Monday, May 28, 2012

Ego and Self - A Fairy Tale

(excerpt from 2012 A Clarion Call: Your Soul’s Purpose in Conscious Evolution, pg. 103)

"For a moment let us go into our imagination and picture the Self, as a king or queen, returning to reclaim the throne of its kingdom. Let us imagine the many shadow defenses it encounters through the corridors back to the throne room where it will encounter the ego.

Ego has realized that Self is returning to reclaim its kingdom. Symbolically, Ego, experiencing fear and panic, frantically barricades the throne room door. Eventually, Self arrives and knocks on the door, requesting let it in and relinquish the throne. Ego is defensive, refuses to open the door and prepares to take up arms ready to fight. Ego is prepared to do anything to remain in power and through the closed door tells this to Self. Ego proceeds to intimidate Self into submission in the vain hope that Self will scurry away to its place of exile.

However, Self rides the storm whipped up by Ego. Ego feels powerless in the full presence of Self and panics further. What will become of it if Self succeeds in reclaiming the throne. Ego fears it will die. It can see no other outcome. Ego is too afraid to surrender to Self and does not know what to do. Resolutely, Ego digs in its heels and refuses to move. They have reached an impasse. Days, weeks and months go by with Self remaining present and Ego, locked in the throne room with no resources to maintain is power, becoming weaker. Ego resolves to die on the throne, for surrendering to Self will surely only result in this outcome, until Self throws Ego a lifeline.

Self begins to speak with Ego ever so gently and with great respect; Ego is struck by the tone of unconditional love and compassion in this voice, believing it to be the kindest and most beautiful voice it has ever heard. Ego beings to feel very, very weary, overwhelmed with exhaustion, and begins to pour its fear to Self, who listens with great compassion and empathy. Ego feels an inexplicable sense of trust as each of its fears are validated by Self. Ego begins to consider the possibility of opening the throne room door, yet again is overcome with fear of the consequences. As much as it wants to trust, for it is so, so tired, it is afraid, believing that Self will betray it. Ego pours out these fears to Self. Self hears Ego’s fears and, with the greatest compassion tenderness and compassion, makes a promise. It ensures Ego that its life will be safe and offers a written promise with a golden seal, which stands for absolute integrity and authenticity. Self slides the document under the door for Ego to consider. Ego read this and notices a separate letter tied with a golden thread. Ego unwraps the letter. It reads:

My dear, dear Ego,

I am so glad to finally have the opportunity to thank you for saving my life. I recognize that without you I would not be here; I would not be alive. You were there when I most needed protecting and even though I have been in exile for all of these years, you ensured that I was provided for. You have held onto my kingdom and many battles you have endured on my behalf. I know you are battered and bruised, scarred and weary, yet you never deserted me or left me exposed, unprotected, or vulnerable when I was unable to return to claim my kingdom.  This undertaking has been a great burden for you and it took tremendous courage and strength. How can I ever repay you? What price can be placed on a precious life?

You have served me so very well. You have always been and will remain my hero/heroine and I know that everything you have done was to protect me. I am humbled in your presence for I know that you have suffered greatly in my name. I see the pain and hurt you have endured. I see your heart has been broken. I see the anger and rage you have felt and received. I see the loss you have suffered. I see the loneliness you have endured. I see how you stood in the line of fire for me when the first perceived threat to my existence occurred many years ago and how you have repeatedly done so ever since. All that you have suffered and endured has been to preserve and ensure my existence. You have been the most loyal of friends. You have never abandoned me. You bear the many scars of the trials and ordeals of this life.

My beloved Ego, I have been asleep. For many, many years I was lost in exile. I did not know who I was. During these years I forgot what happened at our first meeting when you shielded me from attack. However, one day, no so long ago, I heard the most pitiful cries of anguish. I heard a voice scream out tin the still of the night, “Help me, God. Set me free. I can no longer live like this. I am so lonely and in so much pain. I am so tired. Help me someone, release me, from this suffering.” That cry awakened me. It was as if I were resurrected as I felt the life force return to me. I heard that cry of anguish, which pierced the very core of my heart. Every cell and fiber of my being heard that call and I recognized that voice as your very own. In that moment I knew that it was now my turn to save you, my dear and loyal Ego.

Ego, I have come once more to be the ruler of my kingdom. I am as new. Even though alone, I have been protected for all of these years and I am unscarred with an unbroken heart.

