I decided at about seven years of age, perhaps younger, that I could not trust anyone other than myself, therefore self-reliance was the best option available to me. I also learned very young, courtesy of my church, that I was born flawed, sinful, therefore I could not trust myself. Location: between a rock and a hard place for sure.
I managed as best I could by keeping my world small so that I could control the chaos which was always poised to get me during of a moment of non-vigilance. Life became a series of situations to survive, with the ironic reward, of course, being death.
Yesterday, I was prompted to think about who I had been 5, 10, 20, and 30 years ago. What had my priorities been? What were my circumstances?
2007: My older daughter was learning to drive and applying to college, and I was trying to keep my 15 year-old away from cigarettes and alcohol. I took a job that had eaten up and spit out the last four people who had attempted it and was eaten up and spit out.
2002: I had a job I liked creating CAD drawings for a steel bridge fabricator, was living in a townhouse with a garden, and bought my first new car, and was ironing out the details of co-parenting with my ex-husband.
1992: My younger daughter was born, we moved away from the ocean and the sophistication of Boston to central Pennsylvania where I, simply by relocating, went from being a mildly conservative church goer with friends to being a hippie, weirdo, elitist freak who needed to be saved (or “needed saved” in the local dialect).
1982: I was in my senior year of high school and was looking forward to going to and finishing college because it was after I had the college box checked off that my real life would begin!
As I looked back, I cried when I realized how many of the times of my life had happened without me being really present. Most of them. And I don’t want to live that way anymore. While I recognize that I am just passing through, I don’t want to be an observer, I want to be a participant. Not a judge but a dancer. Not a critic but a writer.
It is one thing for me to have this realization, in fact, I have had it before. The hardest task is before me: to learn to feel alive, not just to imagine it, think about it, but to let it wash through me. To trust something other than myself.
Last night, I could not sleep for the anxiety balled up under my navel. That ball that forms there when I try so hard to grasp, control the outcome, make things turn out my way, keep things small instead of letting the energy of life flow through me. If the experience of being alive is what I want most of all, then I must learn to trust that life isn’t out to get me. I want to live not just to think about living.
In the past few years I’ve worked hard to analyze the structures and strictures of my socialization. Truly, I have begun to understand that my internal state is reflected back at me in what happens outside my body. What I give is what I receive. My criticism and defensiveness create more of the same in those around me. Love and acceptance of what is help me to love and accept myself. Scraping away all of the things I no longer believed left me feeling raw and exposed and longing for the mysterious, numinous, the holy. As I have learned to ask, teachers have begun to appear who help me to remember that I am part of a universe where I was created in the image of the Divine. As I have learned to let my friends love and accept me I have also learned to ask for help and that there are beings whose presence I feel and who answer all pf the prayers I have ever offered up. I am no longer alone, and I am not just passing through. I am here.