A Tale of Two Phoenixes

Beautiful pink lotus and Rising Phoenix: both symbols of self-regeneration and rebirth.
(Found on a tee-shirt that I bought years ago.)

The phoenix was a mythological creature who dates back to Ancient Egypt but its story has been used for symbolism of similar ideas and beliefs in many cultures. It is usually depicted as a large red and yellow bird who has no male or eggs in many stories.

She is destroyed each year with a fire or with flames; her ashes left on the ground or depending on the story, left in a nest. Then each year the phoenix is reborn. And she rises from the ashes of the fires that destroyed her; more powerful and glorious than before.

Each story from each country from hundreds of years ago hold the same basic story of new life after destruction. So it is easy to see how the phoenix can be used as a symbol for people who have been “resurrected” from terrible, painful, sad, or difficult beginnings.

Last week I was trying to help a friend who had suffered losses of loved ones, of dreams for her future and marital abuse. She was feeling very low one day. I’ve known her for several years and due to life issues rarely get to talk with each other. Yet we maintained a bond.

One day I heard of her extreme sadness, I felt led to say something to help her if I could. As I remembered the multiple experiences of loss in her life, I realized how strong she really was to have gone through so many troubles and so much pain emotionally, physically, and spiritually. She had come through each time wounded but something, I believe, was making her stronger.

So I told her, “You are a phoenix! You have been through so much pain and yet you come through it each time! You have got to be a very strong woman to have been through so much and still be living and going forward each time with your life.” The analogy really seemed to help her realize how strong she was.

To help her see that she could “rise from the fire” I told her of my experiences with my husband who was a poorly controlled diabetic. As he became physically sicker his traits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(?) mutated into controlling, dominating, and emotional, mental and then physical abuse.

While he was alive I used denial to keep the peace and because I had never had a fierce argument with anyone but him! I wanted to maintain peace at all costs. So when we argued at first I tried to explain or defend myself but that never worked. So I swallowed my pride and most of the time just fell apart crying at first then hid what I was feeling.

I shared how I had to learn to deal with my anger after his death because in my family we didn’t get mad at each other over big things. We just decided we would forgive and forget. But as I learned later, the anger and pain come back later if not attended to when they happen. You can not just tuck them away.

They rise suddenly, unbidden to bring those painful memories back so we can eventually deal with them healthily, by feeling the anger, rage, and pain; crying for the innocence or trust we lost, and eventually like grief, peace comes and we can release those memories and feelings as part of the past that we overcame and learned from.

But in the meantime I devised ways to change my self-confidence. When I learned of something that helped me feel better about myself and be more positive I added it to my arsenal of protection.

I wanted to be happy so I focused on my job as a nurse and being a good mother. I played with my son, enjoyed what beauty and life there was in nature and having loving friends really made a difference. The good and beautiful times helped me get through the bad times. I also took pride in my love for our son and my calling to be a nurse. I prayed a lot and my faith helped me too.

My friend wrote back and totally surprised me when she told me that I was a phoenix too! I honestly had not ever thought of myself as one. But she proceeded with her analogy and told me how strong, wise and loving she thought I was. I was amazed, elated, humbled, and thankful that she was a friend and now a fellow sister in overcoming a painful past!

Recently I added videos on topics about domestic violence, self-confidence, self-worth, talks by Eckharte Tolle and “Ted Talks” and other videos to learn to be more confident. Each lesson I learned from a book or a friend I added to my storehouse of knowledge on growth. I am not invincible but I have come a long way.

So be careful when you help someone else, you just may find yourself another sister or brother!

5 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Phoenixes

    1. Yes. Having loving and patient friends made all the difference in the world. And still does! Friendship amongst other survivors is a powerful source of healing. Thank you for being such a great friend!


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