So much good news

Subject: So much good news
Date: March 6, 2021 at 9:56:54 AM PST
To: [my sponsor]
I’ve waited a few days to file this report of recent events, to allow the “dust to settle.” Got a minute?

I need to write down what happened since mid-February to trace the sequence of events that seem rather much like a breakthrough for me. Our church formed a Seekers group, limited to 20 people, to process on zoom specific topic questions in breakout groups, one of my favorite formats. I joined this church years ago when I realized their orientation was toward questions, not answers. I have always wanted more of a 12-steppy type of process group within the church, and without my saying anything, boom, it has arrived.

The email I wrote Feb. 9 (“I am the one who heaps limiting beliefs and judgments upon myself”) was prophetic of what was about to take place in my life. The Seekers group first met later that day on the question, Where do you find your Joy? The day before that I had left Facebook (FB) with a feeling of disgust for the seemingly universal desire to fight, not only on FB, but throughout our culture. Well, that didn’t last long, maybe one day. On Feb. 15, I met with a small group of local housing advocates to talk about long-term strategic planning of a campaign to make universal housing inevitable, a few days after I had recorded a video interview with a guy camped under the Washington-Jefferson bridge, that touched my heart, my empathy for the touch-points of our mutual stories. 

I became determined to disrupt common stereotypes of homeless people. I designed my next video project, Who Is My Community?, to be a video recording of a unrehearsed, facilitated panel interview of housed and unhoused people gathered into a small circle, answering some deep questions about to whom we belong. I began soliciting for partners in that effort using emails to every possibility, even posting publicly on FB. Guess what, I received near zero response over the next few weeks. I began to feel ignored, unseen, unheard, neglected, isolated, a very familiar childhood scenario for me.

The second Seekers meeting on Feb. 16 asked the question, Where do you find your sacred ground? Right? I concluded Holy Moments happen when we recognize or allow them to be. My self-assessment was that I was pretty good at doing that, but I was wrong, simply unaware of what I was doing to myself. Onwards. The Divine Dance always has a next step!

On February 20, I watched the film Admissions (a must see) online with a group that had a panel discussion with the writer/director of the film plus the head of The Forgiveness Project at Stanford and an indigenous woman leader. Powerful. We are all forgiven, unconditionally, irregardless of what we say, think or do.

Feb. 23rd, the Seekers asked What masks do you wear? I saw for the first time that I wear the mask of peacebuilder because I so desperately want to belong to that group of stellar people, which implies (and I didn’t see at the time) that I secretly consider myself to be an outsider. I also wear the masks — the self-imposed versions of how to look good, sound good — as a husband, father, grandpa, in order to feel that I belong to my family. Whew. AND there’s more: the mask of a seeker, a master of recovery, because I desperately want to escape my inner demons of self-doubt. Ouch. I wrote in my journal, “I am not my self-doubt” in all caps.

The next day I wrote, “My anxiety, my self-doubt, definitely affects the quality of my sleep, how often I wake up, how often I feel the need to urinate. I’m still carrying over-responsibility.” A few days later, after my final push to get partners for my video project had failed, I wrote “I’m going on vacation from peace promotion, and turn to gardening instead. Maybe some poetry, dancing and finishing the art project I had started.” I wrote the next day, “God will walk through my fear WITH me,” then from my experience of an Al-Anon meeting, I wrote, “God is my autopilot, I am the unbalanced plane, busy learning from my mistakes, sure that I will arrive at my destination.”

On March 2nd, I deactivated my FB account intending to remain off it until April 1st, at least. I self-flagellated myself for being “a deserter from the peace army.” I was tired of repeating myself; I needed a rest from pushing the river; I needed time for contemplation; I needed to take off the mask of peacebuilder and allow a new story of who I am to arise, maybe even a story that had no conclusive ending. Hang on to your hat, this is where I set the stage for a sudden transformation.

Seekers met again that day, asking Where is your shame? and I generated a list: as a negligent parent, as a financial provider, as a weak peacebuilder, as a coward in the face of anger or criticism, as a soft physical body, as invisible and unworthy of attention, not belonging anywhere. Yes, I was triggered, big time. I reflected that for 30 years or MORE (how about 70?) I did not want to be here, and that I was carrying the belief that I’ll never be close to God. I wept out of control for I don’t know how long, 10 minutes perhaps, with lingering outbursts later. I called our pastor, who is leading the Seekers group, shared what was happening, and we made a coffee date for the next Monday. The seed of a memory began to sprout, that of being exposed to Christianity very early in my life within the context of a Baptist church and its theology of Satan and damnation.

I did some internet searching, and yes, my childhood church was indeed Baptist. I could choose to be free of that. My self-limiting belief about not belonging to God has begun to dissolve, and my self-doubt has eased tremendously. I see that I needed to examine that deep spiritual wound, release its putrid contents, and allow healing to take place. I recalled having nightmares as a child of the devil chasing me, chasing me relentlessly, literally breathing hot fire that I could feel on my backside (similar to the heat from my father’s spankings), and waking up in terror.

I am sleeping marvelously well — no nightmares! — 8 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep (with a 5-hour night thrown in the mix recently), through a disciplined daily practice of prayer and meditation, vigorous walks, restorative yoga and evening hot tubs. Detoxing my autonomic nervous system, in addition to my brain, seems to be what’s needed.

I’m not deliriously happy — just more content — now, although I did feel a bit giddy on March 3rd, the day after my outburst. Part of that was the evening of March 2nd, when my son had invited my wife and I rather spontaneously to hang out in their back yard around a fire for a gathering with his wife and two daughters. There was a conversation about the differences between friendships that are hurtful or nurturing, when my son asked me why I got off FB, which opened a deep discussion about shame with my two grand-daughters and everyone. However, what impressed me the most was I did not have to try to do anything to be a “better Grandpa,” that my son with his business team management skills had stepped into the gap with a simple question that allowed me to be seen and heard, to belong and be satisfied greatly.

I am watching my astonishing life unfold with gratitude.

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