Dear, dear Ego, would you do me the great honor of being the one to whom I turn to for advice when I need it? Let us once more be friends. I have no need of a wounded ego, yet great need of a healthy one. You no longer need to be lonely for I am here as your friend. First you must rest and heal. Would you trust me to guide you to the people and situations that can help you to heal, to let go of fear, to learn to play, and to experience joy and love? Will you rest? I have prepared new rooms for you to live in and a beautiful garden of peace and serenity.  What say you, Ego?

Ego fell to the floor with great sobs and said to Self, “Yes, how very great has been this burden and yet, not a burden, a sacred duty.” Ego spoke of the wrong it had done in Self’s name, of those it had hurt and how it had hurt itself. Ego hung its head in shame, afraid that by telling the truth of its misdemeanors, Self would abandon it. There was a moment’s pause and then Self spoke to Ego in a most compassionate voice saying, “My dear, dear Ego, I love you unconditionally and forgive you; can you forgive yourself? Can you recognize that what you did to others was a result of what had been done to you and though this does not justify your actions it does not make you unworthy?”

Ego replied, “Even if I could forgive myself, how will those who I have harmed forgive me? Without their forgiveness how can I truly heal and be free?”

Self replied, “Dearest Ego, you cannot know the karma of those who have crossed your path. Perhaps you were a catalyst or a teacher? You may have brought an experience into someone’s life to help them to redress their karma. There is so much that we do not know in this dimension, why punish yourself forever? If you stole from someone, now give to someone or too many. You may give your time or your resources. If you abused someone, help those who have also been abused. If you killed someone, no help others to live. Redress the balance of the actions you regret; for example, where there is fear bring unconditional love.”

“Know this Ego, ALL IS FORGIVEN-ALL IS FORGIVEABLE. You only need to forgive yourself and redress your past misdeeds to be free. This is something that you can do every day. Let it be a joy to do so.”

Ego stood up and with great courage and a shaky hand unlocked the throne room door and opened it. Their hearts met before their eyes and in unison they said, ‘I’ve missed you, friend.’ From that moment on, a harmonious, positive, and true partnership began. Self took its place upon the throne as ruler of its kingdom, with Ego, now healed, a positive and trusted advisor at its side."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Just Life

Had a fun evening with my kids and sisters. :) Sister/Auntie Whitney took this one of us eating the ice cream sundaes we made.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I could see the storm coming from way off, a sheet of grey moving toward me. It was as though a gigantic artist was pulling a paintbrush laden with greyish black paint swiftly over the green of the hills. It was coming fast, likely faster than my horse could ride, but I pulled the reins to the left so that she would turn, facing away from the quickly-moving storm. I glanced over my shoulder to see that the storm had advanced in just seconds. Kicking my heels and pulling the reins, I urged the horse to gallop in the direction of home.

I could hear it before I felt it. It rolled behind us as the horse galloped on the dirt roads of the mission base. The sound of the rain as it hit first one row of houses' tin roofs, then another, was an unmistakable sound. I didn't even have to look over my shoulder; I heard the storm on the houses directly behind me, and then, immediately, my horse and I were drenched. I pulled back on the reins and told her to stop, giving up my now-pointless race to get home before the storm did.

This was the way of all the storms in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea. In California where we lived before my family moved here to be missionaries, rain started with tiny droplets and only gradually increased in size, at least in my memory. This was no rain; calling it rain was as silly as calling a trickle of water a waterfall.

Rain here was pounding. It sometimes hit the skin so hard it made it sting. It didn't gradually wet you; you were as quickly saturated in it as you would be if you dove into a swimming pool. I was instantly, totally drenched, as was my horse.

The dirt road became a kind of creek almost immediately, and though I was almost sure the horse could navigate the roads without slipping, I felt more comfortable with her walking that distance than running, especially through the bits that involved an incline. Besides, there was no urgency to get home now. I was wet either way.

The horse approached a well-worn shortcut that jutted down steeply, far more steeply than I was comfortable with, and began to walk off the road toward it, so I jerked the reins to indicate that I wanted her to follow the road, not the scary-looking shortcut. But it was too late. She had taken this route too many times to not do it by instinct. After all, we both knew she was really in charge and only obeyed my orders because she chose to.

The path she began stepping and even slipping down made me gasp. It was one thing to walk it or even ride it, but I had never seen it this flooded. I had to almost lay back on her back to counteract the feeling that my weight was going to pitch me forward as she slowly navigated downhill. I could feel panic rising in me. There was nothing to do but hang on tightly to the reins in my hands, gripping her sides ferociously with my thigh muscles.

The path cut through the local cemetery, another thing I wasn't crazy about. I avoided this path whenever I could, but here I was riding a horse down it in pouring rain.

