I wrote this to my son as part of a conversation we were having about a book he had passed on to me: The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut
Thanks (I think!) for passing on that book. As you say, it will not convince a person they are not crazy.
After a day or two I did recover from thinking maybe I was schizophrenic…and over the last few days it has helped me to get a better understanding of the issue behind my personal hell – which is a guilt that is so all-encompassing, so unable-to-be-gotten-around that it has largely eaten my life, and one which I can easily imagine I passed on to you in some way, in your self-described role of “hippie spawn”…
I understand my internal hell to have been my personalization of a huge cultural and even a species-sized guilt about what it means to be a human on the earth.
The result of that guilt has been the feeling that I will never be able to make up for the damage my presence on this earth has caused and is causing.
The feeling that as a human being I am part of a cancer on the earth. The feeling that I should know better. That there’s something I should be able to do that would make a difference, and I have to endlessly try to figure that out…while by definition, nothing I do will ever be enough. That in knowing better, I should be acting differently, but that there really is no possible way that anything I do can make up for the damage caused by my presence.
I am aware that this has taken me down the exact path that Mark went down…with the exception that I didn’t have a psychotic breakdown, I just went into an endless round of self judgment (above) that has impacted me and everyone in my life. Including you. Which is just the way life is,of course – we parents hand things down to you kids.
I am not saying this to add to the worse-than-useless judgment. My interest is to simply acknowledge it, let it be part of what I understand, and to share it in the hopes that it might help you in your understanding, on your path. Your experience may be completely different than this and none of this may resonate at all. I don’t know.
All I can do, in the end, is put down the endless judgment, and simply share.
All that old judgment came out of a way of thinking that says there is a right and wrong way to live, and I have to figure out what it is. That I have to know and be perfect, never be a hypocrite…but (continues the judgment) because of who I am I will always be a hypocrite, so I endlessly need to measure up somehow.
What I now understand for myself is that my questioning and judgment came from the place of having no foundation from which to relate to the mystery of life, and no conscious practice to appreciate the size and scope of life force energy.
I was raised with no real grounding in the mystery of my own spirit, and where it comes from. I was raised with a Christian tradition that I could not accept because it was so patriarchal and judgmental it left no room for me to be OK. I rejected it out of hand. I did not have access to the Native American spiritual ideas until I met your dad – and in that space, I always felt like I was co-opting something that was not mine. So I have never had a piece of the mystery that I could relate to.
Or so I thought.
But in fact, that was what the museum was for me …my connection with life and living itself as my spiritual connection. The adventure of living as my spiritual practice. My place where I could trust that I was OK and that I would be OK, that life kind of had my back, although I never said that or thought about it.
It was when I began to think about it, and question it, that it all fell apart. As I got older and bumped up against cultural rules that I had adopted without realizing it. Rules like: Now you are married, and being married means the adventure is over. It’s time to be practical, responsible. There was nothing in your dad’s and my relationship that required that. Simply my unconscious rules about what being married meant.
I began to overthink things.
I began, unconsciously, to judge whether or not it was OK to have an adventurous life. I quit trusting. I started judging everything, myself most of all, and I could tell the story that my life has gone to hell in a handbasket since then.
But that story would be vastly unfair and incomplete.
Because yes, many things have fallen apart. But my understanding of who I am, how very supported I am, and my slow rebuilding and remembering who I was, in this new deeper context of awareness, has created a trust that I am gradually coming to be able to count on at a way deeper level. I had to move through the self judgment and doubt to get to a level that is beyond the experience of doubt…so far beyond the doubt that that doubt cannot affect it.
And, I have come out into the light of a vastly different understanding:
That we humans are the tip of the arrow of a great experiment in consciousness.
That we are learning as we go, and that we are not in charge of what consciousness will become. Life will become more and more beautiful, complex, conscious and amazing, as we allow ourselves to expand into letting it happen. That at this time, our choice is to judge the shift and step out of it, or to learn how to let ourselves participate in it.
The shift is happening. What we can affect is how much we flow with it and enjoy it.
The more we flow with it the more beautifully it happens for the whole system.
As children, we just participated in life, without thinking about it.
As adults, we unconsciously accepted the rules that said that’s not OK.
As we become more aware and conscious beings, we come back to being able to play again, but with awareness. We can’t go backwards into unconscious play. It is time to move forward into conscious play. Living full out, with awareness.
That awareness is the awareness of the risks involved.
When we become aware of the risks, it’s so easy to close up and shut down. We don’t want to get hurt, or to hurt others.
The awareness we are being asked to step into is the willingness to engage the risk when we know it’s there. The big risk of trying something truly scary. To do the scariest thing, which is to open up to another person. In my experience, as human beings, we most fear humiliation. We fear the pain that might come to our hearts. So we close them up.
And we go into our personal hell, because life is asking us to open up and live. We only feel alive when we are open and engaged. And that is so hard to do, to step outside of our comfort zone of what level of connection we allow.
So, in the places I see you doing that as well, I offer my most heartfelt love. I see you moving into questioning and doubting and being in your own personal hell, and believe me, I get it. I am so sorry for how much it hurts. So very very sorry. And I am so here for you as you move through it, in whatever way I can. I get that I cannot always be the one to be here for you – and I trust that in the times you are ready to let someone in, the right person will be there for you.
I am standing here farther into the process, more and more often knowing that I am, in fact, coming into some peace of setting up my tent on the other side. On the side of love. I am sending back love and hope and the occasional message in a bottle to let you know that even when it feels like it, you are not alone.
You are loved. Life itself is on your side. It is safe to open your heart.
You will love your life more when you do. You know this. I am just here to help you remember it when you forget. As you or other people are for me. It’s really all we can do for each other – offer a safe space to experience how very OK we are as we take life’s big risks.
I love you. I am really thankful you passed that book on, I am so thankful we have the sharing that we do, because I know that you have wisdom that touches me deeply and affects me profoundly. Thank you. Thank you for the honor of watching you move through the struggle and the beauty of learning and being who you really are. Thank you for having stepped into embracing the changes, when I so turned your life on its head when you were 13…and many other times as well.
This has not been a neat and tidy way to move through life together as mother and son but I think we have done and are doing a pretty damn stellar job of it.