Posts Tagged ‘nurture’

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

The presence of prisons

July 15, 2010

When I think of prisons, my first impression is that of locking away people who might cause me or others harm. Prisons exist to keep us safe. Prisons are used as a deterrent in an attempt to dissuade people from committing crimes. Evidently, the absence of freedom is thought to be terrifying enough to keep people well within the confines of our laws.

At night, I securely lock the windows and the doors. I set the security system to engage should anyone attempt entry into my home. These days, I would not dream of leaving a window open downstairs, nor would I sleep on my lower deck no matter how inviting the night air might be.

I start creating a whole different prison system now. I am becoming more the prisoner who locks herself away so that others cannot harm me. It keeps me safe.

And this is just the physical prison I might create to keep me safe. There are intellectual and emotional prisons that I have created to keep my absolute best, most pristine essence of myself safe from harm. I know this because I am still not using all of my gifts and I am existing on the fringe of respectability within the prison of common sense.

I can hear the gasps already. Common sense? A prison!? Oh, my!

But think about it. It made perfect sense those many years ago while I was a baby, a child, a teenager, so fragile and desperately trying to survive the nuttiness that was my family in a world that made no sense to me. There was no one – read that again and believe it – NO ONE who I could turn to for help in reconciling the poverty of love, affection, and support against my parents’ admonitions that they were being good parents. They might have been in their own weird ways. They were as overwhelmed as anyone with life and had no coping skills so how could I expect them to raise me with any?

My common sense saw right through them, though, and knew that I was not in a position to be negotiating my sanity or my physical safety. My common sense ruled that I needed to stay alive. To do that, I needed to stay safe. To stay safe, I had to lock some parts of me away.

Essentially, I looked at my parents and said “it is not safe for me to look to you for that [“that” being anything along the lines of love, acceptance, nurturing, etc.], therefore, I am going to lock my need for love, acceptance, nurturing, etc., away, and I will never have it and I will always be this [“this” being lonely, unfulfilled, depressed, angry, etc.].” The keys are the decisions I made at various points in my life to deny that I needed anyone, to not display my acute intellectual point-blank opinion of how life was being run, and to not be the person I truly am.

I repeated the pattern throughout all of my relationships. If a person I love did not respond to me as I think he or she should, I would take my toys and run away. I lock my toys away from that person perhaps not realizing that I am locking the toys away from myself as well. In the end, I have to ask: Who wants to play alone?

I don’t think it is possible to imprison our true presence. Rather, we lock our human consciousness away while our presence waits patiently for us to wrestle ourselves to the ground. Well, I wrestled myself right into a place where I felt absolutely nothing.

That was a long, long time ago. For over 30 years I have been intent on finding my missing toys, my gifts that are inherently mine and no one else’s. I have found many of them locked away inside my body, inside my head, behind emotional bars of steel and walls of concrete. I used writing, art, psychotherapy, exercise, meditation, travelling, loving, accepting, and a thousand other techiques. Freedom has sometimes required a separate key for each and other times, one key unlocks a bundle of me that comes tumbling out like belongings stashed away in an overstuffed closet.

I cannot regret or waste a moment of living on wishing that anything had been different. This was my path that I chose for whatever reason. I may never know the reason, but I know this is MY path. Because it is my path, then I am the only person who can find my keys, unlock those locks, and celebrate in the joy that I still am.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Universal sorrow

July 12, 2010

There is a picture at the Newseum that haunts me. It was taken in the Sudaan. On a dirt road, a small child crouches, head bent touching the earth in a swoon of evident exhaustion. That the child is starving is obvious. Behind the child, a vulture waits expectantly.

The photo was taken back in 1994, but time and distance do not lessen its impact. I am there at the Newseum with my granddaughter who has never lacked for a day without love, caring, tenderness, shelter, food, water, and nurturing. The contrasting truth strikes home in one easy, swift stroke.

It is not so difficult to care for a child.

But it was impossible for an entire country to care for that one child in the photo. If it were an isolated incident, my heart would not be so wounded, except I know it continues.

We all owe that child and every child we let die of starvation, neglect, or abuse our own lives.

I sit here in my self-imposed luxury of American life and wonder why — if we are indeed the co-creators of our existence — why would we allow such misery to proliferate when there is easily a huge abundance of our basic necessities available?

And it is not so hard to love a child.

But even the photographer of that picture walked away, constricted by the rules of the time and society. Perhaps he thought that the picture would speak in a thousand more languages to save thousands more children than had he intervened to try and save one child.

My mind cannot even grasp the karmic platitudes that people use to rationalize starvation and abandonment in a world that supports 7 billion humans.

It is not so impossible to feed a child.

I know that such images, this knowledge, these truths find me as much as I find them. And I feel the sorrow of the universal consciousness as it nudges me and urges me to do something.

But I don’t know what.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass