Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How Do We Heal from Tragedy?

It is with a heavy heart that I write here today to extend my deepest sympathies and Love to all those who have lost loved ones in the Connecticut shooting and to all in the periphery who are hurting.  We’re ALL affected when we learn of innocents being taken down, their lives ended in such tragic ways, and those left behind devastated by the loss.  It feels like life isn’t fair…and often it isn’t.  For many of us, myself included, we want to DO something, CHANGE something so that it won’t happen again.  It is in that ache to heal where we may find Love and we may see “God” in all the arms that reach out to comfort and all those who take action in some form.  But WHAT, exactly, can we do beyond being there to hold each other?

I believe that holding each other in our times of sorrow is the BEST thing we can do.  We can’t make it all go away but we can cling to each other until we can once again stand strong.  Surrendering to the pain doesn’t mean we’re giving up.  We simply have to allow the hurt heal in its own time, the way a cut finger heals.  We can’t cover it up with band-aids by forcing humor and positive affirmations on ourselves, thinking that if we make ourselves laugh and just "think positive" everything will be sunshine and roses.  Band-aids protect us from our hurts, but they don’t heal them. I’ve had two experiences living with another’s mental illness - my mother’s drug induced state and in a brief marriage to someone mentally ill.  I’ve known countless others living with it, working with it, and trying their best to heal it. 

As time goes on I realize how prevalent the state of being, that we call mental illness, is in this country.  I wonder if it is as rampant in other countries?  I wonder if it is such a growing problem because of our ailing environment?  I wonder if it is the greed of huge conglomerates that poison our food, water, and air and further prevent our bodies from receiving the proper nutrition and chemical balance?  I wonder if under-tested medications are making the problem worse?  I wonder what, if anything, is the solution?  I now know that keeping it a secret is NOT the answer.

The light that appears for me at this time is that I now have the courage to share my personal story with you and I invite you to read my preceding blog entry Letting the Wolf Out or Life is Messy, Installment II.  It is my sincere hope that by sharing this story, others will be able to release some of the shame and guilt that goes with the territory.  I hope you will share your stories with me and know that you aren’t alone.  I wish for miracles of healing wherever and for whomever that is possible.

   Blessings, Love, and many warm, comforting hugs, Robin

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Letting the Wolf Out or Life is Messy, Installment II

An article I read recently said that we can reach great depths of creativity when experiencing extreme emotion.  Since having lost my four-legged companion, I’m feeling more emotional so I’m opening the door to “let the Wolf out” – that howling creature that won’t leave until it gets what it wants. In this case, the Wolf I’m letting out is a story about the darker side of creating miracles, with my apologies to an animal that is normally quite benign around humans.  It is only when they are hungry, for easier prey than the physical flesh of homo sapiens, that they can become a vexation to what we THINK is our otherwise controlled existence.

The other night a friend asked me how I came to use “Merry Miracle Muse” as one of my personal titles.  My answer:  after forming a personal mission statement, I determined that my calling in life was to inspire others.  For a long time I thought that the only way to inspire people was by sharing what we would commonly call “the good” - those times when everything falls together and all feels right with the world, almost effortlessly. But who am I to say that someone can’t be inspired or learn from hearing a story that wasn’t so merry.  Laying my story bare in front of you may help you or a friend release some long carried burden.  For years now, The Wolf has been hungrily pursuing me to share a story that ultimately leads to beauty, goodness, and miracles yet it was not “pretty” getting to that place.  

 The story is filled with Love, yet not without its share of teeth-baring, grizzly, heart-ripping pain. But stay with me, please, because we are all given experiences where the hungry Wolf comes knocking and we feel threatened; times when we are brought to our knees with decisions we find too hard to make, choices where no one direction seems like the right one to follow.  Places where we fear being judged or ridiculed for our actions.  Looking back at many of my own crossroads, I see how a Loving God was trying to interject, to make the way clear, but my ears and eyes, or those of a loved one were closed.

