Archive for September, 2011

A self-involved presence

September 11, 2011

I am the most self-involved person that I know. While I suspect that there might be others whose soul focus on earth is me-me-me, I can’t speak to their experience . . . only mine.

And, no, use of the words “soul focus” is not a typographical error. Or a mismatch of “sole” and “soul.” My soul is my focus. Ever since I can consciously remember (fed by some raw, wordless impulse within me), I have asked the universal question: “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?”

For my entire childhood and into young adulthood, that answer was “Make your parents happy!” (Their idea, not mine.) By the time I was 30, the insight hit me – not quite like a bolt of lightning but more like a stinky sock in my face – that nothing in this universe was going to make them happy because they already were: they delighted in their misery, settling with deep satisfaction into that cool muddy pool of inertia. They were, and one of them still is, very attached to their pain. The one that is still alive is demanding daily affirmation of worth through the actions of others. I don’t know what the dead one is doing right now . . . maybe peering over my shoulder while I write this, hopelessly seething with indignant justification for the heinous and neglectful actions that person committed in the name of love. Oh, wait, I need to let them off the hook for that stuff . . . okay, onward.

It seemed to me that many people had been given the purpose of making themselves happy. And other people, animals, objects, and events were supposed to do that for them. So, I figured I would get on that wagon and ride it home.

Fast forward twenty years and the dawning wisdom that – duh – all things come to pass. People. Animals. Plants. Objects. Events. To rely upon the ever-transitioning universe to provide me with steady, uncompromisable (or is it incompromisable?) happiness is a witless expectation. There is only one place where happiness can live eternally and that is within my soul.

I am not finding legions of friends lining up outside my door thrusting soul food into my arms. If my soul is to have nourishment, I need to seek that for myself. If my soul is to thrive and bloom in this existence, then it is up to me to nurture the environment within where that can happen.

The self that I am is very involved in that process, almost to the exclusion of everything else. And I think that the “almost” is an illusion. I am slowly realizing that everything I do, act, think, feel, and believe is in service of the self, creating fertile ground for my soul to flourish. There is no truly altruistic thought or act. I might think so as I help another or know within my bones I would die for a loved one . . . but even those thoughts and actions have a reward for me. I feel good about myself when I can provide for another. The pain of dying is nothing compared to the pain I imagine living without my loved one.

Self-involved is not a bad place – it is where I am intended to be. I must be involved with myself before I can be involved with others. The rules of behavior and boundaries of responsibility seem arbitrary and subject to self-perception, but this is all I’ve got. To be self-involved to the exclusion of the rights and needs of others is a clear boundary that often gets murky in my desperate attempts to reach that golden pot of enlightenment.

Yet, each day a particle of gold drops from that pot into my awareness and some new space of existence lights up inside me. A new understanding connects across those synapses in my brain. I am suddenly more complete than I was a moment before and yet painfully aware of more incompleteness and work to be done.

My self is working on it all right now.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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A hooked presence

September 5, 2011

Many of our loved and not-so-loved ones are skewered on the hooks of our resentments.

Our best-known hookees (<== not a real word) are our parents. Some people are excellent parents. They know how to nurture, have the resources required to raise healthy children, and we grow up with a strong sense of self and belonging. Others had parents who should have opted, did not, and many of us grew up in emotionally fragile and damaging environments.

Even if we grew up without parents, we can still hook those invisible beings tightly on a barb and hoist them up high for everyone to see. We can proclaim something profound about how our lives would have been better had they been around to help us. We batter everyone (and ourselves) with the resulting being we have become all because of their actions or inactions. We hold them accountable for our response to their presence. Even invisible parents have a huge presence by virtue of the empty space they do not occupy.

Occasionally, hookees are complete strangers . . . people who happened by in our lives either by design or circumstance and something happened to us that we did not want to happen. Sometimes, we never even see or know our hookees. I have had property stolen from me and never saw the person, but he or she left a mark, a trail, a permanent indentation on my trusting psyche who can forever recount that episode, mourn again what was lost, and have that person’s actions influence my way of being in the world.

Others have had worse episodes of infringement upon their boundaries. Children suffer unspeakable abuse. Entire families are wiped out by murder. Some are left financially devastated by the actions of the greedy and ignorant.

There are deadly villains who are not even human. Along with lions, tigers, and bears, we have microbes, bacteria, and viruses. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can wipe away any evidence of our prior existence.

On a world-wide basis, famine steals the lives and dreams of thousands. And we are ALL on the hook for that one, but that’s a blog for another day.

Life is a dangerous existence, as I have alluded to before. We have the idea that someone at some point should have made our lives perfect and protected us from reality . . . or at least invented a better reality. And because they didn’t, they are going to pay. In our daily memories, we feel again the humiliation of that forgotten birthday, the embarrassment of a drunk alcoholic showing up at our parents’ night at school, and the betrayal of having just been beat because someone else had a bad day. In our imaginations, we strike back: we think awful things about them, we create vindictive scenarios where we win, and, if they are still alive, we let them know often just how they failed us, and continue to fail us. Or, we don't acknowledge them at all.

But everyone still knows they are there.

Some of us are public torturers. We brandish and berate our hookees publicly, shamelessly, with a flaunting sneer and righteous attitude. We are proud of how those people did us wrong at some point in the past. We don’t hesitate to tell anyone who will listen just how badly we were treated.

Other hookees are silently suffered. The silent sufferer sighs a lot, with woeful heaves and crumpled shoulders. We recognize their burden is tiresome and heavy.

And I want to yell at all of them “Give it up already!” (Yes, some smarter part of me yells this at me, too.)

At some point, we have to lower the hooks and let those people go. Letting someone “off the hook” is a fancy term for “forgive” without all that God stuff looming around it packed with its religious and saintly forebodings. When we let someone off the hook, we also let go of our responsibility for feeding them and the hurts (real or imagined) that they caused. It doesn’t change what happened, but it does change our chemistry – our way of interacting with the world. While that person is still accountable for his or her actions, they can no control our response. We are free to acknowledge the incident, know it will always be a part of us, and transcend it . . . we can still be the presence we intended for ourselves when we came to this life.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass