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Toppled

Updated: May 10
















I have become interested in the connection between trauma and conviction in my life. For much of my adult life, I have been driven by ideals as they form in my mind, and I have shaped my life around them, striving toward them, always searching for a more pure, exalted version of the roles in my life: student, teacher, mother, wife, lover, healer. “What’s the highest and best?” I ask myself, and I set my efforts there.


I am a double Aquarius, both my rising and sun sign are in Aquarius, the idealist’s sign, the sign of the visionary and the eccentric. Uranus is the reigning planet of Aquarius, and he is the planet of disruption; much like my beloved Kali, (This is Kali) he will blow to pieces the areas of my life that have become rigid or stagnant. Uranus is characterized as brilliant, chaotic, and catastrophic. What a tricky but ultimately benevolent set -up. We Aquarians cannot help but play in the realm of idealism, but if we become too sure of ourselves or too rigid in our conclusions, we will ultimately self-destruct.


As a double Aquarius, Uranus is an exceptionally strong influence in my life overall, but I also have a strong influence from Saturn. We exist in polarity in all ways, and astrologically, this is also true. The polarity to my Uranus is Saturn. This means I love and crave structure, and that relationships are exceedingly important to me, and through them, I seek to learn about myself. Saturn demands discipline and focus, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t thrive when I am implementing these virtues in my life. The interesting thing comes when we pair the influences of Saturn and Uranus together. I am compelled to create an ideal version of myself in all ways, and I must apply focus and discipline to do this, but once I take myself too seriously, then the chaotic, catastrophic influence of Uranus asserts itself and topples my image. Then I must rebuild.


I have made many ideal versions of myself, and ultimately I have abandoned them all, some with grace, but most with dynamite. When I was a child, I set myself to being the ideal student early on, crying hysterically when I received an 87% on my third grade math test. My teacher was very concerned about the pressure my parents put on me, and when she called, my parents had to assure her, it was no pressure from them that made me react that way. I kept up this perfectionism until my Junior year in high school, the year that typically matters the most. I was under tremendous strain: I had a raging eating disorder, my father had a stroke, my brother had tried to kill himself, and my boyfriend had broken up with me suddenly and under confusing circumstances. In one moment, I simply snapped my academic idealism like a twig and threw it on the ground. I just let it go. I miserably failed all my honors and AP classes, and I didn’t care in the least.


Later in college, (no ivy league for me thanks to Uranus), I decided to become a teacher, but the models I was learning did not fit my ideals, and so I dropped that program and searched for something higher. I wanted something that acknowledged the individual spirit of each child, that taught about the deeper aspects of being human, and helped develop resiliency. Just after graduation, I stumbled upon Waldorf education, and the spiritual philosophy as expressed by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, illuminated my soul! Here it is! The ideal education! I moved to California to study the Waldorf methods and Anthroposophy and sank my teeth into an Aquarian’s most succulent fruit. (Fun fact: In my entire life, I never met anyone who shared my birthday, January 22. In my first year of teaching in a Waldorf School, however, I had TWO colleagues who shared it with me! I haven’t met anyone since.)


I reveled in the Waldorf philosophy and unique curriculum for three years in training, steeped in its beauty and resonance with my highest ideals. This education is about being centered in the heart, however, and I found that once I started teaching, I was actually not adept at working that way. All those years of studying had not penetrated to my heart; I was still very much an intellectual student of spirituality, living in and though my head. Because of this, I found the job extremely stressful and difficult. After three years of teaching, I was exhausted and burnt out. I was twenty-nine now, having given six years to spiritual study, and I realized that until I made the enormous and essential drop from my mind into my heart, I would never be able to live up to this incredibly exalted educational model. Somewhat wiser now, I didn’t blow up my career, I just set it down gently for a while and walked away. I was going home; I wanted a child.


