Monday, December 10, 2012

A Parable of Forgiveness

Once there was a very old man who lived next door to me.  He'd lived there forever; I'd grown up with his children, and his wife was my confidant.  Long after I grew up,  I moved back into the old house to raise my own children.  He was still next door.

After living some years as friendly neighbors, sharing rakes and shovels and plates of Christmas cookies, I discovered that he had taken something from my garage.  Something that had been there from my own childhood, just some old junk of my grandma's, probably only worth ten bucks at a garage sale. It's value to me was mostly that it had belonged to my family for three generation. But still, he'd just come over and taken it.

I confronted the old man.  He sorrowfully professed his apologies but said the item had since broken and he'd thrown it out; there was no returning it.  I was vastly annoyed and wanted little to do with him after that, though still being close with his wife, I had to swallow my irritation and make nice.

Another while passed and my children began watching one of those antiques shows on television where people sell their attic-finds for pennies or fortunes.  They discovered that the item the old man had stolen was not worth the mere ten dollars I'd imagined but was being bought by collectors for a thousand dollars.  I began to doubt that grandma's junk had so conveniently broken as the old man had claimed.

My anger and resentment of the old man grew.  Bitterness galled in my belly when I saw him in his yard.  My relationship with his wife withered.  I realized that I had to forgive him for my own sake, if not for his.  I told myself that I hadn't lost anymore than when I was unaware of the actual monetary value of grandma's piece.  It was simply a bit of family history and I still had my memories of grandma, after all.  It took a long time of inhaling So and exhaling Hum, of praying for peace and seeking to see the divine in the old man.  But finally, I could smile at him and actually mean it.

Eventually, the old man's wife became ill and died.  My family and I went over to help him sort out his belongings and close up his house before he moved in with his daughter.  I found a note addressed to me in his wife's handwriting, wavering and spotty, clearly written just before her death.

The note revealed that in her last days, the old man had confessed to her.  For decades he had been breaking into my house and systematically stealing my grandmother's treasures.  After emptying the storage boxes in the garage, he decimated the long neglected attic.  He'd even brought in knock-offs to replace the valuable antiques he stole from the main house.  My beloved family heirlooms, the tangible bits of long ago memories, the irreplaceable things I'd so adored because I thought they held the imprint of my grandma's touch were all cheap fakes.  The dead woman guessed that the old man had sold my belongings for hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least a half a million, probably more.  She'd thought he'd been fortunate at his online trading, when in fact, his trades had been disastrous and it was the sale of my own goods that had kept the two of them out of financial disaster many times.

I was shocked into immobility while my mind raced.  What good had been all the work I'd put into forgiving him for the one theft I'd known about?  Had his apology that I'd struggled so to accept had any value at all? Could he possibly have had any repentance for the one when he still continued with the other?  Was my hard-won forgiveness worth anything at all in the face of this deeper and infinitely more personal violation?

Worse than the loss of the material goods he'd stolen was the sense that his theft had been from my soul.  He'd stolen forgiveness from me with his fraudulent apology, capitalizing on my own inner belief in turning the other cheek.  I wished I'd never wasted any effort at all on the struggle to forgive him for his now-petty crime.  I wished I'd built up the wall between our houses, cut off relations with his wife, guarded myself from his thievery.  He'd manipulated my goodness and his wife's to serve his own greed.  He'd exploited my trust to cover his poor judgement in stocks.  His rape of my innocence tainted even the memories his false heirlooms once inspired. I couldn't even think of my grandma without being ripped off by him all over again.

I doubted that all the novenas, all the so hums, all the praying in the world could ever give me the grace to forgive the old man again.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Into the Labyrinth

Myth, according to scholar Karen Armstrong, looks at events not as one-time historical happenings, but instead as something that happens all the time. In myth, there is No Time or perhaps, All Time. Mythological events happen again and again, or constantly, in thematic or psychological metaphor. The same event seen historically happened only at one time and in one place.

In a historical sense, I walked into a labyrinth a month ago and walked back out an hour later. In a mythical sense, I walked into the labyrinth and I am still there. In the center of the figure, where the grace happens, in the midst of transformation. Historical truth is that the fear that I walked in with is now the peace that I hold. Mythological truth is that the demon is still shape-shifting into its angelic form.

