The year that turned me inside-out
What is spirituality? I can’t answer that question for you. But I can answer it for me.
What is it to me? I'm a donut shop owner, mom, white, middle-class, social media coordinator, and writer. And, well, I’d say I’m at the very start of that journey. And these articles are going to take you along that path with me.
Let me tell you how I got to this place. This place where I feel spiritual.
Did you ever have an imaginary pet? I did. Except it wasn’t a pet.
...It was a fairy.
Okay, to be honest, there were three of them. They each had names (one was named after Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and each had unique personalities.
They heckled my swimming teacher when he made me jump into the deep end of the swimming pool after I confessed how afraid I was in front of my class. They sat on my bed while I packed my suitcase for our usual Saturday switch between my parents’ homes. They kept me company while I read during recess. You know, regular fairy things.
You already know three really important things about me.
1) I’m kind of a loner.
2) I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
3) I’ve believed in magic since I was a little girl.
My belief in magic has always been very tied to my belief in a God. I didn’t grow up religious, but I’ve also never identified with being agnostic or atheist. My parents were always extremely open to me exploring the big questions and nurtured the intellectual and inquisitive side of me.
But something happened to my belief in magic and God along the way. And my suspicion is that this happens to a lot of us, some at a younger age than others.
Fear took over.
In reflection, I clearly see the fears that became my rulers.
- Fear of the unknown.
- Fear of what people would think of me.
- Fear of messing up. (I am talented at feeling extreme guilt over inconsequential things.)
- Fear of pain. Emotional or physical.
- And to be really honest, fear of being wrong. (A.K.A. I love being right.)
The combination of these traits and fears made me a perfect candidate for religion. A set of rules to avoid pain and gain acceptance. Sign. Me. Up. Spell out the recipe for success and I will follow it. Especially if it means I can avoid all things dark and twisty. Besides, my guilt alarm is much easier to listen to than my intuition.
So, my deep connection to my spirit, my curiosity, and my belief in magic started to fade as I fixated my attention on external appearances and good deeds.
I’d like to clarify that this was no one’s fault and I do think religion can be a beautiful thing. It was my choice to abuse it. I ignored my internal life and got lost in the achievements of my external one. For a long time. I will say that a lot of good came from it. I found refuge in a church community. I met some incredible people. I gained faith in marriage. I met and married my husband, Brett. Everything was good. Great, even.
Then, something disrupted this nice, safe, comfortable world I had created for myself.
Her name is Emelyn Day Zahari.
My pregnancy, labour, and experience with early motherhood forced me to face a lot. My fear of pain. My need for knowing. My past. Motherhood demanded me to explore the depths of me that I’d pushed aside. My daughter required vulnerability from me and I couldn’t refuse her invitation. Maybe it’s wrong that I couldn’t do it for myself, but would do it for my child.
Regardless, it was the push I needed. So, I started pulling threads and, to my surprise, quickly began to unravel.
When my baby woke up in the night and I sat in her room alone at 3AM, the old wounds, the new desires, the questions - they were deafening. They knew in the quiet of the night, I had to listen. And for awhile, I listened. I allowed the unravelling.
This process eventually became too overwhelming for me. It involved pain and I thought pain was an indicator that something was wrong. I was scared to make wrong choices with this new baby in my life. And, honestly, I didn’t want to do the hard work required in the journey ahead. I needed to keep up appearances and my inner self would just have to learn to cooperate with that. So, I reverted back to my comfort zone.
My husband, brother-in-law, and I opened a donut shop within the same week of having my daughter (more on that another time), so my external life offered to keep me so busy I didn’t need to think of my internal self and I accepted.
Essentially, my inner dialogue became something like this:
“I don't know how to be myself right now, so I'll be a mom. A wife. A business-owner. A sister. A daughter. I'll be anybody, except for me.”
On the outside, I was doing everything right and living the dream. On the inside, I was disappearing. Hollowing myself out. No one noticed because I was following the rules of my religion and playing the roles of my life well. I confiscated parts of my personality. I dismissed my roots. I shamed myself for my desires. No one's boat was being rocked but I was drowning.
Time passed and I began to feel extremely angry. Unbelievable, right? Anyone who knows me, knows that I literally don't know how to raise my voice.
