1995: Struggling with Health, Noise, Confusion

From my journal for September 11, 1995

I want to write about my odd feeling yesterday and today.  I’m sure it’s at least partly the cold that makes me feel thick-headed and dazed, partly Dana being away that makes me feel lost and precarious, the bottom dropped out.  Then there was the frustration of seeing the beautiful day and not being really part of it (except for a short while while dancing outdoors — when a flock of birds flew over us and I had that sense of oneness of all things) and the fear of the airplanes.  I suppose all of that could account for my sense of being in some bizarre place, a collage whose pieces don’t fit — perhaps the walls are breaking down between the worlds: the world of beauty and the world of horror.  Perhaps I should say: the world of natural beauty and the world of human horror. 

This reminds me a little of the spring feeling of being “rent and torn,” but it’s different now.  That, I think, felt more like being torn in half, or down the middle, there seemed to be two parts or two layers, and they were contrasting: cold and warm, bright and dark.  This feels more complex, there are still the tearing contrasts, but there seem to be more layers.  I have a sense of death being ready to pounce.  I think this is how I might feel if I had a fatal illness, the familiar world seems very strange and fleeting, as though I had never seen it before and will never see it again.      And I recognize, as I write, that in the equation are human beauty and love, human loss and pain: there’s the joy of our dancing, of preserving these dances (I told them of the joy of the peasant women as they emerged from the tunnel), there’s my love for Dana, and my failure to give it sexual expression, and my sense of loss that he’s so far away.  I’ve been reading The White Witch, which describes the non-sexual love between Froniga and Yoben, and makes it clear how strong their love is that is capable of flourishing even though that powerful instinct is denied.

My failure to be sexual with my husband was because of the early trauma. When I get excited — or angry or afraid — my system starts to rouse to be sexual, or fight or run away, and then goes into freeze. At this point I have no idea that this is what’s happening.

I showed a video of peasant women doing a folk dance. They form two lines, hold hands across and raise their arms to make a tunnel, and then each comes through the tunnel, opening her arms to the sky with joy as she comes out.

The White Witch is a novel by Elizabeth Goudge. Froniga is the witch, she is half Gypsy and uses herbs and psychic powers for healing. Yoben is a Catholic priest who was tortured and became a Gypsy as a disguise.

Here I’m talking about the airplanes whose noise gives me a very hard time:

There’s nothing I can do to make it stop.  It just hurts so much, and it doesn’t quit and there’s nothing I can do, and no one who really understands.  I was typing at the computer when the last one came over and I just put my head down on my arms and started crying.  I’ve been sobbing hysterically while writing this and praying to god to please help me, but of course nothing changes.  Actually I guess such prayer is really re-stimulating because it’s too much like asking Mom & Dad to stop hurting me.  I have a bunch of things to write about the parallels between the planes & my alcoholic parents, but I feel too hopeless to bother.  It would be very much easier to be dead.

Feeling completely broken.  I did manage to walk the dog, using the walkman to listen to Maki’s Russian tape.  I didn’t enjoy the walk, just did it for the dog.  I was reading the print out of July but it sounds like someone else’s life, the life of someone who’s dead.  All those creative projects, never to be finished now.  Nothing means anything.

I’m cooking beans and almonds — I had a cup of tea and a cheese sandwich earlier in a spirit of angry rebellion — I’ve worked so goddam hard, years in therapy, all my discipline around diet, and nothing to show for it, I still can’t deal with the airplanes, can’t begin to describe the pain they cause me, can’t understand why I fall apart so badly, don’t see any point in going on — all this work and I still don’t have any life.

O yes, something about seeing how much attachment I have to getting something done, “keeping it together,” going on with my life, “taking care of myself,” refusing to break down — in this respect I am my mother’s daughter.

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1996: Description of Trauma before I Understood that I had been Traumatized

From my journal for March 1996.  Eleanor is my friend who was badly abused in her family of origin. She was herself dealing with PTSD, and kept trying to convince me that I was too. At that time, I thought trauma was caused by violence, I didn’t know about its dependence on the ability of the organism to process the event. My parents were alcoholics, but they weren’t violent.

