- Janyne McConnaughey, PhD
Five Years Later: A Future I Couldn’t Imagine
Just remember . . .
Sometimes you have to fall down a rabbit hole
to get to the future you can’t imagine.
My recent three-week whirlwind of traveling afforded little time to reflect. I traveled through (or to) ten states by car, plane, and train; slept in eleven beds (and one uncomfortable plane seat). I visited with friends and family and met some amazing people.
Except for the people I have known for many years, my life looks nothing like it did five years ago. I do not live in the same place, do the same work, go to the same church, think about the same things, or have the same passions. Not even the story I share about my life is the same. That is a lot of “unsameness.” My travels felt distinctly different because of this. I tried to write a blog to talk about how “unsame” my life is, but there were too many random pieces. So instead, these are my reflective takeaways from the trip.
Despite my painful experiences, I am apparently a great friend-maker. That was in part a survival skill, and in part because my family couldn’t stop moving. Everywhere we drove, I knew someone who lived (or had lived) in the area. If we had taken time to visit everyone we knew, the trip would have taken months instead of weeks.
As much as I love California and miss the beaches, it no longer felt like home. Neither did New Mexico where I lived until I was ten. Colorado also didn’t feel like home and I am sure Missouri wouldn’t have either. Washington State feels like home.
It was our 40th anniversary trip so we went to Santa Cruz just as we did on our honeymoon. We understand that our marriage beat a lot of statistical odds. We could write a book on that one (maybe we will). But for now, we stood on the beach and were glad we made it.
As I sat in the houses of friends and relatives and talked with the people who had been part of my life (some since I was born), I reflected on the lie that held me captive: “You will be rejected if you take off the mask and tell your story.” It wasn’t true. Did I make some people uncomfortable? Yes. Have some people vanished from my life? Yes. But those who stood by me were the only ones who mattered.
Colorado holds the very best and worst memories of our lives. So much occurred there that it would be impossible to summarize it. Our two days spent in Colorado Springs were an avalanche of memories. We didn’t have much time to visit friends since we spent both days at a miserably hot storage unit sorting through our belongings, shipping boxes, and packing up our car. Our packing was MUCH LESS chaotic this time. Hopefully our five years of chaos ended when we drove out of town.
One person I did make time to see was Dr. Sue. In October, it will be five years since I walked into her therapy office. Neither of us could have anticipated the journey ahead of us. We reflected on how hard we worked to heal the fractured child inside of me. We remembered funny moments and turning points. She thanked me for trusting her. I thanked her for always believing I could heal. Except for my two grandchildren’s births, Dr. Sue is my best Colorado memory.
We drove past the RV park where both BRAVE books were written (no, the construction isn’t finished—sigh). Then we visited the home of my publisher (Cladach Publishing). I am so thankful for Cathy Lawton (and her husband, Larry) who reached out to me when she heard I had written a book. Standing in the office where she spent endless hours editing and formatting my books, which are bringing both healing and understanding of attachment and trauma to people around the world, was both humbling and inspiring.
By the end of the two-week trip, it was certain that I had planned a trip for two people much younger than Scott and me. I had two days to unpack, do laundry, and get on a plane for Atlanta. Once there, I rode the MARTA (train) to the Peachtree Center and found my way to the hotel. This deserves a reflection point because I did it all by myself! I will probably devote an entire chapter in an upcoming book to all the ways the subconscious survival skill of dissociation actually made so many things (like traveling) easier for me—but also robbed me of the joy of living. It was a superpower for me—one I dismantled in order to heal. When I arrived, my room was beautiful and peaceful. It felt like God said, “You did it. Be proud of yourself. This is my hug.”
Never underestimate the power of a Google search; this is exactly how I connected with the Attachment and Trauma Network (ATN). I began to research the information at the website and immediately volunteered. This organization understood what happened to me! After blogging, speaking at conferences, and promoting ATN, I was now sitting in a meeting room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta as a new member of the Board of Directors. Truly, it had been an Alice-esque adventure. The people I came to know over the next three days were on mission “to promote healing of children impacted by trauma through supporting their families, schools, and communities.” What a wonderful experience to work with a group of people who understood my story and shared my passion.
And then, after a very long travel day, I was home. HOME. I was exhausted, but also aware that my summer travels would not have been possible even a year ago. I sense this summer was a dividing line of some sort since I really cannot comprehend the possibilities in my future. Five years ago, before beginning therapy, I wrote twenty vision statements. While they certainly didn’t come to fruition in the ways I expected, I have checked them all off. This list helped me during the most difficult days. I sensed the painful process of healing was necessary if I wanted to reach a future I could not imagine. I was right. And now the future has arrived.
As of right now, I am happy to say I have no travel plans until February. I doubt this will be the case, but it feels great to think it might be true. So far, 2019 has been quite the year! It also feels good to know that my lifelong obsession with pursuing seemingly unreachable goals in order to overcome something I couldn’t even name is no longer necessary. I am sure I will create a new vision list, but with an understanding that my life will likely be far more than any goals I could set for myself. It is very clear that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”