I suddenly registered being cold. My wet cut-off shorts and lavender t-shirt clung tightly to my body, and though the rain felt actually warm when it first pelted me, my body temperature had finally begun to drop. I was shivering.

About halfway down I began to relax just a bit. We were going to make it.

And then it happened.

The horse's foot slipped and she staggered in the effort to stay upright. My posture, lying back on her back so as not to tumble over her head, was exactly what compromised me in the second that followed. She shrieked, I cried out, my hands lost the reins, and then I was lying on my back in the muddy path. The horse was frightened and didn't even seem to hear me calling her name, trying to encourage her to stay close. I struggled to my own feet, ready to reach for the reins at the same exact moment that she regained her footing and instinctively bolted down the hill, turned at the edge of the cemetery and disappeared from sight.

At thirteen I was very rarely alone anywhere. Even in sleep I was in the top bunk above one sister, with another in the next room, and my parents in their room at the end of the hall. I walked to and from school with a group of neighbor kids. I never went walking alone. I usually rode my horse with my friend and her horse, but even when I walked back by myself, I was almost always on or leading my horse. I'd been alone in the bathroom, but that was the only exception.

Alone. So this was how it felt. As if on cue the rain suddenly stopped, as quickly as if someone had flipped a light switch.

I could feel that my leg was burning and when I looked at, I gasped. There was a cut that looked bad, but blood was only slowly trickling from it, a good sign. I looked around me and saw only trees and headstones. A chill ran through my body, but this was not because of drenched clothes, skin and hair. It was the familiar foreboding feeling that filled me when I went anywhere near the cemetery.

I'd been here before. The first time I was with dozens of other people, including my family, and I'd held my littlest sister's hand tightly as we walked behind my mom down the narrow path. Our dad walked behind me and though he didn't say anything, I knew he was ready to grab one of our arms if we lost our footing and started to slip.

I heard the group we were joining before I saw it. A sound was coming from a clearing where many people were standing that sounded more animal than human. It rose and then became a kind of scream, but a scream I had never heard before, even from my hungry or injured younger sisters.

When we got closer to the group, I saw that the sound was coming from a woman we knew very well, since our first month in the country, during which we attended language and cultural school to prepare us for the culture we were entering, was also her first week in the country. Beside Molly stood her husband of only a year, someone else who attended that same month of school with his now-wife and my family. I remembered catching them stealing glances at one another during meals in that month we all spent on the coast, and noticed the way she became sort of flustered when he was around. Even a seventh-grader could tell that there was energy coursing back and forth between Molly and Tom.

Sure enough, they began "courting" soon after, and within months were married. Mere weeks later, she was pregnant, something she announced to my mother proudly, eyes a bit wet, in the middle of one of the aisles in the small mission base store.

As we neared the group, I got a closer look at Molly. She was leaning on Tom but then fell into the dirt next to a tiny wooden box, draping herself over it. Only after reading novels years later, did I learn that that sound had a word: "keening."

Her face was twisted in a way I'd never seen it. I knew why; we had been told what had happened, and then prepared for what we were about to witness while our mother made tight, smooth ponytails of our hair in the aqua bathroom of the house we lived in. Mama's words had not prepared me for this; this was the first funeral I attended and would be the last one until my husband grandmother's funeral when I was in my twenties.

In the minutes that followed Tom helped her up and then someone slid a chair under her. Molly put her hands to her face and dropped her head between her knees and then that same wild, sad sound came from her mouth again.

I don't remember what was said as far as a funeral service, but I will never forget the way that impossibly-small, simple wood box looked, likely made by Tom himself, since he was the mission base's school shop teacher. Molly lunged from the chair toward the box.

I knew there was a baby in the box. It had been delivered still-born but otherwise perfect, my dad told us. I wondered, as I stood watching Molly lay her head on the box, knees in the dirt, then kissing it frantically as she sobbed, where the baby had been during the days between when he was born, dead, and today. I also wondered if they had dressed the baby before placing it carefully in the box, and if so, in what clothes. I'd seen all this little baby's clothes folded lovingly in the nursery of their house when we went to dinner some weeks before. They looked almost small enough for my Cabbage Patch kid, I'd told her. She'd laughed and told me that as soon as the baby was old enough, she knew I would make a perfect babysitter.

Someone pulled the box from Molly's hands, and she screamed shrilly, "Nooooooooooo...." Something jolted inside of me that made tears well up and my chest tighten, an almost uncontrolable urge to rush forward and take the box from the man's hands and give it back to Molly filled me. I buried my face in my father's side.