Eleanor said she thought I was much better now than when she first met me.  She said that I used to just stay upstairs, I didn’t go out, I dressed in miserable clothes.  She said she was shocked by the state of our house when she first met us: no proper bathroom, no windows.  She said I didn’t have the capacity to make a home, but now I do.  I said that was all external stuff, she agreed but said it reflected my internal state.  She said when she first met me she could see that I was depressed, but that I was very defended, she says now I’m much more open and vulnerable.  I said that was probably true and as a result I was much more scared.  Eleanor said terror was better than depression because it moves.  She reminded me that when she first met me I was immobilized by the depression to the extent that I wasn’t doing anything for myself: no therapy, no workshops, none of the stuff I’m doing now.  (In fact I think it was Eleanor who told me about Kripalu, gave me a catalog.  I know it was Eleanor who dialed Debbie Alicen and handed me the phone.)  Eleanor said Dana said I was much worse in the black cloud/candida days, before she even met me.  I checked with Dana, he said I was sick all the time, couldn’t walk farther than Gaudette’s, was struggling with brain fog.  I’ve been feeling that the 1984 depression was a piece of cake compared to this one, that I had to go back to 1970 for something as bad, but perhaps I’m wrong.  It sounds like I’m much more conscious now, in 1984 I was deep in denial.  Well of course, that was the beginning of the Children of Alcoholic stuff.  Before that, I had no way to understand my misery except by seeing myself as inherently defective, lacking in will power, “wanting to be miserable.”

Debbie Alicen was a therapist I saw for a while.  Gaudette was a family who had a house partway down a road across from our house.

Another time we were walking with the dog and Eleanor talked about how she saw life, about how wonderful and sacred it was, how that was why she didn’t kill herself, because she could see that life itself was so precious even when her own life was so painful.  I didn’t say so, but I envy her.  I wish I had such a vision/ knowledge/ experience of life.  I think sometimes when I’m in my objective scientist mode I can see “life” as something enormous, mysterious and magical; I think of the time when I was returning from the Observatory at Wellesley and suddenly became aware of the uniqueness, complexity and preciousness of trees in contrast to the simplicity of stars.  A star is easy to make, it’s just a ball of gas.  A tree requires a long and complex process.  (This makes me think of Dana saying that he sees the physical world as just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m continually feeling trapped in the physical world, as though it were all there is.)  I have all the lovely images from Chaos Theory and Complexity and the plasma theory of creation, and there was a time when these ideas helped me imagine a universe I could feel at home in.

But I don’t feel that way now.  I don’t have that sense of reverence for “life” that Eleanor has.  What keeps me from committing suicide is the fact that Dana would be very unhappy.  So how do I see “life”?  I imagine this huge machine, something like a steam roller, a garbage compactor, a chipper.  It rolls over me without concern for my uniqueness or individuality.  First it flattens me, then it chews me up and spits me out, all mangled.  It gives me assignments that I can’t fulfill: I’m to be independent, strong, I have to take care of myself, I mustn’t bother anyone, but I’m supposed to enjoy and appreciate and be grateful for whatever happens to me.  That sounds pretty awful, and it also sounds like what mother did to me, on both the emotional level (when she flattened me, chewed me up, spit me out deformed into whatever mirror image her narcissism demanded) and the practical level, where I was given many messages that I had to take care of myself and not bother the adults.  She was my first experience of life.

Still, I think Eleanor’s first experience was worse, so how does she get her sense of reverence for life?

Question never answered.

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This was originally written in July 2005, and posted in April 2011. At that time I was still writing to my “Guides and Guardian Spirits.” I had some answers where they seemed to fall for my wrong idea that I had to help everybody who asked. So I didn’t write for guidance for a while. Then, when I started going to Quaker Meeting, and learned that Quakers taught about consulting an “Inner Teacher” who represented God, I began to write for guidance from “Inner Teacher.” I find this particular Guidance interesting enough to re-post:

Rupert Sheldrake and Matthew Fox in Natural Grace talk about the soul, how it’s like a field, centered on the body but bigger than the body — “the body is in the soul” — our souls overlap and interpenetrate so that what happens in one affects all the others — which validates my idea that my work on myself affects the human energy field.  Perhaps it’s also true that I’m working on more than my “own” stuff — part of why it’s been so hard and such a struggle is I’m fighting against, or fighting to transform, all the negativity that’s out there, the denied depression and despair and grief and fear.  If I knew that was true?  Well then at least I could feel that my life isn’t wasted, even tho I never got enough of the experiences — friendship, lovers, worthwhile tasks, fun, creativity — that would make life enjoyable.  I guess I have to let myself grieve for all that — hopefully so I can come back to a place of being grateful for what I do have and let go of the bitterness about what I didn’t get.

