Looking at Jenny from Outside

I have been struggling with the question of whether I “love” life.  It’s something Stephen Jenkinson talks about, something that can become very strong when you realize that you are really going to die.  I hear people say they love life, and I can’t say it.  I guess I think I ought to, or I wish I could.

from Blog Post “Struggle with Self-Hate

written in September 2010

I’m comparing myself to Diane who’s “glad to be alive”, who faced life-threatening illness and lost both breasts.  That made me feel like I was just whining and complaining and feeling sorry for myself.  But I can’t “snap out of it,” I can’t consciously will myself to be any different.

So here I sit, hating myself for being such a wimp.  Somehow I’ve got to find a way to feel compassion for this poor woman who’s hating herself.  OK, take a big step back.  Here’s this woman who was traumatized in infancy, and taught as she grew up that every thing was her fault.  Especially if she was having a bad time, she was told “You just want to be miserable.” She was given no guidance and support for how to live a healthy life.  She struggled for years against debilitating bouts of depression and anxiety.  She got married, only to find that she was unable to be sexual, blaming herself until years after the divorce when she found out she was struggling with PTSD.  Now she’s getting older, and has less and less energy.  When she’s depressed, even the basics of buying and cooking food and walking the dog become difficult.  She just wants to die, and she hasn’t any energy to fight that either.

So I don’t know if I do “love life.”  In my experience it’s been tremendously hard work and having to go through an enormous amount of emotional pain.  I’ll be glad to lay the job down. 

Although I believe in re-incarnation, I know that when I die, “Jenny” will be gone.  The part of me that goes on to a new life is probably a part of me that I don’t even know.  It’s true that I’ve been working for a long time on developing a non-judgmental witness, and learning to look at myself from that viewpoint.  One of my practices has been, when I’m hating myself, to “take a big step back” and look at myself from a distance.

The more I separate from Jenny, and see her from the point of view of a non-judgmental witness, the more I love and admire her.  That’s so odd.  From so much self-hate, to see this person who has gone through so much, to see that she is brave and daring and very lovable.  There’s some quality I can’t name — maybe it’s what Jalaja means by “sweetness” — that Charlotte also talked about.  A childlike freshness, innocence, and curiosity.  I can see that, and I do love that person and feel honored to be her.  This is the gift of walking the dark road out of town.

In Jalaja Bonheim’s comment on my blog post for April 24, 2010, she says she sees “So much passion, devotion, creativity, and sweetness.”  When I first read that, I didn’t know what she was talking about.  But I so respect her as a teacher, and also my intuition knew that she had described me very exactly.  Her words got through my armor and I had to pay attention, even though I didn’t believe them.  Today, for the very first time, I see that quality in Jenny, and I am blown away by it.

The degree to which I have gotten clear of all the threads that tie me to Mother is shown by the fact that I haven’t, for a moment, while writing this, felt the fear that I was “thinking I’m so great.”

I owe this tremendous realization to Stephen and Gregory who pointed me the way to “the dark road that leads out of town.”

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