Saturday, April 26, 2008

Revelation

No, I'm not going to talk about the "end times" or Armageddon. Although, after years spent in fundamentalist churches, that is what the word "revelation" conjures up for me most days.

I'd like to talk about the process of revelation as we grow, learn and wake up. Sounds like a wonderful thing, doesn't it? But here's a piece of art by Gerry Bannan that captures the complexities of what it has often felt like to me.



My most extreme experience with revelation came when I was just shy of 30 years old and was in graduate school. At the time, a professor had taken me under his wing and was helping me sort through alot of the confusion in my life that had resulted from the abuses of fundamentalist christianity. In retrospect, what this professor gave to me was complete and total trust. Something I had never experienced in my life. I had been taught to trust god, my parents, the church and any other authoritarian that happened to come along. But this professor gave me what I had been missing all along; the reality that I could trust myself. This changed my life forever and it was wonderful. But it wasn't without a cost.

Years of relying on authoritarians to tell me what to do was painful in the long run. But there was a certain comfort in the lack of responsibility for myself. As long as I was playing by someone else's rules and living someone else's life, I was off the hook. When I decided to take charge, I found out that I was on my own. No god in heaven or daddy here on earth was going to save me. And I couldn't rely on the rules to tell me what to do. I had to figure it all out for myself.

As this process unfolded, it stopped me in my tracks one day. I experienced, for the first and only time in my life, a full-fledged panic attack. It only lasted for about a day, but it was a real melt-down. I couldn't function at all for the whole day and didn't know what was wrong other than that I was scared to death. I was totally and completely wrapped in fear and became immobilized. Its only in retrospect that I've been able to identify what happened.

So, when we wonder about where all the fear in our world comes from, this might be part of the answer. Its a scary thing to be on your own and responsible for yourself. But, as David Whyte has put it so beautifully in this poem, if we break through, we find that we're really not alone at all.

Revelation Must Be Terrible

Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least we are all exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

4 comments:

  1. Hello Nancy,
    I've not been too visible lately (except for tantrums at BT!), but I do occasionally drop in here to read. I can always find words that make me think and reflect, even if I rarely comment on what I find. In other words, thanks :o)

    The process I've gone through since the death of my father almost three years ago has been a revelation to me as well. It initiated the shattering of most if not all my delusions of family and loyalty. When 90 percent of them (my family of origin) turned on me it left me bewildered and angry because I had believed, delusionally it turns out. that I had played my role as son and brother admirably and that I'd earned the right to be trusted unconditionally. When I was attacked it threw my world upside down and eventually left me unable to cope for the first time in my life with adversity. I virtually shut down. I literally stopped going to work for 4 months. In retrospect I can see now that I more or less had a sort of nervous breakdown.

    In those four months I came to realize that I too was virtually on my own. I also came to understand though that it was because I chose to stand on principle and refuse to cave in to family propaganda and control issues that had been present, if vaguely recognized, all my life. And it was in that defiance that I was tossed aside as no longer a willing and acquiessent victim of a dominating authority who demanded complete obedience.

    It is only recently in the last 2 or 3 months of this drawn out experience that I'm beginning to get a sense of having my legs under me again. And while it's good to be able to "feel" again, it also has brought the reality of my situation and all the difficult tasks and hurdles I face alone into searing reality. And it's really frightening realizing you're on your own. Even in spite of what I always felt as a solid sense of my abilities to perservere through any hardship or change. My invinceability has been peeled away. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable...and solely responsible for your own choices in life is no easy transition. But the alternative is to knuckle under to family dogma and control in order to reap the protection that had always been there. It's too high a price to pay. Freedom also comes at a price. But being able to fully feel and interpret my own self and to negotiate my way through the world on my terms, on principle is something that I could never again trade away for delusional safety.

    Thank you so much for sharing your life here Nancy. I can't say how much it helps to know that this isn't happening just to me. I know that may sound silly, but it's so easy to feel isolated and and singled out for abuse.

    Take care

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  2. Hey Super - it is soooo good to hear from you. Although I'm sorry for all the hell you've had to go through with your family. I guess one of the differences between your tale and mine is that I never really learned to expect much from my family. It must be heart-breaking to learn the truth the way you have...after loosing your father.

    You know I'm not one of those "hugs and kisses" types, but I'd give anything if I could reach out and give you a big one! My gift would be the poem in this diary. The world really is out there for you, waiting for the embrace that I know you are so capable of giving.

    So you've ventured into BT land again, have you? I'll have to go check it out sometime LOL. I've found a new home at Docudharma. I was a little nervous at first with a couple of the people I saw were hanging out there (I know you know who I mean), but they've pretty much abandoned the place lately (not enough drama I guess - he, he) and whats left is an awful lot of interesting folks. Boston Joe has made a couple of short appearances lately, which was fun to see.

    Anyway, its always great hearing from you again. You are one VERY special man!!!

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  3. Thank you! :o)
    Sometimes I feel silly for having become what I feel to be a one dimentional, one issue commenter. That being about my trevails these last three years. But in this process I've also realized that I automatically burden myself with unwarranted guilt. It's alearned reaction to growing up always believing that nothing you could do would ever be good enough. A constant need to please everyone. No one could achieve sucj\h a thing and it's inevitable that you fail. I have to get out of the guilt dynamic I heap on myself. It's probable the most destructive obstacle I need to hurdle. Self pity too. Ugly stuff.

    I guess you could say I never really left BT. I think I gave it far too much importance as a sort of kindred home. I've now become one of the inconvenient disgruntled former members who says uncomfortable things. I'm not well liked there anymore :o) More tolerated than anything, I think! Or maybe just ignored :o) MaryB is still cool...and even handed as always.

    Anyway, it's a big world out there! The people from BT I still feel a kinship with, even if we are political opposites are still reachable. Except perhaps for Spiderleaf, who's basically disappeared :o(, and DJanet, both of whom I miss very much. As for Boston Joe, I love the guy. I just need to work my way around his support of Obama ;O)
    So, I am a hugs and kisses sort of person :o) Big baby that i am! It's always nice to catch a big hug, virtual or otherwise :o)

    Off to work!

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  4. Super, have you ever read or seen the play "After the Fall" by Arthur Miller? I think you would really identify with the main character. He struggled with exactly what you're talking about - the strive for perfection and the guilt associated with never getting there. I found it one of the most powerful pieces of literature I've ever read. It is a universal struggle you know. I think its just harder sometimes for people like you who come closer to the mark. You know that's the problem don't you? In all your fallibility and weakness, you're still about as good as we humans get. And that can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. I say, give yourself a big hug...warts and all!!!

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