 As highly functioning, often left-brained, linear thinking creatures we tend to see life as having definable boundaries, clear cut answers.  We create dogmas and systems to prove our thoughts true; if not the dogmas and systems of someone else, then we adopt our own.  But the natural world shows us that life is chaotic.  There is no fail-safe way to be in the world.  Great storms shift the landscape into unrecognizable shapes.  Water and ice turn rock into soil.  The sun bakes lush fields into desert.  Right and wrong, truth and justice are not as simple as black and white.

 What lead me over the edge toward opening the fearsome door to sharing a perilous story were not only the reminder of my personal mission statement but also going into deep reflection on recent Sunday sermon’s on the topics of right and wrong, good and bad, judgment and compassion, and the “real” meanings behind Jesus teachings.

 And so, the story begins…
Once upon a time, there was a man and woman who fell in love and were married.  They had a daughter and a son.  The Wolf burst in, huffed and puffed, huffed and puffed and finally blew the house down. The man, left his sick wife, his 17 year old daughter and three year old son.  “How terrible” you might be thinking.  “How wrong he was.  How devastating for his children.”  And there were those who thought those very thoughts.  Some shunned the man and talked behind his back.

Now let’s hear the whole story from the Wolf’s perspective:
Due to societal customs that said it was “bad,” to admit to such things, it was kept a secret that when the daughter was 6, the woman/mother began experiencing a modicum of depression.  All that doctors of the time knew to do was to try numbing her emotional pain with drugs.  The drugs were only a band-aid. Eventually the anguish in her heart and spirit turned into a lung disease called asthma and later, long bouts with infection that turned systemic.  More drugs on top of more drugs were administered which altered her once sweet, kind, peaceful, sensitive, and very loving personality.  Through no fault of her own she spiraled down a ruinous path of addiction and psychotic behaviors.  She was in and out of mental wards, psychiatric hospitals, and many times came very close to death. Consequently she was also addicted to blaming everything and everyone around her for her state of being, yet she threatened repeatedly to do harm to herself – again a victim of drug interactions too numerous to even identify individually.

 The man’s heart was breaking, over and over and over again.  He turned the other cheek 70 times 70 times 70 and laid down his life trying to fix his broken Beloved.  He never anticipated watching his beautiful wife disappearing into a storm beyond his control.  As the timbers of his emotional house shook and his heart trembled, he tried everything within his grasp, everything within reach of his linear thinking, and everything his dear, loving heart could muster to rescue her, to bring her back to him and his daughter.  He fed, bathed, clothed, and embraced the woman and the messiness of the situation.  In the eyes of his daughter, he was quite valiant and romantic in his attempts to keep love in the home and the youngster was often a co-conspirator in these grand acts of love.  But more often than not, these most glorious gestures were received by the wife/mother as though they were conspiring to do her harm, to make her worse.  Even the daughter was suspect.  Such is the demoralizing existence in the presence of paranoid, psychotic behavior, whether it be the body’s chemical imbalance or a drug-induced state.

 His great love for her even produced a son when the daughter was 14.  But the responsibility of motherhood had already been overwhelming and nearly non-existent for the previous 8 years and adding an infant to the mix was not enough to call her out of the noxious trance.

 The man was losing ground.  He himself began to spiral down in the destructive dance and the daughter began suffering a silent depression.  When the daughter was 17 and the son was 3, both father and daughter were in an enormous state of despair.  He had taken up habits to numb his own pain and left his beloved position as a minister, no longer able to give what the demands of a congregation required.  The daughter became shy and introverted, not knowing where to turn for guidance. He worked in a grocery store, barely surviving each emotionally charged day.  Both came to a point where the Wolf was howling so loud and blowing so hard, the debris of their house recklessly flying in every direction.  “Something” told the father that if he didn’t get out it would be the end of him...maybe the end of them all.

 This was, of course, the ultimate difficulty for the daughter, to be left with a very ill mother and a young brother who still needed a lot of care, while she herself was suffering.  For awhile she didn’t understand and was angry at her father for leaving.  The father didn’t give up on her, encouraging her to get a job and increase social activities to keep her from being swallowed up by the strong vortex of the downward spiral.  He took her for counseling and made sure her brother had additional adult care. Her anger was really sadness for a seemingly impossible situation and she knew deep down that her father did love her.  He loved her brother and her mother too, in spite of outward appearances.

