Thursday, August 25, 2011
This very scene depicted in the photo is familiar. 18 years ago today, my father was found dead in his sleep and what would follow was a military funeral to honor his service as a Marine in the Korean War.
There is a way, particularly through my healing work, that I have literally "laid him to rest". I have been freed of crippling resentments and bittnerness about our relationship and the time period he was alive. I have developed a deep compassion and understanding of his limitations based on in his state of post-traumatic stress and subsequent alcoholism.
As he was about to be put into the ground, the flag taking its prominent place atop his casket, I can remember, quite vividly, my brother falling apart as he could barely take in the reality of what was before his eyes. He kept saying "No!" and the tears poured down his face. He was barely consolable. To this day, I don't believe he has ever laid my father to rest. I believe, instead, that his memories -- some good and many bad -- haunt him. My brother was the only one of us siblings still in the house when my father died. Newly diagnosed and medicated for paranoid delusional disorder, my brother seemed to suffer the most from his exposure to the end stages of my father's alcoholism. My brother's mental illness impaired him from seeing reality and the reality that was right in front of him was just as horrifying as the delusions that lived only in his mind.
My sister had a strained and painful relationship with my father. She never made peace with him when he was alive. She kept his grandkids at a distance to get him back for all the ways he kept her at a distance. She never forgave him for kicking her out of the house at 18 when she got pregnant. And, my sister has never laid him to rest. Every year on this day, she dutifully places flowers at his gravesite. I believe this is the pentance she's given herself in an attempt to seek forgiveness for the way she shut my father out. She is riddled with guilt and remorse.
My mother, for the most part, moved on with her life after dad died. If anything, she experienced the kind of freedom that she had always wanted. Traveling, dinners with friends, decorating a space just the way she wanted, eating anytime she wanted, and going to bed with quiet and peace. I believe my mother put my father to rest long before his heart ever stopped beating permanently. She had to grieve the man she fell in love with before he was exposed to the horrors of war. That man never returned. I experience such deep sadness in my heart as I type this and think of how she remained for almost 40 more years as a living widow residing with the ghost of the man she once loved.
The one who I believe is resting most peacefully is you, dad. It was far more torturous to be here for you. And we are all making our way in the world without you. I think all of us, including you, are better off this way.
Monday, August 22, 2011
I was most struck that, by all accounts, she looks perfectly healthy. Right now, this problem is invisible. It is hard for her to fully drop into the grave reality of this for longer than a moment or so, as she too remarks that there is not yet any real evidence that she is experiencing.
This made me ponder what is the unknown destiny of my mortality ? What is MY brain tumor ? I cannot sit with this woman and be so arrogant as to think that I am lucky that I get to have a long life ... nothing is guaranteed or promised. Dropping into this more, I was transported to being a little girl and lying awake, during sleep hours, with only the glow of my nightlight, and being terrified of the idea of death. I think it was a way that I skimmed the surface of my relationship to the unknown and the terror that came with it. As an adult, thoughts of death revolved around self-centered fears of others dying and me being left -- still operating from that place of fear of abandonment. Today, being awake to this experience found me moved to tears of exquisiteness and preciousness for my life and what it would be like to know that I am the one leaving. One of the first pictures that entered my mind was saying goodbye to the love of my life on the ferry last night as she stood on the deck, the wind blowing through her gorgeous locks and feeling so in love with the beauty of all that she is. If that was my last contact with her before dying, I would leave here having experienced such a depth of love that perhaps some never get a taste of. That is a gift and an appreciation of being in Life.
This precious woman we did the healing with also spoke about trying very hard to live - one day at a time. I suspect it will be one minute at a time on some days. This is what I am taught in my recovery program -- not just to keep me sober, but rather to have me fully engaged in the present moment.
On my drive home through several states last night, in a torrential downpour, I put on a song from Rascal Flatts -- "When the Sand Runs Out" -- and I sobbed hearing a portion of the lyrics and thinking about this woman, the preciousness of her life, of my life, of being alive and connected here, as One, with humanity.
Here are a few of those moving lines:
I'm gonna stop looking back
and start moving on
Learn how to face my fears
Love with all of my heart, make my mark
I wanna leave something here
Go out on a ledge, without any net
That's what I'm gonna be about
Yeah, I wanna be running
When the sand runs out
May each of us be in touch with the Reality that we have a not yet known brain tumor otherwise known as our inevitable death, and be in conversation and in relationship to it, so that we may live fully - right here, right now.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I am doing a "Life in review" of sorts ... not to tell my life story or recount every sordid detail but rather to feel everything that is here about this exploration of my life.
In getting my feet wet over these last few days, I have also felt like I touched the ocean floor and then back to a toe in a puddle. I am channeling more information than I thought humanly possible to receive. I have found myself on a couple afternoons lying flat on my back on the floor, waving the white flag, no longer able to embody any more material.
I know where I've been and yet I don't really know all about who I was. In a passage in my healing teacher's book this morning, he says: " ... the deepest knowledge is US and we discover ourselves anew when we find it."
