Today, I am going to save you thousands of dollars in counseling fees. If you can bear to dwell here for a moment, you may benefit greatly. And be disquieted greatly. My hope is that you ARE disquieted and that that challenges you to think hard thoughts and that those bring you great catharsis and, thereby, benefit. Sit down and take off your shoes. We are about to enter set apart ground…
The anatomy of our real Achilles-heal problems stem from stories we tell ourselves. These stories are stealth mysteries. Their formation is unconscious; it goes undiagnosed, unrecorded, uncelebrated, and generally unchallenged. Their existence is neither good, nor bad: it simply provides the structure from which we make sense out of our worlds. The stories themselves, though, have almost magical power for all of us. They are the paradigms which provide the architecture for our thoughts.We form them really young–before we could possibly be aware of them, and our beliefs, decisions, integration of our experiences, and thus destinies can be traced back to them. A logical conclusion for someone willing to live intentionally and authentically, then, would be to examine one’s story/ies.
Imagine how a kid would grow up whose story went something like this: “My needs are met. When I suffer pain, someone helps me put it in perspective and is there to comfort me. The people who love me enjoy being around me. Sometimes I go sideways and my people love me enough to help me get back in line. I have something to offer. I matter. And belong.” Or imagine that kid’s neighbor, “My people are so involved in their stuff that they scarcely know I exist. I don’t know where my next meal is coming from. I don’t have the skills to cope with life yet, and I might die if I can’t figure this out. If I ask for help, I may be ignored or ridiculed. I am in the way.”
One story makes us feel solid and healthy, proud of that kid’s people. The other story makes us feel like vomiting and calling child services. Both of those kids will grow up. The kids will develop beliefs, make decisions, integrate their experiences, and create destinies. They will choose mates and be parents and citizens. I imagine the shapes of those purely hypothetical stories will have an impact on each kids’ entire sphere of influence. What kinds of mates will they choose? What will be the plot-worthy conflicts in their grandkids’ stories?
Two points on a big bell curve to be sure. We are all on the bell curve.
My story is closer to the second kid. There was an undeniable sense of belonging, but it was overshadowed by two emotionally vacuous parents. I love my mom and we get along really well now. She is available like she wasn’t when I was little. We have had tremendous healing. My dad and I made peace a long time ago. Did they do the best they could have? No. Did they do what they did? Yes. Did they love us? Yes. Were they effective parents adept at raising healthy, emotionally mature kids? God, no. But this is not a pity party: this is a hard and honest look at my story, and I hope that by me examining my uncomfortable bits in the public square, you will feel encouraged to take a peek at your own in a way that provides an opportunity to maybe rewrite those stories whose plots aren’t working so well anymore. If you haven’t noticed, that’s what I am doing. I am not going to be a hapless circumstance of my own story. The buck stops here because I am not going to pass unexamined toxicity on to my kids. I will do my level best to let them know their worth.
Stick with me. Changing gears to get to the destination–that was the backstory…
I made a deal with YHVH when I was very young. I just figured this out in the last couple weeks, but here is the deal I made. “I know that I have a message to share. I recognize that I have been gifted with the ability to cipher this painful soul stuff. I suspect that this gift of awareness and creativity comes at a high cost. I believe that it will require me to be alone, without a soul mate. I accept the circumstance that I am in because I essentially have no choice, but here is the deal. You will give me long life because I have suffered enough already, I will not have to die.”
How about that?!! What a sophisticated little kid I must have been. Probably before I could write the alphabet (HATED not being able to write yet–should have been an indication!) I was negotiating my immortality and my measurement of suffering with the Creator. I internalized the belief that I would be required to do ‘it’ ‘right’. And in exchange for doing ‘it’ ‘right’, He would grant me freedom from further suffering and death. Just haven’t been able to figure out what ‘right’ looks like or what ‘it’ actually is…
Gotta admit it takes balls!
But there has been a growing disquiet in my soul. It is the gut-wrenching truth that we all face. It is the stuff that makes grown men buy sports cars and take mistresses. It is the stuff that makes married women leave unfulfilled marriages and return to their creative source. It is why addicts use. It is made up of more than one thing. It is the fact that we are all going to die, no matter what deals we have made. It is the fact that no amount of perfection in the future can make up for stains on the past. It is the heavy realization that in both eternity past and earthly future we are mixed bags. It is the recognition that we cannot strive our way into perfection and if we could, that perfection would not ensure immortality. It is knowing that no amount of understanding can lessen the impact of life’s sufferings.
It is being told that the normal progression of emotional maturity is being able to experience and integrate growing numbers and severities of blows and still maintain until we eventually die. And the devastation THAT leaves: you mean I am just finally willing to admit my escape-from-suffering-deal was a ruse and the numb I have used to prop up the delusion will give way to growing numbers and severities of blows until I eventually die? All the while my little-kid belief still thinks suffering, all by itself, will bring immediate death? That is a lot of death to take on in one day!
These lessons hurt me. I am grieving deeply. My spiritual rubric certainly helps intellectually but at the deep soul kind-of-emotionally-retarded part of me, it hasn’t ameliorated that fear. Nevertheless, I have not given up on making deals. And here is the deal I am making–or at least the determinations I am making. I am going to be a Samurai–maybe a ninja. If death is really the biggest fear that we can face, then I am going to stare him square in the eye. And I will neither show fear nor blink. Not being afraid of death requires living fully. Participating in our days. Loving our people and letting them know they matter to us and that we are richer for knowing them. Reaching out to new friends. Taking risks. Dreaming. Creating. Daring to hope–skepticism takes no courage. Either / Or doesn’t flip death the bird–it just takes the joy and discovery out of life, so down with either / or and up with both / and.
These are the thoughts of a spirit wrapped in a human as it grapples with the tension between the two.
I really appreciate you reading this one, whomsoever you may be. I hope you feel gutted and yet encouraged. Well, at least NOT alone 😉