The Gift of Longing

I remember longing and searching and craving as a child. Was that really it? I don’t know if that counts as my spiritual journey, I’ve never considered it before now. I just knew that I didn’t fit, that something was wrong and I really wanted to know what it was. I was looking for the truth of who I was, but in the small literal sense, like surely I didn’t really come from THESE people?! Does everyone think this at that age?

I used to talk to the moon and ask for my real parents to come and get me. Aged about 8 or 9. I liked to think they were staring at the same moon pining for me. Were they on their way? Was it that they were too busy in their Hollywood celebrity lifestyle to take time out to come and rescue me? Maybe that’s closer to the truth, I just wanted to be rescued. What did I want to be rescued from? Although there were definitely toxic elements to my family life, it really wasn’t so bad, not compared to others. Was my ego so bloated already at such a young age that I thought I deserved better? I was starting to bloat physically about this age too, stuffing food in secret, trying to fill the hole, the gaping black void inside.

When your home doesn’t feel like home, then you wonder where home really is.

I felt lonely and wanted to go home.

I felt lost and wanted to go home

I spent many hours hiding, in wardrobes or trees, and that felt more like home than home.

The hiding. The relief.

It didn’t feel like home at home.

The hours of daydreaming, longing and wishing felt like home.

Home did keep moving. We moved around every few years and although my memories are patchy, this helps piece together the timeline more clearly. I know I felt sad and lonely before 9, because of the place where we lived aged 7-9 is the place where I spent a lot of time in bed pretending to be ill. Hours and hours in bed, staring at the ceiling, alone. This was the beginning of many hours spent alone in my room, so much so, that by the time I was a teenager I had earned the nickname “The Hermit”. Aged 10, I did discover some truth about me. My mum told me that Dave, the man I’d been calling Dad was not actually my biological father, he had adopted me when she married him and I was about 3 years old, so young enough to not remember any different. This was considered best practice in 1970’s rural Lincolnshire, with all parties agreeing it would have been “too confusing” for me to remain in contact with Arthur. On hearing this news, I was simultaneously relieved, disappointed and hopeful that Daddy Warbucks really could be on his way to reclaim me and take me home.

It made some sense of the anomalies, like why I didn’t look like my 2 younger sisters, who were almost identical to each other, but it didn’t really satisfy the bigger question about who I was. Mum’s reports on Arthur were not kind and she didn’t really sell him to me. Writing this now, I’m wondering if she was being kind, maybe he was really awful? She had destroyed all evidence of him, she had burned her wedding dress and every photo she had of him when they divorced. He was moody and shut down with a chip on his shoulder, apparently. He didn’t abuse her, as far as I know, but he found it hard to connect and it sounds like he was locked in his head with his inner critic berating him constantly. She said I was a lot like him and there was no way he was coming to get me.

When I realised no-one was coming, I chose escape instead. Had that loss of my father, who I had no conscious memories of, triggered the search? My mum was always searching too, always looking for the next thing that might be the answer to her own dissatisfaction and unhappiness, her way out. On the one hand this feels like so fucking what, you silly, spoilt brat, but on the other, it grabs my gut and turns it inside out.

My longing fuelled me to go to drama school in London at the earliest opportunity because I had a sense that all answers would come from there - the Promised Land. Being on stage, or hanging out with Theatre people, felt like the best homecoming ever. Obviously I would become a famous actor, then Arthur could be proud of me, could see how successful I was, without ever having to see me or speak to me in person. I could be seen, but not actually be seen. A moat around the fort.

He has made it clear in all our (pleasant) correspondence since I made contact in my thirties, that he does not feel able to meet me in person, or even speak on the phone. We exchange Christmas cards and bi-annual emails. I will next meet him at his funeral. Known and not known.

I flip-flopped between escaping through drinking, drugging and obsessing over various unsuitable men, to obsessing over different spiritual teachings. It felt like one was healthy and one wasn’t, but it was different sides of the same coin, really. I swapped chemical highs with enlightenment highs. I was kidding myself (again) and I always got really fat when I was on the enlightenment tip. That kind of bliss always caused a lot of carb love in my experience; cocaine was much better for my figure.

Then the longing led me to explore psychology, the nature of the human experience, training in Cognitive Hypnotherapy, so I could help others let go of whatever was holding them back.

I had always sought to find answers through others, or otherness. Other people, other ways of being, other beliefs, other substances, then helping others. It’s only been in the past few years that I have seen where to look. I knew the theory about looking inside, God knows everybody bangs on about it enough, but I didn’t really want to look there because I was terrified about what I would find. I thought looking at my brain was a good substitute and it was for a while, but then the hunger returned. I did not want to stare into my soul because I would find the blackness, the wrongness, but somehow I knew I would never find peace until I did.

I could easily see in others that they had this diamond inside, this true self, a constant perfect part, but I was convinced I was an exception, from a faulty batch. I wasn’t going around telling everyone I was faulty, the opposite in fact. I was living a double life - on the outside happy and full of positivity in my work as a therapist, telling others they weren’t broken, but inside, not believing it for myself. I would have died rather than let anyone know my dirty little secret, the incongruence was eating me up.

I dared to speak it one day, a couple of years ago, in a 1-2-1 with a coach. I was defending my brokenness and he told me that it was just my ego telling me I was faulty because it wanted to be special, in any way possible, it would even take being broken because that’s better than nothing - a fuck up is better than a nobody, right? It hit me like a ton of bricks, it was so powerful, but it took a few months to sink in. I still don’t know if it’s all the way through to a cellular level yet, but I had a massive sense of coming home that, for once, I knew had nothing to do with anyone or anything but me.