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IS IT A TRAGEDY OR A BLESSING?

August 4, 2010 4 comments

Hey hey… if you would just take a second, take the little sticks out of your head, clean out your ears and maybe you would see that I’m a person who has feelings.  And all I have to do is do what I want to do and all I want to do is hold onto my bag and not listen to you.  And the only way I would ever let go of my bag would be if you came over here right now and try to pry it from my dead lifeless fingers.  If you can get it from my kung-fu grip then you can come and have it, OK?  Otherwise, step off, bitch.”

My mother was prone to violent rages.   She cursed more than anyone I’d ever met, in several dialects, including English.   She had a mean right hook.   She also liked getting her picture taken a lot, and had this amazing skill of bringing a warm smile to the camera, even if she’d told someone to eat dirt a second ago.

I didn’t inherit that skill, but I inherited the rage.   My emotions are concealed by a thin cellophane noodle.  Too bad about the many pics of me all scowly that I can’t delete.   And like attracted like in this case— anger and its aggressive entourage have nestled in my bed in all their ghastly forms— anger based on imagined rejection or hypocrisy, jealousy, indignation, intense frustration, personal unfairness, competition and fear of losing, anger for something that happened fifteen years ago….   I’m embarrassed at how I succumbed to these passions, how fast and furious these emotions are, they just completely possess the mind.

These demons are born of ego’s longing to have my life operate a certain way.   My ego wants to give like Mother Teresa, joke like Tina Fey, resolve like Byron Katie, excite like Angelina Jolie, etc.   Each moment I try directing my biopic and the players don’t follow the script, each time I don’t make the cover of Esquire or get that vision that will save the world, baby demons appear and crawl around in my head.   Quite distracting when I’m also rushing to accomplish other equally important items on my agenda, and someone throws a monkeywrench into my scene and wants to use my kitchen on my watch just to feed a homeless person.   How dare they!

Recently I went to a Dao ceremony, and received a Dao blessing.   It’s also spelled “Tao”— the beginning-less natural state that, when we resist it, begets disharmony and confusion.   Anyway, at the ceremony, there was a group of neatly dressed people who worked in the kitchen, cooking all our meals.   One of them washed the dishes of the fifty or so people there— a man I’ll call Will— who hobbled and could barely lift his feet or move them more than a centimeter apart.  He never spoke or looked at anyone.   Later I found out that he’d been a highly successful millionaire businessman who’d been hit by a bus.   He used to vow that if he’d ever find the woman who drove that bus, that he’d take a gun and shoot her.  He felt that way for years.

Awhile back, he attended one of these Dao ceremonies and received the Dao blessing.   Not right away, but gradually, he began to feel tremendous gratitude toward the bus driver who hit him and now says if he ever meets her he’d fall on his knees and thank her.

The day after the ceremony there was a talk on filial piety, which means how we should be grateful to our parents.  I was livid!  I kept wanting to interrupt the presumptuous speaker, who certainly wasn’t considering any of the exceptions to the rule.   Some mothers would prefer their kid dead than alive, at least from my experience.

I think underlying my rage was not so much that my mother wished I was never born, but that I believed it.   My mother and I fed this belief.   Among my many spoonfuls of fodder was:  why couldn’t I have the mom I wanted?   Hers, what did she do to deserve a brat like me?   I had as much rage as Will, except mine lasted most my life, until something shifted in me.   The hate has certainly vanished and I can say that when I hear her voice on the phone and whenever I think of her, there’s just love.  It’s crazy but true.   It’s not sentimental or obligatory love just because she’s my mother— I never could muster that.   It’s recognition of another human being that’s worthy of love, with all that tainted history becoming just a smelly disposable rag.

For years, even in her 70s, my friend Nancy had been planning to run away from home and live the carefree life she’d always ached for.   Last fall she had a series of strokes which nearly ended that possibility.   Following intense surgeries, drugs, and emotional upheaval, she now speaks like the Nancy we all knew, after only a few months.   Aside from her physical difficulties, what really changed was, she saw that people really did love her.   Her husband really did love her.

I had the privilege recently of sitting in on one of her final sessions with her physical therapist.   Her therapist presented her with common misconceptions of brain injury (in italics below).    I want to conclude by sharing Nancy’s answers…. in bold type below:

My life is ruined.

No, because before I had the stroke I didn’t even know what the possibilities were in my life.  I’m the only one who can determine the course of my life.

I have to be exactly where I was.

One is NEVER exactly where one was.

Why did it happen to me?

It happened to me because I didn’t pay attention to the symptoms.  And it wasn’t done personally to me.  I was lucky I was saved by the right people at the right time.

There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with you.

Thank you.

We don’t see ourselves as we are.  Maybe that’s just as well.  It would be hard to live life if you thought of yourself as special.

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