Thud. I looked up at the heavy, unusual sound. Molly began her keening again as Tom held her tightly. The thud had been the sound of the box hitting the ground in the bottom of the small hole, a sound I would remember long after I'd lost the ability to imagine the sound of my grandmother's voice or a song my grandpa used to sing while we walked hand in hand along the bluff before sunset.

Shovels were picked up and passed around to several men. The dirt pile next to the small hole was slowly shoveled into it, until it filled it completely and then was flattened.

The hole was gone. If I hadn't watched the scene I wouldn't have known what lay below the surface of the earth that Molly now threw herself upon. Tom crouched down next to her and spoke quietly in her ear, petting her head gently, but she seemed not to hear or feel him. She screamed, her cheek pressed against the soil and her arms and legs spread-eagle, in the posture of a sky-diver, as though she was trying to free-fall into the earth. Many years later, after having three children of my own, I would realize that's exactly what she wanted to do.

Sitting there in the mud, my horse long gone, the memory of the funeral was fresh, only about two months earlier. I registered how cold I was, interrupting the memory. I very cautiously stood to my feet, putting my hand against a nearby tree to steady me, the very tree that I might have hit if my fall from the horse had occurred closer to it. I took several careful steps away from the tree, off the path, and looked around, sure that the site of the baby's funeral was somewhere close by.

There it was. There was no flat earth this time, though, and no keening Molly. I was alone, and the spot where the infant had been buried was now marked by a small wooden cross. I stepped close enough so that I could bend down and read what was inscribed on the cross. Yes. It was his grave, his name carved into it, a name he would never be called in from outdoor play by, or hear announced as he walked across a stage to receive a diploma.

I stood there looking at the ground and then knelt next to it. I was kneeling in mud, but it didn't matter anymore. I was covered in the same red mud anyway.

"Jacob Heinrichs," I heard my own voice say aloud, reading the words inscribed on the cross. And then the second line: "Desperately Wanted, Always Loved, Waiting For Us In Heaven."

Tears filled my eyes and then sobs escaped my mouth. I didn't know why I was crying. Part of the source of my emotion was obvious: this was a cemetery and the baby that was buried not so far below my feet was someone I would have played peek-a-book with in the church nursery where I volunteered every Sunday morning. Though I never met this Jacob, I still felt a feeling of loss, especially when I remembered his mother's keening the day he was buried.

There was something else, I realized, some other reason for the sobs that I couldn't stop now, even if I tried. What was it? I looked around to make sure no one was nearby to hear me crying and was both relieved and afraid to find I was indeed totally alone.

I looked back at the cross before me and read the words again. My tears increased and my chest tightened when I read the last phrase, "Waiting For Us in Heaven."

I put my hands over my eyes and let the sobs take over, shaking my small, wet body. This little baby was somewhere in heaven, the very place that was the subject of so much of my thirteen-year-old anxiety. It was the subject of a sizeable portion of my journaling at night by flashlight and by the thin light of dawn every morning. The pages in my Bible that had verses having something to do with heaven were heavily highlighted and underlined. I knew them by heart.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us them, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness," I recited from I couldn't remember where in the New Testament, my voice quavering.

Another one, further back in my memory, its words in my heart since babyhood, bubbled out of my mouth. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him will not perish, but have everlasting life," I quoted, wiping my tears away. John 3:16.

And then another, one that made the sobs start all over again: "And the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."

Baby Jacob had gone straight into the arms of the Lord, my mother told me that day as we trudged back up the hill after the funeral was over. That's what happened to babies when they died; they were sinless, she said.

"But what about me," I whispered, as I looked at the cross again.

I'd become a Christian at four, I knew. I had prayed the prayer of salvation, confessing my sinfulness, acknowledging Jesus as God, directing him to take over my daily life, and asking him to give me eternal life in heaven after I died.

After I said the prayer, I was saved, I learned. I didn't know what I was saved from at four, nor did I understand what sins I was supposed to be confessing. I'd just known that a man who was God, too, was nailed by his hands and feet to a cross, a vividly rendered picture in my Bible story book. My mother told me he would have let the bad men nail him there and let him hang until he died, even if I was the only person alive.

I couldn't imagine such pain, even when I tried laying on top of pointy toys so that they pressed into my skin until it hurt. If someone went through such pain for me, I wanted to do what he wanted me to do. My mother had me repeat the prayer of salvation after her, and I was a Christian then, the closest thing I could think of to thanking this Jesus for going through such pain for me.