I walked into the labyrinth a month ago, still trailing wisps of smoke from the smudging of handmade incense that my walking partner had brought. She stepped in ahead of me, crossing herself. I made my own gesture of reverence at the opening, acknowledging the sacred intention we had come to manifest. Step by step, through the gentle curves and hairpin turns that comprised this labyrinth, I placed my foot as on holy ground, knowing that it is I, actually, who am the holy ground.

Along the winding path, I held the posture of fear, a permanent flinch. It is a mental posture that I have maintained for decades but that has become a physical necessity in my pain of the last few years. The fear has kept me a literal captive in my own body as the muscles and joints pinch and ache. But walking into the path, I held the posture deliberately, gazing with the mind's eye straight at the fear, regarding it, admitting that both fear and flinch had served a holy purpose: survival of soul and mind.

I met my partner in the center. She planted her candle in the ground, among the rocks and pebbles of the tiny altar that grows there from the offerings of the pilgrims. Contrary to custom, I had brought nothing to leave in the labyrinth. This ritual was, for me, not about leaving something behind but about transforming something within. So instead of a tangible offering, I made a prayer of my body, with my body. Through a series of mudras, yoga-like gestures of the hands, speaking from that soul-place beyond words, I offered the pain and fear and flinching and utter terror to that sacred space. I submitted humbly to the spiritual path upon which I have been set, asking that I find authority over the demon fear, that it would be a companion on the journey rather than a jailer in my prison. I acknowledged the holiness of all things, even the demons, who still act according to a higher plan.

Then I bowed to show respect to the power of grace that sanctified the space. And I walked back out of the labyrinth. Or did I? The change in perspective that I sought in the center of the labyrinth is not complete, my body and mind do not yet fully believe that the demon Grace is under my control.

After the walk, my partner and I entered a tiny, spiral-shaped chapel, steeped in the prayers of the many supplicants before us. In the center of the chapel was a small sunken space that drew me in. I left my partner on the wall-bench that circled the chapel and sat on the floor in the very center of the spiral. Why had I been pulled to this place?

The work of Peter Levine, one of the foremost names in the field of trauma and trauma recovery, demonstrates that the natural response of an animal (or human) to a perceived life-threatening situation, after the fight-flight-or-freeze condition has ended, is to release the enormous quantities of fear-induced hormones like adrenaline through a period of shaking or trembling. In his work with recovery, he found that people who have been allowed to have this period of trembling rarely if ever have post-traumatic reactions. Similarly, people with PTSD who can call up in their bodies the memory of the trauma (whether the memory is conscious or not) will nearly always experience some kind of shaking, however small or large, as part of their release.

Cross-legged on the chapel floor, I sat with my hands resting on my knees, awaiting whatever had called me into this space. The tiny trigger point in my shoulder, where pain so often grabs me, tensed and a powerful electrical impulse shot down my arms. Both my hands twitched and clenched. My left hand started to shiver, then shake, and finally to flail. The muscles in my wrist and my forearm spasmed, the nerves firing completely without my conscious control. The intensity of the shaking was enough to hurt, the muscles were contracting so hard. Faster and faster, harder and wilder, my arm danced with the demon. I wondered if my whole body would be pulled into this last dance of fear, the birth spasms of freedom.

I have no idea how long I sat there with my arm shaking, at least five minutes, probably less than than fifteen. What I do know is that the trembling waxed and waned three times before the wave passed off me.

By the time I got home, I was completely wrung out. For the next several days, I was incapable of much more than brushing my teeth. I had the classic detoxification symptoms--weakness, flu-like digestion, headache, general aches and pains.

During the rest of the month, the shaking and spasming of my left arm would come over me many times, fortunately without the flailing, since it often came while I was driving or laying in bed at night next to my husband. Each time, it left me tired and drained. But somehow also liberated.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Preparation for a Prayer

Last spring, as I approached a particular NAET treatment, I became inexplicably anxious. I looked for ways to procrastinate, postponing appointments, finding other things that just needed to be treated first, forgetting to do the necessary preparatory work. The morning of the treatment, I awoke from a dream that my father had had sex with me. It was repulsive: his casual use of me. I went into my healer's room shaking with a fear I couldn't explain.

During the treatment, I had a conversation with my dead mother that, by midnight that night, indicated to me the depravity of the sexual abuse of my childhood and adolescence. I began to think I had repressed memories far beyond the few incidents that I could recall. It was a realization that tipped the axis of my identity sideways.

The apprehension with which I'd gone in for the treatment began to make sense.

