Last night, the people who witnessed my reaction to what was, for me, a traumatic event no longer wonder why I’m single, and why I’ve chosen to live alone for nearly 25 years. While it is frightening for others to see the effects of my Stories on me, can you imagine what it’s like to actually be me? I’m like Peter Boyle’s Frankenstein before he learns that fire isn’t all bad. And, lucky for me, I’ve got a few Gene Wilders in my life, too, who love the monster-that-is-me nonetheless.
I won’t go into details about what happened, but suffice it to say that I received a tearful reaction (from someone I deeply love) to an honest statement of what I wanted. I was just not going to say anything at all (they don’t call it a Martyr Complex for nothing, I realize), because I feared it would cause upset, but I thought I would summon my courage and just do it. Intellectually I realize that we can’t “make” anyone happy or sad, but when I saw the tears well up in those eyes, I HATED myself. Absolutely hated myself. Then, for a brief moment, I hated that person, too, because my mind had not been read correctly, and I’d actually had to voice my true feelings. But mostly, I hated myself. I stormed off, hopped on a bus, got lost, and eventually sat in a pub doing puzzles and wishing I had enough paper with me to do The Work. For, as painful as the situation was for me, what comes up, comes up, and that’s what you do The Work on. You can’t shortcut or try to work on Big Stuff if it hasn’t come up yet. Last night, though, up it came.
And let’s face it: I’ve spent my life stuffing things down, dishonoring my thoughts and feelings, and running away from my frightful self. (I understand now, though, why so many Mind-Body writers are from my generation. It was the way it was for us, especially in the Midwest, I think.) What I heard growing up will sound familiar to the Baby Boomers. It didn’t matter whether it was happiness, sadness, fear, or anger — if it came up, it was greeted with, “Wipe that smile off your face” or “You can laugh now, but you don’t know what’s in store for you” or “Stop crying” or “I’ll give you something to cry about” or “Did you grow up in a sty?” or “Pipe down, for Pete’s sake.” Oh, and any number of names. Crybaby. Sissy. Chicken. Scaredy-cat. Klutz. Idiot. We tried to earn better names, like Perfect Student, Quietest, Smartest, but they were rarely forthcoming.
At no time were we considered to be “perfect the way we were,” because our parents didn’t think they were themselves. It’s hard — impossible, really — to teach what one does not know. I’m lucky now, though, because those in my life here understand that concept. They accept themselves, warts and all — and they accept me, even if I am Frankenstein now and then. Goodness, I don’t even accept me! But I’m getting there.
And I must be ready to heal the thoughts that are causing me so much pain, because they’re showing up in abundance. I get a few moments of joy, followed quickly by yet another barrage of fear, or anger, or depression, in all its terrifying intensity. My Thought Families, you know, have great-grandchildren, and they’re all married. I have the tools to deal with them now, and a safe place for me for them to speak, but it’s still a frightening process to me.
For those in the War Zone here, I want to remind you that thoughts cannot be let go of. It’s impossible. This is not “mind over matter” stuff, okay? Do you think if that were possible, truly, I would keep myself in this hell? I assure you, I would not. That’s why Byron Katie’s belief, that thoughts will drop themselves after honest inquiry into them, is such a comfort to me. It does actually work, when I do the Work. But it’s not instantaneous, and it requires a Thought showing its ugly, frightening face before I can identify which relative I’m working on and how to move it out of the house.
Yes, these episodes are scary and bewildering, but at least I know I’m on the right track. Katie also says these thoughts don’t raise their beloved, ugly heads until we’re ready to deal with them. Living alone, running away, working in environments where honest emotions are discouraged, is it any wonder they’re only showing up now? I’m with people I love, and I’m not working. Yeah. Think about it.
Teachers, you have arrived. And as your Student, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Please overlook my trembling, awkward hands; my unsteady gait and over-steady gaze; or my little zippered neck. I’ll be dancing to “Puttin’ On the Ritz” in no time.