12 Ways Home: NXNC’s Final Project

Some time ago, I announced the end of this blog. I intend to keep that promise (mostly). There is one small problem, however; I didn’t like leaving off where we did. Work Wife, while it is a piece I continue to stand by, is too a somber note on which to end this predominantly joyful, grateful space. So, before the next project (see also: Dirty Delicious) finds surer footing, I must honor the spirit of this one. The result is this mini-series, 12 Ways Home. Over the course of a final year together, I’ll document the ways in which I’ve found wholeness after a particularly challenging season of life. Which has been most of my life, to be quite frank. Owning that is the first part of my healing. What follows is the better part. I hope you enjoy it as much as I intend to. That feels like a more fitting goodbye to this space, n’est-ce pas?

In the First Instance

In the summer of 2022 — exactly ten years after a trauma so profound that I could not allow myself to remember it until then — another person with whom I wish no further contact asked me an impertinent, life-changing question.

Had I ever hurt myself?

So confidently and with such hubris I answered him that no, I had never and would never ever engage in that kind of behavior.

That was a lie.

Truth be told, I’d been quietly hurting myself for the better part of 30 years. Just not in the ways that you’d expect someone to explain. Not with razor blades or food deprivation or other, more physically apparent manifestation of self-harm.

No, the type of hurt I’d become an expert at exacting upon myself was the sort that had no physical clues at all, at least to most individuals in my life.

And that is because I’d become so good at hiding it, that by the time I reached adulthood, I’d hidden it even from myself.

However …

There is one notable, unfortunate exception to this rule.

And that exception is the person with whom I wish no further contact.

Though I’ve never confirmed this, and never wish to, I greatly suspect that when this person asked their impertinent question, they already knew what I did not: that I’d been hurting myself, by way of not loving myself properly, for a long, long time.

Now fully in the throes of that question’s aftermath, I’m finally beginning to process my decades-long battle with trauma and its resultant self-loathing.

There is so much ahead of me, so much left to learn. So much left to learn about myself, about my situation, about the world around me.

And folks, if my love-lack is half the story, then this naïveté is the other, equally important twin. How do these things work together, you ask?

By the magic of my illness, two yucky inputs somehow become three terrifying outputs. Principally, these outputs look like a completely unholy trinity: (1) denying myself real joy, (2) refusing to forgive myself for even the smallest offenses, and (3) subconsciously insisting that somehow, I deserve what I’ve been giving myself — and what other people give me — in the process.

Which of course, I don’t.

Still, is it any wonder that despite having so many loving people in my life, that a handful of individuals have treated me the same way I’ve treated myself?

Which is to say, mistreatment.

Not at all.

I need to say right now that I’m not here to engage in victim blaming any more than I wish to engage in finger pointing outward to the laundry list of real-life boogeymen I have. And there have been several, including this summer’s.

What I am here to do, at this unique point in my life, is to rediscover and reclaim the love I’ve always needed to give myself — first, consistently, and with wild abandon.

Which means that I also need to say right now that I could not do this work without the love and support of some truly amazing people, who push me every day to recommit to it. And that’s true even and especially when it’s hard to endure for even one more second.

My husband Sean, the love of my life, the man who teaches me daily that while God saves us in the afterlife, we are responsible for saving ourselves in this one. May we have at least another 50 years to prove each other right.

My family and friends, who remind me that a good book, good food, and a good laugh are really all we need to sustain ourselves when life gets hard. May your loads in this world be as light as you make mine seem after your infusions of love and support.

Other helping people, who provide care in ways that those of us who are not qualified to administer it, do. May the world appreciate you as the superheroes you always have been — whether you’re labeled “essential” or not.

So, all that gushing aside, where does that leave us?

With a project.

This project, to be exact.

And what will it do?

It will take up the remaining work — the part where I actually get up and do the things I’ve been afraid to do for as long as I can remember: experience joy, learn to practice self-forgiveness, and show myself that the only thing I deserve — and should accept from anyone — is love.

In the end, I know that this project must be my own. I may enjoy and appreciate the support of those around me, but if the results of the project are to last beyond the gorgeous ephemera of stolen moments — those where self-love seems not only possible, but dare I say it? easy — the actual work must be mine.

I have to own it.

With that said, over the course of the next year, I’d like to spend more time finding and documenting the ways in which a return to myself, the ultimate return home, happens. Joyfully, confidently, and yes I’m sure also in ways that will be beautifully messy.

That’s just life.

But life isn’t meant to be done alone. So it is my secondary goal that, together with my husband, family, and friends, in the end I will get to celebrate living the life I’ve been fighting for, for so long, but in all the wrong ways until now.

When that happens, when I finally set down the trauma and pain I’ve endured — at the hands of others and also from the less tangible parts of myself — I will be left with the best deliverable anyone could ever ask for, the freedom to simply live.

But first, it’s time to go home. Twelve months, twelve ways, it’s time to go home. On my terms. And in my own time. I’m welcoming myself back to the good fight, y’all.

Ryan Vale McGonigle

Published by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s