I wrote what follows below to my sponsor a few days ago. Because we are now united as one humanity in a soul-wrenching, future-shock, grief process, I am not ashamed to share with you what is perhaps my deepest weakness, my fear of abandonment. I think we are all feeling it:
My soul is wounded. As much as I try to pretend and ignore its presence, the quarantine has forced me to experience it yet again, look at it in the face once again, turn it over once again, surrender yet again, deeper into God-Universe-Mystery Process-Higher Power’s healing hands.
I saw someone standing in line to get into the grocery yesterday, wearing a mask yet remaining 12 feet distant from the person in front of them. I became triggered, furious, really, at their level of fear. I was carrying that feeling with me when my son called on Facetime, and I was so gratified that he had reached out. Then his battery died, interrupting the call for several minutes until he could get to a charger. In that emptiness I sat on the floor and wept. Oh damn, the tears are still here!
I felt my essential loneliness, my deepest fear of abandonment, which in my sober moments I know are not real. My wound is not who I am, yet it still fucking hurts.
Well, he reconnected and we talked some more. I was disappointed in his habit of intellectualizing about what’s going on (just like me, ha-ha!). Afterwards, I resolved to convert my pain into action, to fulfill my plan for the day which was to make statements to the camera about homelessness and our social disconnect that blocks collaborative solutions. I’m holding onto a secret fury that people in government and service agencies have zero response to my appeals for implementing a network organizing website. One person, who knows me through church and personal meeting, the CEO of United Way, did respond, for which I’m grateful. I’ve been warned that pushback is normal and to be expected.
So, I went on with my fired-up passion to speak into the camera, when in the midst of moving around town to different backgrounds, my wife calls me to remind me to stay 6 feet away from everyone. I cut off my response in mid-sentence and hung up, something I’ve never done before, I was that furious at being given unsolicited advice about protecting myself from the plague which has become such an overwhelming mind-chatter that escape from it takes brute emotional courage. I cooled off not long after, we’ve repaired our relationship, and I’ve resolved to keep her better informed of how I’m feeling, how my grief process is going, in the moment, as well as to regard everyone else as in the midst of grief as well.
Looking back, I see a “perfect storm” of events that helped me to see myself, see my wound, and prepare to treat myself — and others — with more compassion. I see how I projected onto others the part of myself that I have rejected the most: my fear of never being heard, never being seen, never making a contribution, never being worthy.
My higher power leadeth me through the valley of death, I shall fear no eveil…
That last word, a typo, got me thinking about the “veil” that we commonly consider as wrong, a barrier to what is good. It occurs to me that “evil” is another way to see or spell the veil over the blessing, and something that we do to ourselves, putting that barrier in place as an illusion of our own creation.
Grief is appropriate, anytime, and especially now. Remember that grief is a process, not a fixed position. It is one step in a much LONGER journey. The future is not written.
There are so many other possible “future-shock” types of events in addition to the pandemic or political turmoil, the most probable of which is another climate-related disaster. The global economy of material capitalism is sinking like a stone, the economy of social capital is rising like a balloon. Citizens are turning their backs on their national governments to implement their own self-care agendas.
The American empire is crumbling… not fast enough or soon enough for those who can see the horizon, and the acceleration is causing a great deal of confusion for those who expect specific signposts. Remember, we’ve never done this before… never.
Of course, we think we — everything — is out of control, because IT IS! Do not hang on to what was not to be, what “shoulda-woulda-coulda” been. Hang loose. Hang in. And find your seat belt!
I am reminded of this prose poem by an old friend:
How Can We Know?
How can we know what terrible pain will shape us into a being of inner beauty and courage?
How can we know on what crucible our souls will take shape and transcend the darkness that has embraced us? Or what fire we must walk through to find that Higher Power that can purge our being of the seductive seeds of destruction so that we may emerge whole and awake to see our true path.
How else can we recognize the shimmering dawn of hope unless we have wept tears of desolation?
When viewed that way, who is to say what is tragedy and what is good fortune?
All I know is that out of the fire of fear and despair has come a life worth living; a life that reflects the light of a soul redeemed to serve a Higher Power and shed light to others in a too often dark universe. — Leslie Habetler