Her: Wide Awake
I can now share and write my story because I’ve finally found self-love.
My awakening is noticeable to most people who meet me and prominent to those who know me. I’m awake. My eyes are wide open, my soul is on fire, my body is in perpetual motion. I’m unstoppable in my truth. My authentic self is alive. But I wasn’t always like this. I was asleep. Sleepwalking through the corridors of a self-made prison. A privileged life locked away in a gilded cage. I was a bird with clipped wings. My world was a fortress built on oppression and denial. My only means of surviving was to go to sleep. I had become sleeping beauty in a tower. But it wasn’t a prince who woke me up. It was a woman. It was Her.
I constantly relieve the moment I went to sleep. It plays in my mind like a motion picture. It’s always there, reminding me of everything I survived. My escape. It was a bleak day as I drove through the English countryside. I pulled the car into my therapist’s driveway and pressed my head against the driver’s side window. The rain pelted against the roof like acrylic nails tapping upon a metal table in a hypnotic pattern. Tap, tap, tap… wake up Rebecca. You’re asleep. My head rested against the glass, looking up at the gloomy sky. It swallowed my joy, along with the brilliance of the day. I sucked in a deep breath, feeling my long hair cascading past my shoulders, resting at my hips. A blanket against the bitter cold. But it offered no warmth to my frozen heart. “I think I’m dead.” I whispered to myself. A soft murmur that only I could hear. I still question if I said it aloud or perhaps it was simply a fleeting thought fluttering in and then out of my mind. It doesn’t matter, I heard it. My cry, my pain, my plea. Wake up Rebecca. You’re asleep.
When I had arrived at my therapist’s home for our weekly session, she asked me how I felt that day and I responded with, “I think I’m dead. Or maybe I’m in purgatory, atoning for not believing in the Christian God. For rebelling against religion and my rigorous cultic upbringing.” But when I confessed those words to her, I also knew it was something more than that. I felt dead because I gave up on finding my authentic self. I gave up on myself. Instead, I had become the woman everyone wanted me to be; society, friends, family, neighbors, the elite social circle I rubbed elbows with. I became everyone’s perfect mom, the trophy wife and good homemaker, the reliable woman next door. I was the beautiful author with my perfectly planned photoshoots and carefully orchestrated posts. I was in hell. It scarred me like burns on a tree bark. Charcoaled. Blackened. Tainted. Dead. I hated who I was, but I didn’t know how to free myself. The anxiety I had birthed from living a lie nearly took my life. Panic attacks, landing me in the ER. My body was physically pushing back, telling me to stop. To break free. Run. But I couldn’t. My true self was in a deep slumber. I was sleepwalking inside of a lie. A lie I kept going to please everyone except myself. Until I met Her.
It was obvious to some very close and trusted people in my world that I was a lesbian. To me, I was in denial. I knew I was very bi. Guys hadn’t stirred up any sexual desire for me since high school. And even then, looking back, it came from a place of conditioning. I never enjoyed sex with men. I never experienced authentic pleasure. I rejected my true nature and experienced pain and disappointment in return. My body didn’t respond to the touch of a man. It didn’t want the closeness of the opposite sex. So, I lived without desire. Without drowning in the blissful presence of a woman. It still haunts me. I denied myself what my heart yearned for to please everyone but the one person who truly mattered. Me. A true people pleaser. An overachiever. But the past is the past. And today onward, I’ll never neglect my true nature again. Not after meeting Her.
I felt her before I saw her. She walked into the Thai massage classroom like a breeze in a sauna. Nestled away in the breathless beauty of Chiang Mai. A dream. I stared as her long hair flowed behind her and felt my heart fluttered inside my chest. I immediately shot my gaze to the floor. I was afraid of her energy, her feminine presence. It was familiar, like a love story I read a million times and could recite by heart. She felt me too. It was the way she pivoted in my direction, as if there was a cord pulling her to my side. When she sat next to me on the floor, I didn’t have to look at her to know something profound just took place. It was the beginning of my awakening.
For two weeks, the universe threw us together. Unexplainable coincidences that kept looping us as a pair. I fought it. I didn’t want to be connected to her. I rebelled against every feeling that rushed through my veins, every emotion that spread across my skin when we touched. But it wasn’t lust, nor desire; it wasn’t friendship either. It was something else. Something more… it was the unknown. As if something was coming, but I didn’t know what. It was a blessing I was in the dark. No one could have prepared me for the explosion that was about to happen. Instead, what I felt for her in those first two weeks was deep gratitude and admiration. I cared for her as a person. But that was it. I didn’t allow myself to feel or think about anything else, only the realization that my heart felt happy when it was close to hers. That was enough for me. Until the night she baptized my soul.
We went into the mountains of Chaing Doa as a group of four women to celebrate graduating from Thai massage school. The night was soft and humid. I felt happy but exhausted after such a long and life changing two weeks in class. I had activated my chakras in the presence of so many healers. Day after day of deep spiritual guidance from our Thai mentor and instructor provided me with inner peace. The school imparted to me a new understanding of life and spirituality that I believed I had lost forever. All I wanted to do was sit on the bed in our hut and listen to the cicadas outside while the other two women finished their dinner. But when she sat behind me, her body so close to mine, I could feel her warmth radiating from her skin. I set my gaze out the bedroom window and allowed her presence to fill the space. To fill me. What I wasn’t accepting was the cosmic reaction my soul had when her touch rested gently upon my back.
I was reborn in that moment, that instant. I cried out as an invisible hand reached inside my chest and pulled out my pain, my truth, my freedom. I released it like poison from a wound and I felt it fleeing from my body as I crumbled on top of the bedspread and wept over the death of my old life. I cried into the blanket that “I’m gay. I’m a lesbian. I’m not bi.” I confessed for the first time in my life how I only want to be with women and that I had fallen for her. I sobbed an ocean of tears for all the things said and unsaid, for all the lies lived and now released. I grieved for what felt like an eternity in her arms as I cradled my inner child and told her how sorry I was for not coming out sooner, for not rescuing us. I always thought I was strong, bulletproof, but the truth is I was a girl dressed in paper armor. Under the illusion, I sat naked. Raw. But because of her, because of our deep connection, I could be free. To let go of my past and embrace the future. It was the beginning of my journey, the inner work, the pain, the suffering, the joy, the love, the passion, the pleasure, the letting go and receiving. The death and rebirth of my life. It was everything. It was the first time I had loved a woman. It was my awakening. It was Her.
No going back, no regrets.
Art of Her by Penelope Henry