Dear Guides and Guardian Spirits, I’m feeling very sad about my wrecked life, about all the things I never got to do that would have brought satisfaction and pleasure, and that my chances of being able to widen my life to include more satisfaction and pleasure look very slim at the moment.
Dear Jenny, nine years ago, when you opened Neskaya, you were profoundly depressed and terrified.  You were afraid that you might not even be able to teach two hours of dance a week.  Since that time, you have tackled and succeeded with a number of things: all-day dances, workshops with British teachers, Dancing the Sacred Calendar, painting with Aviva Gold.  You tried a number of things which didn’t last for a variety of reasons.  You’ve made a lot of new friends.  Even tho people move away, new ones have come.  You have incorporated, applied for and got tax-exempt status and set up an endowment fund.  You have changed your investments to socially responsible ones, and built yourself a house.  You have made a positive contribution to the lives of many people: some you know, and others you don’t know about.  You got on medication, weathered a painful divorce, and have done major healing work with Somatic Experiencing.  This is all a tremendous achievement.  You have trouble seeing it because the amount of healing you have done has made it easier to see the empty places in your life, and to see how much work and confidence and support is needed to be able to do some of the things you want to do: the Winter Solstice Pageant for example.  You are seeing more clearly how badly you were damaged in childhood.  You also have many fears: when your ankles hurt, or your energy ebbs, or only a few people come to dance — that this is the beginning of the end, that whatever it is will not recover and come back.  You have suffered many losses, and haven’t had much chance to learn that things do return.  But they do: your ankles are fine now, your energy will come back, and people will always come to dance.  We suggest you use this low time to relax and rest, practice doing nothing, spend time with darkness and silence.  This will nourish your own life, and even as you nourish yourself, you also bring healing to the planet you love.  Rest on this dear Jenny.  For all the pain and misery in your life, you are not adding any pain to the world.  Even this is a tremendous achievement.  Let go, let down, be at peace, rest on the Everlasting Arms, they are there for you.  We love you, dear Jenny, and you are doing fine just as you are.

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1996: Imprisoned by an Idea

From my journal for January 28, 1996

Dana said something about “life moving in to fill every niche.”  It’s a lovely image, and it reminded me of what Beverly said about seeds wanting to grow — and I see the degree to which I’m imprisoned by the idea that if I don’t do something, nothing will happen.  Actually, it’s not as grandiose as that — obviously lots of things happen without my intervention from changing seasons to political elections.  I think what I mean/feel is that no positive change will happen in my life: I have no sense of a process that carries me, supports me, heals me, nourishes me, brings new and good things into my life.  Instead I feel like I’m always struggling against something that drains and debilitates me, that constant quicksand that I’m always trying to hold myself up out of.

I see the damage done by alcoholic parents who failed to support me, and expected me to do things, like take care of my younger siblings, that I was too young to know how to do. No wonder I feel so unsupported still. They never supported me, or encouraged me to ask for help. I remember once hearing them say “We were so smart to raise a baby-sitter before we raised a family.” I remember thinking, “Yes, and the “baby-sitter” went on to get a degree with honors from Wellesley.” So at least by that time I had learned that I was good for something more than baby-sitting.

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1996: Realize that I HAVE made a Contribution

From my journal for January 28, 1996

It’s possible that my life will make some sort of contribution to the world.  By participating in circle dance — keeping that going — by building Neskaya to support activities which would be part of a world that is greener and quieter — I’m like the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings.  Surely the F of H has made a small difference, I think of the woman who said it got her through the winter.  And Journey into Courage, I know, has made a difference in people’s lives, a difference in the direction of the kind of world I want to see.  I find, and this is a result of facing despair squarely, that it doesn’t much matter to me if that world comes to pass.  I certainly don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime. But even if it never happens, I feel satisfied (at this moment) with my contributions in that direction —   And I feel proud of my participation in Journey, and good about the video, even if it’s never a commercial success.  It’s still a good piece of work.  I feel that revealing myself in the interview — and letting it go into the final version — was a mistake for me personally, because I’m more emotionally vulnerable than I realized, but I don’t think it was a mistake for the integrity of the film.

The “proverbial butterfly” is the one that in chaos theory flaps its wings in Mexico and affects the weather in Montana three days later.

