I’ve been reading Stephen Cope lately, books about performing your great work in life, whether it be about writing a book, dying for a cause, or rescuing people. The books emphasize how personal and deliberate the activities are.
They keep emphasizing what I have been saying for the past couple years: whatever it is, it must come from within. Period. It cannot be imposed from external circumstances. It involves conscious sacrifice. It always involves conflicting, if not downright contradictory, values demanding one’s allegiance. Which one to choose? It must be a choice. It is less a decision than a recognition of what one must do, regardless of of success or failure. I cannot not do it. This goes along with what I have been realizing the past few years: whatever I do must come from within. A goal regarding something I think I should do will be derailed at the first inconvenience. The first stubbed toe will be sufficient to make me rethink whether or not it is a good idea.
I spent the first fifty years of my life doing what I thought I should do. It was empty. You can’t make something have meaning that it just doesn’t. Living according to someone else’s value system does not make life worth living. I can attest to that. The question was what I wanted. I felt like I never had the freedom to even ask myself what I wanted until Barry passed. Then everything became all about me. Clueless me.
I told a friend that maybe I wanted to take our future road trip to the Dakotas. I had heard a lot about Native American spirituality and various haunted locations. I figured out this past weekend that what I am looking for is a place where I can sort out what is coming from within versus all the memories with all the associations I encounter in Lansing. What the heck do I feel? I need to be somewhere no one knows me, where I am not encountering everyone else’s agenda. So I kept coming up with answers like Deadwood or Fargo. I’m sure she thought I had officially lost it.
This all dovetails with my belief that we already know what we should be doing. The challenge is to uncover the truth that perhaps we are born with. Your destiny won’t feel like, “Oh boy! This is what I’ve always wanted to do.” It will more likely feel like, “Crap. Yeah, that sounds about right. I have to do this because no one else is in this exact position I am. This is what I was born for. And it is the only thing worth dying for.” I am reminded of Golda Meir, an Israeli Prime Minister. She was one of a handful of people instrumental in creating the modern nation-state in 1948. She was looking forward to spending some quality time with her grandchildren, after having neglected her own children to help build the fledgling nation. She was basically begged to run for the position by some of her fellow pioneers. It was not a dream come true. She reluctantly agreed. That is true performance of duty.
What I am talking about is the opposite of blind obedience. Hitler never killed a Jew in his life. He had a whole culture full of good, obedient Catholics and Lutherans to do his bidding. For every Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there were hundreds of mindless, religious minions. Religion was a highly destructive force in Nazi Germany in the bigger picture. Most churches extolled blind obedience. The Nuremburg trials were a turning point in human evolution. Every single Nazi had the same defense: I was just doing what I was told. The trials settled once and for all that conscience is an infinitely higher value than obedience. Obedience is a survival-based value: it is what you teach a toddler so they do not run out into the street and get killed by traffic. This is why religions thrive on blind obedience: it creates unthinking, less-than-human people. Authority is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. When authority has spoken, the thinking has been done for you.
Obedience is easy. Duty is gut-wrenching. It is deliberate sacrifice. That’s why it must come from within.
Trying to write a book has thrown me for a loop. My idea is all about connecting the dots. You can call it “insight”, “knowledge”, or give it another name, but we are all dong it, or at least trying to do so.
What I believe is that we already have the knowledge that we seek. Have you ever noticed that when someone says something that is true, it is less new knowledge and more of a recognition? When someone tells you something that you need to do, the feeling is, “If I could do that, I would have done so. Tell me something I don’t already know.”
What stops us from knowing what we already know on some level? Trauma. Distraction. Socialization. We are taught to know things that are wrong or taught not to listen to ourselves. And then there are all the competing interests clamoring for our attention. Our culture is so ADD it is ridiculous. Let us always remember that there are corporations that greatly benefit from deliberately directing our attention to benefit their ends.
I have heard that physicists believe the universe has to have eleven dimensions in order to make the math come out right. What lives within those other seven dimensions (given height, width, depth, and time as our current dimensions)? I say demons, angels, ghosts, inter-dimensional spirits, “gods”, aliens, and anything the mind can conceive of. It’s all out there somewhere.
