Friday, October 31, 2014
It's here...again! The time of witches, the Great Pumpkin and people walking around like ghouls and zombies (in larger numbers than you expect otherwise) is here!
Last night I watched two movies at the home of a friend here in Minneapolis. The movies left the viewer guessing what was actually happening due to the cinematography technique that was employed. In one movie a whole cast of characters actually represented the collection of personalities inside the mind of a man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder who was about to be put to death due to his gruesome crimes. In another film we watched a tormented little girl and only confirmed at the movie’s end that her father was indeed her tormentor. And he was a psychologist! Distinguishing the difference between fantasy and reality can be quite a challenge.
Today is the day we common celebrate as Halloween here in the United States. It is an apropos day for contemplating that line that separates fantasy from reality. You can also reflect on the line separating the living from the dead. Different cultures acknowledge this time of year in different ways. Some celebrate this time as Dia de los Muertos. Translated into English this means Day of the Dead. In the Catholic Church the celebration of All Saints and All Souls is upon us. All Saints will be celebrated tomorrow, on November 1st, and All Souls will be remembered on Sunday, November 2nd.
Regardless of the particular manner in which you celebrate or at least acknowledge this time I believe it is fitting that we set aside time to honor our ancestors. By being rooted in a sense of self that can only be made more solid by honoring our ancestors we can look to our own futures, individual and collective, with a greater sense of resolve, strength and hope. As my aunt Annette said to me last year during my visit to Germany “Man muss wissen woher man kommt”. In English this would be roughly translated as “A person must/needs to know where he comes from.” To know your origins is no small thing. To revere your ancestors is no small thing. And yet that can be very difficult for some people…due to a whole host of reasons.
As I have alluded to elsewhere in this blog I did a lot of work focused on building my relationship with my own ancestors earlier in my professional career. A large majority of this came about due, in part, to the wise guiding care of my mentor, Dr. Pamela Colorado. When I began studying with her eleven years ago I had no idea what a transformative ride was about to unfold in my life. At times the journey was exquisitely wonderful. At other times it was exquisitely painful. As is clear in my writings there is a lot of pain in the history of my ancestors. Mental illness, dislocation and violence have all marked my ancestral heritage. In honor of Halloween I will say this: The trick, if there is one, is to find a way to honor your ancestors for who they were and find the good in them when possible.
Seeing and experiencing the fundamental good within people can sometimes feel like a tall proposition. I am still working through the damage to my capacity to trust that occurred as a result of my early years of childhood. I have made a lot of progress. And to make such progress I have had to do a number of things. They include:
- Keeping my recovery my first and foremost priority
- Balancing out the time I take to do this deep work with mundane, daily things that bring me joy and sustenance
- Approach my own life and the world at large with a measure of humility
- Have faith that my life and what I call its ‘unfoldment’ is occurring as it should – this often requires a number of qualities including patience, diligence and tenacity
- Walk away from harmful situations and disrespectful people
- Speak out and advocate for myself…even when I tire of doing so
- And perhaps most important of all – be willing to fashion a very new life for myself that may look little like the life I am leaving behind. Such divestment of the past can be a real challenge to the ego!
As my friend Felix gave me a ride home last night I found myself temporarily filled with an immense feeling of sadness. Perhaps it was the two movies featuring some genuinely harrowing scenes that put me into a somber frame of mind. Equally possible was the keening wind that buffeted me as I made my way to my own apartment building front door. The cold and moaning wind from last night was a sharp reminder that the world is indeed entering its hibernation cycle outside. I find myself already missing the color green. Except for the evergreen trees scattered about the Twin Cities the world beyond my windows is quickly taking on the monochromatic palette of colors I associate with winter.
I know some of my sadness is also simply related to the long process I have undergone in what I call the adventure of therapy. Sixteen months is not a short time to be in therapy. It isn’t necessarily an excruciatingly long time either. For some people it is more than enough. For others it may be virtually no more than a beginning. The length of time that can be recommended for someone to do therapy is very much contingent on a whole host of factors unique to a person’s situation. I have been gratified to have my therapist tell me he hasn’t really ever seen someone heal as quickly as I have.
As I go about my day today and see innumerable reminders of the festivities of Halloween I will make it my own focus to recall my ancestors (both those passed away and those still alive) and think on the goodness they brought into the world. I invite you to do the same.
Fifty Day Challenge, Day #36
Healthy activities for today:
§ I ate lunch with a good and loyal friend
§ I helped same friend with a little project of moving a piece of furniture
§ I went out to an awesome party