Tomorrrow morning, at the height of the full moon eclipse, and some conjunction of Venus and Pluto that my astrologer assures me is auspicious, I will perform a purification and initiation ritual. My intention is to strip away the denial and repression that keeps me from realizing my spiritual potential, to purify my vision, and to commit myself to my life's calling more deeply, though I will not know really what that is until the blinders fall away from my inner sight. It is a step of faith, fidelity to the path, because I know that the rigors of vocation will be more than I can imagine at this point.

The trepidation that wavered into total terror, then rushed headlong into stunned horror, that accompanied last spring's NAET treatment also finds me now as I prepare for this coming ritual. What knowledge am I about to face? To what life am I committing myself?

The ceremony itself is little more than minor theater with fire and salt, psychological smoke and mirrors. But psychologist-priest that I am, I know the power of theater to give life to the soul. It is a powerful statement of faith, of my willingness to follow a calling I've denied my whole life.

It is that commitment I fear. What if it is too hard? What will it cost me? It will, of course, cost me everything I have. That is what callings are. They demand your life, one way or another.

This ritual is a declaration that I am willing to meet that price. I will follow the truth that is yet to be revealed, lead where it will, cost what it may.

I shake with reverent fear, holy terror, and determination. The demon in my head, who is not yet convinced that this is grace, screams in pain. A door is opening into new depths and the migrainous screeching of its hinges alerts me to the potential horrors lurking within. Do I really want to enter? How can I not and hope to live with myself?

Would that this cup should pass from me. But be it not my will, but Thine.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Haunting

Halloween. The veil between the worlds of spirit and body wavers and thins.  Knowledge and fear of knowledge, consciousness of The Unknown, are close at hand.  Ghosts walk, demons dance, all the skeletons in the closet rattle.  I am tense with horror at what I am about to call up, at my own deadly courage in facing the shade that hovers.   

A year ago, I was lying here in my bed, weeping again from exhaustion.  It was 7pm, the trick-or-treaters were in full parade.  One daughter was downstairs dispensing candy to the crowds and laughing with the neighbors; the other daughter pacing the floor, waiting for a ride to a party who never showed up. I was so tired, fatigued from my hysterical illness, the six weeks of continuous bleeding, the runaround in the health-care system.  I drove my daughter to her party, shaking like a palsied old woman.  Three hours from now, I was checking into the Emergency Hospital.

A year of doctors and tests that told no story, of healers and pills and therapies that dug new stories out of the depths of lost memory.  I lost forty pounds; it all found me again and brought extra.  I've been to a dozen doctors. I've consulted astrologers, psychics, and charlatans.  I've been hopeful and morose, resigned, and suicidal.  I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in analysis, diagnosis, meditation--scouring my case history for clues, making peace with skeletons in my past, finding skeletons lurking that I never suspected.

Last Christmas I lay in my bed, wishing I were dead.  Lent came around to find me hopeful of a resurrection into new life, a renewed spirit.  I wondered what would grow from my broken body and bruised heart.  Grace had cracked open my life, deeper than I imagined possible.  The self I laid down is dead; the self that rises now, I still don't recognize.

Not two weeks after my Lenten post, I lay on my healer's table, confronting my long-dead mother.  More than one of my sensitive friends told me that I had an attachment, that the ghosts of uneasy souls lay in my spirit.  My mother appeared to me with remorse, anxiety and longing.  Death had given her a new perspective of our lives.  She begged my forgiveness for her sins.  She warned me of demons hiding in my psyche.  She gave me few words but what she said turned everything I remembered of my childhood upside down.

It felt like my memories, and the meanings I attached to them, were a kaleidoscope, a familiar pattern of sights and sounds and feelings.  But Mom came and shifted the lens just a quarter turn.  All those  pieces suddenly fell into a different pattern with all new meaning.  Everything I thought I understood about myself, my childhood, my family was new.  I had stepped into a parallel universe, a Twilight Zone.

But how could these implications of my mother's words be true?  I had no recollection of anything that supported what she suggested that day. I was haunted now as I'd never been when her spirit had lingered.  I'd watched her fade into the light of my healer's window but I was burdened now with a new, terrible truth I couldn't accept.

My lack of confirmation weighed heavy, though the scars of the truth were now clear.  I felt like a physicist who hadn't seen the unknown planet but knew it had to exist because of its effects on nearby space were obvious.  Suddenly, the many questions through the years from psychologists and psychics weren't so absurd.  Perhaps the wounds they suggested had happened.

Then the memories began to leak out.  In dreams.  And flashbacks.  Glimpses of sights and sensations that had no context but I could feel them in my body, gagging me, tearing my most sensitive places, burning my belly, the gall strong.The demon danced always just out of sight, daring me to call him by name.

My body is the battleground of this fight to own my memories.  I was struck with Bell's palsy; I lost part of the vision in one eye, and have been tortured with pain that threatened to blast my brain out through the sutures of my skull bones.  The medicines and therapies prescribed to lessen the pain, served also to weaken my defenses that blocked these memories to begin with.  The more I mediate the pain, the more the demon dances and, by force of long and well-ingrained habit, I try to repress him.  I am about to start my third round of remedy/therapy combinations that will safely exorcise this evil from me.

I long to name this demon with confidence.  Fetch him to dance to my tune.  Tame him to work for me in healing, not destroy me.  As I write, a muscle under my eye is twitching, my whole body aches in a permanent flinch, the frozen trauma caught in the muscle memory I can't yet allow fully into consciousness.  

Tonight I step into the circle, howling my terror, singing my strength, this demon is mine.  Bring to consciousness the fears and the memories that terrify. While the veil to the unconscious is thin and shifting, when the power of those saints who passed before us lingers close, I invoke Grace.  The demon Grace who dances, not to terrify but to save me from what I could not be permitted to see.  Grace, whose blindness now will be sight, I call you to transmute from fear to love, no longer Death but Life.  

Tomorrow, I go to a Franciscan labyrinth to honor All Saints Day/Dia de los Muertes.  I will walk into the path as to the grave, to bury my fears and traumas.  The dreams and knowings I call forth tonight will go with me tomorrow into the labyrinth. I will bring the demon fears with me, but in the holy center space where grace happens, he will be no demon to me. When I come out, it will be wisdom that walks with me.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10 Things on Thursday

Ten Things I'm Afraid Of:

1. I'm afraid that I will be regarded as a dilettante blogger because I don't blog every day. But I'm afraid if I blog everyday, I will end up with mostly frivolous posts.

2. I am afraid of being Stoopid. My hysterical illness has mucked up so much of my executive functioning that I am just a dingbat all too often. I'm afraid that my hysterical illness has stolen so much of my brain that I won't ever be able to write consistently and reliably, that I won't be able to "just show up" to my writing.

3. I am afraid i will lose my mind altogether. I hate that I can't be counted on to organize the family's finances or even the grocery lists with any certainty.

4. I am afraid that I won't provide my kids with the social skills and education that they deserve. I am afraid that my own disabilities will create disabilities in them. I'm afraid that I did them a disservice by homeschooling.

5. I'm afraid I've wasted my intelligence on fundamentalist thinking and haven't got anything left now that I'm not a fundamentalist anymore.

6. I'm afraid that the best thing anyone will be able to say about me at my funeral is that "she loved her kids". But I hate that I can't see loving my kids as a valuable accomplishment.

7. I am afraid of dying before I'm fifty (like my mother). I am also afraid of being old before my time.

8. I am afraid that I will let the limitations of my hysterical illness hold me back as much as I let fundamentalist thinking and religious addiction limit me.

9. I am afraid that I make no difference in my world.

10. I am afraid of fear.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vanity of Vanities

 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Psalm 22:14-15
My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.  Job 10:1

It seems my whole life I have been finding myself in the Scriptures.  The psalmists, the prophets, they knew my aching fatigue, my soul-deep exhaustion. I have carried agony in my heart long before the pain in my body caught up to me in middle-age.  These poets and preachers felt the longings of my heart from my earliest years.  They gave consolation that I am not alone in crying out for relief.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:28-29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31
The same Scriptures gave me consolation that relief was possible, that God wanted to give me strength and rest.  If only I took his “yoke and learned of” him, then I too could run and fly and rejoice.  For at least thirty years, I have sought nothing more.  Yet, still I lie on my bed and sigh.  I am simply too tired to weep.

I have read the Bible and I have prayed.  I have “waited on the Lord”.  I have sought the wisdom of the medical industry and the healers.  I have taken pills; I have changed my diet and my habits.  I have analyzed my psyche and shamanically “released my attachments”.  I have begged for death.  I have begged for new life.  I have found neither.  I quit begging and tried to “screw my courage to the sticking-place” and “just do it”.

