I hear those sobs and I am taken back twenty-five years. The sound of suffering that reaches all the way back, all the way down, across a lifetime. “I feel so invisible, it’s all I can do to not completely disappear.” I pull over on the side of the road and listen. It’s hard to be quiet when all the impulses for protection and justice rage through the veins.
Family. The place where we must often stay and watch, witness the enactments without moving or speaking or making it our own, personal business. Family. Where every move the other makes does affect us deeply, because the blood that rages is shared blood. And the seed of their patterns, though they may play out differently, are born from the same womb.
When they fall, we fall. When they rise, we rise. No matter how you work it, frontier psychological thinking aside, we are in a line of people and we are in the middle of an ancient story. We don’t even know where we are in the story – sometimes we are just caught in acting out the part. It may not even be our part to play, but leftovers from someone behind us in the line who chose not to play out their role. Then we meet someone and marry. The stories entwine, we have children, and before we know it the story is multi-dimensional, in a kaleidoscope weave, changing color every half-turn.
I have wanted to make a call or write an email to one person for at least twenty years now. All that comes to say is, “What the hell!” In the end I refrain. I don’t want to cause more harm and don’t want my anger to backfire and hurt the one I love. So I idle and wait and try to find useful ways to help her endure.
When does witnessing turn to complicity? If he hit her it would suddenly be so clear, so easy, so justifiable. What about soul murder, slowly across so many years that it might look subtle to some, yet burns glaringly to me?
All I end up saying on the side of the road that’s worthy at all is, “My door is open, always open. When you are ready, if you decide, come.”
I wonder if in old age I will finally allow myself to be totally honest, and be just fine to watch the fallout. It may be more gratifying to watch that kind of falling than the kind that results from accommodating a person’s choice to not deal with their own life.
If there is one thing in this life that I try to embrace: Deal with your stuff! It might just change the course of history. It might just give the next one in line half a chance.
I think of Odysseus. Not sure why. Just that I can’t imagine him cursing his voyage, the trials and tribulations. I can’t see him saying, “Jesus Christ, not Scylla and Charibdus!” Life then was meant to be a journey, it was meant to kick your ass, and we were meant to be deeply lost because that was part of the process. I imagine the absence of shame about personal shortcomings, which probably left more room for strokes of courage to face up to the challenges of being human.
But now. Jeez. Now we seem to be so overtaken with isolation and shame about having feelings at all. Or some people I know….and I have to admit that after all the new-age processing guck I have been through, I still, too, have shame for feeling vulnerable – as if we are supposed to sail through life in a logical, linear way, moving toward some attainable pinnacle ahead in full sight. Where did our ideas about this life come from anyway?
Why would we be willing to ruin a life, a family, simply to preserve an idea about who we are? Why not be open to throwing it all to the wind if it could save us and those we love? Why not seek out the opportunities to be taken to our knees, if that might be the thing to liberate us from ourselves and from the historic family trance?
This is why I love Rumi and have been known to carry his poetry on my body. Sometimes, through some stages of the voyage, we have to carry the ruthless poems close to our breast, on the body, clutching, to make it through. But not unscathed. Didn’t everyone read the classics in high school? We are supposed to be taken apart.
I turn now and look out this café window to find a young woman laughing. Her head is draped with a muslin scarf, her arms covered in tattoos, repetitive images of fetuses at different stages in the womb. Large gestures, she laughs with three other women – all of them undone, and unabashed about it. They don’t even try to hide it. We exchange a small smile and nod, this woman and I, and I know she is onto something – and she knows that I see it. And that’s all. A completely sane and easy-to-miss moment about the real task of the journey. What we’re really doing here. God, what a relief.
We are all in get up. Who knows what we really look like beneath all the garb. I think we have faces of angels…if we would but allow it to show. In all the interesting imperfection, an aliveness that becomes a guiding map. The hidden treasure.
I’m mad, no furious, and assured and feeling like medusa – even though I look like a conservative republican in my fabulous flower-print blouse. The rule this morning: if you feel like shit, wear something nice.
Are we not all on a rip-roaring journey? And doesn’t it make a world of difference when the one we love remembers to buy us a birthday present? That warm, unrequested cup of tea given freely? Even when we are in the belly of the dragon, it’s good to feel seen and loved.