I asked Dana if I had made a difference to him, other than as a challenge which forced him to develop skills in relationship.  He said that in fact, the part of himself that he had to develop in order to deal with the difficulties of being in a relationship with me is the part that he values most greatly, more than Neskaya, more than the concertina project.

Dammit!  I see that I have made quite a difference and contributed a lot to the world.  Why then do I keep returning to the feeling that my life is worthless?  Because there’s nothing here that Mom & Dad would appreciate or praise, because I have grandiose and unreasonable expectations, because I devalue what I’ve done because the world isn’t “saved” yet?  At least at the moment, I feel satisfied with my life, feel that I don’t have to push myself to do anything more, feel that I will certainly continue to do the kinds of things that grow naturally out of who I am.

I keep returning to the feeling that my life is worthless because I’m disabled by the brain chemistry of severe depression, rooted in early trauma.  It will be a few years before I finally understand this.

Dana said that one of the things he gets from me is support for a certain kind of honesty that makes possible a degree of depth in relationship and in living, that he thinks he wouldn’t have gotten to without having me in his life.  That seems to me to be high praise, that I can see as something that means my life has value after all, despite the rest of the failures and poor health, etc.  What Dana said reminded me of the time Sybil said she’s becoming more honest in her life and it’s because of me.  Alice said something similar.

Reading this now, I think that I have made a contribution to the world.  No question that Neskaya and Journey into Courage are contributions. I’m very touched by reading that Dana feels he learned something of extreme value by struggling with such a difficult person to live with, and that he’s not the only one who’s learned from me to appreciate honesty. Given that truth is highly important to me, it’s comforting to see that some people who know me have learned to be more honest from me.

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Healing the Heart

I’ve been thinking about the change that happened when Tala did some acupuncture work on heart points. Basically, I started to feel “normal” — not scared, not sad — it took me a while to see that I was feeling better. It was only in the session with Erica in the afternoon, when I talked about gratitudes, and told funny stories and laughed. Erica said “You’re feeling better!” and I realized I was.

That made me think about the time I was feeling like my heart was a stone, cold and solid. I thought it meant I was unloving, but when I told Lynelle she said “Too much pain.” That was a surprise, and helped me feel like a better person. I realized that what I am feeling now is the relief from pain about global warming and the damage that humans are doing to the planet and all its creatures. Did I want to feel relief from that pain? Was I in denial? What I realized is that I’m not in denial, I know that global warming is happening, but at the same time I can see that what humans are doing to fight global warming is significant. In fact, I think they are running evenly. We don’t see it because the news doesn’t report the good stuff, especially when it’s a project done by a small number of people  in another country. We have a good chance of turning things around, but we have to keep working on it.

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“It’s only Love that never ends…”

While walking Mocha this morning I had a sense of helpful spirits being with me.  Then I listened to Meg Barnhouse singing “All Shall be Well.”  Toward the end she sings “… it’s only love that never ends.  And so All will be well…”  I understood that no matter what happens to us, no matter what we do, when we are hurt, when we hurt others, we are still held in Love.  That’s how all is well.

The song is about Julian of Norwich, who lived during the bubonic plague, probably lost family members, certainly saw the carts coming to take the dead bodies away.  A lot of suffering.  She nearly died, and had visions which she wrote about.  She was an anchoress, and lived in a small chamber attached to the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, with a window on a main street.  She offered wisdom to anyone who came by. The most well known of her words are “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

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The Sweet Influence of Pleiades

Writing with Sharon.  We wrote for 20 minutes, then read and talked about what we wrote.

Talking to Erica about Non-duality.  I find that my comfort with not knowing who I am, not having any “identity,” is actually a non-dual experience — if that’s the right word.  I was surprised to find so many people in the class are concerned about their identities and very uncomfortable if they don’t have one.  I guess for me, and Erica pointed this out, I would often say “I’m a mixed bag.”  A frequent answer to how are you today?  There was a time when I mostly saw myself as worthless.  I would occasionally manage to see something “worthy,” I could remind myself that I am intelligent — evidence: my Wellesley degree — or that I had helped somebody.  When did I begin to be able to acknowledge that I had some worthwhile qualities — I think of Elizabeth saying I was “kind” and my astonishment — I would usually balance them with the worthless parts, and now I’m beginning to see that the parts of me I think of as “worthless” are actually wounded.  In any case, seeing myself as someone with positive talents and gifts, and negative behaviors and woundings, started me referring to myself as a “mixed bag.”  The beauty of the phrase is I don’t have to specify what different things are in the bag.  Might be certain things one day, and something different the next.  No wonder I never got attached to an identity.  It’s true that I still see myself as separate from the world, which is duality, but hey!  So what?