Everyone from the Old Testament prophets to the New Age healers, from Shakespeare to Nike ads, the pill-pushers to the diet-pushers to the snake-oil sellers, all promise salvation.

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.  That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.  I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.  And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.  Ecclesiastes 1:14-17

Monday, October 15, 2012

Longing for the One Who Denies Me

I have a question related to a comment you posted on [another blog]  I hope you don't mind.  You said:

"I grew up a third generation Christian. When new converts would come to our church or I'd help out my dad with his work with street people and addicts, I used to wish I hadn't grown up in a Christian home so that I could see God's grace as actually saving me from something. These people with their newly-converted zeal--which sometimes lasted for many years, at least as long as I knew them--had an experiential understanding of salvation that I could only glimpse intellectually. My Christianity was a mental exercise of theology--doctrinal statements, lists of rules, and worldviews--I longed for what those homeless drunks found in God. What had I been saved from after all? My big sins were arguing with my brother and having "an attitude" with my dad, and those certainly didn't go away with a conversion experience. I never saw that I had been "saved" from anything nor to something that was experientially different than my "former" life."
 I ask, have you ever found an answer for that longing and dissatisfaction?  I ask because that is my longing too.  I have been a Christian since I was 5ish.  I know I didn't fully understand it all at age five but I did have a heart for my parents God.  That faith matured until I though that he was my God too.  But that longing to truly have that fervor for the Lord, to be truly saved from and FOR something has never left me.  It ate at me thorough my childhood as I wrote stories and poems of a God who SAVES.
Now, I am tired of waiting for that salvation.  I long for the feelings of redemption but I fear that God has forever denied me this.  I grew up in a house allergic to Christian emotions and I am honestly about sick of Christianity.  I am sick of longing for something and loving the One who denies me it, then beating myself up for wanting it and telling myself to submit to an intellectual faith.
I know that you are a complete stranger, if this letter is just too personal I am sorry, please ignore it and know that in no way am I trying to be rude or to dump my problems on you.  I am simply approaching you because you wrote exactly what I was feeling and I hoped that perhaps you had found the answer.  Thank you for clarifying what had been simmering in my hear for a long time.

"I hoped that perhaps you had found the answer.”

I certainly haven’t found The Answer, but I have found An Answer, sometimes.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that I had to leave Christianity to find it.  In every flavor of Christianity that I experienced growing up—dozens of different denominations and teachers but all of the same basic fundamentalist Evangelical genre—God was always this distant, self-righteous, easily offended, jealous/possessive tyrant who used Jesus alternately (depending on the teacher) as bully-boy to enforce his Will or as whipping-boy on whom to take out his displeasure with me.  Of course, that was rarely the direct teaching I got, it was taught implicitly in “live right to please God”.  The cognitive dissonance between the explicit teaching of “for God so loved the World” and the implicit next phrase that he’d rather kill his own son than meet directly with humanity baffled me for years.

As a very young child, as I suspect most children do, I had some visceral understanding of unity with Love and Life and the indivisibility of Creator and Creation.  Over time (and through some traumatic experiences) that intrinsic awareness of Love Divine was co-opted into language of self-hatred and bigotry and performance.  Despite my best efforts to make sense of a god of love who has damned all people to eternal torment if they don’t live bounded restricted lives of martyred self-abnegation, which was called abundant life, I just couldn’t accept it.  Somehow, in that place where I knew things that my Evangelical worldview said couldn’t be known, I knew that God was more than some bipolar sky cop (as a commenter on my blog called him).  Somehow I knew that love and punishment could not be synonymous (though I still get that mixed up).  So in my mid-twenties, I began walking away from Christianity. 

It took me a good five years to completely leave the religion and begin living a thoroughly secular life.  Five years and the support of a contentedly skeptical agnostic husband whom I married during this period.  I tried to be an atheist, denying both the tyrannical god of Christianity and the Divine Love I had once known but I found myself drawn to people who had found other means to manifest their spirituality—Pagans, Witches, Buddhists, social justice and tree-hugging do-gooders—I just couldn’t leave the God Question alone.  Finally, in my mid-thirties, I found in yoga a place where I could quiet my brain and all its doctrinal doubts and declarations, where I could simply Be and let God meet me. 

