It has been too long since I’ve written here.
The cauldrons in which I have been being cooked have been hot and the burns in my heart are healing and working to stitch pain into learning and meaning.
This morning a memory bubbled up to the salty surface of my awareness. Strangely, it is a memory that not another person in my family currently recalls and yet is as clear as day in my mind.
I can see my small second story bedroom with my bunk beds in the house I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and our little dog Twink’s ever present four leggedness. I can almost smell the roses and lilacs on the east side of the house and the old yellow and green glider on the brick patio outside.
I remember that there was a day or two or three in a particular summer month where my 8 or 9 year old body suddenly lost its ability to move on its own and if I recall correctly there was a loss of feeling as well. The story once went that I was taken to the doctor and there was no rhyme or reason found for the why of this. I remember being carried from room to room by my Dad, and feeling frightened and even some sweet and subtle closeness as a result of my Dad’s warm body just a little more frequently pressed up against my limp body. It all returned as quietly and mysteriously as it had disappeared and I am left to share my memory with you all these decades later.
What was that and what gifts did it bear?
Why did this memory get spooned up into my conscious now again? As I stir and stir and am stirred again and again by the recent events of the world out there, and my inner challenges and conundrums, there does seem to be a common spice that surfaces that has to do with feeling and seeing, or the lack there of. I smell the scent of questions in moments of apparent choice or longing to take action paired up with the old patterns of paralyzation….as well as a sense of a deeper darkness pervading our inner and outer worlds.
A groan erupts involuntarily out of my body just now as I feel the weight of this very old and worn out pattern in me. The place where I have too often numbed out or gone into hiding, unable to believe that I have what it takes to move appropriately or speak with any value.
I never connected these places, but was that one young body’s response to the internal experience of feeling numbed out in the face of too much pain or being paralyzed in the face of an impulse to take action in response to painful inequities and disregard in the world around me?
I’ve always experienced myself as sensitive…I’ve heard myself say “too sensitive” at times. I am aware of a kind of coping strategy that perhaps I began back at that time, that allowed me to numb out to the pain that I felt so acutely in the world around me…especially around voices that were not heard or understood and so disregarded.
When I did allow the feeling…the hearing…the searing pain of the world, I felt inept to know how to respond…too small, not intelligent enough, too unsure, which resulted in imagining that to act would be an arrogant and so, unattractive or unacceptable move on my part.
In these times when the global news is so horrifying I am sensing that we are amidst a rampant epidemic whose symptoms have everything to do with numbing out to the painful news that seems to be in every direction. Once upon a time, not so long ago, we humans knew the news of only our small village, at times the news of what was happening out 20 miles or so from home…but most often we only knew the events of a very small group of people or even our own family. In this time of global technology, we are invited to be witness to, even force fed news from the entire world.
I do not believe that we as a conscious species actually has evolved enough to know how to assimilate such extremes of news and graphic descriptions of violence…and yet we feed ourselves that voluntarily on television, social media and in the theaters. Do we actually understand what is at hand and how we must usher ourselves into a kind of off gassing in order to not be skewed and damaged emotionally by absorbing such scenes and stories of abhorrent behavior towards others.
Recently a friend of mine revealed his distress to me when he realized he’d been in denial about the emotional impact of his aunt’s growing dementia. He realized he’d gone numb so that he was not even believing the reality of what this might mean to their relationship. Is what we are seeing a kind of automatic shut off valve occurring in us when the actual pain of the events in the world get too big, too much, too real? Does our emotional intelligence just decide to turn off the emotion? Or does it loose the capability to differentiate between what is real and something to respond to vs. something in a fictional movie? Have we hit our limit to responsibly or reasonably take in the painful events of our world and so are seeing the fall out of denial and inaction in our lives?…so many choosing to be “too busy” attending to things that are easier to assimilate and have control over vs.something so huge and vile happening out there in the world .
It is not easy to look… to turn towards the heart breaking events of the world and not be devoured by the pain or the guilt in our seeming lack of ability to make a difference to those in that arena. How do we do this and then not go numb to things we can attend to and make a difference to? This is a steep learning curve.
To stay distant and choose not to look may be dealing another impactful blow. Are we growing metaphorical cataracts that prevent us from being able to see our own darkness…our own blind spots? That IS the definition of blind spots…we can’t see them, but it is time to look for them, not to allow our denial take us deeper into blindness.
It seems the shadows are getting deeper. We must become our owl selves and learn to see in this darkness. We must say yes to our wolf wildness and be fierce and loyal to life and a wide range of authentic response.
Evolution can go many directions…it can degenerate our wise ways of responding or it can give us resilience and greater capacity to feel, to take action, to see in this darkness.
Pain is a participatory ally if we allow it to move us and open us.
Seeing can be a guide; an activator.
Compassionate and courageous action invites change.
Let’s do this together.
Remember....Strong back, soft front.