Category Archives: Recovery

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

ב”ה     الحمد لله

I’ve been busy lately.  Both with working at my new job, and with healing from old trauma.  The work of the job involves sitting at the computer coding, debugging and testing Java/Groovy/JavaScript code.  The healing from trauma involves looking into the loving eyes of my big-hearted wife and allowing old pain to surface.  It’s the latter that’s more challenging for me, requiring as it does copious tears and even more trust.  But it’s coming along, thank G-d.

Last night I was reliving some moments that had arisen; apparently as an infant, my head had been banged against the wall (in an effort to silence my crying).  As I write that, I experience a certain amount of disbelief (perhaps on your behalf?).  How could I remember that; can I be sure it really happened; is some part of my subconscious just making this up?  But then, as I ask those challenging questions, another part of me is quietly confident that indeed, these events, and the tears that come from remembering them, are real and abiding.

And last night, as I trembled with the old fear and with the infant’s lack of certainty whether I would make it through, an odd question arose.  “Should I stay or should I go?”  It felt like somehow, in that moment of yester-year, my soul had asked whether I should leave this world.  I found myself struck by the enormity of that question.

And it occurred to me that perhaps it was a question worth sharing with you.  Because each of us, in every moment, is ultimately confronting that same question, “should I stay or should I go?”  Apart from the vagaries of our mood, our emotions, our daily successes and failures, are we really wanting to continue to be here?  And if so, for what purpose?

I am convinced that each of us is here for a unique purpose, that we each have a special contribution to make to this world.  Are we up to the task of embracing that purpose?  Not in every moment, and not without regularly pausing for rest (and certainly not without setbacks), but in the larger scheme of things, the question lingers: “Should I stay?”

I don’t think it’s an easy question.  Because we would like some awareness of what our purpose here is before we evaluate whether the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are worth opposing for that purpose.  Some of us have a clear sense of life purpose.  Some of us have fleeting glimpses.  And some of us struggle for any semblance of meaning.  But I think even without rational understanding, it’s possible to have an intuitive awareness that there is a larger purpose and context to our being here.  And it’s possible to trust that there is intention to our lives.

Perhaps that intuitive sense is enough to keep us going through difficult times.

I hope so.  For me, I apparently answered the question many years ago with “l’ll stay”.  There were times in high school where the only reason I stayed was because leaving would have meant they had won; that the abusers had vanquished me.  Today I have reasons that involve my children and my wife, my extended family, my friends and my colleagues.  But mostly, I have this sense that I’m not done here yet.  That there is work for me to do, work that I can only do after healing from these old wounds.  Contributions that I want to make, whatever they turn out to be.

So tonight it’s back to the loving arms of my wife to cry and heal, and tomorrow it’s back to the computer desk to code and debug.

And after that, who knows?

But even without knowing, I’m happy for the path and grateful for the adventure.  Even when it hurts.  I’m staying.

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Right Foot, Left Foot.

ב”ה     الحمد لله

There’s a pattern I see in the world of spiritual exploration.  There are a lot of books and videos and talks about people who have been through a lot.  Often the story of how they found there way back out of the pit (or dark night) is inspiring, uplifting and encouraging.  We may read their book in the hopes of learning their secret[s] and increasing our joy or our gratitude, our sense of abundance or our connection to The One.

But I don’t find as many people (outside blogs) talking about their struggles right now.

I used to think that if someone struggled with, say, depression, then they clearly had not worked out their issues, or certainly had not achieved some great spiritual height.  If they had done so, then I thought their struggle would be a thing of the past.  Even when I heard that Rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrestled with depression I thought it showed that he wasn’t as great as I had once thought.

But greatness isn’t about the end of struggle.  Greatness is about finding increasing grace around our struggles.  Not being graceful.  Just increasing.  At least, that’s my thought today.  And we can learn something from folks who have been, and continue to be, in the forefront of these difficulties.

Today I am in a place of great struggle.  Difficult, powerful feelings from very old days of trauma seem to be surfacing.  No content.  No “video at 11”, as I like to say.  Just ennervating, debilitating sadness, fear, futility.  To be clear, I should say that this is not to the extent that anyone needs to be concerned for my well-being; there are people suffering from things like this who are overwhelmed and shut down.  Thank G-d I am in a place to be able to weather the storm.

And that’s what I’m doing.  I put one foot in front of the other.  Or I just stand.  Or just sit.  I lay in bed and read Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy (which I highly recommend).  Or I veg out playing silly computer games.

Or I come here to post.

My purpose in doing so is to maintain a certain honesty about the proceedings here.  I’m not always balanced, thoughtful, insightful and mystical.  Some days (thank G-d not so often!) I’m just making do.  Getting by.  Letting the waves of unpleasant experience wash over me.

And I do trust that this is part of a healing process.

I am in a deeply loving relationship, and I believe that to the extent that our intimate relationship is available as a healthy vessel for healing, any (and all) unhealed experiences present themselves for transformation and healing.  As we are ready and as the relationship is ready.

So I honestly take this as a very good commentary on my new marriage (and my new marriage partner, ie my wife!).

And I look forward to working with these feelings within the context of the relationship.

However, at this moment I’m heading back to the mindless bubble game, as futility and nihilism make their presence felt yet again.

But before signing off, let me wish everyone a most lovely Christmas (if you celebrate), a happy new year (if you follow the Gregorian calendar in that way), and a most glorious morning tomorrow morning, as The Master of the Universe brings the sun out to shine down on us once again.