In the quietness of meditation, my mental chatter finally shuts up, quits repeating to me all the noise of doctrinal “faith as intellectual exercise”, and lets God speak in silent fullness.  I developed a very ecumenical spirituality of Pagan earth-loving, Catholic saint-commemorating, Buddhist mindfulness, Hindu-originating yoga, and totally commercial Easter Bunny/Santa Claus rituals and family festivals.  I became a glutton of religious smorgasbord.  But it grew out of a healthy awareness that God was present in all these traditions in a way I hadn’t found him in Christianity.  But I kind of burnt out from all of it.  Largely, I suppose, because I still hadn’t let God be God—I hadn’t truly renounced the god of Christianity as I’d known him, I was just trying to drown him out with these other practices. 

Somewhere in the mix, I began reading the works of the mystics, mostly medieval, mostly Muslim/Sufi and Monastic Christian, and I was happily astonished to find that the God that they all wrote about having met was remarkably similar to the God I met in meditation.  Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Rumi, Hafiz, Meister Eckhart all seemed to know most intimately this same God of Love, of renewal, of creation, of compassion.  And they all were at odds with the conventional God of their religions.

It took developing a chronic hysterical illness in my mid-forties for me to begin re-examining Christianity from the perspectives I’d learned through my years as a heathen.  I realized that in rejecting Christianity so vehemently, I wasn’t embracing all traditions with tolerance and a willingness to learn, I had become an anti-Christian bigot.  Logically, I knew that Christianity couldn’t be any better or worse than any other religious tradition; they all have better and worse expressions. In order to become whole, I needed to exorcise the demons that still inhabited my soul, making me fearful, inspiring me to hatred.  I needed to find the God I knew within Christianity, as I’d found him in so many other places.  I’m still working on that.

So, yes, I have found a communion with the Divine that fulfills me and I find comfort in reading so many that have come before me who found that same communion.  But no, I have yet to find a community of fellow God-finders with whom to corporately commune. That is what I long for.  A group who comes together to meet God, each in our own way, perhaps, but together.  The internet has been marvelous for connecting me with people who seek the same God but often at great physical distance from me.

I don’t know if my experience will help you find God—or more realistically, help God find you—I hope so.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It Is Well

Rivers seem so calm and relaxing nowadays in our automobile-centric society. But once upon forever before the interstates, those smooth and gentle rivers were the lifeblood of transportation and commerce. Traffic on the rivers WAS the traffic. The river supported humanity and nature alike.

When peace like a river

Flows through me with the stuff of life itself

When sorrow like sea billows roll

Those waves of destructive regeneration pour over me. When grief chokes my spirit

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me

After rushing winds and pouring rains, after still small voices,

To say, it is well with my soul.

My body may break and my mind my crumble but with my soul

It is well.

Oh, lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight!

When my commitment to the practice of wellness shall connect with sacred wholeness, holiness.

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Blessed hope, blessed rest for my soul.

Mahalia Jackson sings.

the usual backstory on this song

a fuller and more interesting back story on the songwriter than I've read before

Monday, October 8, 2012

Demons Guard the Door

The demons are duking it out in my head tonight. A migraine is squeezing my eyeballs and pounding the walls of my brain. I have felt a duel of some proportion coming on for a few days. At first I thought it was some kind of sinus infection resulting from that cold and small fever I was fighting. But then I realized the militant action was amping up every time I gave thought to the latest series of half-remembered dreams I've been having.

Some months ago, in an NAET session with my healing dude, I experienced the first awareness of a whole mess of memories being repressed. All progress on my recovery, physical and spiritual, came to a screeching halt. Minuscule glimpses have leaked through to my consciousness, always at great cost in emotional and physical pain. My psyche has gone to great lengths to lock these memories away so that I could survive and doesn't relinquish custody of them lightly.

I've been dreaming again of things I could never admit--to myself, much less to anyone else. The dreams are wrapped in the coded language of the unconscious and even so I only remember fleeting images upon awaking. But my body remembers.

All of me aches with the desire to acknowledge the memories. Yet my muscles clench tight in a permanent flinch that forces the horrors out of sight. The battle between being safe and being free rages in my very tissues. My brain throbs. My belly heaves. My innermost parts burn with exquisite agony of knowledge that cannot be spoken.

