“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.
Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” -Brene Brown
Pain is never an easy feeling to go through. We want it to end, to numb it and push it aside. We want to know when it will be over and why we had to go through it. The reality is, we will all face these feelings of pain, through heartbreak, loss and the trials of life. It doesn’t always make sense and can be simply brutal to go through. But I do feel that heart break, loss and suffering, when we are willing to put the work in to process and feel it, make our lives incredibly richer. We are able to have a different empathy, appreciation and outlook on life — that adds value and a depth to our hearts.
Last Fall, while living in Africa, I was in a season of rebuilding myself, but also grieving. To go from what felt like so much certainty in life (when is there really any), to no plans and certainty at all, left my heart and mind in disarray. I struggled to not live in the past, to find a quick fix to make any sadness go away, and to have clear understanding of why life took a different and unexpected detour.
Being in Africa, somewhat disconnected I had a lot of time in my head and in my thoughts. This can be a beneficial thing, but it can also be your own worst enemy depending on where you are at. There were times, I was letting myself dwell in comparison, in romanticizing a past, and waiting anxiously for a break in the hurt — waiting anxiously for it all to make sense. It just so happened that while I was in the real thick of it, my mom came to visit. Momo for the win, always. I’ve never been so happy to see a familiar face.
I wanted to let go of what I was carrying and truly show my mom the stunning country of Uganda — a place that had already given me so much peace, and comfort. I think what was hardest for me is that I had not let go of a past and future — that didn't exist. Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing to remember fond memories. It can also be an unhealthy thing, when we think about a time in our minds that most likely wasn’t reality. I was blocking myself from healing because I was still clinging on and waiting for something to happen and make sense on my terms — in the way I hoped for. I wasn't forging through the painful truths, processing, releasing and surrendering to whatever was meant to be.
My mom had just traveled across the world, to a place, she had never imagined she would go, to be with her daughter. It was never a better time, to do that with her — then and there. We had an exhausted, emotional reunion. Just a couple hours later we were en route outside of Kampala, to the town of Jinja. A bustling town, that sits on the majestic Lake Victoria, near the source of the White Nile River.
My mom’s presence alone, felt healing. As we drove out of hectic Kampala and into the untouched countrysides, I could slowly feel myself becoming lighter. Our car dropped us a bit outside the town, down a remote road, to a wooden boat, that would us to out to our final destination. We sat in silence observing the currents swirling around us. There was nothing to be seen or heard — but the sounds of the water below, the swaying of the imposing forest green trees, and gentle breeze as it moved through the low pillowy clouds hovering above us. Then, there it was — our stunning oasis in front of us, Wildwaters Lodge. Situated on an island surrounded by the Nile River. Hidden trails winding throughout leading to little wooden cabins. Each one perched along the river, wrap around porches, with deep soaking tubs outdoors— to take in the sounds and scenes in the purest form of nature. We were greeted with teas, and a tour of the ethereal property.
Being a girl after her mother’s heart, vino and snacks were in our immediate future. We scurried to the main lodge for happy hour, and again found ourselves — blown away. The main lodge had custom wooden furniture, open air seating, to the pool, which backed alongside the Nile River. Where the main lodge sat on the island was exactly at a point in the Nile where all the currents came crashing together before a waterfall — it created a swirling abyss. It was wild to witness, as we sipped on our cocktails and soaked in our current reality.
It was here that I truly felt a need to process. I was in a safe space with my mom and I needed honestly, a good damn cry. It was tough to let it out like that, to feel so vulnerable with my heart and emotions. It felt easier to be “strong”, then to just let it all hang out. I didn't want to ruin the trip, but I couldn't hold onto what I was holding onto knowing I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this time with her here, if I was shoving down things that were wanting to burst out of me.
As my heart released the heaviness to her — big dark clouds arrived, what felt like out of nowhere, the winds picked up and the waves grew increasingly larger, crashing on the deck around us. The point where the currents met, had become a massive whirlpool. It was as if the Heavens above, were preparing for the grand finale. As my tears poured down, my mom's followed and the rains began to pour down harder.
At this point everyone that worked there, thought we were certifiably crazy. We were sitting on the patio — in the rain, crying and voicing our hearts loudly. As the staff waved us in, my mom grabbed my hand. We had to physically release this and move forward. We walked over to the water’s edge and stared straight into the whirlpool. I'll never forget Momo's words “Here is where we throw in all the hurt of the past, all the pain, all of the the things that we do not understand, and let it go. Here is where we throw it all into the “whirlpool of death.” The waters whipped around, while the thunder was so loud we could barely hear each other — it was surreal. We threw it all in, squeezed each other with our tear stained faces and only could laugh. We finished our bottle of wine soaked and happy.
In that moment, at the Nile River I felt a true release. A freedom. A healing, I needed so desperately. It is astounding the transformation that can take place, when we let go of the past, stop worrying about the unknowns, let ourselves be vulnerable and feel — all of our being. It is so important. I will never forget that day with my mom. Or the guest's faces dining inside, staring out at us. In hindsight, pretty hysterical. The Connelly’s just really know how to make an appearance, even in Uganda!
In the dewy morning, I arose slightly groggy but at ease. A fresh breakfast on the patio, a private massage and a soak in the bath left my body and mind feeling restored. I think it was a combination of the ability to be raw and sit in the darkness, this rare place and the time with my mom that the healing began presenting itself powerfully.
My heart still hurt, but in a changed way. In a way I knew it was beginning to patch itself back up — more honest, authentic and stronger then it ever had been. I felt not only more deeply connected to my mom, but also to my true self. There was already an immeasurable gift to be found. A gift I will take with me through every season and every storm. Fortunately, this storm had passed, the clouds were clearing out — and then, then there was only light.