Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Only Way Out Is Through

"I learn by going where I have to go."
~ Theodore Roethke
I have been an ass lately -- for at least the last month. I'm not sure what is going on, why I am sometimes harsh or insensitive for no reason, especially when there is never a good reason to act that way. The person who has suffered the most from this behavior is Kira, who I love more than anything or anyone else in the world. For that I feel awful.

It's easy to admit my mistakes.

It's much harder to look within to find the cause without my inner critic adding its voice to the self-loathing. There is no benefit in berating myself -- I can't undo anything by punishing myself.

Nor can I solve the problem by isolating myself, as though I could retire to a cave and simply wait it out, then emerge all nice and soft. Hiding will not solve the problem, either.

What I can do is look within, gently, and examine the behaviors and their sources.

Pema Chodron says:
You may be the most violent person in the world -- that's a fine place to start. That's a very rich place to start -- juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are -- that's the place to start.
I added the emphasis on that last part. I am not the most angry person in the world, but I am angry -- and I have been for most of the last 25 or 30 years. That is where I have to start.

When I was young, I celebrated my anger. I wore black, did drugs, hated the world. My life was a raging middle finger raised in defiance. It cost me a lot to be that angry, but I couldn't be any other way at the time. It's only been the last year or so that I could accept that I was doing the best that I could at the time.

When I got a little older and entered the adult world, the anger that was my identity was buried. I manufactured a new identity based on who I wanted to be. Over time, I became that person. But the anger remained, hidden, seething, presenting itself as self-destructive behaviors like smoking and drinking. It also fueled my successes -- the Freudians call it sublimation.

I've somehow made it to midlife without ever healing those old wounds that left me so angry.

Now, despite all the work I've done on myself -- the meditation and introspection, the mindfulness and therapy -- the anger is demanding that it be acknowledged, that it be felt and integrated.

When I am present to it, I literally feel that I will be devoured. It is a vast gaping maw, with sharp jagged teeth, and it only wants to chew me up and spit me out. Mangled and bloody. Broken. Destroyed.

The only way out is through.
The word "surrender" is often interpreted as giving up, as weakness, as admitting defeat. Although this is one way to use the word, we will use it in a different way. Surrendering means letting go of your resistance to the total openness of who you are.
~ David Deida
I learn by going where I have to go . . . .


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