Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Friday, December 28, 2012

Truth, Solstice and the Blinding Light

The truth has, most of my life, been a rather brutal affair with little regard to sensitivities, manners or discretion. With truth being my word of the year (prior posts here and here) I found it as predictable as the weather, I address you accordingly. 

"Beware what you ask for, Cile!" my Mother used to caution. Being stubbornly optimistic, resilient  and tenacious were things I valued that I inherited from my Mother; consequently when I come upon a hard truth  that is contrary to this vision of the world it is as if I am in a perpetual state of shock and disappointment.  I suspect  this is not how people who know me perceive me but it is what is happening inside me everyday as I move through my life.  I am fixed in a sort of dimwitted surprise.  Who would not want to keep such a thing in confidence?  It is certainly not an easy thing to post about.... The uneasiness of the subject matter and my scrambling to make ends meet lately are a big part of my silence this year.

To those close in my life (in most cases) it does not matter a fig that I'm atilt in matters real.  They blithely leave me to my windmills but when it comes to sitting down to a conversation with the world it becomes rather apparent that I am comprised of an inordinate amount of hot air.  The windmills I tilt to are Hope and Grace; the route I travel is rather familiar and tiring.

Over the last five years I've been hit with a lot of truth and hard reality.  I can see, as I track this trend, that it began when I became an orphan - with losing my Mother in 2004.  There was something about her existence that pinned me into a certain reality and when she ceased to exist I was lifted off into some strange new world without mooring.  It was nothing overt - not just one thing - but more like a landslide of reality as I understood it moved me down and over to some entirely new point of view by 2010. It was not just the dying of my Mother that put this in motion.  It was as if my entire story line collapsed in concert with this event.  It included other losses, the bigger picture , the economy and the lot of my generation coming into play; as was my walking off my own personal fiscal cliff and making a value choice with the idea to live with intention.   

Most of my life I had somehow - almost magically - been able to surf just ahead of the crushing curl in the wave and out of harms way...gliding safely into a spot just shy of disaster.  For instance, my sons;  I was convinced at one time they would be irretrievably traumatized from what they were put through in their young lives.  As it turned out they grew up healthy and happy and even still speak to me and welcome me into their lives.  That is just one example of hundreds of near-misses I have experienced in my life including rebounding from homelessness, assault  and mental illness. I always managed to land on my feet - often with help - and I've been thankful.  

It is different now on the aweather side of the mountain. There is little to light my way nor is there much energy with my age to fuel my light within.  Some of the truths I found out about myself over the years came from those close to me who got a gut full of my apathetic attitude, self absorption, distance and lack of depth.  Other truths were delivered by people who I had little confidence in yet had a lot to say about my short comings.  There is no denying a truth no matter how it is delivered but it is extra tough coming from those one deems as questionable in the right to utilize collective air space. Some things I discovered on my own (like the revelation of my illiteracy). 

Some aspects of a life are seeded in difficulty and inherited honestly.  Like someone being born into poverty, disability and disease...or a girl...or of color...or - God forbid - gay...  any number of special considerations that the world is not equipped to accept, let alone love. These things are going to set into motion a certain amount of challenges in place right at the onset of a tiny life.  How does one develop a foundation with such beginnings? I have spent twenty years trying to design a place to stand and it just seems at this point that I might as well have had cast my fate to the four winds and became a vagabond or gypsy. If I am to learn from my children as I watch them build relationships and rear offspring, I can see that this mysterious grounded center of being is nurtured by the love of parents - maybe the love of anyone who truly cares to know another without condition. 

