Corner of Awe and Gratitude: The Other Side of Pain.
The torrential downpour pelted the side of the two-story house, bending many a sturdy tree until even some of the bark had been stripped off. The father and daughter were each ensconced in their own part of the house, they didn’t see each other for the better part of three days. They were unprepared for the level of devastation they saw after macheting their way out of the huge fallen tree blocking the 800-pound electric (now manual) fence.
Less than two weeks after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the tiny island of Puerto Rico, my dad flew to Florida, he had already had a ticket. As we drove to the San Juan airport, still sans power or water, I watched the shoulder of the highways tearfully, as vehicle after vehicle were stopped with cell phones held in the air… everyone frantically and tearfully trying to reach loved ones on the mainland.
I was nervous. I don’t speak Spanish, there was no guarantee I’d find gas on the way back, and I had no GPS or cell phone service. I’d have to get back to the house by dark or I wouldn’t be able to find my way upstairs to my second-floor apartment with no light. And that darkness, well… we think we know darkness until the land is devoid of all electricity, and well that’s real darkness.
But, I made it the 16 days alone with no power and no running water. I was able to utilize every single word of my Nuyorican Spanglish and elicit help finding the tankers that brought water to the center of Aibonito every day. Well, mostly every day, because there were a few scary days when the tankers didn’t show up.
The fact that I made it the 16 days alone wasn’t the miracle, and it wasn’t even that I made it almost 40 days with no power and no water.
The miracle was that I made through a natural disaster with no medication, no panic attacks and no depression, using only meditation and affirmations to get myself through being cut off from the world, not able to reach my children, grandpeeps or my soul family, just a little over a year after I had arrived on the tiny island recovering from two years of suicidal depression, having survived two suicide attempts, on 11 psychotropic medications.
Life had been progressively improving. After the hell of weaning myself off the 11 medications, I had begun meditating every day, reformatting my synaptic pathways to default at gratitude, constantly utilizing affirmations, CBT and DBT.
In school for my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in child and adolescent development, I was two terms shy of graduating with a 3.89 GPA, when the hurricane struck and yet…
… somehow I knew I’d be okay.
I would see my children again.
I knew I hadn’t survived two suicide attempts to die on the island.
I had/have a purpose, to reach at-risk adolescents.
My life has literally been a litany of miracles. From being a teenage runaway on the streets of NYC, almost overdosing at 17, to surviving nine years of domestic violence, a diagnosis of PTSD, fast forward through much trauma to two years of suicidal depression, surviving two suicide attempts, Hurricane Maria, then graduating summa cum laude September 2018.
I now begin the journey to my master’s degree, and I have to say, I know that I can achieve it.
Sometimes I forget why I’m perpetually grateful, but tonight, as I searched through my old, second-generation, glass-half-cracked iPad, finding the files I knew I had saved, I listened to that storm tear that little piece of the world apart, with tears filling my eyes right now as I type these words, I can’t believe I made it through that.
If you’re going through hard shit, keep going, keep taking the steps, keep climbing the mountains. I know you’re hurting. I know you’re battle-weary and worn, but there’s a reason you’re still here. Keep going, because the growth, joy, epiphanies, revelations are through the pain, on the other side.
Much like stones and shells are made smooth by the tumultuous crashing of the waves, life’s tempestuous storms return us to the resplendent beings we were born to be. There’s a reason you’re here. There is a reason I’m here.
I’m defaulted at the corner of awe and gratitude. I don’t think that will ever change, and I’m glad of it.
Shanti Shaharazade is beginning graduate school on the road to earning her master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in children and adolescents, which perfectly places her directly in line with being an ambassador for at-risk teenagers. She is a mother of three, noni of six grandpeeps, and has overcome many obstacles and transcended many contractions birthing higher expressions of herself necessary to be of the greatest service. She is not just a survivor of sexual traumas, but also lived as a homeless teenager on the streets of NYC, becoming a battered wife, single mother, enraged woman, to surviving two suicide attempts, learning how to live again with constant and profound gratitude in order to contribute to the world in the way only she can now, as an empowered goddess.