Nothing more to say.  Was there another piece?  Cynthia talks about “cosmic mystery” and I immediately think of my vision of the Universe, multi-dimensional, so complex, complex beyond the capacity of a human brain to understand.  That reminds me of the print that hangs on my wall.  “Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades?…” and thinking God was saying something akin to “who do you think you are?”  Then later realizing that God was saying something much closer to “the complexity of the universe is beyond the capacity of your brain.”  “Can  you make luck happen?”  It’s name was Pleiades and I was about to graduate with a degree in Astronomy, so of course I bought it.

The Pleiades, by the way, are a star cluster, also called the seven sisters. “Can you make luck happen?” is a literal translation of “bind the sweet influence…”

Cynthia is Cynthia Bourgeault, who is teaching the course on Practical Nonduality for Spirituality & Practice.

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1996: Rules for Re-doing Life 101

I’m not sure where these ideas came from. They were on a piece of paper taped in the back of the notebook. They were written on March 4, so they should have been included in the post about Re-doing “Life 101.”  They belong after the paragraph where I say “If I’m going to change, someone/something else must change me.”

Other people have gone through this and come out with a new understanding/ new experience / new relationship with god.

There is a map.

Remember to be very quiet and listen to the inner wisdom voice.

Remember to do very gentle things that will support me instead of heroic things to get me out.

My job is to stay with the rhythm of this stage, to accept and surrender to where I am right now.

My practice is to rest on the unknown, to let it change me, since I have reached a dead end in trying to change myself.

This is a stage I am passing through, a way-station on the journey.

I can trust my unconscious process. I don’t need to know what to do.

Things will change anyway.

It seems to me that I’ve spent most of my life trying to learn how to be more relaxed, to be more comfortable letting things happen, not trying to force things, and I’ve still only gotten partway there.

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1996: Dull Misery

These journal entries were written in March 1996

[I had a gush of pain while Dr. Tatone, chiropractor, worked on me]

It was a little disappointing, because I had felt so well this morning, felt like a human being for the first time in a very long time, and then to be so badly thrown by practical demands.  But I think it was because I never had time to process that gush of pain — I think it was a sort of flashback, I think it is part of the emotional knot that’s tied up my upper back. …  So here’s this dull misery that’s not quite in focus.

Does it have a color or shape?  It’s rounded, dull, perhaps fading purples and pinks, tarnished like those flowers I found so wonderful a long time ago.  A feeling of trying to love someone who doesn’t want to be loved, who isn’t worthy of being loved.  I cringe at saying “not worthy” since I know that in a sense everyone is worthy of love, or at least compassion, even the most hardened sinner.  But there’s a sense of trying to give a gift, a lovely, precious, rich but subtly colored gift to someone who can’t see its value and throws it away, someone who wants a gaudy trinket, and I’m not capable of producing a gaudy trinket.  That’s what it feels like.  The misery of offering one’s gifts and having them repudiated, trashed, in favor of something more obvious and less valuable.  But I don’t know that, and so I decide that my gifts, in their subtlety and depth, are worthless.

There’s another gush of the misery that I’ve identified as having the gifts I bring easily and naturally be ignored and rejected and having things always demanded that are not easy and natural, that feel false, against the grain, like having to say I like something when I don’t, having to clean my room to prove that I love someone instead of having my love be seen and accepted for itself.

This is a pretty clear attempt at describing my experience growing up, where my family, especially my mother and her mother, did not appreciate — could not even see — the gifts I had to offer. They contained subtle beauty, deep intelligence, that could not be appreciated by people whose values were entirely conventional. It suddenly occurs to me that there is also the possibility that Mother could see the beauty and the depth and was threatened by it. She used to say, over and over, “Don’t think you’re so great,” and I learned to do my best to shrink and hide my worthless self.

I find it very interesting that I say, of the feeling I’m trying to get a handle on, first it is a feeling of trying to love someone who doesn’t want to be loved, but then it becomes a gift I’m trying to give to someone who can’t appreciate it. Very different.

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