Today

From my journal:

Headache. Tired. Sad.  Slept late.  I’m disappointed with myself for feeling sad again, and then I realize that it’s sadness for all the people who are scared and suffering right now.

I look at the pictures of my great-nieces and nephews on the fridge and I think — they will live through this, and they will be part of the new generation of global citizens who will change everything.  Sooner, if we manage to take back the government and pass a Green New Deal, later if the Republicans hang on for another four years.  I don’t think they can hold on past that.  Those old white men will die, and the paradigm will shift.  If we have four more years of Trump’s idiocy, things will get much worse before they get better.  Of course, it’s always possible that we will kill the planet.  It wouldn’t be an initiation if we knew we were going to survive.

Then I have a sudden vision of all that’s going on that we don’t know about.  All the invisible spirits and forces that are also making things happen.  All the butterflies flapping wings in Africa and Uzbekistan.  Nature regenerating faster than we ever could imagine once we changed our behavior.

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“Shelter in Place”

Because of COVID-19, I am getting scared on a regular basis.  If I can find either my grief or my gratitude it will help dissolve the fear.  But it’s a wild ride.  I also have been getting together with my siblings on Zoom.  Aren’t we all grateful for this online tool?

I realize that because of the difficulties of my life I have not been in regular contact with my siblings, and I have lost a lot of friends because it was too hard to keep connected when our lives diverged.  For my siblings, I went through this blog and sent them the links to events in my life that might help them understand what it has been like.  Such as “Getting on Medication  

One post that I found while looking around was one called The Core of Trauma.  After I read it, I went on to the next post.  (At the top and bottom of the post are links, the one on the left to the previous post, the one on the right to the next one.)  This series of posts seemed very significant to me.  One surprise was that, for almost the first time in my experience, I read how it was so much worse four years ago, and realize that I have done a lot of healing.

Grief and Grieving    

Grief and Regression    

“Written in Blood”    

Blood and Stone     

Caught in Traumatized Baby    

The Five Gates of Grief    

Grief has turned out to be a very important force in my life.  Most of my life, when I was sad for “no reason” I made myself wrong.  “What do you have to be sad about?  You have enough money, etc etc…”  So it was a revelation to be given Francis Weller’s book and find that there are things you were supposed to get and didn’t that were a reason to grieve.  As a result, and despite a lot of terror, I went to a workshop in California with Francis Weller.  The most important result of this was that I discovered that if I allowed myself to grieve, I no longer got depressed.

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Your Life is Not About You

From Richard Rohr’s meditation for April 1:

Understanding that our lives are not about us is the connection point with everything else. It lowers the mountains and fills in the valleys that we have created, as we gradually recognize that the myriad forms of life in the universe are merely parts of the one life that most of us call God. After such a discovery, we are grateful to be a part—and only a part! We do not have to figure it all out, straighten it all out, or even do it perfectly by ourselves. We do not have to be God. It is an enormous weight off our backs. All we have to do is participate!

My life is not about me. It is about God. It is about a willing participation in a larger mystery. At this time, we do this by not rejecting or running from what is happening but by accepting our current situation and asking God to be with us in it. Paul of Tarsus said it well: “The only thing that finally counts is not what human beings want or try to do, but the mercy of God” (Romans 9:16). Our lives are about allowing life to “be done unto us,” which is Mary’s prayer at the beginning and Jesus’ prayer at the end.

I am realizing that I have a lot of faith in what I call “the process.”  It started with Kripalu giving us a mantra “I offer myself to this process.”  I realized I could say that when I could not say “Thy will be done.”  I know that our bodies know how to heal themselves, and our psyches do too.  Unfortunately a lot of the wisdom of our psyche is messed up by dysfunctional thinking learned when we are young.

I love where he says “We do not have to figure it all out…”  My training as the oldest child in an alcoholic family was that I was responsible for my younger siblings.  I could not trust my parents to do the right thing.  I felt absolutely alone with that responsibility, and I realize, every time I read something like that and relax, that it’s still my default setting.

Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, High School in NYC: “When you’re experiencing something challenging together,” he says, “that bond just feels like it’s been strengthened, not weakened, by the distance.”  YES! Magazine

That has been my experience.  Instead of a weirdo on the fringe with PTSD, I’m in the same boat with everyone on our planet.

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Initiation

Richard Rohr, from his Daily Meditations for March 29 and 30:

In my cross-cultural research on male initiation rites, I perceived five consistent lessons or truths communicated to the initiate, meant to separate initiates from their attachment to who they think they are and reattach them to who they really are.

In this time of global disruption, these lessons can help us align to reality, our own belonging in it, and remain grounded in the infinitely trustworthy presence of God.

These five essential messages of initiation are:

1. Life is hard.
2. You are not important.
3. Your life is not about you.
4. You are not in control.
5. You are going to die.

1. Life is hard.

All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. Creation has a pattern of wisdom; and we dare not shield ourselves from it, or we literally will lose our soul. We can obey commandments, believe doctrines, and attend church services all our lives and still daily lose our souls if we run from the necessary cycle of loss and renewal. Death and resurrection are lived out at every level of the cosmos, but only one species thinks it can avoid it—the human species.

I am afraid that many of us with privilege have been able to become very naïve about pain and suffering in the United States and the Western world. We simply don’t have time for it. However, by trying to handle all suffering through willpower, denial, medication, or even therapy, we have forgotten something that should be obvious: we do not handle suffering; suffering handles us— in deep and mysterious ways that become the very matrix of life and especially new life. Only suffering and certain kinds of awe lead us into genuinely new experiences. All the rest is merely the confirmation of old experience.

It is amazing to me that the cross or crucifix became the central Christian logo, when its rather obvious message of inevitable suffering is aggressively disbelieved in most Christian countries, individuals, and churches. We are clearly into ascent, achievement, and accumulation. The cross became a mere totem, a piece of jewelry. We made the Jesus symbol into a mechanical and distant substitutionary atonement theory instead of a very personal and intense at-one-ment process, the very reality of love’s unfolding. We missed out on the positive and redemptive meaning of our own pain and suffering. It was something Jesus did for us (substitutionary), but not something that revealed and invited us into the same pattern. We are not punished for our sins, we are punished by our sins (such as blindness, egocentricity, illusions, or pride).

It seems that nothing less than some kind of pain will force us to release our grip on our small explanations and our self-serving illusions. Resurrection will always take care of itself, whenever death is trusted. It is the cross, the journey into the necessary night, of which we must be convinced, and then resurrection is offered as a gift.

In this time of suffering we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do with our pain? Are we going to blame others for it? Are we going to try to fix it? No one lives on this earth without it. It is the great teacher, although none of us want to admit it. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it in some form. How can we be sure not to transmit our pain onto others? 

Reading this, I understand how my life of struggle with PTSD has been an initiation and a preparation for this pandemic.  I have learned how to be with pain, terror, depression, despair, etc.  As I sat with Little Jenny in the pit and said “I’m here.  It’s OK to be scared.  I won’t leave you.”  This is the way to be with every negative emotion, to be hospitable, to be willing to stay with it not push it away, not numb it in the various ways we know so well.  And how to be with others who are sad, scared, etc.  Just be present for them.

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Today

A lot of firsts.  I’m typing this directly into the computer.  My “3rd cup” is just water.  I walked Mocha down outside to get the mail.  Blue sky, brisk temperature.  I was glad to be alive.  And not afraid of dying.  I look at the leafless trees.  There’s a bird, looks red, but it’s the wrong red for a cardinal and no  — what do they call that thing? the wedge that stands up on his head? — so he must be a robin.  I saw one the other day in a tree filled with snow.  I look at the leafless trees and think they are dying, and then NO, Nature is keeping going.  I think what if huge number of humans die?  I saw a figure, something like 29,000,000.  Oh!  That means that our numbers will be closer to the earth’s carrying capacity.  The Earth will recover.  I hate that it’s the most vulnerable people that are most challenged, except that it looks like some of the ultra-wealthy are being completely foolish.  Maybe they think their money will protect them from the virus.  But the earth will recover.  And humans who already know how to live sustainably and cooperatively will survive and pass down the old songs and dances and stories.

