I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more clearly I see myself (and the less I like myself and other people too.) What I mean is that the ideal image of the nice, kind self I once felt accurately described me became out of date. As the sides of myself that scare me or intimidate me have slowly crept out of the basement of my being, I am chosing to be forced to admit that I (and other people too) are not so nice at all! It is funny, because I embarked some years ago on a quest to know and love myself, and to live from my true self. Yet for many of those years, I persisted in idealizing others and denigrated myself.
So progressively, all of the parts of myself, all of the repressed feelings and censored aspects of my character that were stuffed so deeply in the dungeons of my own soul have come closer to the surface. They bang on the sturdy doors I have built against them. I know now that they won’t stop until I let them all out.
My childhood survival was dependent on my own ability to read my mother’s signals and to abundantly censor and monitor my own feelings and the expression thereof, since my mother could not stand for her children to be anything other or more than what she wanted or could tolerate. We constantly tiptoed around her, never knowing how she might behave or treat us. And my father never stood up for us, as he depended on my mother for his own sense of self and security. This initiation into life made it difficult for me to trust my own judgments and choices, because I was never encouraged to be myself. It has taken me so many years to learn to simply “be” without being completely terrified.
My mother cut me out of her life many years ago, when I decided that against all odds, I would lead my own life anyway – without her blessing or approval. For me, it was not that difficult a decision at the time, because the other option was not tolerable to me. My brother and sister chose to stay close to my mother and have “no life” of their own. Now I can see that each path has had advantages and disadvantages, but I still stand with my original choice…as difficult as it has been to stand alone. I still have some anxiety in dealing with people, and I debate with myself when I come up against a person who seems unpredictable, moody, uppity, overly confident, harsh or quick to anger. Of course, because in my early life I had to lose my internal compass in order to survive, I had re-set that compass on my mother’s time. That would make even the most heroic individual nervous, as my mother was a walking time bomb.
Today, I live a quiet life with few friends or relationships. I am raising my son, who is almost 14, on my own. What I would like to accomplish with the remainder of this human life is to repair my ability to love and trust…myself and others. I would like to feel proud of myself and of my ability to achieve my own goals…without fearing that if I do succeed that I will further condemn myself to a life without love. For that is the most basic and deepest fear that was instilled in me in earliest childhood. Anything that I could express, do, or be that was personal and unique to myself would kill all possibility of being loved.
This is the root of my dilemma with relationships. My metaphysical and spiritual searching have caused me to observe that life is a unique force in which everything is elaborately inter-connected. There is no separation, ultimately. This discovery has eased my sense of isolation, for I know that my mother was not able to take love and support away from me, although she tried her best to destroy me. Still, to undo the effects of that early conditioning takes some work.
I remember seeing an old master painting depicting Jesus meditating in the desert at the gates of hell, depicted as a black mouthed cave from which was streaming a horde of terrifying demons. I am not sure if I remember the image correctly, but, in any case, it seems to me that both Jesus and the Buddha achieved personal freedom and enlightenment by sitting quietly for a long period of time with just themselves for company, confronting their demons, one by one.
I think that the force of love, which is life itself, calls us to heal in each moment and encounter of our lives. Every time I feel uncomfortable or provoked in some way when interacting with other people is very likely an opportunity for me to see myself as I really am. If I am able to take those little demons by the hand and keep them upstairs with me, rather than rudely shoving them down a basement while putting on a sweet charade for others, I will creating the same healing action that Jesus and Buddha committed to for their own wholeness.