feel the countenance of compassion
restoring me, resting on the top of my head.
I feel my heart stilled, the world is safe
in the arms of your healing embrace.