Monday, November 4, 2013

When Disassociation Stops

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yesterday was a day filled with unexpected developments and insights.  It was the type of day I could not plan to have no matter how much I might try to influence events.

I went for a walk in the afternoon after arriving home from a theater show I saw at the Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis.  It was the first afternoon without Daylight Savings Time; the sun was already low in the southwest at 3 p.m.  Cirrus clouds and the low sun made for a wan type of lighting.  A stiff wind was stripping countless thousands of leaves off the trees all around town.  As the leaves scatter and skitter down innumerable roads and alleys I hear their sounds as the announcement that winter is coming.  Winter is coming in the inexorable way that only winter can.  The landscape outside is emptying out of the glory of summer vibrance.  That emptiness is growing.

The show I saw at the Guthrie left me speechless for quite some time.  The plot hit quite close to home. I could see myself in both of the main characters.  It was a story of a young man who lived on the streets and prostituted himself to make a living and survive.  He unexpectedly meets a much older man who takes him in.  Their relationship is never clarified with great precision such that there can be absolutely no ambiguity as to its quality.  They profess to love one another at one point in the show.  But how one defines that love is itself not entirely clear.  One could call the older man the rescuer and the younger man the rescued.  Or you could even describe the relationship as a daddy-boy relationship.
Watching the plot unfold reminded me of the deep hunger I had for a healthy relationship with my own father.  I also felt in my body the pain of the knowledge I came to early in my childhood that my father was very limited in his ability to be present to me to guide me through the darker side of life.  He is too afraid of his own grief to make himself available in that way.  To use language from Iron John my father cannot sit in the darkness of ashes.  And he surely cannot speak of how the ashes feel.  The pain leaves him struck dumb.

Have you ever met a person who speaks so prolifically that you begin to believe they speak to fill up the space between you because silence somehow scares them?  Many of us have.  It's that silent space between words pregnant with possibility that can be so...overwhelming.  As I rode back with my friend today I felt myself virtually unable to speak.  I wanted to sit in silence because filling up the space around me with words seemed almost an insult to what I felt unfolding inside me.  I needed silence to be with what I have been discovering is gradually emerging within me.

My grief is showing itself.  I am finally beginning to truly let go of what I had hoped my parents would be for me.  After seeing my mother in May and then attempting to go to my father and seek solace for my grief (and instead becoming even more enmeshed in grief when he failed to offer me what I needed) I simply cannot let the veil cover my eyes any more.  I see my parents with such an objective clarity that denial itself can no longer stay rooted in my psyche.  I realize I cannot look to my father for so much of what I need.  And I realize I simply must grieve until that leaden grief within me is finally transmuted and I am enlightened and lightened up such that I can move forward.

I realize that I have been unconsciously filling up time in different little habitual ways of behavior that do nothing but put up a wall between me and that aching grief.  And nothing good can come of it in the long run.  Avoiding the grief will keep me a prisoner to it.  I must embrace the hard lines and dark sinewy texture of my grief.  In doing so it can soften and melt.

I realize I am finally coming out of a state of unconscious and habitual occasional disassociation.  It has taken me some time to get here.  But here I am.  I am at the threshold of a new potentiality.  But first I must do the work of grief.  First I must descend into the ashes and truly mourn my losses.

Earlier this year I attended the Minnesota Men's Conference.  One of the featured speakers was Francis Weller, a therapist based in California.  One of his special interests and skills lies in the issue of grief.  I realize now that before I can move forward I must attend to that grief I felt (but didn't consciously work through) when I was such a little boy and my mother returned to Germany after her illness had derailed her entire life.  It's time for me to work through my grief so grief no longer subtly undermines my own life.  I have been a hostage to grief long enough.

This week I will be looking for local resources to help me to work through the grief that I have been carrying for over three decades.  What a project!

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