But now at thirteen, I'd repeated that prayer hundreds, even thousands, of times. I'd said those words so many times that, even though I tried, I could not concentrate on each word or "mean" them in the way I meant them as a child. This inability to "mean" them was something that haunted me. I wasn't sure I had understood what I was doing at four, so I prayed the prayer again, by myself this time, many times a year after that day, with the desire to concentrate all my energy and will on each word. Every time I felt failure. 

Somehow, in a way I couldn't explain, the now-familiar words fell flat. At thirteen I realized I could say the same prayer in my own words, something I'd been doing for months now in the quiet of my bed, long after my sister had fallen asleep. The fresh wording caused me to "feel" what I was saying a bit more, but still, no matter how hard I tried to concentrate, tears pouring down my cheeks, I felt something inside me not quite immersed in them.

I was afraid. Terrified, really. How could I know that I was really saved? The baby whose grave I knelt on didn't have to pray a prayer; he was sinless. I thought of my sins: arguing with my parents, sneaking a book into bed at night after they'd told me it was time to sleep, talking my sister into giving me a toy with a logic I had intentionally used to trick her.

And then there was the worst sin of all. I'd read in a book about Christian sex on my parents' bookshelf that what I'd been doing under the covers, touching my private parts in a way that felt pleasant, had a name: masturbation. The book didn't say much about it, but enough for me to understand that it was sinful.

Only my future husband could touch my private parts; I already knew that, and I'd understood it. But me touching my own body hadn't registered as "someone else" until I'd read the part about masturbating. I wasn't even supposed to touch my body. The pleasurable sensations I had when I gave into the temptation to do so were feelings I was not supposed to be having until after marriage. I wasn't even supposed to know what those feelings felt like, I'd realized guiltily, a sick feeling filling my stomach. What if that future husband resisted temptation only to find that I had not? These were feelings meant to be experienced when my husband touched me on our wedding night. Even if I got married at twenty, that was still seven years away. Light years.

Masturbating was the one sin I had the most trouble not committing. And it wasn't as if I didn't know better. As soon as the thought entered my mind, laying in my bed in the dark, of touching between my legs, I knew I was already sinning. A churning began in my stomach and an ache in my chest, the familiar sensations of "guilt," and God's spirit giving me strength to resist, as well. "There is no temptation that has overtaken you, except what is common to man. And God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can endure, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." That was I Corinthians 10:13.

Sometimes I managed to resist temptation; other times I didn't. It was the times I didn't that I was thinking about now in the quiet cemetery. I'd confessed them, said I was sorry and asked God to forgive me, promising to never do it again. But then I did it again. Did that mean I wasn't really sorry? Did it mean that I wasn't really saved? And what about the sins I did that I wasn't even aware of; I hadn't known masturbation was wrong until I accidentally read about it.

The problem must have something to do with my heart not wanting to give itself up. And the masturbating.The answering churning in my stomach confirmed this thought.

I rested my head on the soft ground, my knees under me. "God, I'm sorry that I have had a hard heart. Please forgive me. I want you to have my whole heart. Please help me give it up. And please forgive me for masturbating. I know you don't want me to touch my private parts until my husband touches them, and I want to obey you. Wherever he is, he is probably not touching himself before we get married, and I don't want to disappoint him. Please help me. Please give me the strength to not give into temptation. I really want you to have every part of me. Please take every part. I don't want it. I want you and I want to spend eternity with you in heaven after I die."

I pulled my head up slowly, my eyes still teary but the sobs quelled. I searched my thoughts and feelings, looking for what I had read would follow absolute surrender of myself to God: peace. But no. It wasn't there. I didn't know what that meant. It scared me. What was I doing wrong?

The sun slanted through the overhead tree branches, hitting my face, and I stood to my feet, realizing it was getting late and not only would I have to get home before dark, I would have to find the horse, likely near the coral at the top of the hill, clean her saddle quickly, give her some food and put her away.

The cemetery suddenly felt creepy. I felt a kind of panic fill me like something dead was right behind me, at my heels, about to catch me. I ran up the hill the way the horse and I had come, topped the hill and then set off down the road toward the coral.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

More from "Threads"

"I'm not ready. I don't even know what I would write," I said in a plaintive tone that another ear might hear as whining. 

She stepped closer to my hospital bed until she was standing directly over me. I could smell the faint remains of her familiar perfume and see the tiny lines I had never noticed before on the edge of each eye. She smiled and the creases around her mouth showed, too; how did she get so old, I wondered. But then chuckled internally with my next thought: we are the same age. 