Back in New Jersey, my husband and I, pregnant, began our search for a home, and we found the ideal place, a little town on the banks of the Delaware River with architecture dating back to The Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Our home had a little porch, and I delighted in sitting outside, reading, and making conversation with the neighbors and passersby. It was a perfect place to start a family.


Before my child was born, I began crafting the image of myself as the ideal parent, creating the ideal childhood for my daughter. I wanted the ideal birth, a homebirth in a tub with soft music, attended by midwives, my husband and my mother. What I got was 44 hours of unmedicated labor in a hospital, using hypnobirthing with no progress. I abandoned my ideal and took the pitocin when it was offered, but of course the contractions were impossible to manage, so after 90 minutes I begged for an epidural. Once I had the epidural I could rest, but they didn’t uncap the drip, so it wore off, and the pitocin contractions gripped me like a vice and ripped me from my sleep. I screamed at awakening to such force and feeling completely out of control of my body. The anesthesiologist returned, uncapped the drip, and I became calm again, only to be told it was time to consider a c-section. Utterly exhausted I blew away my ideal birth and went under the knife.


Motherhood as an ideal must be the most damaging thing to strive for. I can’t think of a role more fraught with the fear of failure than motherhood. Those of us with chaotic childhood’s want desperately to create something stable for our little ones. Those of us with unresolved trauma cannot understand why our children can trigger us into absolute hysterics like no other. We simply cannot reconcile the desire we have to be the ideal mother we always needed with the incompetent, insecure, emotionally fragile mother we seem to be. I’m using “we” because it makes me feel better. I hope there is someone reading this who recognizes this statement too. But of course, as always, I mean me. I wanted to be better than I was. I could not see the value in who I was for my children exactly as I was. But I recognize now, from a place far from the broken mother of small children, that I was a good mom even when I felt broken, and that in healing myself I became the mom I needed when I was little. Learning to parent myself, ultimately, is what I needed. I did not need to be some ideal version of a parent. I needed to heal. Once I saw that, I was able to let go of the ideal parent and the ideal childhood, trusting that my children’s lives were being shaped by something far greater than me anyway.


I understand that my experiences as a child were traumatic, yes, but they also provided the inspiration with which I could direct my idealism. I wanted to be an ideal student because I thought it would bring me love and acceptance. I wanted to be the ideal teacher, teaching in a system that sees each child’s individual spirit because I had needed that. As a child I had gotten lost in crisis after crisis and had felt invisible. I wanted someone to see me. I wanted to be the ideal parent so that I could somehow heal the shame of my childhood by rearing children without trauma or shame. In all these ways I wanted to be beyond the reach of criticism, and when criticism found me as it must when one is self-critical, I crumbled with shame. I would cry, “I am out of control! I am hopeless! I am all wrong inside!” All my ideals were just a way to cover up the shame I felt at being me.


How easy these convictions come and go, and the interesting thing is that every time I’m caught up in an ideal, I will swear on my life that it is coming from the depths of my soul. Even now, in this discovery, I am tempted to claim I have found the truth! THE TRUE IDEAL IS TO HAVE NO IDEALS AT ALL!, and set myself to eradicating all sense of idealism. But that is not possible for me, for Uranus rules, and I shall always be compelled to recreate myself.

There is a core ideal that doesn’t change, however, and that is the ideal of becoming more authentic. Each avenue I have explored in this life has had the ultimate and even successful goal of becoming more of myself. As I shed each ideal, I shed a layer of trauma.


The truth about these versions of myself is that they were informed by trauma in order to reveal and heal the trauma. The human spirit is incredibly adept at healing and will use every avenue it can! In my case, Uranus rules, and so it is through idealism that my spirit will work to heal the soul.


I am in the process of shedding the last of my ideals, the ideal love, so that I can experience love authentically. The corruption of love was the deepest trauma I experienced as a child, and it set me on a path to building and rebuilding myself into the ideal lover, the ideal wife.


