Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Small Uncomfortable Space Between The Rock and The Hard Place

Revelations never come to me on the day that I have blocked out on the calendar under “personal enlightenment appointment.” They don’t come to me when I’m sitting at a waterfall, looking up at the water coming off the ledge above me and thinking, “You know, now would be the perfect time to have a soul-altering realization.”

No, instead they come in the midst of a head cold, on the first day of my period, after two weeks of sharing my very small and sacred space with my brother, after I’ve had to wait an hour in line at the bank to pay my rent, with a food hangover from Thanksgiving, when all I want to do is lay down and sleep despite the fact that sleep won’t come.

Revelations come to me like a bucket of cold water to a deep-sleeping child in a bed. Despite the fact that I should expect them by now, as a younger sibling doused repeatedly by an older one, they leave me startled, shivering and crying, and not quite sure what the joke is.

The latest revelation is at once large and yet rather subtle and has been drifting toward the surface for awhile. It is multi-faceted. It is about the small uncomfortable space between a rock and a hard place where I have wedged myself; about the Catch 22 that I’ve found myself in. Here’s the deal: I have been limiting myself to finite possibilities.

I have been seeing the answers to all my questions as black and white: either he loves me completely and romantically or his even liking me is a lie; I either hate this person or I love them completely and wholeheartedly; you are – as Bush so famously said – with me or against me. In this black and white world, all the gray is removed and anything that does not fall on the “either or” scale is absolutely unthinkable: it does not exist, it cannot be there, it cannot be.

When I think about thinking outside the box, I still think in a square. I don’t draw anything that cannot encompass the box; it does not involve flowers nor are there jewels attached. It is not anything, actually, more than a larger box, or a circle around the box, or some other “primary shape” outside of a box.

In reality, life is nothing like this, and the blow my ego took this week was pretty large when I realized that all this time I have been struggling with reality because reality isn’t about the box at all: I can be large and beautiful, brave and a coward, a victim and not a victim, all wrapped in the same person, and get this: all of that is ok. Here I’ve been trying to fix me, and completely missing the point of what needed to be fixed. I do not need to be less me in any way, I need to accept all of me and understand that the way through is not by trying to break me apart, but accept all parts of me equally; accept where I am and use the skills I already have to keep moving forward. It is not about trying to cut off the parts that don’t work; it’s about developing the new parts of me that DO work and letting them slowly but surely take up so much space that the parts that don’t work as well fall to the wayside.

Am I being vague? It certainly feels like it.  Let me see if I can be clearer: I have thought that there was not enough. Not enough of me to go around, so I had to keep myself TO myself. Not enough of someone else so that they could be my friend and also friends with others. Not enough talent that I could read an amazing book and KNOW that it didn’t mean that there wasn’t enough talent in the world so that I, too, could someday write an amazing book about my own story and have it be considered life-altering to someone. I thought there wasn’t enough money. I thought you either made money or enjoyed your life. I thought you were either happy or sad. I thought you either loved someone unconditionally all the time or you simply were incapable of real love.  I thought I would either “make it big” or never make it. I thought I would push through all of these damn revelations, life changes and spiritual discoveries in one fell swoop, cry, gnash my teeth, wail, get them out of the way, and then live happily ever after, my perfectly enlightened partner at my side, who could read my mind, wash the dishes and show up the minute all my enlightenment was complete.

And that’s what the problem has been, invisible audience: it’s been me, thinking that there was just one way to figure all this shit out; that there was ONE answer; that, despite the fact that I have claimed to enjoy this introspection and soul searching, I have been expecting it to end with a party to celebrate my newfound spirituality, after which people would flock to me and children would sing my praises.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes something like this: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Although I am not claiming enlightenment, I have found myself in a deep setback the last week or so, for several different reasons, and it has thrown me, because I thought I was farther along than this: farther along than having simply found my bliss in a foreign place, in a secluded casita with only the social interactions that I chose. I stumbled backward to the point that I found it hard to see ahead again, to a place I have already been, one full of bliss and self love, a place where I knew my place, and I liked it.

All of this, but it is not an all or nothing existence. I have not forgotten what the last year has taught me. I cannot unwrite the thousands of words I have written in my own defense, and I cannot unsee what I have seen – both the good and the bad. I know all this, and yet on the days of the big ego-killing realizations, I feel untethered, like a child that once again cannot make herself heard, like someone screaming into a wind machine, her voice and her breath sucked away from her even as they leave her throat.

It is not all or nothing. I am just as tired but more confident, less sure, more alive, less docile and more sensitive than I was before. When I confront situations that were always comfortably anything – painful, normal, expected – they rub a different way now, a new way: they are abrasive against a new skin I have grown that is not near as scaly and yet is in many ways tougher than it was before. I am different, and yet I am the same: I have a new skin, but it has grown over my old body. I am not black or white, but shades of gray, and all of the shades deserve to see daylight: to see the light through their eyelids and feel the warmth on their face.

Love and gray kisses,

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