But do you connect with anyone, my therapist asks. Outside of your role where you work? Sounds like your intellect gets in the way of expressing your feelings. Fear of rejection, fear of failure?, something blocking you being in touch with your emotions?
Uhhh... Well, I think I connect with people at the bar from time to time, I mean, get past all the politesse... I call my mom every day and we've connected over my therapy sessions. We connect over a lot of things.
Doesn't sound as if you exactly connected with your mother on your trip. Sounds as if you felt a little trapped up there.
Well, we did. It was a short visit. The weather wasn't great, but we had some nice talks. We took a walk in the nature preserve at the field station. (But, yes, maybe we could have talked more about my fears, my emotions toward an aging parent, mild aging as it is, as in all of us.)
Indeed, one can shut down, not open up, not have the talk one needs, not do what might seem to be pushing an issue or an agenda, leave things unresolved when there is a lot emotionally at stake. Why the shut-down? A knee-jerk attempt to act as an adult and just accept things? A fear of rocking a boat of some kind of strange implicit understanding, where the matter at stake is some form of not asking questions, not being open with feelings?
Route 81, I gesture, has a sign about it, 'Depression, next 400 miles, ghosts of the past, shoulda, woulda, and coulda...'
I leave the appointment wondering about that. Do I have anyone to really talk to? Is it that I felt connected to a special someone but it all went horribly wrong, finding an apparent harshness that existed only on the social surface but which still caused a reaction when you tried to open up further, both parties having, apparently, their insecurities... the gloomy scars of that, a toughened thickened hide. Anyway, I know pain, and the pain can come in the middle of the night awake on a fold-out sofa bed mattress, or during a long monotonous drive punctuated by un-zoned sprawl and industrial wastelands, pain that comes in spare time finding yourself alone, pain that comes in the downtime of a few days off, time left to think, to rehash the past of that form to which the present life is attributable, in my case living alone, no one to come home to, to put it one way.
I get back after returning the rental car, walking back over the bridge above Rock Creek, an uprooted tree along the bank of the stream down below from last week's dramatic storm, the Chinese construction project up ahead, one thing at a time. I get ready to do some yoga, and something prompts me to open up the Pema Chodron Compassion Box and put the CD on, and it's about Tonglen Meditation, breathing in, taking in the pain, taking it into the heart. Not running away, not escaping, however, into pleasure, shame, blame, what-have-you, but open to pain and suffering, expanding the heart and taking it in. The yoga feels good, not having had the chance over the last week or so. And the words and the gong sound coming now out of a Bose Wave are soothing and guiding. Open the heart and mind, soften it, loosening the clenched fist aspect of such muscles.
And this strikes me as a good exercise. Do not run from pain, do not hide, do not escape, your world will only get smaller, more egotistical. This, the wisdom of Buddhist teaching presents. Quite interesting, actually. Take in your pain, breathe it in, and let your heart soften and expand, finding room for it all, even where you don't think this is possible. You'll be able to absorb all that pain and it will transform your egotistical self with its egotistical smallness and shut-down modes, and give rise to a person, the true being of compassion, kindness and seriousness.
There are mystical moments in history, and who can exactly say why they happen, the mystical ideas behind good governance, of the people, by the people, for the people. Mom gives me a picture book--she has a lot of books--of the places Lincoln lived and travelled by, one a courthouse, somewhere out on the circuit ride. One's sense is, he knew pain, he knew the suffering, personally, of humanity, over many things, and even of animal suffering. This is evident in the first-hand accounts collected by Sandburg, a tale of him reciting a poem of lost love before departing a woman's company one early morning, accounts of stopping his travels to pull a stuck pig out of a mud pit, the anonymous poem printed in his local newspaper on the topic of the grave.
One of those sleepless early mornings I read a Propublica piece about a Koch brother protege who is enjoying making a pretty good system of personal profit through the charter school 'business' in North Carolina. Here we have humanity, in all its suffering, in all its anxiety, and what we do is provide a public school system, buses to pick kids up so no one has to fret about getting their kids off to school, teachers, books, lunch, gym, the whole bit. We do this for the common good, to help the least of us, to help everyone. Something we hold sacred, and indeed we should! And through some corruption of the system someone wants to make a profit out of this system? And whenever we as a people have lodged reasonable critique of other nation's ways of doing things, one of the primary evils we would always note, at least back in the sanctity of grade school with an eye for the flag of the U.S. of A. we pledged allegiance to day in day out, was corruption, some party hack making a secretive profit over public monies. Well, my friends, take to the polls.
Democracy it seems has its fine moments. More than one of them attributable to Robert Kennedy, the speech in a neighborhood in Indianapolis announcing the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in which he speaks of his own pain, "I had a member of my family killed..." A basic equation or understanding, I know through life my own pain and therefore having opened to it, suffering it, I know that "you," that others have their own pains to, must needs be. A concept rooted in the democratic principle that hangs in the statement that all people are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, and which in all classic examples of being put forth, the end of slavery, the promise of equal rights under the law, the right to have a job as Roosevelt conceived the government's duty during the Great Depression (along with Social Security and health care), in public education itself, seeks to counter suffering and misery, of ill health, of ignorance, of poverty, of inequality, etc., etc.
Some say, "let the market place figure it out; greater efficiency." Enable someone to make a profit, maybe even a huge one, at whatever cost, gained in survival of the fittest mode, this is what some people say now, perhaps will always be saying. "I will make such profits, gain such wealth, that I will eliminate my own suffering." "I will pollute the ground water, the earth, the sky, the air, but I will make a profit for myself and mine."
To say so sends a message, for people to ignore suffering, to think it doesn't exist, to think humanity doesn't exist, that it doesn't need publicly funded education and public works, a promotion of the general welfare. And such things are ignorant of the human condition.