When my brother was twelve and I was nine, maybe the summer before forth grade for me and seventh grade for him, my brother initiated a game that turned sexually inappropriate. It was terribly confusing for me. Involving sexual organs it had the element of pleasure, but it was shameful and upsetting. This game recurred several times over the course of a few months until my brother asked if we could play without the blanket between us, and I said no. After that, I remember hiding in my bed for the rest of the day, absolutely ashamed and retreating into myself. Over the course of the next few years, the memory would resurface, and I would stuff it away, telling myself to forget it. It haunted me, and I never breathed a word of it until I was 17 years old, suffering from an eating disorder, hyper-sexuality, self-destructive behaviors, insomnia, and panic attacks, all the markers of a child who suffered sexual abuse. I know now, I created that eating disorder so that my pain could be seen, and so that I couldn’t deny it any longer. It was my way of blowing apart the image I created of the ideal child, smart, happy and well-adjusted.


I was able to confront my brother while receiving treatment in an eating disorder facility. This was an important step for me, and my brother did acknowledge what happened between us, expressing the pain, shame, guilt and self-loathing he had also experienced because of it. I had hoped that this confrontation would help him heal as well. In his suicide note, nine months earlier, he had written to his family, “If you knew how wrong it feels to be me, you wouldn’t ask me to live for you anymore.” I knew he had wanted to die, at least in part, for the same reasons I did.


We told each other we loved each other, and our relationship began to repair itself after that, both realizing we understood each other in a way that most people didn’t. However, my healing was cut short just after that meeting. My father suffered a stroke while I was still in treatment, and I returned to a house devoid of support as life was thrown into chaos again , both parents spending months away from home. My father lost the use of his left side for the rest of his life. My recovery was put on hold, and my condition worsened. I never spoke a word of my sexual trauma again.


The years of shame around my sexuality and my body made it impossible for me to access the wisdom of my heart. I lived in my mind, creating different ideals of how one should be in order to be loved. First, as a young teen, my ideal was chastity. I was very protective of my virginity and very concerned with the “proper” progression of sexual expression between myself and whoever I was “dating” (in quotes because in middle school and early high school we didn’t really date, we just pretended). I would kiss but anything else was mortifying to me. When I did start dating at 15, a boy I was absolutely crazy about (Soul Retrieval), I was the ideal girlfriend who always made her beloved happy and spent all her time with him. He was the first person I had sex with, and it was in that relationship that my sense of self-worth and my experience of power became intermingled with sex.


When my beloved broke my heart, my new ideal was that I would belong to no one! I saw clearly that love was not possessiveness and emotional abuse, and I vowed that I would not allow myself to be hurt like that again. This began a phase lasting three years, during which I loved to make people fall in love with me and break their hearts. I used sex as a weapon and also used it to blow up any chance of getting close to someone. If I felt someone getting too close, I simply slept with someone else, and that took care of it. All of this behavior was just armor couched in conviction. I thought I understood, but I understood nothing.


When I met my husband, I had recognized my faulty thinking, and I committed myself to him. I began to heal and created an ideal of love that was easy, without drama, with mutual appreciation for each other. The relationship I had with my husband was the foundation upon which I built myself. We started dating when I was twenty, and we were together nineteen years. My ideal of love was that it holds me up while I build myself. It was an absolute success in that regard. Later, though, as I mentioned, I began to see that the persona I was constructing was inauthentic, and I needed to shed all that I was. I needed to show myself, and this was a problem, for I had been hiding in my bed since I was nine-years old, and one must show oneself to be truly loved.


If there is an ideal of love, then seeing each other fully must be it. My husband never had a chance to truly love me, and I blamed him for it. I projected a thousand times onto him, “You are so closed up! We can’t connect. You don’t show yourself.” By the time I realized it was also me who wasn’t showing herself, we were already divorced.


The road to divorce was paved with yet more ideals of love. I was doing everything I could to heal myself, short of loving myself completely. The sexual shame I held deep in my core was something I could not accept. This shame was a deep undercurrent, so deep I couldn’t recognize it in the myriad forms through which it expressed itself. Shame is a shapeshifter, but it always says the same thing, “There is something wrong about me.”


