There are matters one whittles away at for such long periods of time that the process moves into the background, taking shape in the form of ongoing light trance. Our minds are complex and amazing; a million times in a row, giving over anxieties to ask and trust for a clearer way to emerge, works just fine, miraculously even (setting aside for now, giving over to what/who).
Unless, suddenly it doesn’t. Unless, the looping goes on so long as to become automatic, unexamined. Then, like a withdrawal from the bank for a gym one doesn’t go to, what seems to happen is that one can miss the crucial next step in the process and get trapped in a surface level, failing to ask, “Is this (situation, memory, value, desire) even true anymore?” Energies are eeking out, ‘somewhere’.
It is super important to tell our stories, and to receive deep validation for doing the best we could at the time. There are few sentences more healing than, “It’s not your fault” or, “That must have been so hard for you all that time, to ___ .” Even one person witnessing personal, often secret, struggles, can give disproportionately magical permission for them to heal, which is part of what humans are to one another.
I understand this, because of what it was like for me after separating from a partner of over 20 years… reliving the whys and wherefores, the what-ifs and where-we-went-wrongs, answering for the relationship’s seeming failure to crowds of imaginary people in my mind. I found it hard to give the two of us as characters much tenderness, categorizing our mistakes as careless, stupid, short-sighted, and preventable, with an underlying subtext of blame that leaned slightly more his way than mine. I would think that I made myself stop going over the looping by sheer will and self-discipline, but going along one day would realize, “When did THAT come back?”
We all want to do better going forward, to find value in the situations we’ve come to know so well at such high costs; it is tempting to think this IS our life, and to try to come up with a script about it all, and to work that script until it shines light on all our best angles.
Even with conviction that the changes our family went through were for the rightest reasons, and with little question of our being happier, and in the long term healthier, there is also little question that meeting day to day needs is far more of a challenge than it might have been. The stress around moving away from friends, giving up the yard and pleasant walkways for ‘very beige’ apartment living, is something I hope my children avoid in their own futures. So what to answer, for instance, my son, when he asked to know more. One hesitates to teach what they are still going through.
So, I began to just describe our way of thinking at the beginning… the plans and grand visions behind them. Nothing happens on just one level. There were intricate calculations, but also values at the core of what we know in retrospect was our expanding too fast. From the tiny apartment, to the larger townhouse, to buying a ‘money pit’ of an improvement project in the best neighborhood we could manage; from the lure of low interest rates to the 5 year plan that would allow us to move closer to the dream situation… how thoughtful and careful we were, how much help we accepted and when we refused, banking on the energy of our desires and ambition.
I felt… impressed with us, even as I listened to myself honestly describe where we went wrong. And I felt impressed to admit to those areas. A joyful feeling bubbled up as I described the condition of the house when we first bought it… how we’d put every cent and second in… learning by doing, installing the much complimented kitchen for nearly nothing, taking down the horrendous mirrored wall and murals from the 80’s Miami Vice aesthetic. I found myself smiling, speaking of us with great affection and compassion, laughing a little. It had been a while since I’d been able to do that.
Then I realized: I had forgiven us, without knowing this was the case.
Somewhere along the way, there had come softening. The truth was, is, that I loved those two people with their ambitious and energetic dreams. I loved their ideals… their well-intended hearts… so deeply. Even amidst evidence of seeming catastrophe, all that filled my being was a sense of expansion and, “Thank You.” “Thank You, Thank You… Thank You, Thank You, Thank You”.