(Written in February 2003)
OK. My heart just aches with disappointment. Can I be with my disappointment with mercy? My heart softens. O dear Little Jenny, you really weren’t able to look at house plans and see ways of working with them. You have been living with post-traumatic stress, you were severely disabled by anxiety last summer, and you could not see how badly — you were in denial. You were trapped in your pattern of “have to do it all myself” and didn’t even think to ask for help. Let go into the process. You are where you are now, and the most important thing is your relationship with yourself.
So to the practice of being with myself in my disappointment. Bring mercy to my aching heart. Bring forgiveness to my anger. Let go of “how it should have been” and open to how it is now. Thinking of the house as a symbol of my life, how the original foundation was faulty — so tear it down & start over? Alternately accept that I can’t change the past, that my childhood was not what I would have wanted, but I can still build a happy life for myself.
Reading Stephen Levine, Healing into Life and Death, the chapter on grief. What it brought up was all my fears — he describes opening to the pain and then discovering a spaciousness that the pain can float in. But then I start to think: I can’t do that! It’s all too much for me. I don’t want to open to the pain, I’m afraid — it would be never ending, it could kill me — and the idea of “spaciousness” sounds cold and lonely. I see that I’d rather stay in my little room, with the illusion of protection and warmth, than go out onto the mountainside and be naked to the cold wind. That’s what it looks like. I know this is distortion, but that doesn’t help. I see that I want to fling myself out the door into the cold wind, knowing that it is more true than the place I hide — but what if there’s a gentler, more compassionate way to treat myself? I wouldn’t throw a child out into the cold wind, without somewhere safe to retreat to. I need an intermediate zone, a place where I can feel safe and rest from the work of facing the difficult truths: that I am not, and never have been in control, that the mystery of life is more huge and strange than I could ever have imagined, that I am responsible for my choices. I think of the line about not being up to “the magnitude of the pain entrusted to us.” I may be responsible for my choices, but I’m not responsible for the cards I was dealt (except in some much larger version of the universe that’s beyond me at the moment.) I’m not responsible for the shape my life has taken, but I’m responsible to my life for what I do with it. Can’t quite find the right analogy: I’m not responsible for the landscape, I am responsible for the path I take through it? There’s some sense of isolation about my life in these descriptions that probably reflects the isolation of my childhood. Not having a sense of belonging to a community of co-creators. Because probably the “landscape” in which I find myself is a collaborative venture in which all of us play a part, and as I find my path through it I interact with others and actually change the landscape as I work my way through it.