I am already finding this to be quite true. I have a knack for offering logical surface explanations which gloss over deep-seated Truths. A beloved friend observed yesterday that I perhaps get fearful to sink into what I already know is underneath and opt for the safer route that is above-ground. My go-to strategy for a long time was denial --- seems to be in operation still on some level. The difference now is that I snap myself out of that trance much quicker because I recognize I am adopting a fantasy story over the real deal biography !
So ... I've got my big toe wet in the waters of my Life. I believe I have the sense enough not to drown, but rather to wade for awhile, then ever so slowly dip in, deeper and deeper...
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Last evening, I was taken by surprise by a woman I am in an intimate relationship with: I felt love that was not tainted in any doubt. I experienced her volition and desire to celebrate an event in my life that was free from the strands of each of our histories. I invited her to this gathering and when she did not affirm that she could come, I let go of my expectations.
My old story usually had this plot: have an expectation; take an action to meet the expectation; experience rejection whenever the response is not what I want; sulk in disappointment; build a resentment.
This did not happen whatsoever.
Her story goes something like this: feel the pull of another's need/want; merge this with the feeling of being smothered by her mother; suffocate and cave in from the pressure of the burden of the other; move away or kill off the other because the whole thing's too much to take OR show up out of guilt but not really be there emotionally; eventually go away because of resentment.
This didn't happen either.
Nothing short of a miracle I would say on both ends.
I looked at her, really looked at her, for the very first time with eyes that were not wanting anything from her but to just drink in her beauty. I experienced her wanting to be there, to be with me, of her own accord.
Each of us has a separate Self that wants to connect with the other. No efforting is needed. No strings attached.
This is a taste of what is yet to come.
I have felt the drops on my tongue of what it is like to know Love ...
Friday, August 12, 2011
I did not leave willingly but rather by force. I made an admission that I had not loved her for many years. In reaction to this shattering news, she exploded into a rage and sent me out of our home with 1 packed bag, while hurling small items from the coffeetable at me as I fled out the front door up the street into the dark of night.
I can relay that story today, free of shame. I know what my part was in the demise of our relationship. I was dishonest -- about nearly everything and the kicker is --- I wasn't fully aware of it. Denial is powerful and quite false form of protection from seeing, hearing, speaking, feeling and knowing reality. And, I was chained to fear of every kind.
My healer shared with me that I am tearing through the illusions of my life so that I can clearly see Reality and be exactly who I am. As I see it, I have no other choice. I cannot return to the contracted and terrified version of a Self that I once was.
In a recent conversation with a trusted companion, I spoke about claiming my rightful place in communities which carry labels that have been stigmatized by society:
I am an alcoholic. It reminds me that I cannot drink safely - ever. It offers me entrance to an AA meeting anywhere in the world because I am a bottle-free member !
I am a lesbian. I want to be visible and take pride in the fact that I am a woman who loves a woman. It is no longer a psychiatric diagnosis nor a derogatory slur as I stand tall in this community of others who are also loving who they desire.
I have working class roots. I was raised by a steel worker and a housewife. We had enough money to get by. I am quite familiar with having a K-mart wardrobe and canned vegetables and church basement socials.
Shame about all of the above came from fear of how I would be judged and seen. Freedom from shame finds me embracing ALL of who I am and not caring so much about how others view me.
What a joy to no longer need to pretend or defend. To not experience a bondage of Self.
Lady GaGa croons: "Baby you were born this way ..." When I hear this song, I rejoice in knowing: "God created me just as I am."
Thursday, August 4, 2011
When we're not present to this activity that is always here, it remains "unknown" until we do a practice such as this and make an intention to be awake and then it becomes more known, felt, even seen.
My current relationship exists primarily as a concept that is in "space" -- a phenomenon not so unlike the threads that come more into awareness when we become awake to them. When my eyes have opened more to this idea, I became aware that our relationship does not actually involve functioning as a couple in real time in a meaningful way. We have not made space solid. Our relationship is a conglomeration of threads that had been entwined, knotted, then floating quite separately and, occasionally, touch and intersect in lovingly connected ways. It's a rather galactic relationship with great vastness, shimmering spots amid the dark and not much visitation time spent on Earth.
My experience of this at the present time is that I have my feet on the ground with an invitation for her to do the same. She has been orbiting and hovering -- in and out of view. Sometimes, she is stuck, part of a stalled weather system that is behind a lot of clouds. We've occupied very different spaces.
I get glimpses of her travel patterns and have experienced her willingness to touch ground. She is still very much connected to her Mothership ... it is a huge vessel with a lot of wires and cables. It is familiar and daunting and it is the only home she's known. To leave it for very long is frightening and fills her with grief. I empathize with the pain and ache that comes with this.
So herein lies our relational dilemma: I am interested in making space soild. She, on the other hand, does not know if she can free herself of the Mothership and where she wants to land and with whom. I sense that she may be more comfortable as an astronaut while I am clearly the gardener.
So, I keep sowing seeds, pulling out weeds, and attending to what I've planted. My intention is to continue gardening and growing and blooming. I'd love the company in this patch of Life and I am aware that it may only be the view of her hanging out in mid-air ...