Thursday, March 19, 2009
I have a friend who when asked about her religious beliefs always answers with a rueful smile, "The Lord and I have not been on speaking terms for quite some time, and I do not expect that to change anytime soon."
When I broke up with a long ago ex partner - after finding he had been cheating on me for weeks - it felt as though my heart had been ripped out through my mouth by a long-nailed demon with severe DT's. I remember sitting in a confused and weeping heap on the kitchen floor of my old haunt, The Heights, and trying to find someone, something at which to aim my impotent pain and fury.
I blamed the ex: but he had acted in a completely predictable manner, doing to me what I knew he had done to so many other women before me. I understood why he behaved as he did and whilst I am not sure that to understand is to forgive, to understand certainly makes it harder to bloody judge.
I blamed myself: but I had made a series of choices in good - if foolishly placed - faith, leading with my heart and not my head. It had been very beautiful with him in moments, and the price of intense beauty? Intense pain.
So I turned to the Universe, to God It/Her/Him-self, and I blamed It/Her/Him: but it's hard to maintain a sense of great vengeance and furious anger with a concept you don't believe in. Or a lasting conversation. Try imagining a pink elephant in a bowler hat (yes the bowler is vital to this exercise) sat in the corner and ask it/her/him for counsel and advice - then follow the advice the elephant gives you - and you'll see what I mean.
Gradually, and with many more heartbreaks, large and small, in between, I have come to believe that the point of pain and anger is to experience it, to sit with the emotions and try to do no harm while under their spell, but ultimately to use these feelings to understand better both myself and those around me.
I haven't felt much in the way of heartbreak for a while; I'm still avoiding that line of questioning, and of fire. Yet, the splashbacks that spray so broadly when the shit hits the fan in the lives of those I love finds its way to me anyway, and late last night, it did exactly that - when a friend told me some bad news concerning her family.
This morning, I find myself angry again, shaking my metaphorical fists at the metaphorical heavens and finding not even metaphorical relief for my curses. I may have put barriers around my own heart that no man will penetrate for some time, but my heart holds an open door if pain enters the lives of those I love. And I find myself back at that point of trying to understand why these things happen, and what I am meant to do with this helplessness when they happen.
My NLP trainer - latest t-shirt will read 'Steve Hender Accentuated My Positive' - has lent me a truck load of material that talks about dealing with anger, disappointment and pain. Jack Canfield says that underneath any feeling of anger is fear and that in order to deal with the anger, you have to work through your emotions and find the fear.
So what's the fear beneath my anger?
Maybe my fear is that if the world is this randomly cruel sometimes, then we are never safe; everything we treasure - the very things that we believe define us - can be stripped from us at any time, can leave us shivering and alone in a new reality that we had never dreamed could exist in our deepest nightmares. And all we have as human beings to arm us against that fear is the love we feel in any given moment, the bonds that lie between our fragile hearts, and the responsibility to cherish those bonds, right now, where and when it matters, because right now is all there is. And everything else is just an illusion, fools' gold.
And whilst the poet in me catches a glimpse of the glory of this human existence, this very human condition - our only meaning found in our transience, our appreciation of joy only truly understood against the experience of sorrow, and the inherent loss within love that makes our greatest gift at once our greatest sacrifice - the human in me struggles at these moments when the plans of a God I do not believe in (but talk about a lot, nonetheless) become personal, when its/her/his fingers move the lives of those I love as if they were mere pawns on a board.
I know the Buddhists would say that attachment is 90% of the cause of suffering. One of the reasons I find it hard to be a good Buddhist is that I believe attachment is also 90% of the cause of true joy. The aspiration for me has always been not to reduce my attachment to the world, to people, to beauty or to love, but to increase it, equally, so that I might feel the same compassion and care towards anyone I meet as I do toward those I have come to love.
Today, I witness my own pain (I miss you, Kate, I miss you) at the suffering of just a small number of people I care about and I wonder how anyone's heart could stretch to love the whole world that way, and how anyone's mind could carry the weight of living with the sort of sorrow we experience when someone we love is hurt, multiplied by, well, just about everyone.
I'm nowhere near that kind of nirvana yet. I'll spend the day working myself into a frenzy to avoid my feelings and I don't doubt I'll spend tonight in a wine-induced coma to do the same. I've got a long way to go on my Buddhist journey.
And the good Lord and I? Well, we've never so much as occupied the same room. I doubt we'll start speaking now.