12 February 2012

The Mountain Top Within

The family except for me is gathered in Louisville for what doctors say is my mother's last weekend. (I'll just say, "What a world! Where a human has the audacity to make such a statement aloud...") From the hospital, my son texts "This is surreal" and I reply "I cannot imagine."  This is to say, I could make something up but never having sat with someone dying or with friends and family of someone dying, I'm ignorant of the components or contour of such an event.

Over the last few days, though, new ideas and images have started popping up about "the family".  (I wrote "my family" and erased it. Standing now in the new World of "disowned by family", finding language is tricky...)

For instance, could it be that the reason my mother never answered any of the letters I wrote to her over the last 17 years inviting a reconciliation between us was because she was already sick? And since hiding her illness/saving face with/keeping a secret from family, her personal physician, coworkers, neighbors and church members was paramount, she avoided the intimacy of reconciliation with "the big mouth" daughter?

There was never anywhere to hide with my mother and me. From the time I was very young, I was punished and reprimanded for inappropriate statements and questions....statements and questions that any "intelligent" person knew better than to voice. In our house it was understood that to be seen as "not intelligent" was (and, based on my sister's blistering rant of the other night, continues to be) the ultimate disgrace.

In the last few days, I am awaking to the depths at which I internalized the censorship of my childhood. This, after years of therapy and prayer! This, despite being described by a surprising number of people as outspoken or blunt. I thought I was free but the deeper shackles have jumped into clear view in the last three days.  The awakening is marked by an unexpected freedom of expression in my written and spoken communication.

Last week, a friend suggested that I remove a photo of him and an old acquaintance of mine from one of my Face Book albums. Though it had been over a year since I posted it, my friend was apparently seeing the photo for the first time and posted a comment.  My reply to his comment was "shudder..."  This was a shame-faced nod to the strangeness of that time and my relationship with the acquaintance.

Of course, I removed the photo. I have no investment in making sure that what I share via Internet remains there.  What was noteworthy for me was that, in an attempt to be polite or nonjudgmental, my friend's suggestion lost focus and became what I called "indirect":  it wasn't clear why he wanted the picture removed though it seemed like he wanted me to know why.  Something about being "mindful of all the information aggregation going on out there and the implications of who we associate with ..."

The situation reminded me of my relationship to family:  it seemed I was being informed, again, that my pants were down around my ankles, again, in public. I was stunned when the sense of familiarity hit me. I felt the weight of half a century of fear...

of saying the "wrong" thing in public
of feeling the "wrong" way about something and revealing I am not a decent...intelligent...real woman
of being punished or scolded for not being afraid when any decent...intelligent....real woman would be afraid
of making a misstep and being seen for the crass...unintelligent fake I really am

What's happening now is not a discovery of new information. All or most of this was uncovered in my first year of therapy. What's happening now is a dawning awareness that contrary to what I thought, my house is not clean of this shit. I am still periodically wracked with a sense of not knowing how to navigate the waters of human civilization.

What's happening now is an expanding awareness and appreciation of Power of Now teaching.

Enlightenment is not the erasure of egoic mind. It is an awareness of the machinations of the egoic mind and awaking from the illusion that the contortions and cavorting of the egoic mind are "the real world."

Joni Mitchell sings:
I know - no one's going to show me everything
We all come and go unknown
Each so deep and superficial
Between the forceps and the stone
Before and after the show this weekend (Vagina Monologues, V-Day, Oakland), in conversation with other women in the cast, I was struck by how committed to our own perceptions and opinions we are. In nearly every conversation, whether discussing make-up or the Republican primaries or Occupy Oakland, each woman ultimately made her way to a space, a platform, and began to passionately outline and advocate a way of looking at people and "things."  "Each so deep and superficial...."

The lesson for me from these up-close, second-person encounters with Ego is a heightened awareness of the potent persistence of the "illusion of separation" among us; how easy it is to fall into a conviction of perspective that paints a convincing "me against the world" scenario -- at least within our own minds.

I pray to reside in the realm of Being where opinion is seen, without judgment, as Story. I pray to live always in touch with the great stillness that is the home of Love.

So, as my mother lays dying, I am neither reconciled nor disowned. These terms apply to the Story of our lives together.  We are so much more than the Story. Perhaps Death will allow her and the rest of my family an awakening to the majestic reality.