 Two years later the man could see that his 19 year old daughter was indeed in danger of falling down the rabbit hole of her mother’s illness.  He urged her to get her own apartment.  The inner struggle that ensued within her was not unlike the one her father faced two years prior, and she was filled with guilt, shame, and a sense of hopelessness.  How could he have left a sick wife and two children?  How could SHE leave a helpless mother and her five year old brother?  What would become of them?  Hadn’t she been taught the lessons of Jesus, through the eyes of the Christian church, to be a “Good Samaritan” and stick things out through thick and thin, to lay down her personal well-being for another, even her life if need be?

 She made several desperate pleas to her mother to get well, to stop the twister of pain they were all caught in before the roof caved in.  Wouldn’t she please become the adult, the mother?  Wouldn’t she wake up and hug her, and make this terrible nightmare end? But the drugs, her mother’s “dis-ease” had control.  The Wolf was raging at the door and the wind was picking up.  The daughter nearly drowned in the trail of tears that fell as she packed up her bedroom amid rants from her mother about what a “bad” daughter she was…just like her father. 

 “Before the roof caved in…”  A striking image!  But what REALLY happened? 

   The Wolf stayed where he was needed, snarling and seething at the heels of the mother/wife/woman.  At least that was how the woman viewed it at the time.  She was blind to the Love swirling about the house.  The Wolf was finally freed to help the one who needed it most.  Help?  What kind of help can a Wolf offer?  Everyone that the woman was dependent on was gone – not only dependent on for food and shelter, but dependent on in an unhealthy way that kept her from healing.  There was no one left to blame.  She was finally alone with the Wolf, his howls growing louder by the minute and the woman’s groans shaking the rafters.  One can only imagine what it was like.  And in that skirmish, a miracle was born…
 My mother went into the hospital for the last time 6 months after I left to take refuge in my own apartment.  She got off the drugs.  She began caring for herself, got dressed in the morning, made the bed, and kept the house clean for the first time in years.  She found community in the church that meant so much to her in her youth.  She made contributions of her gifts and started to sing and paint and cook again.  She started taking care of her son and participating in his life in ways she had not been able to do for me as a child.  She made amends and created a new relationship with me, but only after a six month silence between us.  Without a word about her terrible past, she went straight to the work of making up for lost time.  She got a job, her own apartment, and a boyfriend she later married.  Much of this occurred within a short six months of “the roof caving in.”  She had a few relapses but finally, after 15 years of an emotional hurricane my mother was truly on the road to recovery. 
When I was 21, my Dad found the courage to share what life had been like for him during those years.  He told me that I didn't "come from bad seed" and that I could turn my life into something beautiful.  At that very intimate meeting he said, "Robin, we survived the war."  He found a woman to love, who received his love for the rest of his days, although he assured me repeatedly that he never stopped loving his “Dot,” my mom.  He went back to his ministry and once again resumed a more healthful, peaceful lifestyle in the quiet setting of small country villages where his parishioners could further receive the gifts he brought to this world.
 I was blessed to have my mother acting as a fairly healthy mom during the formative years of my life, from birth to age 6.  Years after the storm ended I took up a long journey to heal the aftermath of the storm.  My mother is long since gone away from this mortal plane, but leaves me with the story of her miracle…her heart and spirit that were finally able to hear the Wolf calling her back to her own joy and happiness.  She left me with my own miracle - the gumption to rise from the ashes and to live out my days in the joy of creating the healthiest possible life for myself and sharing it with others in whatever ways I can.  On this journey I learned that no one in my story was “bad” or “wrong.”  I learned that my father and I did the only things we could feel our way to doing at the time and in so doing, a miracle was allowed to unfold and my mother’s spirit found its way back to the land of the living.
In retrospect, I have often said I wished my Dad had left sooner.  I don’t know for sure but I suspect that my mother’s cyclone of pain would have continued if Dad or I had stayed with her, “taking care” of her if you will.  I have come to understand that his leaving, however difficult, was my Dad’s greatest act of love for my mother, for myself and my brother, and for himself. 

