Catherine Denison is delightful woman who is currently participating in my Author Support program.
I met Cathy a few years ago at an event in Victoria. I gravitated to her right away because she has a sense of calm about her. She also radiates grace, dignity, and beauty. Before long I was also struck by her humility and deep wisdom.
I invited Cathy to share her story of triumph over pain in today’s issue of Re-Write Your Life. Cathy’s story is one many of us can relate to. Early in life, not wanting to rock the boat, she chose to please others rather than share what she was really feeling. Today she is in the process of reclaiming her lost voice and the lessons she has learned along the way will both inspire and uplift you.
Oh, and by the way, Cathy has just submitted a children’s story/picture book called Abby and Harriet the Magic Hen Find a Miracle to CANSCAIP writing contest in Toronto. The stories of the winners are submitted to three publishers. Wish her luck!
Here is Catherine’s story in her own words:
I hear so often in mainstream spirituality that we need to drop our personal stories in order to transcend to non-dual Oneness. I have a different take on this. It’s my feeling that we are called to embrace the tangible intangibility of both oneness and duality at the same time because we are all unique sparks of the divine. So it makes no sense to me to deny my uniqueness but rather to feel and express it so I can grow and evolve.
That’s where my personal story comes in. It is an expression of my unique, karmic, evolutionary journey of who I am. How could we experience anything on this earth plane without the relativity of this and that? For me, the journey is about releasing identification with our stories so that we can transcend beyond to the One Absolute Presence in everything—beyond all identity and attachment.
The One is in everything but is not those things. For much of my life, I held an unconscious belief that the way to union with the divine was to deny my feelings and emotions and think only positive thoughts, in effect wrapping myself up in a false love/light bubble, denying the vulnerability of my soul. My purpose here is to grow, evolve, express, and release identifying with my story, so that I can return home to my true essence: pure light. The only way out of pain is through it, where we find the doorway into the light.
Alone in the hospital
I was stricken with polio in 1953 at the age of six in a large epidemic in Toronto. I spent long days and weeks alone in a room at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. No visitors were allowed, not even family. I was aware of losing strength in my legs. I attempted to get out of bed one day and went crashing down to the floor. I don’t know how long I lay there wondering why I couldn’t walk. The nurses were run off their feet and often couldn’t come when I called.
Eventually I was transferred to a children’s ward at Thistletown Hospital in the west end of Toronto. This was a time of great flux for my family. My father had just left his job with the federal government in Newfoundland to start up a private company in Montreal with a partner. He had a large family to support. My mother and I, along with my four brothers and sisters, were staying with relatives in Toronto while my father established his company and bought a house. Toronto was my family’s home base.
While I was in the hospital, my mother and siblings moved permanently to Montreal to join my father. I was permitted to have visitors at Thistletown Hospital. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles visited me continually in my family’s absence. They were not permitted to enter the ward, however. Instead, they stood outside and waved and talked to me through the screened windows at the end of the room. I remember my grandmother smiling and waving as she showed me a green balloon man with cardboard feet.
Coming home and fitting in
I was discharged from the hospital in December of 1953 using a brace and crutches to walk. I had regained the strength in my left leg, but my right leg was mostly paralyzed. My grandparents travelled with me by train to Montreal where I joined my family. One of my earliest memories after arriving home is drying the dishes as my mother washed them. She was determined that I would lead as normal a life as possible. To that end, she took on the nuns at the local Catholic school, insisting that they accept me. At that time in Quebec, “crippled” children were isolated in separate schools. Eventually, the nuns relented, and I began grade one in December of 1953.
My classmates were like angels. That’s how I experienced their energy. They accepted me fully and treated me as an equal with kindness and respect. I was the only child with a disability in the school. I made good friends. I thrived in school. In grade eleven, I was elected as President of the Student Council.
Throughout my childhood, I was hospitalized in the Montreal Children’s Hospital for major surgeries to my right foot, leg, and hip. I endured a lot of physical pain and time away from my friends and family. As strange as it may sound, I enjoyed being in the hospital, apart from the surgeries and pain. The doctors and nurses were kind, and I made friends with the other children. We used to have wheelchair races in the hallways. It felt like a second home to me.
I am grateful to my mother for encouraging independence, strength, and determination in me. She wanted me to fit into mainstream society. As time went on though, I feel my parents began to deny my disability. I was so anxious to fit in that I never complained or discussed how I felt. It was easy for people to assume that I had it made.
I attended school dances when I was a teenager. Mostly, I sat on the sidelines since I couldn’t dance. I remember leaving the dance alone one night. Tears streamed down my face as I walked home in the dark. I felt like a misfit. I was careful to wipe away my tears before entering my house. At this point in time, my parents were not happily married. I didn’t want to give them any more reasons for being unhappy.
Succeeding at life
After graduating from high school, I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree. I returned to school off and on throughout my life to further my education, and I made several career changes. I worked in clerical positions, as a Health Record Administrator in hospitals, in marketing and public relations for not-for-profit organizations, and finally in the field of vocational rehabilitation, helping persons with disabilities find suitable work.
When I initially graduated from university at the age of twenty, I obtained my first job at Pitney-Bowes in Toronto where I made many new friends. I rented a home with three other girls. We partied hard and had good times. At the age of twenty-three, I travelled through Europe with one of my roommates. My boyfriend had returned to his home in London, England, after working in Canada, so I visited him there. He left me for a prior girlfriend. I dated a Jewish boy throughout university. When we decided to marry, his mother expressed a strong concern about my disability. Could I have children, she asked? I said I could. Would I convert to Judaism? I could sense my boyfriend’s commitment was waning. I wasn’t prepared to convert, so we went our separate ways.
I married my current husband when I was twenty-four years old. His mother didn’t approve. She was unhappy that he was marrying a woman with a disability and refused to attend our wedding. We’ve been married for 44 years and have two beautiful children, a son and a daughter. My mother-in-law has come to love me over the years.
Feelings finding their way to the surface
Looking back at my outer accomplishments, it seems that my life has gone pretty well. I remember feeling proud in my 30s that I hadn’t shed a tear in years. I thought of myself as strong and resilient. It all began to unravel in my late thirties. Out of the blue, the tears would flow. I had no idea why. I sought counselling. That’s when I learned about how disconnected I was to my feelings. I would not allow myself to feel any negative emotions. My denial ran deep. I wasn’t able to express honestly how I felt about most things. It’s been a long journey since then about learning to accept and express the vulnerability of my soul.
Gradually, I came to realize that I disassociated myself from my fear, loneliness, and sense of abandonment and betrayal when I was hospitalized with polio at age six. When I was discharged from the hospital and reunited with my family, no one asked how I felt about my disability then or anytime while growing up. That was the way it was back then. We know so much more now.
A renewed sense of unity
So what’s it all about, Alfie, as the song goes? What’s the deeper meaning behind what I’ve experienced? I had a spiritual epiphany when I was eight or nine years old. As I lay on my back in the snow at the bottom of a toboggan hill, gazing up at the sky, I felt as though I was part of everything, not separate. I had a strong, inner knowing that my home was elsewhere in the stars and that I would return home one day. I lost this sense of unity as I grew older and got caught up the drama around me. But the memory stayed with me about what’s possible. I have renewed this sense of unity. It is a wondrous thing to pay attention to how the benevolent Universe constantly speaks to us through signs and synchronicity, lighting the path forward. And if we pay attention, it makes our journeys truly magical.
What I have to come to feel in my heart is this: All I see in the outer world is a reflection of my inner consciousness, both individually (the reality I myself create) and as part of the collective consciousness (what I co-create with others). I’m not a victim of circumstances. I am the creator. As part of my karmic journey, I chose to disempower myself physically in this lifetime by taking on a physical disability, and emotionally by disconnecting from my feelings. I sense past lifetimes and feel that I abused my power down through the eons and that I’ve come to atone for that in this lifetime (atone = at one). My guilt and sorrow built my disability. My karmic journey here is about releasing identification with those feelings by diving into them and feeling them fully without judgment, becoming the One in them.
I have become conscious over time of a conditioned pattern I carried from past lifetimes into this incarnation, a pattern of feeling abandoned and betrayed. I re-created this unconscious, conditioned belief when I was six years old and felt abandoned in the hospital. That experience was a reflection of my inner consciousness.
I’ve repeated this pattern of abandonment and betrayal throughout my life. I am now conscious of it, however, so I am transforming it. I’m feeling into the pain behind this conditioned belief and expressing it in order to let it go. Whenever I recreate the pattern, the outer mirror is inviting me to go deeper into feeling it, expressing it, and releasing it.
I know it’s possible to transform inner consciousness. I know because the mirror of my outer reality changes when my inner consciousness changes. With regard to that, I am greatly inspired by Bruce Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief. Bruce is an environmental biologist. His research is fascinating. I feel there is always a deeper meaning behind everything we experience, behind everything we see in the outer mirror, and we can ascertain the deeper meaning if we pay attention.
The ultimate invitation from the Universe is to return home to the pure light that we are, our true essence. As we dissolve our emotional blockages and light up ourselves, we light the way for others. My journey homeward continues. My deep gratitude goes out to Junie Swadron for this opportunity to share a bit of my journey with you.
Write about a time when silence was not golden for you. Where hiding out was not working. Perhaps it’s now. Write whatever you need to say and hopefully, in not too long, your voice on the page will become your strength and confidence to share with whomever you need to. If it is something from the past, imagine that you spoke your truth. Write about the road you didn’t take . . . and how it feels now to express yourself fully.
As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.