Everything we can’t accept in someone is something we can’t accept in ourselves, and everything we love in another is something we love in ourselves. I grew in love for myself, yes, I will admit that. My emotional life and wellbeing was certainly improving as I committed to my spiritual practices and learned to love and accept myself more and more. As I healed, the pain of disconnection with my husband became unbearable. I wasn’t able to see the parts I now loved in myself reflected back to me in my husband because we weren’t growing together, and he understood me less and less. I began to long to love those parts of myself, the healed parts, the parts that I now found worthy of love, the new exciting parts, in another person.


My emotional need for connection had not been met for years, and the responsibility was mine as well as my husband’s. At a breath retreat, I met a man who was venturing into the world of polyamory, and as I listened to him, I began to consider how this paradigm of love resonated with my own ideals. “Yes!” I thought. “This is it! A paradigm of love that makes no one responsible for meeting all the needs of another person! How IDEAL!” I was so excited because in my mind, polyamory was the answer to the question I had agonized over for years. How can I keep my family together, maintain my relationship with my husband, AND get my needs for emotional connection and passion? This is an ideal of love that if practiced earnestly with integrity would solve all my problems and catapult me to complete awakening.


I would use polyamory to confront all my insecurities and jealousies as they arose. I would use it to free myself of attachment. I would use it to learn to love freely and openly and without expectation. I would use it to improve my communication. To me, it seemed like the most ideal paradigm for relationships I had every considered for myself. When I proposed it to my husband, however, it was met with fear and aversion. It began a year of negotiating what might be possible for us. I was swept up in the limitless potential of what seemed like a master spiritual practice. My husband was swept up in fears that were more than reasonable, but I had a hard time seeing outside of myself At the end of the year, my husband had concluded he could not manage polyamory, and I had concluded I could no longer be monogamous.


A year after I proposed to open my marriage, I slept with the man who inspired me to polyamory. After an incredible breath retreat in Miami where I had the most intense mystical experience of my life, I met with this man. Marko was someone who was walking the spiritual path in the same way I was, using everything in his life to uncover and heal the layers of trauma built upon an image of low self-worth. He struggled with love and attachment, and he was recovering in codependency the same way I was. He was the perfect reflection of who I was at that moment, and he would reflect the parts of myself I couldn’t see reflected back to me in my marriage. He would not try to hold onto me. He would not have any expectation for a continued relationship, and he would have no judgment for my decision.


I was taking the path of destruction again, blowing up my old life to step into a new ideal. Would this decision destroy my life, or would it bring me everything I wanted? I could not know, but I was resolved. So we slept together, and it was anticlimactic. I had been with one man for seventeen years, and I was a nervous wreck, stuck in my head, and wracked with guilt. We couldn’t really connect, and it was over quickly. That was that. Not worth a marriage, but I knew it wasn’t about that. I had taken action. I could not take it back.


My husband was heartbroken that I had taken the leap, and he decided to end our marriage, but the pain of that was unbearable for both of us, so we reconciled and limped along for another year. I admit I had acted without respect to one of the most important tenants of polyamory, integrity. Without integrity, there could be no rebuilding of our marriage, and I promised I would not have any physical relationships with men. However, over the course of nine months, I fell into an emotional affair with a friend I met in a plant-medicine ceremony. This friend was Lee, my twin flame.


Lee and I built a close friendship, feeling strangely drawn to each other but neither recognizing the depth of our connection. It wasn’t until several months later that our attraction to each other became something neither of us could ignore. We were finding opportunities to spend more time with each other, and one month before I ended my marriage for good, Lee kissed me, and we spent the night together.


