I'm learning (and getting pretty decent at) trying to listen to myself. Truly listen. Without expectation, with as little judgement or criticism as possible. And it feels good. It's not always easy. As I teach my kids when I teach the play on Socrates, following your conscious is not always sunshine and water lillies. Sometimes you have to face and make decisions that aren't easy, aren't leaving you feeling happy. But, with that said, when I make a decision that is truly good, virtuous, for me, even if it is hard, I feel a sense of wholeness and health that makes me happy. :)
I've been wanting to DO something about all the pain, all the hurt in the community I was born and raised. My home is sacred to me. Truly sacred. Where I come from is like no other place, and everyone says that when they come, when they visit and while they live there. It is unique, it is foreign to, almost anywhere else. There is a sense of deeply rooted history, a sense of genuine community and deep love for one another.
But it is hard. There has been a significant amount of historical trauma that has bled into and become present-day trauma. Many of our young people die from suicide, overdoses and gun violence. Many of our women and girls especially, but also men and boys, are horribly abused - physically, sexually, verbally. Alcoholism and drug addiction are commonplace. So much so, that my best friend's father, the only judge in town, has estimated before that over 97% of his cases are alcohol related. This may seem contradictory, how can a community have a deep sense of love for one another yet have such high rates of abuse? I don't have the answer to that question, but have learned that we hold many things in the same hand, sometimes, contradictory things.
I have had an idea, an idea that germinated during my last few years as an undergrad at Dartmouth. It started out as an idea to use theater as a healing medium to provide a space for those affected by the abuse (i.e. just about everyone, directly or indirectly) to begin to learn to heal. There are some in my home town that are on the path to healing and some well on the path to healing. But there are many, many young people particularly, who seem lost. I am not an expert, yet, but I started to feel like I knew enough, just enough, to help guide people toward their own path to healing. I seem to have always had a way of cultivating the light and the love in others. I wanted to use that ability to help my home.
This year, I was all geared and prepped to go home and DO. I'd been working on a blueprint of a plan so to speak, had it as well thought out as I could have at this stage. I wanted it to be a summer residency, a three week residency. I had planned to use the art of storytelling, both in writing and on stage, as a catalyst toward healing; as a means for the participants of the program to learn more about their spiritual wounds and begin to work through them. Spiritual pain is delicate, it's finicky and requires a lot of listening to heal from, I think. I thought that by working to create a safe space for shared expression and used both verbal and writing tools and exercises to cultivate and ground this space, perhaps it might grow space to heal. My ultimate goal of the whole thing. To start people, through my own experiences and with my voice, presence and ability, on their own paths toward healing. I felt that this first year was going to be....challenging. Not in a bad way. In a...Aaluk, let's be honest and gentle with yourself here - it may be a bit rocky...kind of way. Yes I was scared. But I have been scared a lot, quite a lot, in my life and that has never stopped me.
But as the summer started closing in on me, back in November, when I was really gearing up, applying for grants and working on writing prompts, exercises, scripts....I started to hear a voice. At first I thought this was a "cold feet" kind of voice. An, "I'm scared - let's run away!" kind of voice. As I've been training myself to do over the last few years, I sat the voice down. I said, "Ok, you have my attention. Feel free to speak. I am listening."
At first, my "superficial" fears as I call them surfaced. Not superficial meaning not meaningful, just surface fears. Things like, "the logistics are too tough with your work schedule in Boston." "You aren't going to find the money." "You don't have the time." And lastly, the quietest one of all, "You aren't ready." I almost didn't hear the last one. Actually, for the first few weeks or even month, I don't think the voice even said the last message.
I responded, as compassionately as I could, as I knew that this voice was a part of me, bringing up real concerns. I said, I'll work around my schedule and try to do it so it works for me, for my job and for home. I'm pretty good at balancing things after the difficult balancing acts I've found myself performing over the years (extreme mental health issues, divorce, custody, ivy league education, etc). That message quieted. I thought about the money issue. I responded saying, all I need is a plane ticket. I can handle that. That message subsided as well. the "not having enough time" message took it's turn in the forefront of my mind and I assured myself that I would listen to time constraints, that I would listen to the messages that might come up that were related to over-working myself, doing too much, etc. I treat myself with a lot of love, a lot of understanding and a lot of compassion, so that message subsided as well. It knew that I would be on the look out for over working myself and it trusted that I would take care of myself. I have a enough of a track record taking care of myself that it trusted me.
But the last message. Which was timid. Almost childlike spoke again. "You aren't ready."
To me, this was a pretty serious message. Instead of pushing it aside saying, oh yes I am! Silly me! I'm strong! I am powerful! I am READY!
I said, wait. How so? Why? What about me isn't ready?
These questions weren't all at once. I investigated this not ready message over time, over a few months. I learned that although I am on my own healing path and I am learning, with greater depth, greater understanding and greater love, how to take care of myself and how to attend to my spiritual wounds....that a part of me, just wasn't ready. I needed time. And a part of me, however small, knew that. The healing from my own spiritual wounds of suffering and abuse needed time, it said. I said. A part of me, said. I wanted protection. I wanted just time, with me.
I've made the decision to hold off. It hurts in places. I will be home this summer and I will see what I grew up seeing. The hallow-ness of numbed pain projected through the eyes of young children, the steely depth of pain endured through the eyes of older children and the loss sense of identity and purpose in the eyes of many adults. Is this all there is in my hometown? Goodness no. Not by a long shot. There is also, as I mentioned above, deep love. But when I see this kind of pain in young and old children alike and adults, it tends to permeate my understanding of the health of my home. One person enduring this spiritual pain, as I see it, is too many. It hurts me. And unfortunately, it's much more than one person.
I am learning to feel compassion without letting the pain of suffering permeate my emotional landscape, but I'm not there yet, entirely. One of the reasons I'm not ready to start this project. I am being gentle with myself and growing myself. So that when I am ready, I can be as available and compassionate as I need to be and want to be. I'm not there yet. And that's ok. That's more than ok. That's what it is and I am at peace with that.
Everything is a learning opportunity and an opportunity for growth. I used to get frustrated and speak out to my creator asking, WHY?! do I have to learn SO MUCH!? Can ya just give me a break? :-)
Now I understand things differently. I am blessed to be given the opportunity to grow. The break isn't in the spaces between learning, the break - or the sense of peace as I like to see it now - is in the moments of true blossoming. The moments where something new comes out of what was to create what is. And it happens all the time. The greater awareness I have of when I am growing and how I am growing, the more grateful I am for the opportunity to grow, to expand. I like space and growing to me means expansion of understanding, love and peace. And now, I don't ask my creator why, I thank my creator because learning and growth is a gift.
You are forever in my heart, home, and I will always be connected to you. I will always love you. Know that you are never forgotten, I'm just not ready. Not yet.