The skeletons in my closet rattle and writhe. I long to teach them to dance. But they do not respond to my direction for I know not their name. The demons at the door, charged with my survival, won't let me in. They fight me with all the ferocity of the cornered animal I once was.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

Never quite got around to organizing my thoughts into a post yesterday. I'm trying not to feel guilty about that. Missing a day so soon in the post-every-day thing. I'm trying to remind myself that it isn't important, I haven't lost my class standing or grade point average, didn't miss my chance for promotion or a some great new job, nor will anyone whose respect matters care (or likely even notice) that I missed a day. And certainly life happens to the most dedicated of us.

Somehow I feel as though I am obligated to some higher standard. That if my dedication to my craft were legitimate, I would be more wholly committed. That Real Men step up to the plate no matter what the distraction. Pain, chronic disease, constant fatigue, snuggling in bed with a surly teen to laugh together over a movie, all be damned in adherence to the stated goal.

Yet, isn't that belief what got me into this condition in the first place? Wasn't I taught that giving my all, my very life itself, to an ideal was the definition of commitment? That God despised the lukewarm and committed-when-it's-convenient and would spit the apathetic out of his mouth? (Although I now believe that interpretation is not at all what that verse in Revelation is taking about and, besides, do we really want to hang out in the mouth of God? What a crazy metaphor.)

Once I left fundamentalist sold-out-to-Jesus Christianity, it was easy to transfer that all-or-nothing pattern of living to my new ideals. After all, even outside religion, I heard from many bosses that I'd never get ahead in business if I didn't cancel my plans at their whim. That it's the first one in and last one out that snags the commendations and rewards. Workaholism is a national addiction.

Work hard, play harder. Just do it. Give your all to God. Religious and secular culture both conspire to guilt trip a martyrdom for the goal--regardless of the goal. The expenditure of your vital force is more important than evaluating the worth of the cause. Because if we stopped to give any really critical thought to it, most of the causes to which we sacrifice our all are merely flag- or bible-covered dollar-grubbing ventures. And even the ones that aren't, are they worth the loss of health, relationships, community that comes from giving a 110% to an ideal?

I'm so tired, literally physically exhausted, of all the ways I get shamed and blamed for letting some work slide in favor of fostering relationship--whether the relationship is with family, friends, or my own Higher Self. I get bullied on Facebook for not reposting some ideological meme, harassed by my family for not making dinner, guilted by my healers into "seeing how this disease serves you". The very last thing I need is more pressure from myself to conform to some external standard--feeling guilty for not posting one day--I am my own harshest disciplinarian.

I am sure that if the voice in my head that berates me for every missed mark, so many sins, each less than exemplary action, could be silenced (or at least limited to actually worthy standards), the multitude of external voices would be much easier ignored.

That is just the trick, though, isn't it? Silencing that inner chatter, the white noise, the monkey mind? Be still, says the Psalmist, and know. Know that I AM. With all due respect to Stephen King, It isn't a matter of "get busy living or get busy dying". It is a matter of breathing. Noticing the breath, what allows the breath to flow easier and what causes it to catch and stick in the chest.

Breathing. Just breathing is a good thing. Be still. And breathe.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10 Things on Thursday

Apparently 10 Things on Thursday is a popular item in these October blogathons.  I know I just posted a list but I think I used up my brain cells on yesterday's entry and feel like I'm coming down with something and just want to curl up with my cup of tea and turn out the lights.  So, here are

10 Things for Not Getting Sick
(or at least, for getting better faster.  Or at the very least, tolerating the bedrest)

1.              Chicken soup, preferably with lots of gelatinous stock for that beautiful, rich, healthy sheen across the surface.
2.              Hot herb tea, Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals is the tea du jour.
3.              Vitamin C, lots and lots of it.
4.              Zinc lozenges, Zand Elderberry is my favorite throat soother but I picked up a new one tonight.
5.              Jakeman’s Anise Throat Lozenges, a mentholated cough suppressant for night time.
6.              Cold and Sinus Blaster, an herbal spray remedy that will fumigate the tonsils and waft upwards—full of things like horseradish, cayenne, garlic, and extreme peppermint.
7.              Magnesium Malate to relax those achy muscles—also recommended for all chronic pain as well.
8.              Those Kleenexes with lotion—hopefully things won’t progress far enough to need them this time.
9.              A big comfy pile of pillows and snuggly bedcovers for hunkering down in the bed.
10.           And a TiVO filled with hours of old cartoons—Looney Tunes, Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Secret Squirrel, Squiddly Diddly, Tom & Jerry.