Looking back and thinking forward

Month: March, 2013

You must ask for what you really want …

Quote of the day:

"The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!" 

—Rumi (Found at Elizabeth Gilbert)

So – it's the asking for what I really want from myself, significant others, and the Universe (?) – that's the hardest part for me.

Starting small, though, this poem is what I really want right here and now.

I buried Oscar’s ashes this morning …

… up close to the grave I had created for Ada in October, last year. As I arrived home wearily from the writer's workshop with Natalie Goldberg at Villa Lina, I found the box of Ada's ashes waiting for me by the front door. We had both arrived on the same day. I remember feeling a twinge of pain reverberating through my heart strings, when I discovered the box on the front porch as I dragged my suitcase up the steps. I took Oscar's ashes out to the back yard and dug a hole in the cold dark ground around Ada's grave. I spoke to him in my mind assuring him of Ada's company and the coming of warmer months. Breaking open the plastic bag that held his ashes, I poured them into the earth, and then laid some daffodil bulbs on top. They had bloomed for a couple of weeks in my office during the last weeks of February when I needed to cheer myself up and onward through to the end of winter. 

When I came back into the house, Mimi was waiting for me by the back door. She mewed sweetly and smelled my hands, licking them over and over again with her raspy tongue no doubt checking out where I had been without her as she sat by the window watching. I said out loud, "Mimi, I buried your brother this morning." 

Then we went upstairs to my study. Mimi jumped up into the soft, white bed I placed on my desk next to the computer. She curled up, first looking back at me as I began typing. She purred as I put my hand out to stroke her.

I sensed Ada and Oscar close by looking on with approval. 

I looked up at the computer screen for a moment and then began writing:

I buried Oscar's ashes this morning

Healing dimensions: Part VI

Quote of the day:

I don't why it is we are in such a hurry to get up when we fall down. You might think we would lie there and rest awhile. Max Forrester Eastman

There are two different dimensions that help me understand my early childhood in two equally important ways. One is cognitive and rational, realizing what the adults caring for me were going through at the time. In that way I become aware that their behaviors were not personal in the sense that they intentionally meant to neglect me emotionally. It is an understanding that develops over time supported by life experience and knowledge of the human condition in general. It is also a type of forgiveness that develops only after I am able to process the first aspect. This one is emotional, derived from the earliest emotional memories in my brain and requires that I learn to allow myself to validate my feelings. That is to say, validate how I felt as a young child experiencing emotional neglect within my brain, body and soul. The former cannot be authentically achieved unless I am able to validate how it felt as a child. At least, that is how I see it working for me. 

My mother's life was chaotic and filled with anxiety when I was born. She was heading into her third marriage, and I understand that I arrived at a bad time for me – and certainly for her. Her mind was preoccupied with a new, unpredictable stage in her life. She was clearly emotionally overwhelmed. Partly because of the effect of her own early childhood experiences, and partly because of the facts on the ground: making a life with a new life partner, wanting to please him, and having his child late in her life. She was an intelligent woman, who loved children in general, and probably loved me too. She certainly provided me with basic physical needs, shelter, clothes, food etc. However, she was unable to give me what I needed emotionally: Attention, acknowledgement, and a sense of worthiness. 

My older siblings were just that – older – and leaving the house to find their ways out in the world. I remained behind, feeling like an unwanted appendage to a small family unit: my mother, her husband, and their new baby, who seemed like a miracle child to everyone. And so, my experience growing up was of great and deep loneliness, accompanied by longing and yearning to be someone's – anyone's priority. 

These past few months, therapy has brought me face to face with those early childhood emotional memories. It has been excruciatingly painful to understand where my deepest feelings of loneliness spring from. Alone in my study, or during the long commute back and forth from work, I have wept and raged as I remember how it felt during those early years. And somehow I see that the more I allow myself to shed years of emotional repression and validate my feelings from back then, the more I find it easier to forgive my mother for the pain the emotional neglect caused me.

Indeed, I am also starting to feel less lonely, and even more worthy! It is strange and new for me. Exciting as well as peaceful. It almost seems as if new doors are opening within me. At times, I become frustrated that I understand all this so late in life, and so naturally it brings up feelings of regret. But these pass swiftly in light of what lies before me right now. A sense of personal power and, finally at the ripe old age of 63, the ability to discern what I want and need.

Eight years ago at Tamarika: Waiting for a bus

Dedicated to my therapist

Okay. I must admit. Therapy is working. I am allowing the deepest emotional stuff of my early childhood to rise up into my consciousness. Indeed, I am allowing myself to experience emotional pain in a way I have not done ever in my past. It is cathartic, and it is good. These feelings bring with them clarity, forgiveness, and understanding, and at a certain level, peace of mind. 

I could not have allowed myself these emotions had I not felt completely safe and validated to feel them. That, I believe, is the truest gift a therapist bestows on his client. Emotional safety and validation. 

Yesterday, in preparation for my class tonight, I re-read a passage in my own book, and came upon a quote by Alice Miller. It was like Eliot's famous quote about knowing the place for the first time, for even though I had used Miller's quote in my own book some six years ago, knowing at some level of consciousness that it pertained to me – yesterday I felt her words to the core of my being. I found myself nodding in recognition, smiling with gratitude:

Only by knowing the truth can we be set free. Only in this way can we free ourselves from the fears and anxieties we knew as children, blamed and punished for sins we did not know we had committed, the fateful fear of the sin of disobedience, that crippled anxiety that has wrecked so many people's lives and keeps them in thrall to their own childhood. Alice Miller. (In, Jacobson, 2008. Page 101)

Even as I know that no therapist can work his wonders, if his client does not eagerly participate in the exploration, in fact, this post is a dedication of gratitude to my therapist. Very few words, I must say. But none can really sum up how thankful I truly am. 

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Ten minutes about weight loss – go: