Hamster-wheeling and Enlightenment.

My post last night was a little too dramatic for my taste. See, I’m on a hamster-wheel about my finances and it’s taking quite a bit to step off. After writing that post, I texted my best friend about 20 times (Carly is a saint, ya’ll) and she coaxed me down. She’s quite good at that. After 19 years of knowing each other it’s kind of our way. We talk each other down from emotional cliffhanging on a regular basis.

When I was able to calm down and look at my emotions more mindfully, I was aware of what was underlying the whole thing. Sure, I’m terrified. By which I mean I’m scared shitless. However, I’m not really terrified about money. I’m terrified that I am in charge of making sure I’m okay, of planning my life out so that I’m well-taken care of. Something in me says that if I make one little misstep, the whole house of cards will fall apart.

My therapist would agree. Last time I saw him he said that it’s all just a house of cards anyway, isn’t it? I’m still getting used to the idea that nothing is permanent or guaranteed. I’m sure being a trauma survivor doesn’t really help that. At the very end of my fear is this idea of what happens when the house falls. In my head, I see myself going crazy. Losing my mind. Also, that seems logical to me considering the vast history of mental illness on both sides of my family. My dad’s side looks especially terrifying, what with its multiple instances of delusions. My grandma, my grandpa, my uncle, and my dad ALL have suffered/continue to suffer in various degrees from delusions. (Delusion = one of the three roots of suffering according to Buddhism)

I looked at myself last night and I saw delusion, expectation, clinging, suffering. I see in myself the same things I see in my dad. Talk about terrifying. I want to run screaming from all the zombies that invade my brain at that thought. Except that I did have the presence of mind to finally return to my sangha last night, and what the dharma talk covered is still with me.

We talked about the 6 paramitas. One of the 6 paramitas of Buddhism is “generosity.” The idea of generosity includes the intention of being generous with my compassion. I see in myself the suffering I also see in others, so therefore can have compassion.

Psh. Who wants to have compassion? I don’t. Are you kidding? THEY are the bad ones! THEY are the wrong ones! Have compassion for THEM?

But then I can’t help it. It just comes. I see back through my ancestry and it’s so obvious. We all struggle against impermanence. We have used delusion to avoid the idea that it’s all falling apart, anyway. I finally can understand why my dad became so afraid and invented the whole delusion of “the Money.” The money was really just a keyword for being rescued from the fear of everything disintegrating.

I carry that exact same fear within myself. The very same one. Terrified that everything’s going to fall apart, I manage and manage and manage.

Which brings me to the third paramita – forbearance. That is to say, acceptance of life. Patience with life’s impermanence. The awareness that “this too shall pass.” It’s staring into the great wide yawning hole inside myself, and falling in.

Do you know what happens when stardust falls into a black hole?

It is enlightened. It transitions to another realm. Scientists are just now lending validity to this idea, but I’ve been fascinated by it for years. I started a fictional story of a girl that passes through a black hole to another dimension. What I was writing was what I needed to say to myself. Fall in.

Paramita. Crossing over to the other shore.

I see it now. May I transition to the other dimension, where the hamster wheel doesn’t exist.

Here’s to taking a deep breath and jumping off the cliff…

I was talking to a friend the other day and describing some of my childhood, and I realized that I haven’t written much about it here. I’ve written about it in vague, hidden descriptions only. Like a warning sign over my heart. Maybe because that part of my life feels like a minefield. I’ve dealt with a lot of those issues, but I never know when one will explode and hit me in the face.

There’s one I’d like to describe right now though, a behavior I described to my friend earlier. I’m going to call it Learned Pretentiousness. My dad, who completely believed that we would be the recipients of billions of dollars gifted us by God, taught us this interesting behavior. The first time I can recall using it was when we did a walk-through of a 5 million dollar house that we were going to buy when “The Money” arrived (which was an imminent event, of course). I remember assuming the behavior of a rich little girl, trying to pretend like my family wasn’t living in a tiny 3-bedroom apartment where I shared a room with my twin sister. Instead, I discussed what kinds of things we would buy to put in the living room, or how we would arrange the basements, or what the room above the stable would be used for.

I was 10 years old at the time of our little walk-through (and no, The Money has still not arrived 14 years later). There were so many times I put on the “little rich girl” throughout the years that I don’t even remember all of them. My family would often frequent 5 star hotels just to sit in the lobby and pretend like we were one of them. Or, more often than not, we would visit the local corporate airport to look at the planes, and MAYBE WE WOULD BE LUCKY AND SOMEONE WOULD MEET US THERE WITH THE MONEY! You could never be sure.

One time my dad actually talked a jet chartering company into flying a large corporate jet into Denver for us to see. My dad had great powers of persuasion and is probably the most charismatic man I’ve ever met. I remember sitting on that jet feeling like I was living a complete lie but struggling, trying desperately, to pull it off like I knew what richness felt like. I was crawling with anxiety and trying to hide the fact that I so obviously didn’t belong.

The behavior actually became so ingrained that if I walk into any luxurious atmosphere now, I have to be on guard so I don’t assume it and therefore assume a personality that is not myself.

Looking back on the strangeness of my life, I can easily see why alcohol and love addiction became such a big issue for me. First of all, I had no idea what living in reality was like, since my dad and therefore my family avoided it at all costs. And second, besides my dad creating this strange, cult-like family (me, my mom, and my sisters) and convincing us to buy into this delusional idea, he was also abusive and angry if we ever crossed him. None of us dared speak up and say that he was wrong about this money idea. The closest any of us got was my twin sister repeatedly speaking her doubts about God really saying it, and my dad spending hours trying to convince her that she just had to take it on faith. She eventually bought into it more than any of the rest of us. Yet the one time I remember my mom slightly disagreeing with him about his ideas, he forbid her from taking part in family conversations until she apologized. (About a month later)

By the time I was 15, I was at least slightly aware that I wanted to escape, and that was when most of my acting out started. It was like I was a snake itching to get rid of my skin, my isolated and bizarre little life. The anxiety exploded and I grabbed men, alcohol, a knife – anything that could get me out of the feelings I had of my life imploding on top of me. Outside, I was walking into 5 star restaurants and pretending my life was grand.

I am scared to post this. Scared to open up this part of my life. I’ve talked about it with my therapist and my close friends. But I think only to my therapist with as much detail, with the dots and lines that include every detail of how I was trained to act. And most recently, of the shame I have carried for buying into this delusional world. Because I did. I never thought I’d have to cook my own meals. I expected to marry a rich man, even a prince. I expected to wear Chanel and have my own horse or several. I expected to be able to travel to Dubai and stay in my favorite suite in the world. I have been ashamed for the time I spent buying into it all when I was a teenager. I’ve long since stopped believing the lies, but the shame remains.

I guess one of the biggest reasons I want to post this is to give back that shame by opening up my story to the world. It’s my way of doing what my therapist described yesterday about the day I went into Cartier when I was 16. I put on a $50,000 diamond ring (or maybe it was $25,000… I can’t quite remember), fell in love with it, and my dad embarrassingly slipped in a mention to the sales person that we would be back when his “investment paid out.” (Investment meaning God would give us The Money we had been waiting for) Instead of standing there in my embarrassment, pretending that I was a spoiled little teenager, here’s what I would want to say now:

“Sorry ma’am. My dad thinks God is going to give him 1.7 billion dollars, you see. Just out of thin air. He has it all planned out and is just waiting for God to give it to him. He has a company formed in the state of Colorado so that there is a place for the money to go. I have a trustee for a trust account that has no money in it. He even thinks a man in Iran is going to gift it to him, which is illegal in fact. So as you can see the whole idea is pretty laughable. This ring is gorgeous but I will probably never buy it. Thanks for the chance to put it on.”


 

Here’s an update to how I’m working through things with my family now… It’s Complicated

Internalizing

Inside my body lives a giant house. It’s got nooks and crannies, and even a secret hiding place. I don’t have a basement with demons in it, but I’ve got a secret passageway in the basement which leads to the attic, where all my demons nest in the rafters. I’ve seen this place in my dreams. I feel it in my bones when they creak.

There’s a little room (one I haven’t dreamed) that I keep locked. On the walls of the room there are mirrors, big and small. They flash, flicker, and gleam. Some of them are old, rusted, and pitted. Across all the reflective surfaces are words.

Inadequate.
Lost.
Invisible.
Alone.
Forsaken.
Broken.
Defective.
Unnoticed and Unnoticeable.
Unimportant.
Ugly.

It goes on and on, reflecting an endless litany of every message, every word They named aloud or silently to describe who I was. The mirrors bounce the messages back and forth between every surface in the room until I’m dizzy.

Recently, I’ve started writing my own messages on the mirrors in red dry-erase ink. Dry-erase, because I can be modified. Dry-erase, because sometimes I need to hear something new. Dry-erase, because I’m a work in progress.

Seen.
Enough.
Worthy.
Noticed and Noticeable.
Important.
Supported.
Connected.
Beautiful.
Resilient.

Paired with these words are moving faces, expressive and full. Faces pronouncing compassion and comfort through eyes, smiles, and soft, reaching lines. In the mirrors I see every single person who has ever affirmed my value and worth. They, unlike the dead words that hang like dementors over my head, are vibrant. Their voices still echo in the room.

I am here now, with a cacophony of sound. The beautiful and the empty all dance together, twisting in my head. But they are both present. Like a sponge, I am slowly soaking in messages and being choosy about which ones I will believe. It’s dizzying, difficult work.

Yet I’m so grateful, for I’m slowly seeing a new face come alive in that mirror. One with sparkling hazel eyes that don’t need alcohol, men, or any stimulation to dance with the life behind them. I’m becoming a moon reflecting the sunlight of the Spirit. I’m internalizing my truth.

Here soon, it’s going to burst out into the wide, wide world. Oh my darling, I can’t wait to see what you become.

Heart-Silence

I am coming to appreciate the value of silence. I don’t mean just silence in the sense that there are no words. I mean heart-silence.

Some people, when you tell them your emotional state, what you’re experiencing, respond with advice or suggestions. I’ve noticed this for awhile, and it comes in several forms. When I was still involved heavily in church, people would say “Well God wants people to do this and that because the Bible says this and that.” Instantly their word became gospel, of course, and I was expected to take their advice. In recovery, I find people expounding on certain techniques couched in their “experience strength and hope” which they expect me to then take on. Because it’s experience, strength, and hope, of course, and I’m supposed to be learning from the experience, strength, and hope of others. This isn’t intended to knock ESH; everything I’ve learned in recovery I’ve learned from other people. I DO need people’s wisdom quite often. But sometimes, I need heart-silence.

Rarely do I find a person who will not respond to my emotions with “well I did this” or “this approach is helpful” or “well maybe you need to do this” and instead respond with simple heart-silence. You know what I mean. When someone holds your words in a sacred way, there is a certain silence to it. They might say something, or ask a question for clarification. But they aren’t trying to fix. And in that, silence happens.

Actually, I really find those moments spiritual. That’s how my interaction with my Higher Power is. Most of the time, my HP isn’t trying to fix me when I’m communicating with It. Most of the time, It just listens. Soaks in. Reminds me that I am loved.

So when a person in real life responds to me that way, I get a taste of what my HP is like. I relax. I feel heard, seen, and valued. I treasure those moments.

Moments of experiencing heart-silence from others remind me of a place here in Colorado that’s very special to me. It’s a tiny little graveyard out on the eastern plains. It’s silent, so silent that everything inside of me unwinds, like a ball of yarn when you pull on it. There’s a great bowl of sky and a great bowl of earth, and I am clasped gently between them. I am held, as surely as a baby is held in a mother’s womb.

And even though so much of me right now resists “Christian religiosity”, the only word that can really describe the hush of that place is this:

Holy.