I’m glad to be alive, and I’m not afraid of dying.

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Energetic Connection

Since this COVID-19 pandemic began, I have felt solidarity with everyone on the planet.  It surprised me, because for most of my life I’ve felt like an outsider.  More intelligent than most people, a very different way of thinking, odd and unconventional interests, and the struggle with PTSD.  Lots of times I try to explain myself and people just don’t get it.

Because of social distancing, I joined Hanover Friends Meeting on Zoom.  You could see 25 people at once, all in their little rectangles.  Many faces were familiar, but some people I knew didn’t look like themselves.  We started in silence, as usual, and then when someone wanted to speak, they turned on their microphone, and their square acquired a lit boundary.

The most amazing thing was I felt connected to all of them energetically.  My heart felt open and vibrating — there was so much energy in my heart that it was almost uncomfortable.  I’m sure this was made possible by previous experiences, especially my experience at Kindred Spirits Reunion.

Looking back, I now see that I had earlier experiences that also made this possible.  At Neskaya Dance Camp in 2018, I was sitting on the sidelines while Shoshona led meditative dancing.  I had my tea and was writing in my journal when I became aware of the energy field in the building.  It was full of love.  I wrote:

 I feel held in the gentle arms of community, in the beautiful sacred space of this building that I built.  I am held inside the lovely container that I made possible.  I am no longer part of the container so I can sink deeply into it.  I love the diversity of clothes and bodies and dancing styles.  I love the silence.  I love that people come and go easily.

Because Camp has been cancelled for this year, here is a link to pictures of the building and many of the activities that take place there, some activities that we sponsor elsewhere, and some pictures of our people elsewhere.

Later that same summer, I went to the gathering of Kindred Spirits at Rowe Camp and Conference Center.  Kindred Spirits are based in the recovery community, and it is a place I feel very much at home.  On the last day, as we were cleaning up in preparation to leave, I had the most astonishing sense of being loved.  I was outside, picking up litter.  I could see other people, but we weren’t talking.  From my journal:

I think I first noticed how comfortable I was late on Thursday.  Maybe somebody even asked “How are you doing?”  I tuned in and found a deep level of comfort, completely embodying myself, and feeling absolutely and totally OK with who I was and how I was at that time.  Then on Friday, as we started cleaning up I became aware that I was feeling totally loved. by everybody there.  It was the most extraordinary feeling.  So amazing!  It’s still there, and it’s very quiet and deep.  Rooted in silence.

Those experiences faded away, and I didn’t get to either camp last year due to sickness, and being extremely tired.

Kindred Spirits Reunion this year was something special.  The most important thing was having Penny talk about “energetic connection” as something we could do during the breathwork, and then realizing that I had felt it during the singing Saturday night, and again on Sunday when we were getting ready to leave.  I wrote:

I think that I finally have a feeling/experience/understanding of what love is.  It’s that sense of connection in community.  Not some nice thing that you feel, something deeper than that.  Love is that deep knowledge of connection.  The sense of being surrounded by love.  In both cases I felt it when I wasn’t interacting with anyone.

On Saturday, March 21, I participated in something they were calling “Global Coherence Pulse.”  I like to take part in any activity that they are getting people all over the world to do at the same time.  This sounded like a great idea.  It was on Zoom.  The main presenter talked us through a meditation of feeling our heartbeat and connecting with the center of the earth.  I actually found it very easy to do.  So it was after that that I connected with the Quakers for meeting and felt the most amazing energy.  It seems to have stayed with me.

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Standing in My Truth

“A life initiation begins with a crisis that dissolves what you knew and what you were.  From the rubble of the ensuing collapse, a new self is born into a new world.”    Charles Eisenstein

My first crisis happened when I was still a baby.  So there’s a way in which what’s happening now feels very familiar.  What’s new and strange is I don’t feel alone.  I feel solidarity with all the people on the planet earth.  We are truly all in this together.

I continue to write in my journal, and I’m typing up from February, a month ago.  Haven’t mentioned COVID-19 yet.  As I type, I wonder why I’m still doing it?  What does any of this mean?  The world (as we knew it) has ended.  I can’t imagine any future in which anyone will be interested in my journal.  But I’ve felt like that for a long time.  And I keep writing and keep typing it up.  Why?  It’s as close as I’ve got for a spiritual practice.  I’ve been finding it hard to meditate, though I can stick with “May all beings be held in lovingkindness” for a long time.  Because of the high probability of dissociating, writing things down and typing them later helps them stay in my mind.  Posting something to this blog feels like standing alone at a vigil holding my sign.  I take my stand here, and I feel strong, standing in my truth.  Oddly, it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it.  Though I have found that there’s great value in reading things out loud to someone who I can count on to be non-judgmental.

I looked for the story of standing alone at a vigil, thinking I had posted it, but didn’t find it.  I don’t remember which war it was.  I joined a vigil in front of the Post Office in Littleton.  I carried my sign saying “WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER.”  Our numbers gradually diminished.  The people who had been there with children left because we were being harassed.  Though I was surprised at the numbers who drove by and gave us a thumbs up.  One man came by and said in a low voice “I’m not brave enough to do this, but I’m glad you are.”  Finally there was just me and one older woman, a long-term peace activist.  She said she was going to a retirement community in Montpelier, so I knew I would be alone the following week.  I thought I would feel embarrassed, but when I got there and stood with my sign, I felt really strong and grounded, standing in my truth.

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Acceptance of Pain

from my journal for July 23, 1976:

amazing! miraculous! out of the depression and into an energy high. am weaving a finn weave project (tough going) that has been on the loom since Easter. Yesterday the weather broke and my mood did too. glorious sparkling days, each leaf and blade of grass stands clear.

what did it? first of all, acceptance of being depressed. Then staying with it, allowing myself to feel the feelings, stop searching for escapes. Stay with it, though this is painful, though it seems as though I have always been depressed, will always be depressed. and then somehow, miraculously, the wheel turns, the weather changes, and I am out of it.

I see that recently, I have come very quickly out of my downs by recognizing that it is the baby who is scared, despairing, frozen, and sitting down next to her and saying “I’m here, and I’m not going away.”  It has been a long long practice in being with the pain.  Reading through 1976 I found one of the first times I did it.  Something like 44 years I’ve been working on this practice of being with the pain instead of trying to make it go away or numbing it.

One thing it took me awhile to see was that “being with the pain” as an attempt to make it go away does not work.  I had to be willing to be depressed “forever” which is hard to do, until I finally began to learn that it “worked” and could do it without a manipulative motive.

So now, when I feel triggered by this whole coronavirus thing, I sit down next to the baby and say “I’m here.  It’s OK to be scared.  I’m not going away.”

Mostly, I’m not scared.  I saw fairly early on that we in the US were not prepared, that we would probably overwhelm our health system, and a lot of people will die.  I do have one friend who’s seriously at risk, my friend Eleanor, who already has a compromised immune system, and is trying to live on disability.  Otherwise, my siblings and their children & grandchildren are all in pretty good places to weather the storm.  I’m the most at risk, and I’m in the safest place.  But I have also accepted my death, so I’m really not worried about that at all.  I’m not at all happy about the people who will die, the people struggling to get food, the health workers who are risking their lives and overwhelmed.  I am ANGRY at the capitalist system which prepared us so badly for this.  And I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to wake up and realize that we are all in this together, all in the same boat — Spaceship Earth — and we need to work together.

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Who I Really Am was Not Destroyed by PTSD

Just typed this up.  It’s from my journal for February 12.  I’m writing about Grief Group.  One woman, who had been horribly abused in her childhood, told us about a recent dream.  She had dreamed about all the abusive incidents, felt surrounded by them, then they began to vibrate.  Apparently icons vibrate in the process of being deleted on an iPhone.  (I don’t have one)  She woke up, knowing that she could delete the abuse if she wanted to.  She asked “who would I be without it?”  But just knowing that she could delete it, gave her a new kind of hope.  At the time I thought “Who would I be without PTSD?” and felt that I didn’t want to delete it.  Just now, writing about it, what came is that who I really am is still here, was never destroyed by the PTSD, but there have been confusing, dissociative barriers to my knowing that’s who I am.

This is why I keep a journal.  Retyping this made it more real for me than when I first wrote it and reminded me of an earlier post:  Seeing my Life Whole

Just now I went back to typing journal, and this is what I wrote the next day (February 13):

I enjoyed puzzles and reading and typing.  The weird thing about typing is, tho I’m typing what I wrote a month ago, it’s almost unfamiliar.  It’s like one person wrote it and another one is reading it.  The only other time I remember something like that was the Colonial Dames incident, where I read my own writing and seriously wondered whether it had happened.  I had to ask Jo.  I wonder how much of me got stitched together in the days when I could reread my entire journal and would write in comments to my younger self.

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Another Complete Cycle

Went through another complete cycle on Tuesday.  Daily Kos ran a story about how Trump has been minimizing the COVID danger.  He cares about the stock market more than people.  It showed his statements about “everything is fine” correlating with the rise in cases.  He may have slowed us down to the point where we don’t have enough beds or respirators, and our health systems will be overwhelmed, as they were in China and Italy.

When I saw that graph, I suddenly wasn’t sure I could even trust Daily Kos.  I couldn’t trust anyone.  It was a horrible horrible feeling.  Now I see that I was triggered into the state of a small child who has suddenly realized that she can’t trust her parents.  But her life depends on them.  It’s a horrible horrible moment.  I started feeling sick and weak.  I managed to cook breakfast and walk Mocha, but then I wasn’t able to make coffee — felt too nauseous to drink anything but ginger kombucha.

I wrote for guidance, which comforted me a little.  Thought about calling Dulany but I was afraid she wouldn’t understand and would try to reassure me with logic and reason.  I emailed Barbara and Beverly.  The phone rang and it was Beverly.  She suggested tong-len which was a good idea, though I haven’t been able to do it yet.  I do keep doing the metta prayer for all beings: “May all beings be held in lovingkindness.”  Talking to her did help ground me a little. 

So I felt a little better after talking to Beverly.  I found a link to a NYT article — or maybe it was an op-ed — about Trump’s minimizing lies.  That helped a little.  I had lunch, again found it hard to eat.

I couldn’t settle to anything: not puzzles, not typing, not reading   — I took Mocha out for a once around Scattergood.  The walking helped a little.  I finally made myself wash the dishes.   I’m glad I did, because I think it helped bring me back to my present adult.

Wonderful links from Upworthy,  Cheered me right up.  Someone helping an older woman with shopping.  A garbage man on how we’re all in this together.  Doctors and nurses dancing in a hospital in Iran.

I think the Great Powers of the universe have cleverly designed this crisis to bring us all to the lived experience that we are all together in the same boat.  Spaceship Earth.  Only cooperation will help us now.

My therapist pointed out that I had somehow done just the right things to bring me out of it.  The state I’m in is FREEZE, because a baby can’t flee or fight, and the default in that case is “freeze.”  So just moving helped.  The fact that I couldn’t do my usual coping activities: digital puzzles, typing journal, reading, was because I knew I couldn’t check out, I had to stay present.  This hadn’t been conscious, it came from deep within.  But it was the opposite of reaching for a drink.  I said to Erica, in tears, “I can trust myself.”

Previous quick cycles:
Demon’s mirror
Turnaround in the Pit

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