"Rachel," she said in her firmest voice, her blue-grey eyes looking deep into mine, maybe even beyond. "The words are inside of you. You and I both know that. You were born with them in there. In fact there are so many words, spoken and written, unspoken and unwritten, inside of you, that many of them have joined together to form phrases and sentences that aren't even true. Those phrases and sentences have linked up to make stories that are absolute and total lies. And those are the words you read to yourself over and over, as if they were some kind of sacred text. They've become more real than your actual experiences."

My eyes filled; she was right. She reached forward and gently wiped away one of the runaway tears that escaped from the corner of my right eye.

"Rachel, you who could have, and still can, take charge of all the words inside of you and create meaning with them ... none of that bullshit you've been listening to all these years, but true, real meaning. And you could use those words to  tell stories that are not only true but, when they are read by others, will change both the reader and the writer forever."

I looked away, really crying now. The corner of sky I could see through the hospital window was blue and bright. It was a beautiful day out there and I could picture people walking in parks, playing with kids in yards, lying in a hammock and reading, working hard at their jobs, kissing their lovers, whispering with those they love about the dreams they have for the future.

"I don't have anything to say to them anymore. We both know that. Look at me," I sobbed.

"I didn't said it was going to be easy, Sweets," she said, kindness mixing with sternness in her face. "It's going to mean a bit of a battle, Rach. While you've been lying here, and well before that, even more of those words inside of you formed themselves into new and even more untrue, even more destructive, sentences and stories. And these stories have become veritable chains. They chain your arms to this bed. They wrapped themselves tightly around your heart so that sometimes even breathing hurts, let alone feeling. They've wrapped themselves in tight coils around your mind, giving you the illusory feeling that your talent, your sharp intellect and your grasp of the truth of what it means to be human, are gone."

I nodded, tears flowing down my cheeks, sobs shaking me. She was right; it felt just like that. I had forgotten she could see straight into me and the relief of hearing her say what she saw there. And loving me even more, somehow, because of it. I had felt an almost-blank toward her for weeks now, but I could feel the old movement inside of me, in spite of the drugs that were pumping into my veins through the cords overhead. This was why I fell in love with her in the first place.

She got down on her knees beside the bed so her face was only inches from mine. She reached up and tenderly wiped my tears away with a hankie I knew she'd embroidered herself. She looked me in the eyes again as she smoothed my hair away from face, just the way my mother used to do.

"Rachel," she whispered, a fierceness in her quiet tone that was repeated in her eyes. "Thats why it's going to be a battle. Those strings of words, those sentences and phrases that are paralyzing you right now must be read aloud, even cried over until they are meaningless and have lost their power to define you. Then they can be discarded."

Her voice changed a little and there was a slight smile at the corners of her mouth.  "And then, Sweet Girl, you will find that deep inside you are new words. Fresh words. Buckets and buckets of them for you to sift through to find the perfect ones with which to tell YOUR story, the truth, the one that you and I both know will heal and restore. Not just you, but me, and everyone else who reads them."

I looked back outside and the familiar panic and overwhlem filled me. This was what got me here in the first place. How could I do anything but react to all of what I would find out there in the real world? I'd have to have a kind of strength and energy I don't feel and that I haven't felt in such a long time that I've forgotten what it feels like to feel capable, at ease, confident. Normal.

"I don't know where to start," I said looking back at her, my voice shaking. "Just thinking about it makes me want to lay back down and call the nurse to give me something so that I won't feel for awhile."

She nodded. "I know."

She pulled herself up from her knees by grabbing onto the bed bar and stood over me. She stroked my cheek with her hand and tucked my hair behind my ear. I could see love on her face and feel it in her touch, but I felt almost angry thinking about it.

"Why do you love me?" I demanded.

She looked at me. She laughed.

"Rachel, I don't know how to not love you. I know you don't feel like a whole person right now. But you ARE. I can see the whole of you, even when you can only feel this painful, lost part. It's like one of those novels you are going to write. You are living in a chapter that tells the story of the main character's 'bottom,' when all is dark and hopeless. You, like the character, don't know that the next chapter in the book is when the sun breaks through the clouds, the storm breaks, the insight comes, the love story begins or the thing that was so very dead raises its head to show it is still alive."

I was listening now. "Story arc," I said. "That's called the story arc."

She rolled her eyes. "O.k. smarty-pants. The story arc is what I can see. I can see the whole thing. No, I don't know what happens next, but I know who YOU are, and I know, as you have told me many times while expounding on good fiction and Stephen King, the plot happens because of who the character is."

I nodded.

"So," she continued, "I know you. I know the main character and I know that the plot that will happen because of WHO YOU ARE is going to be something breathtakingly beautiful that will change the world. You've already changed me. The story isn't even close to over, Beautiful Rachel. And I'm going to walk through as much of that story with you as you will allow me to."

