This bug making its way around town is a persistent one – as soon as the cough simmers down, the nausea starts in and when that’s over, it’s sore-throat time. It’s been a month of this smorgasbord, sapping my strength for everything but naps and Irish novels. I‘m slowing way down to an enforced stillness and am noticing the wisdom in this; it’s like a meditation in which I am aware of every little thing, especially my own short human life on earth.
It is frightening to look too closely because for myself and everyone alive in the world right now ‘every little thing’ includes so much that is horrific and more dire than we can imagine, and much we dare not even begin to imagine.
But then, has there ever been a generation for whom poverty and war, greed and violence have not been the case?
For example, I was born into refugee poverty and my family history includes suicides and pogroms, deaths of our young men in war, murder and paralysis, incest and child abuse. I was the kid who kept to herself and dreamed of green mountains and shining brooks, horrified and ashamed of the people I belonged to.
I’ve always suspected myself of the Pollyanna syndrome, constantly dreaming up a fantasy of goodness to cover over my actual soul sickness, hiding from the truth of myself as well as the truth of my world – a kid in denial, pretending to be who she wished she was, but wasn’t. Now, in my mature years and with the help of a skilled healer I’ve determined to dig deep into the truth of myself, finding once and for all the authentic ground of my being.
“You’re down in close, but you don’t need to dig in rock!” warned Jak seriously, “Brush away at the loose sand and mud and let it get washed away by your life force, like a river. But be very careful!”
So I dug in rock – of course – and that night choked myself awake from a nightmare in which I couldn’t breathe. In the dream, stuck in the airless cabin of a grounded airplane, I was ready to let go of life, but then found myself sucking it back in, breath by body-shaking breath. I can still feel that struggle against the fog, my chest heaving as the dark closed in.
But in those moments of gasping for breath something came clear and I got it, perhaps for the first time, that my creative personality was not just a defense against despair, it was who I was! That I actually am by nature a positive spirit! I woke all the way up, gulping in real air and sitting up against the headboard, knowing myself to be an authentic artist of life – not a sham.
I was someone I could trust!
Jak, I had to finally know this, and that’s why I dug into the rock.
I fell back to sleep, reassured after all these years of wondering if I was or was not an imposter.
I’m not. Neither are any of you, I’ll bet.
I can never forget the heartbreaking night – I was about seven – when the whole world was celebrating the Armistice of World War II and “the boys were coming home!” In our house, though, there was only keening because Leon, my mother’s beloved twenty-two year old brother, would not be coming home.
Instead of him, we got a “Purple Heart” in a box in the mail.
That night of helpless wailing, I believe, was when my mother finally cracked. One by one we all did, I think.
Our family disintegrated after that, and given that every generation in human history, it seems, goes through its own version of wars and tragic loss, is it any wonder that we collectively suffer from depression and self-doubt, the misery being passed down from mothers and fathers to their children, ad infinitum?
We are links in a chain.
I had a dream that night that is as clear to me now as it was at the end of the war when I was seven and my uncle did not come back from the war with ‘the boys:’
I have come to a New York City tenement building, like the one Aunt Francis lives in above their drugstore, and I go up the stairs and down a dark hallway looking at the numbers on each door. One door is partly open and I look in, but instead of an apartment, there is a cathedral – forbidden ground for little Jewish girls like me. This is Hitler time. But something draws me into that long, dark space – a choir singing at the altar – and I walk down the long nave towards the music. I belong here. Robed singers embrace me with welcome, their voices reaching into my sadness. They sing and sing, and rock me. I want to stay, but I cannot. With their eyes they let me know that even though I have to leave, I can return.
Just look for the slightly open door – anywhere.
Years later, I would make a study of 12th century cathedrals, looking for that one! Indeed, I found it again and again in different guises all over France where he had been killed. In each one I felt taken in and comforted.
As I move into the last decade of my life I know, more and more, that it is indeed authentic beauty that redeems us, no matter what madness of war and greed is being perpetrated out there by the frightened ones. We can love one another despite this and create the positive beauty that we know how to do, no matter how we do it.
Many are the ways of artistry and loving. Many are the authentic tools for creation, and we’ve all got them, no matter how much we’ve covered them over with protective polish.
We’re the real thing. We can trust ourselves.
I know this now for a fact.