As Scarlet O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Let’s make the most of it that we can.

Who Makes Darkness?

ב”ה

I enjoyed watching Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday yesterday.  (Yesterday wasn’t Sunday; I watched online at http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Full-Episode-Barbara-Brown-Taylor-Video.)  She observes that people in the spiritual/religious realms encourage us to stay in “the light”, whereas she advocates embracing our experiences of “the dark” as being rich for learning.

(I also appreciated that she eschewed giving a simplistic or reductionist 1-2-3 approach; I find those one-approach-fits-all formulas to be lacking.)

The question I pose (to myself, or to you) is who do you think made the darkness anyway?

For me, the answer is the G-d made (and makes) everything.  Everything.  Good and bad, light and dark, sublime and ridiculous.  I don’t expect to fully understand why Hashem has done so; as He said, “My Ways our not your ways; My Thoughts are not your thoughts.”  But I do search for lessons and meaning in the difficult times.  I usually find profound love behind the difficulties.  And when I can’t find it, I trust it’s there nonetheless.

I’m preparing for another round of intense therapy in the months ahead.  I’ve contacted an old therapist (who helped me untangle difficult issues in the past) and we’re scheduling some dates for some new work.  This entails going through old painful experiences, many of which I pushed to the far recesses of my mind and memory.  Exploring them brings up powerful unpleasant emotions and fears, unmet needs and terrifying ordeals.  I can’t say I’m exactly looking forward to that.

But in the process, I reclaim vital life energy, I heal, and I emerge more whole, more humble, and more able to be present for others.  It feels like the best way forward.

May you find the strength to linger a little longer in the difficult spaces of your life to see what you can learn there, and may you find unexpected grace and healing in the process.

The Spoonful of Sugar

ב”ה

For the past several weeks I’ve been waking up to some intense and distasteful emotions.  Mostly a mix of fear, dread, and a desire not to have to make my way through another moment or another day.  An unpleasant experience which includes an almost nauseous sensation in the body.  Blech.

As I understand it, these are feelings from a certain time and place in my childhood; reactions to trauma that require reexperiencing in order to heal at a deeper level.

So on the whole, I view this as a positive development.  Apparently I’m ready for another stage of healing.  Over the years I have found that my psyche allows things to come up when the time is right, when there is both internal strength for healing and an external vessel suitable for healing.  The “vessel” here is the deep and profound connection with my life partner (the wedding is 12 days away!), and the unconditional love she offers me so beautifully and courageously.  So I see the emergence of these intense feelings as feedback that I’m growing stronger and that my heart trusts this woman in a compelling way.  (And my old therapist, who has worked with me on some of these issues in years past, will be nearby as I move out here to California!)

But the mornings are still tough to experience.

Mostly I take it easy with myself, just sitting and being with the feelings as much as possible.  I do some inner visualizations sometimes to “take care” of the inner part that’s hurting.  Mostly I just try to be gentle with myself and start the morning slowly.  I know the difficulty will pass as the day progresses.

Some folks struggle with the “why me?” question in this kind of situation; railing against G-d that it isn’t “fair” to have to suffer things like this.  I probably used to do that myself (I honestly can’t recall, but I imagine I did).  But these days I’m not really in that space.  It’s true that undergoing abuse is not “fair” from our point of view, but it seems clear that this life required it.  The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years with backbreaking labor and untold abuses.  Not fair.  But those years were a prerequisite for becoming the Jewish people, enjoined to care for the stranger (and the widow and the orphan) because “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

I enjoy the following thought experiment:  You have an alien friend visiting from another planet and you show them around Earth, sharing your daily routine with them.  In the morning, you go to the gym for your daily workout.  Your friend looks around at the people moaning and sweating in exertion on various machines and with different accessories, and asks, “What kind of torture chamber is this?  What have these people done to deserve this?!”

“They haven’t done anything wrong,” you answer.  “They’re here by choice.  They want to improve and get healthier, so they choose to push themselves to their maximum capacity.  It’s our way of growing, of getting stronger.”

Your friend is skeptical as she studies the surroundings more closely.  “Ah, but this is totally unfair!  Why do some have such heavy burdens and others hardly any?  There is no justice here.”

And you explain that each person has different limitations and different goals (strength versus flexibility versus endurance); each person’s capabilities and goals determine the kind of exercises they choose and the magnitude of weights or resistance that they work with.

And of course the point (which your skeptical alien friend may or may not appreciate) is that I see our lives here in that same way.  Each of us is given the spiritual challenges necessary for our course, the exact exercises that can produce the refinements of the soul that we need.  Each soul is different, has different capabilities and has different goals.  So of course our “fitness programs” vary from one soul to the next.  They are not “fair” as in “the same” as everyone else’s, but rather each regimen is tailored to fit us exquisitely.  Just as not everyone wears the same size suit jacket, it wouldn’t make sense for everyone to have the exact same spiritual struggles.

So I try to embrace the current difficulties as being just the right experience needed for my soul, brought to me by The Master of Infinite Love and Kindness, who only gives us the minimum amount of pain required for us to perfect ourselves.  Not a drop more.  The Heavenly Father, the ultimate doting parent.  “This will hurt a little,” I can almost hear Him saying, “but it will be all right.”

I find this attitude to be my “spoonful of sugar” that “helps the medicine go down.”

My friends, may you find a way to embrace the difficulties of your life in a way that enhances your spirit and allows you to draw strength and wisdom from the challenges you face.

And may you have great success.