I talked to my friend who said of my recent blog post about “Living Well” that I was in reactive/responsive orientation instead of creative orientation. I did some thinking about this. “Reactive/responsive” is choosing what to do with things that come at you. “Creative” is choosing/creating something new. I told her I had made a choice to surrender to Divine Process, to let it guide my life. She said “Why would you want to surrender?” The first thing that came to mind is: because I’ve made such a mess of my life, but then I don’t think that’s true — but I kind of got stuck there. There was a long silence. I have the feeling that she didn’t get it, but also that I had failed to explain myself adequately.
Do I really think I’ve made a mess of my life? The “mess” was made by circumstances over which I had no control, and having to live with the reality of PTSD. Looking back, I see that I have been in terrible pain most of my life. I’m still in pain, though now it seems at least legitimate and real, as grief for all the losses, all the pain that’s happened to people, creatures and the earth. I’ve worked to “fix myself” for a lot of my life. Understanding that I was broken, not defective shifted my attitude toward myself — that I was not born defective, that the things I was trying to “fix” I had learned from dysfunctional parents. My experience of myself was not who I was, but what I had learned. I worked hard, I tried so many things, but I never seemed to arrive at a place where I felt good, comfortable with myself, happy for more than a few days. I have struggled with severe depressions and disabling terrors, with absolutely no idea why they visited me. What was I doing wrong? I have tried so many things most of which didn’t make any difference. I also felt that I have a lot of creativity inside me that I have never been able to express. It wasn’t until I came to accept that I had been traumatized that I began to get some inkling of what had distorted and stunted and limited my life. In my work with a new therapist I have been able to allow myself to get in touch with the unbearable pain of the core wound. Finally understanding what I’ve been up against has helped me see that I have actually done surprisingly well with my life.
Glancing back over old journals, I see how hard I was working to understand what was wrong. I can’t keep reading them because the pain radiates off those pages — the pain I felt at the time but was either in denial of, or didn’t see for what it really was because I had never experienced anything else.
One way to look at my life is to see it as me struggling to heal PTSD and failing. It’s true I do have some time to go yet, and healing is possible, but the process is more painful and is taking longer than I ever imagined. If I understand that my healing work on myself benefits the human energy field, and thereby helps the whole earth, then I feel that my life hasn’t been wasted. But if I see myself as selfishly engaged in something that’s only for my own benefit then my life has been wasted.
The question of “surrender” comes up because my life as it is is unmanageable. Just getting through the day, just managing the basics of food and cleaning up, and getting to therapy is sometimes all I have energy for. Other necessary things like paying bills, getting the car’s oil changed, require effort and tend to get put off. Even more important things like investigating and applying for a retirement community are really difficult to get to. From my first visit to Kendal to actually completing the application took six months. I’ve hired someone to clean my house once a week and someone to help with food, and even with that help there are many days when I think it would be easier to be dead.
But the big question is “Why go on?” If it’s this hard to get through the day, then I have to have a pretty compelling reason. If my healing work is just for myself, that’s not enough. That brings up the question of vocation. If I thought that “God” or the Creative Process of the Universe or my own Higher Power had given me a task that would really help the planet and other people, then I could keep going with better heart.
Another difficulty is that I do very badly when I’m alone. I’ve lived most of my life alone and been OK with it, probably through denial of my loneliness, or being numb to it. But now, with the original wound of abandonment wide open, I’m finding it very difficult to be alone. What happens is I become apathetic, totally non-functional. This is what happens to a baby when it’s left alone too long.
The most painful thing about my life is that, far from making a mess of it, I’ve created a good life for myself. Unfortunately I can’t live it. There’s very little that I’m able to enjoy. I’m also unable to live in this beautiful home that I’ve designed and built for myself. I look around and I see so much that’s beautiful, but also neglected plants, unfinished art projects, piles of mail that need to be gone through, etc. I have a tendency to blame myself for not doing better, not being able to appreciate and be satisfied with all I’ve done. But the ability to enjoy depends on brain chemistry. I don’t know why I can’t do better. One possibility is what Francis Weller suggests: that I haven’t been able to grieve my losses enough to be able to experience small joys and little blessings.