“I can’t even imagine you angry, Meghan.”
That’s great. Maybe then, you can imagine how painful a whole lot of unexpressed anger feels.
I didn’t make the connection that it was because of the cage I’d put myself in. The anger was so extreme that I feared I had PPD and went to the doctor. When the doctor told me it wasn’t hormonal, I wasn’t relieved. I wanted to be able to make this anger an external issue that could be fixed with an external solution.
This was the moment. I had to respond to what my insides were demanding of me. I had to start to be brave. And that's what I did. I took the first tiny step of what became a year-long journey. I began to listen to my inner voice.
I called a counsellor. After telling them about my anger, they quickly figured out that I had buried some issues alive a long, long time ago. (Turns out it’s important to deal with the past. Who knew, right?) So, I started to do sessions regularly for that specific past trauma. And that’s how it all started. I didn’t intend to embark on a year of change and self-discovery, but that’s what ended up happening.
For the first time, my work became internal. I went into a cocoon. The shifts and changes were invisible to others at first, but, for me, everything was changing and it was at a rapid pace. I awakened the desire for personal identity and I opened up old wounds so they could heal properly. I began to face the unknown, listen to my intuition, do things in spite of potential pain, and wonder if rules were as important as I'd always believed them to be.
The cocoon started to crack and the internal shifts started to show. I told the people that I was angry with that I was angry with them. I dreamed my very own dreams. I valued my voice. I filed a complaint for wrongs in my labour. I shared my political opinions at the dinner table, even if they were different from others. I listened to track 3 of Lemonade a thousand times. I began to take nights off from being a mom to be my own person. We decided to leave our church community. We did some hard work on our marriage. I started writing again. Each thread pulled revealed something else. Led to another lesson.
Thread-by-thread, I pulled myself apart and, thread-by-thread, I weaved myself back together.
When the cocoon phase was officially over and I had to step out as this new person, knowing that some would reject me when I showed themselves the real me for the first time, I was afraid. But, not as afraid as I thought I would be. The rejection I feared came, but so did acceptance. Relationships deepened, new opportunities came, and a deep happiness rushed in.
Around the time of my birthday, as I danced out the year with my friends, I realized something. For the first time in a long time, I was living from my spirit. Living from a vulnerable place instead of a vain one. My internal life leading my external one, not the other way around. Inside-out.
There’s my answer. That’s what spirituality is to me. Listening to the voice that you can only hear at 3AM when you’re rocking your baby. Paying attention to the deepest parts of yourself. Even if they happen to be dark and twisty. Taking up space in the world under the influence of that still, small voice.
It may be quiet. A mere whisper. But, it’s your personal truth. It’s your essence. And living from that place, living inside-out instead of outside-in, is what I call spirituality.
A month or so ago, I found myself across from Vanessa at a table. We were talking about my year of change. As I told her about the identity I had begun to find under all the skins I had been shedding and how whole I felt, she gave me such a knowing look. I’d discovered the magic, just as she had.
Shortly after that meeting, she asked me to start writing for her. I felt like I’d gotten a letter from Hogwarts. But, I also felt like Hermione had pointed her wand in my direction and shouted “Petrificus totalus!” What a funny time in my life to begin publicly documenting what I’m learning. For the first time in my life, my only answer is that I don’t have all the answers. I refuse to pretend that I have everything all together. And, I am knowingly making people uncomfortable by being true to myself.
But, writing here every couple weeks will be incredible accountability to keep listening to my inner voice. And I can no longer deny that writing is what I’m made for. So, here I am.
I hope that you are inspired to listen to your spirit, too. Maybe we’ll both find an answer or two. Maybe we’ll find a question or four. Or maybe, just maybe, we’ll find a fairy or three that we once believed in.
Meghan Zahari is a donut shop owner by day and a writer by night. In between, she does photography and social media accounts for other businesses. Motherhood and emotions are a 24/7 gig. She lives with her husband, Brett, daughter, Emelyn, and cousin, Laura. (Plus, a pug and a puggle.) It’s a full life with a full house, so her introverted soul seeks refuge by hiding away with a book or watching Buffy or Grey’s.