How to access our knowledge? Some ideas include psychoanalysis, intuition, shamanism, seances, and, oh yeah (the biggie), meditation. Anything that includes the archetypal, the pan-human, and I am not even sure what else. One common theme among differing religions and cultures is the idea of eliminating intoxicants. Anything that prevents access to obvious, current knowledge and common sense is not a good idea. Even the cultures that experiment with altered states of consciousness are very controlled in their use of intoxicants, like ayahuasca. They acknowledge the hazards of going on inter-dimensional trips without an experienced guide.
I can meditate day and night and might not access much. Rather, I should say, I can only access that which is mine to access in the first place. Everyone has their own gifts that can be developed. I can go deeper into myself, but your area is probably much different than mine. Thirty years of dedication and training would only make me an expert at my very narrow realm. I call it the “Nutty Professor Syndrome.” Have you ever met a real genius? I have. Arthur Helweg. He taught anthropology at Wester Michigan University. Wonderful human being who could not dress himself. He would come to class wearing plaid pants, a striped shirt, and one of those jackets with patches on the elbows. So funny. It takes a real genius to make something complicated look “duh” obvious. But if you use all your brain cells over here in some specific area, the remaining areas get starved for attention. No one can be good at everything.
Maybe I have been asking the wrong question. Perhaps a better question is, “What do I need to know now?” Or perhaps, “What is the bigger picture I can help others with?” I don’t even know what the question is yet.
I have needed a lot of reassurance lately.
Sometimes, I have a shockingly low level of self-confidence. I have an MBA. I took care of everything for my husband with Huntington’s Disease for years. I should have ample confidence.
What’s up? Now I am actually feeling my feelings. In my 20s, my most common thought was, “I don’t have the time or energy to deal with this. I just have to do it.” I particularly remember an incident within a few years of getting married. We were having financial problems and I panicked and told Barry how I was feeling. Then he started reacting to my emotions. My thought? “Crap. The last thing I can deal with is his reaction to my feelings. I need to not share what’s going on with me ever again.”
So I did things, regardless of my feelings. I got a lot done, but growing emotionally was not one of them. I was too busy surviving.
After Barry passed, all I had was time. Time to process. Time to heal. And I’ve been doing the best I can. But, superficially, I make no sense. People are mystified at someone who is so articulate and yet has no self-esteem.
My lack of family support has had far-reaching consequences. Now I have good friends. But I feel behind.
Anger has been the theme of my life of late.
I was raised with the idea that anger is “inappropriate,” the word my mother used to batter me with. It was her favorite term to call me. It was abusive. Flat-out abusive. Normal emotions: not okay. Ever.
As I have learned about CPTSD (a la Pete Walker), I now understand that anger is really a protective emotion. It is the red flag that gets raised when you are mistreated. It is normal. It is the alarm bell that goes off when situations are unfair or need rectifying. It is like the check-engine light of your emotional world. Something is out-of-whack.
When things that are perfectly normal get disapproved of, it is like putting duct tape over your check-engine light. Your car is about to die. In the middle of the freeway. And you don’t know. It will be a shock.
I got out of Goodwill because of their unfair treatment of me and the other good workers in order to defend the poor workers. The situation is bad. But, a few years ago, I might have stayed indefinitely. I would have blamed my feelings instead of listening to them. I am not big on obeying every whim, but I am now at a place in life where I know that emotions are information. Something is trying to get through to me.
Thank you, Gabor Mate. He is the one that showed how auto-immune problems are directly related to suppressed emotions a lot of the time and that that emotional repression is about 80% female. It is more okay for guys to be angry. For women, it is “inappropriate.” And we pay the price physically, emotionally, and in every other conceivable way.
Anger is about having boundaries. It is a key to grieving. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To not deal with anger is to end all emotional growth and recovery.
It is also a key ingredient of addiction. I wonder now how angry my brothers are, especially my oldest one. When I was a teenager and he was drunkenly slamming doors and basically being an idiot at his own daughter’s birthday party, he was clearly angry at something. My level of understanding at the time was non-existent. It was a dysfunction-orama, one that my mom got mad at me about. As if I was in charge of anything. Perhaps that is the point: in dysfunctional families, no one is in charge. All those emotions and no one is dealing with any of them.
Now it is 2022. My brothers have cirrhosis. The emotions never got dealt with. I am out of the family and my health is better off because of it. I wonder how angry they are now. Now that it is too late to make any meaningful changes, I wonder if anyone is angry about that. I doubt any learning will occur. All I seem to feel anymore is grief.