The next morning, I spoke to Lee and asked him if he could be in a polyamorous relationship. I didn’t want to cheat on my husband, and I didn’t want to be monogamous. I wanted to talk to my husband and lay it out, an ultimatum. I felt I needed to try polyamory, but I had to do it with integrity. An affair was something I simply could not keep up. We had tried it two years my husband’s way, now we would have to try it mine. Lee found the idea compelling, and we decided we would be open.


But Uranus had other plans. That month, Lee and I fell deeply in love, though we saw each other only once more. At the end of the month, I had plans to attend a breath retreat in Miami, the same retreat I had attended three years in a row. The retreat that opened my eyes each year to a new realization about my life and my path, the one where I met Marko, and after which I slept with him the following year. This year, I planned to meet Marko again. I wanted to meet with him and tell him about how my year unfolded after our night together. I wanted to reinvigorate my commitment to polyamory. Lee had been supportive.


As the month progressed, and I fell in love with Lee, I had not yet spoken to my husband. I wanted to find clarity at the breath retreat first, and I did. A deep knowing came over me that I would not change my husband’s mind, and to try to do so would continue to have devastating consequences. I resolved to end my marriage immediately upon my return from Miami.

After the retreat, I met with Marko. I told him about Lee, how in love I was with him, how I was leaving my husband for good when I returned, and how Lee and I were going to have an open relationship. We spoke for hours and then, feeling free of guilt, Marko and I slept together. It was an experience I wanted to have, a night of casual sex within a loving friendship, free of guilt, and secure in the love of my primary relationship. To me, it was the fulfillment of the ideals I had built up in my head. This was it….it could be like this. When it was over, I felt disenchanted and a sinking feeling came over me. On my way home the next morning, it was clear that Uranus had played its dirty trick. Polyamory wasn’t the answer to my search at all.


Uranus’s destruction is just like Kali’s – it is always out of love. But damn does it hurt. Although Lee thought he was on board for polyamory, he found himself devastated, surprised by feelings of betrayal. He questioned my motivations for this lifestyle, and he had to admit, he didn’t think he could manage it.


I returned home to end my marriage and to make sense of what I had just done. Why am I so compelled to these ideals? Why this one? What did I really want? At first, I understood that I wanted to love without attachment because I didn’t want love to hurt anymore. I didn’t want to lose my sense of self and my freedom in a relationship anymore. I didn’t want to feel like I had to live with my needs unmet because I was in a relationship that couldn’t meet them.


What I realized after deeper reflection and conversations with Lee was that polyamory was just another ideal I had constructed in order to hide my shame. I couldn’t connect to my husband because I couldn’t show myself to my husband. In polyamory I could continue to create half-hearted relationships in which I could continue to hide. I regret that I couldn’t see the truth in this earlier; it would have spared my husband so much heartache, but I just couldn’t. The relationship had to end for me to see it.


When Lee came into my life, my twin flame, it was like seeing myself in the mirror clearly for the first time. At first it was maddening because he saw me despite my attempts to hide. He made it possible for the first time to share what had happened when I was younger that so traumatized my sense of safety and self-worth. He was interested in understanding everything about me fully; he was dedicated to healing our wounds through our relationship and growing together. His love is what made me realize that all I wanted was to love deeply, to be deeply loved, to see someone fully, to be fully seen. I wanted what I already had with Lee. I am grateful for Uranus for always fucking my shit up, because goddamn I make a mess of things.


Now I have destroyed nearly all the ideal versions I have made of myself, and it is with this writing that I release the shame that was underpinning them all, the unspeakable shame of sexual trauma. I release it, and I speak it aloud because I don’t want to build myself upon that anymore. I want to be free. I want to be authentic. I want to show myself as I am and own my story. I am a beautiful person, and I love myself and others from a place of acceptance that far exceeds my previous capacity. With each integration of the shadowy parts of myself, that capacity grows. If I am holding an ideal image of myself as a healer, it is this one: the healer who sees herself as whole and continues to heal herself in order to grow in love, compassion, and wisdom. We will see if this image displeases Uranus.



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