It is often said that the greatest potential for human change, lies in chaos and confusion.  Sometimes the Wolf comes to chase us out of our own way.  There is a natural flow to the universe and I believe that the Wolf makes himself known when we place blocks in the way and dam up the flow with our limited, black and white view of things.  We think we know what will happen -  ”If I do X, Y, or Z, then THAT will happen” – but we don’t know.  We try to think our way into knowing right, wrong, good, and bad.  We try to play it safe, yet in a chaotic world this is impossible.  We don’t know how the “right action” as determined by our minds, may be the opposite of what really needs to happen for a divinely “right” outcome.

It is not always as ghastly as this story happens to be, but it can feel that way.  Yet, we can let go of the struggle if we become quiet and listen to what the Wolf is trying to say.  In our case he was trying to tell my father and I that there was truly nothing WE could do of our own volition to help my mom.  The Wolf blew on the house and sent debris flying to evoke Dad’s instinct to save himself rather than commit suicide and to let him know that a greater life awaited us all.  Somewhere outside of the chaos, Dad heard the distant call that would ultimately lead to joy…to happiness for all of us, only attainable by letting go of what he once thought was the one and only “right thing to do” by staying with my mother through many torturous years.  It was only in his leaving that he was able to become the father that my brother and I so desperately needed and the man he came here to be.

We even try to tell ourselves that our personal well-being is not important. Because two thousand plus years and heaps of misguided translations lay between us and Jesus, we really don’t know for sure what he taught.  I believe he was on a path of discovery, seeking joy and happiness as much as any human, and if he had any success reaching his own heart/soul intelligence, he shared it.  I don’t know for sure, but I don’t believe he would ask us to live our lives out in agony, ignoring a call to heal and use our gifts in the world.   

The third Beatitude, usually translated as, “Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth,” can be translated from Aramaic as, “Ripe are those who release what is overly rigid, within and without; they shall receive strength and energy – their natural inheritance – from nature all around them.”  As a yogi, I recognize this as a very yogic teaching.  It is clear to me that my Dad finally was forced to release his rigid belief that there was only one right way, though he was only able to do it by coming to a place of surrender.  This letting go of rigidity allowed further releases, for God /Nature to take over and do its work in our lives - to give us all our natural inheritance.

 I do not believe in a God that uses suffering to “teach us lessons.”  Rather, I believe, it is up to us to realize that sometimes really, really impossible, hard-to-deal-with things occur, like hurricane Sandy.  We must allow ourselves to feel our feelings, release any idea that we can prevent such things, pick up the pieces and move on.  Other times it is possible to release the suffering that we ourselves create while trying to determine our path to peace and happiness with our minds, when often the path is clearly defined.  In my experience, it is the intelligence of our hearts in tandem with the soul that call us to break the dam and stop listening to the confusion of our tangled thoughts.
 When your emotional house is splitting apart at the seams, let go.  I invite you to risk tuning your ear to the call of happiness, to joy, whatever that may be for you as determined by your heart/soul.  As you follow that call, trust that you may be opening a door for one person or several to do the same.  Admit that you don’t know what is truly right or wrong, good or bad; that you don’t have the answers to life’s biggest dilemmas.  Live to become the fullest expression of you, love with all your heart's compassion in the best way you know how, and be open to learning new ways to do both.
One of my favorite Rumi poems says it well and I feel that Jesus, the man, would have agreed.  Each time I read it a new awareness is brought to light:

 “Be helpless, dumbfounded, unable to say yes or no.  Then a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.  If we say we can, we’re lying.  If we say “No,” we don’t see it, that “No” will behead us and shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything, beside ourselves, and only that, so Miraculous Beings come running to help.  Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute, we shall be saying finally, with tremendous eloquence, “Lead us.”
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty, we shall be a mighty kindness.”
Many Blessings of Love & Beauty to you.  And if this story helps you in any way, I hope you will find a way to share your story with me.
xo Robin