She leaned in and kissed me on the forehead. Impulsively, I wrapped my arms around her neck. I felt a corner of hope.

"But how ... " I started to ask, and then left it hanging. I didn't even know how to imagine what was next. Another dose of pills, maybe. Sleep. But that part of me that was beginning to hope had just a little bit of energy behind it.

She smiled. "Now there's my girl."

She picked up a familiar black case that I recognized immediately as my laptop case. I immediately felt panic kick in.

"No way," I whispered. "Not yet. I can't."

She unzipped the case and sat down in the chair next to my bed.

"Rachel, you don't even have to touch it yet. You don't have to do anything. I am going to start. I will type until you are ready to take over. I know you don't know what to write. But that's o.k. I'm going to help you. We, together, are going to write down the stories. At first it will be those bad ones you've been telling yourself, me and everyone else. The painful stories. The horrifying stories. The story of how you got here. Then it will be the stories you haven't even told me. The ones you haven't even dared to let yourself hear, but that are inside of you. You and I are going to write all that pain. All that rejection. All the abandonment. All the violence. All the stolen innocence. All the fears. All the guilt and shame. ALL OF IT."

She looked at me with a look I knew well. The look I'd seen when she'd told me she loved me and wanted to never leave my side for the foreseeable future. It was the look that meant she'd decided. It was the look that meant nothing and no one could change her mind.

"Then what?" I asked. "What happens after that?"

She smiled. "I don't know, doll. But those stories will be outside of you. We don't have to show them to anyone else unless you want to. But they will be outside of you. You will know that someone else besides you understands what you have been through, what you have felt. You will know that I don't just love the parts of you that you've shown me or that I've discovered, but every single tiny piece of you."

I think my face betrayed the anxiety that gave me. This was in many ways my deepest fears. That if, when I showed someone else the entirety of myself, they would ultimately reject me. I had been through enough with her to know she could handle a lot. I mean, God, she was here in front of me, loving me at my weakest point to date. But it still sounded terrifying.

"Rachel, I know that's scary. But you can do it. You've done hard things before. I know you can do it. And when you find yourself at a road block, I will lift you over. We are going to do this together. We are going to do what you, my sweet little writer girl, MUST do, in order to heal, to move through and over the past. We are going to write until there is nothing left inside of you to write. And then..."

It was her turn to get a little teary. I grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight.

"Then," she said, through her tears, a smile on her face, "you will be able to write what you were born to write, what you've been longing to write for your whole life and what the world has been waiting for you to write, even if they don't know it. You and I both know that that is who you are."

I swallowed a sob. She was right, of course; even I knew that somewhere deep down under the pain. But would I have remembered without her help? I didn't know. How could she love me so much? The weight of the gift of that quickened something deep inside of my chest, like a tiny ache between my ribs, but far inside. It felt like something that had been locked up tight or frozen solid had been popped open or come to life. It almost hurt. But not in a way I wanted to resist. Couldn't resist. It felt like an opening up and surge of energy through something in the very core of me.

I recognized this energy: it was love energy, the kind that used to fill me as I, without even meaning to, would rush toward her almost involuntarily. The same kind that would overwhelm me until I rushed to the computer and then let what was inside burst out of my fingers and onto the page.

I looked at her in wonder. "I can't love unless I write. And I can't write unless I love."

She smiled and this time her whole body seemed to smile.

"I know," she whispered as she pulled my head toward her chest. "I know."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is Institutional Marriage the Opposite of Unconditional Love?

This song by Alanis Morissette is an incredible description of unconditional love. The lyrics are typed out at the end of this post. How does/doesn't this kind of love fit into our views about "normal, healthy marriages?" I'm struggling to think of any marriage I know about in which both partners could say/mean this to one another. There are so many reasons for that. Practical reasons, even. Here's some:

If I love like this
  •  My spouse might feel they can just go off with someone else
  • I would have to be in charge of my own "personal nest" in such a way that the other person walking away wouldn't threaten my well-being or that of my children.
  • I would have to open myself up to the risk of being hurt/left/rejected

O.k. but wait a second ... even in traditional marriage, either spouses can technically still walk out. Even in traditional marriage I can't know for sure that I will be provided for and won't need to have the ability to do that myself if my spouse should get sick, lose his job, or even die. Even in traditional marriage, I am vulnerable to the risk of being hurt/left/rejected.

So what's the thing that makes the love in the song lyrics so incompatible with traditional marriage?

I'd like to say that it's GUILT.