I was cared for and like many of the children of my time, I was marginalized and "suffered" by those caregivers more often than not.  Being born pretty much out of wedlock in the 50's and being conceived as a result of two ships  (well, it was more like a fishing trawler and a dinghy) passing in the night set an even more colorful tone to my existence. As well, I was born first generation American and raised by my German grandmother who was born in Eastern Europe in the 1880s.  By her standards I was a female child that required grooming to marry and the sooner the better.  My Mother, stressed to a breaking point in trying to raise four children by herself as a single parent, worked a poorly paid job and was not exactly in a position to help her offspring do much of anything but survive.  Her burden included the stigma of "loosing" her husband. To protect myself,  I developed a very active imagination. I did pretty well with minimal supervision as a child until I required protection, discipline and mentoring for living in the real world. These important lessons - some learned harshly - weighed on me and worked me over for years. I am reminded of the story of the woman who faced bravely trial after trial in her long life praising God and his mercies and when she became elderly and had very little left of her life to keep her going, she was struck blind.  That being the last straw that she could endure, she flew into a rage and denounced her faith.  I'm having that kind of life.

I did not surface until 1990 when my youngest neared graduation from high school.  I enjoyed the steadiest gain in my strength, emotional stability and place in the world from 1990 to 2007 after a rather dreadful childhood and young adult life. I was vested in the stability and focused on building in an effort to gain what I thought I needed. It is hard to face the fact that all my efforts were built upon the hot air of a false economy but it's true...and I can only wonder what it really takes to heal a wounded life when it can be so falsely tendered.

Luck is as harsh a mistress as she is fickle.  What I had perceived as the end of a long haul to adulthood was just the beginning of the real challenges that faced me. The hindsight is as clear as bell to me now and  tragic in its tolling.  I was given plenty of opportunity to choose differently but I cowered; I quailed. I wasn't ready to face up to the fact that I had all the strength that I needed.  I missed it...totally.  To my credit I had seen a lot of things through in my life up to that point and enjoyed success but it was almost always for someone or something else.  I never understood what I was doing for myself in all of that. Clueless, when it was time to take a daring step, I did the opposite. I put all my efforts into stabilizing myself. The boot straps I've been using all my life to pull myself up by were looking worn and, frankly, I wanted to park them and I did so.  I would have gotten farther if I had just gone dancing. I made my choice. In hindsight it is obvious though I was not even aware I was making any choice at all at the time. The truth is non negotiable and does not deal with fools nor foundations built on hot air lightly.

When I started with the word TRUTH last year, a friend shared with me a quote from Buddha, " There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting".  I posted it to my monitor and thought of it often through the year.  "How will I know when I've gone all the way with this (word)?"  I wondered.  I found out on Winter Solstice when I was given two opportunities to put on my big girl panties and step up and I did not do it. I made excuses at the time but given the safety of a little space after the fact, head in hand, I realized my folly. I'm a coward. I have started well enough but Buddha lays it out fairly clearly that the reason I am repeatedly troubled and troubling: I lack the courage to go the distance.  I come by this honestly with my history but that is neither here nor there - it continues as my challenge now. To not accept that is to not go all the way yet again. 

I know those close to me are going to recoil from my pronouncement regarding what I discovered of my personal truth.  It is a powerful word "coward" and it conjures up a myriad of disgusting images.  Everyone has, however, a bit of the coward in them.  It is not the end of the world to sit down face to face with that part of oneself.  It is MY way to call a thing by it's proper name and what I'm talking about here is my cowardice and my inability to do and own what I do for myself. This is what the end of the year with this word brings me to:  I have been a coward at every turn when called out on my own. I've never risked much of myself and when I have, I have not allowed myself enough to make the entire journey necessary to enjoy the success of my choice.  No one stopped me.  I had all the help in the world as an adult.  It was I who would not try. Now I must use my cache of courage that I found for others and apply it to my own life. It sounds much more simple than it is going to actually be for me. Not owning what I do and who I am has proven to be a very workable coping device and I've a long track record.  I've no delusions of darning a silk purse with this discovery.

What I have is solace in knowing the truth of that, as harsh as it is.  I've taken the first step  -  I  have actually gone the distance with this word, I claim my bad to the world and in my quietest and darkest Solstice hour...blinded, I start over.