From Darkness to Light Day 29 by Alison Armstrong

From Shrinking to Shining

by Alison Armstrong of Adventures in Wonderland


Part one: Shrinking

I’m living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for a while. There’s a writers’ conference and in one of the workshops I write this:

She was the best of mothers. She was the worst of mothers.

I was born shrinking inside. It seems as if I could feel her anger and fierceness even before I was born. Shrinking in the womb.

She only wanted two children. I was the fourth. Not only the fourth, but the fourth girl. She, a person of great intelligence, a person desperate for control, spent her days cooking and cleaning and trying to hold together the lives of five people. There was no time to hold together her own life.

There was only seven years between the oldest and the youngest. The next up from me was just sixteen months old when I was born. Oh was I ever an accident. Two in elementary school, one barely a toddler, and a new-born, with the toddler and new-born both still in diapers.

There was no such thing as disposable diapers. Heck, in her world there was no such thing as a washing machine. She washed all the clothes for six people, including the stinky diapers for two babies, by hand, at a washboard in the laundry tub.

She was angry. With her father who was a cruel man, but mostly with where her life had come to. I was yet another thing she had to deal with.

Control was the issue. If she could only control her life, if she could only control all of us maybe, just maybe she could stay sane.

The days and years rolled by. We all learned very young to do as we were told, to be tidy, to do our chores, to be good. I learned to be the goodest! I was known as Good Bear. Don’t make a noise. Be still. Be silent. Shrink. And that way maybe, just maybe I’d escape the volcanic burst of anger that would erupt without notice.

It didn’t work. We never knew what would trigger it. And each time I would shrink a little more.

At the same time I was told that I was too shy, too sensitive. I learned that who I am is of no value, and of no interest to others. My father, working full-time and studying part-time, was barely present. My two oldest sisters were living their own lives. The one closest in age, though now the one I’m most deeply connected with, was, as a child, the one I was most estranged from. She made it clear from my youngest memories that she wanted nothing to do with me. We were too different.

This I learned: no one is interested in who I am. I am of no value. The way I am is wrong. Shrinking seemed the only obvious thing to do.

I am fourteen years old. I am standing at the sink washing dishes. My mother is at the kitchen table cooking something. We are alone. I quietly mumble. I don’t know what prompts me. You’d think I would know by now that to reveal myself is not safe. I quietly mumble I’m in love with Peter.

There’s not even a second for this statement to hang in the air. Quick as a flash she snaps Oh what nonsense! It’s like a rifle shot across the room. I am dismissed. I shrink. I vow never again will I share with her who I really am.

She’s been gone fourteen years now. I used to weep for all the pain she caused me. Now I weep for all the pain her father caused her, and that she caused herself. And I weep for the pain that I caused her. I weep for the wasted suffering. I weep for love.


Part two: More therapy

In San Miguel de Allende I’m seeing a spiritual therapist a couple of times a week. We talk. She challenges me. A lot. She makes me face all the painful stuff, the ways in which I limit myself and hurt myself, the ways in which I create suffering and how it’s reflected in my body. She makes me look directly into the face of my denial. I hate it but I need it. Then I lie on her massage table and she moves the trapped energy.

All my adult life, since reading Seth Speaks in my early thirties, I’ve understood that physical pain is a reflection of unfelt emotional pain. I’m in a lot of pain. I’m working with the therapist (one of many over the years) to dislodge the buried emotional pain. It almost all comes down to my relationship with my mother.

San Miguel is a long dark tunnel. I swim around in the inner murky depths of my psyche for three months dealing with worthiness issues. I hardly sleep. Among other things I finally heal my fractured relationship with my dear mother fourteen years after her death.

I’m lying on a massage table. This time with a regular massage therapist. It’s a deep gentle massage and I’m drifting in and out of consciousness. Suddenly a vision! It is not an imagining, it is a vision. It is my mother’s face. She is about thirty years old. She is at peace. She looks beatific. Beautiful. Serene. The vision holds and then fades. It feels like freedom. For both of us.


Part three: Re writing the story

But it is still not over. Several years later I’m playing The Transformation Game with a group of friends. It’s a powerful game in which one comes face to face with inner truth, going as deeply as one desires or is able. My relationship with my mother comes up again. I thought it was healed but no, there is yet more. What becomes clear is that it is time for me to rewrite the story.

The story I carried for years was that I was unwanted, unloved, unworthy, uncelebrated, a burden. But what if it’s not true? For the first time I choose to believe that my mother wanted and loved me. It’s revelatory. I choose to imagine her holding me with love rather than out of necessity. I am undone by the idea. It brings tears to my eyes. Is it the truth? Is any of what I believed before or now the truth? Who knows? Who cares? What I know for sure is that I am free from the suffering caused by my beliefs about the past. I am here, and I am whole, and when I think of my mother my heart is filled with love.

What a beautiful dance we did together.



Alison Armstrong

I’m closer to seventy than sixty and have lived my life about as far outside the box as you can get. It’s been a lifetime of inner and outer journeying. From my early twenties I was concerned with and committed to inner healing. I just wanted to be happy damn it! And I knew it was up to me. What grace to be given that little piece of wisdom and not look for it outside of myself. I have also always had an equal passion for travelling and travelled a lot in my 20’s and 30’s. In our 60’s my husband and I sold or gave away all we owned and spent nearly six years as homeless nomads travelling the world. I’m still travelling – both inner and outer. I probably always will be.

My blog, Adventures in Wonderland,, is all about the journeys.


Written for the From Darkness to Light event.  If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here.   But first, leave a comment and let Alison know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Adventures in Wonderland when you’re done.



About the author

I am a King without a Kingdom, in a world with many masters, wrapped in the spoils of a jealous heart, and my people’s callous laughter.


  1. I really loved the way you shared your story, or the way that you conceptualize it. There are so many truths as in so many perspectives, so why not choose to follow the joyous one. You have definitely taken an inspirational path, not just with the story you share here, but with your life’s journey. Thank you for sharing a taste of that here.

    1. Thank you so much Sreejit. It took many years of inner work to get to the point that I could finally see that I could rewrite the story. I guess I had to do all the healing first to be open to that final step.

  2. Thanks so much for writing your story and sharing it with us. I’m so glad you did the work necessary to free yourself from the old story. Your words and journey are inspirational; they inspire me and I believe they will inspire others.

    1. Thank you so much Karuna. It is a great blessing to be able to inspire others. I don’t claim it. I think it is all grace moving through us. I feel as I have been given a huge gift – this urge that compels me to heal. What great good luck.

  3. Your words are powerful, and while I have followed your travel blog before, I had no idea as to your pain or more importantly healing. I guess that is the thing for me to take away, we never know what others are holding. I admire the healing transformation work you have done.

    1. Thank you so much. I think we are all holding some degree of pain or another, and I too forget that. So thank you for reminding me! I have written about the pain on the blog, but I think I mainly focused on the physical pain. Anyway here it is. In so many ways I had a fantastic childhood, but of course it’s the not so fantastic things that need healing, and if we’re very lucky they bring us from darkness to light.

  4. You expressed your story beautifully. I too, share that experience, however my sister would have been you. Very much you.
    I was the oldest of four and she was the youngest and my mother was very much as you described yours. We, however, were only 4 1/2 years apart from the oldest to the youngest. Of the four, her and I are the closest to one another. I felt that what mother had imagined for her life was never fulfilled and what she expected from marrying my father, likewise was unrewarded. I am a bit older than you but my sister is probably your age. You could easily be her.

    1. Thank you so much. I does sound as if you were in a very similar situation. And yet here we are. You just jumped out of an airplane! Wow. I guess we more than survived the difficulties of our childhood. Not only survived but thrived!

      1. We are survivors, for sure and yes, can you believe it? When I read your story it brought back memories, but I’ve since converted them to good ones. As for jumping, I thought I was “old” at 72 but they told me one chap jumped in his 90’s!! It is an amazing experience.

  5. This story sounds SO much like my own with my mother. And, I offer tools to re-write stories in my practice now – thank you for sharing + for the synchronicities!!

    1. You’re most welcome! And I love the synchronicity! The idea to re write the story was pure serendipity, but so powerful. I guess I’d done all the healing that could be done, all the release of unfelt feelings, all the forgiving, all the understanding of her pain and how I was so difficult (and I was!), but I was still holding on to the same old story. It was clearly time to let it go, and it was that that finally set me free. I’m so glad to hear you’re using it in your practice.

    1. Thank you so much. It really was time. I wrote the first piece way back when we met in SMA. How many years ago was that now? It was just waiting for the right time to be out in the world. But I guess the story had to be complete before that could happen. I do feel blessed by it all now, like nothing is wrong, it was just a dance we did together until it was complete.

  6. Hi Alison,
    Your story is sad, dark, heartbreaking and revelatory, leading to joy! I know all too well much of what feeling discarded, or rejected feels like, and also perhaps, secretly unwanted. Life is so hard sometimes but we have each other and we have the wisdom of our heart’s yearning to heal.

    Namaste, Linda

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, it is all those things. And in the end it was just what was, and now what is, and I am free of it and so is mum. We did a dance together and came out the other side. I feel so blessed by “the wisdom of our heart’s yearning to heal” – it feels like grace.

  7. How long we carry these burdens of guilt and hurt to our own emotional detriment.I am sure sharing these stories will help others shove their burdens off their shoulders in much lesser time.
    Stay blessed.

    1. I’m sorry I took so long to reply to your comment! I do hope sharing my story, and all the other stories, will help somehow for us all to embrace both our flawed hurting humanity, and our magnificence. It seems we carry the pain and guilt for a long time, but when we finally resolve it there is such a lightness and freedom. I feel so very blessed that I was finally able to come to love.

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