In a traditional marriage, the only thing standing between me and my fear of being utterly alone is the knowledge that my spouse would feel GUILT if he or she broke the vows they made to always love one another. And a lot of other people we know would be pissed off, too.

But here's the deal ... I can tell you with experience behind me and every cell in my body agreeing: knowing your partner is with you because they said they would/don't want to break their vow/don't want to feel guilt is the same damn thing as rejection. In some ways it's worse. At least if I'm rejected I am being freed to find someone who DOES want to love me and I them. But in a guilt-based marriage, I know I am not enough, am not performing well enough, aren't pretty or handsome enough, or whatever. AND on top of it, I'm stuck, too, in this guilt marriage, so I can't even hope that I will be loved by someone else the way I signed up to be loved when I said my vows!

I can also tell you with experience behind me and every cell in my body agreeing: I would rather live with the knowledge that this person I love so much might choose to not want a relationship with me anymore at some point in the future, in a non-guilt-based relationship, because I get to KNOW that they are here today because they want to be in a way I would never be assured of in a traditional marriage.

That is a knowledge with trust behind it that no traditional marriage can give me. In traditional marriage I trade in the sureness of knowing the other wants to be with me. I trade it in for security. The sad part it, it's not even REAL security. It's security based on assuming that the other person is motivated by guilt/vows said at the altar.

One of the ways I "test" things like this is to apply the principle to another kind of situation and see if it holds true there. So let's take our love for our children.

I have written about this before here ("Runaway Bunnies, Breasts & Hell") but let's ask ourselves if the love in this song is the way we love our kids? For me, the answer is a resounding, unequivocal YES.

What about friendships? When I consider the idea of trying to make someone promise to be my friend and motivate them with guilt to fulfill their promise, I see that this notion is obviously preposterous.

Why are marriages any different? Supposedly this is the person you love most in the world. And yet this is the person you want to nail down and box up in an institution that promises the illusion of security.

Institutional, traditional marriage puts the other person in a room and then hands them a key. On the key it says the following:
"Use this key to exit this room but do so knowing that you are going to cause hurt and damage. You are going to be labeled all sorts of bad things and you will be be judged to be a bad person by most people you know."

Do you EVER get to know if you are truly loved with a spontaneous, authentic love in that situation? Hell, no. In fact, as soon as you hand that key to your partner, you are saying goodbye to any possibility of ever knowing for sure you are loved, wanted, adored and desired.

This is the same reason why I don't believe in hell. Authentic, real, unconditional love can not be motivated by fear; fear kills love.

I'd go so far as to say that institutional marriage is the opposite of love. That is not to say that people can't reconstruct their marriages from the inside, out. I believe that's possible. We are mid-reconstruction over here! It's scary. But it's also thrilling. It's making me take responsibility for some things that I wouldn't have when I had the attitude that "he's stuck with me, so I don't need to worry about that." But as I take responsibility for those things, making my own personal nest one that doesn't require him to do any certain thing for me to survive, there is this beautiful result: I get to know that, for sure, he's not with me because I would fall flat on my face with no job, no experience and no confidence that I can take care of myself. I can't put a price tag on that.

I'm not saying we've got this thing figured out. We have no idea what we're doing. We are just taking one step at a time, learning from our failures and following our hearts.

This song would have scared the stuffing out of me twelve years ago as I contemplated my wedding, only a month away this time of year! But it doesn't anymore. It feels exciting and inspiring to see and experience life this way.

Here's the lyrics:
I'll give you countless amounts of outright acceptance if you want it

I will give you encouragement to choose the path that you want if you need it

You can speak of anger and doubts your fears and freak outs and I'll hold it

You can share your so-called shame filled accounts of times in your life and I won't judge it

(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give
You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

I give you thanks for receiving it's my privilege

And you owe me nothing in return

You can ask for space for yourself and only yourself and I'll grant it
You can ask for freedom as well or time to travel and you'll have it
You can ask to live by yourself or love someone else and I'll support it

You can ask for anything you want anything at all and I'll understand it

(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

I give you thanks for receiving it's my privilege

And you owe me nothing in return

I bet you're wondering when the next payback shoe will eventually drop

I bet you're wondering when my conditional police will force you to cuff up

I bet you wonder how far you have now danced you way back into debt

This is the only kind of love as I understand it that there really is

You can express your deepest of truths even if it means I'll lose you and I'll hear it

You can fall into the abyss on your way to your bliss I'll empathize with

You can say that you have to skip town to chase your passion and I'll hear it

You can even hit rock bottom have a mid-life crisis and I'll hold it

(and there are no strings attached)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

I give you thanks for receiving it's my privilege

And you owe me nothing in return