As I walk into 2015, I walk out of a deep, deep darkness. A darkness filled with my own rage, so much latent rage triggered and re-triggered to the point of limbic storm, a physiologic condition to which my bipolar disorder renders me vulnerable. A limbic storm feels like an invasion of some kind of fiery army of orcs inside my mind. It removes my sense of self, it raises my anchor and sends me sliding, descending into madness really, like Anakin Skywalker slid into the fires that saw him transformed into Darth Vader. I found myself in my very own Mirkwood Forest.
I lost so many things in 2014. Through betrayal. Through death. Through a diagnosis that spells the beginning of the end for my father and the end of a way of life for my mother. Through the final cutting of ties with my ex-husband, whom I naïvely believed I could and would remain with friends forever. Through the estrangement of my oldest and only remaining son, who cannot forgive me for the part I played in the end of the marriage. Through miscarriage, a birth that instantly results in death, a phenomenon (pregnancy, that is) I believed myself incapable of at this tender age of 46 years.
I spent 2014 raging. And held hostage by despair. I spent 2014 running from the inevitability of feeling what needs feeling ~ pain, sorrow, grief. I chose my go-to, rage. And my other go-to, obsession with stimulating the pleasure centres of my brain. Because I believed pleasure could relieve sadness, could heal the grief, could stem the flow that loss unavoidably brings. I failed to understand that seeking pleasure to eclipse the pain only added to the darkness simmering beneath the surface. I failed to see how self-centred I had become in this obsessive pleasure-seeking behaviour. It hurt the one I love, who gave more than he should have, who went without, so that I could feed the hungry pleasure-seeking monster that only grew stronger and more powerful and more unpleasant and more cruel with each feeding. Most of all, it hurt me. Yes, when I behave selfishly, I also hurt myself. Through this, I hurt others I don’t even know.
“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
~Sonmi-451 (Cloud Atlas, written by David Mitchell)
It took an episode of severe, raging delirium and a virulent lung and sinus infection to strike me off of my high horse. My very own personal “On The Road To Damascus,” if you will. I’ve circled this place before. I recognise it at once. The humility I felt (and still feel and want to hold onto) provided me with such a sense of relief. I had time to reflect on my behaviour, my reactions to the people and relationships with which I had surrounded myself. Unable to do anything, I watched Cloud Atlas. I’d seen it before, of course. This time, the stories of Robert Frobisher and of Sonmi-451 touched me intensely, to the point of tears. They broke me wide open, tore open the hardened, lacquered, seemingly shiny shell that had formed around my heart from layers of sorrow-encased rage coated in the saccharine falseness of pleasure-seeking.
“Science devises ever bloodier means of war until humanity’s powers of destruction overcome our powers of creation and our civilisation drives itself to extinction.”
From my sickbed, the sofa, I binged on Netflix. A yearning to know the world filled me. I watched a Frontline documentary about the Vatican and the scandals underlying Pope Benedict’s resignation. I sobbed uncontrollably: feeling the hurt of José Raúl González Lara, Marcial Maciel’s biological son, as he described the abuses he suffered at the hands of his father; feeling the pain and betrayal of Monica Barrett who described being raped by Fr. William Effinger at the age of 8; and feeling pain and awe at Father Juan Vaca’s disclosure of sexual abuse. I sobbed for their pain. And for the many more whose pain the world shall never know, which exists nonetheless. Pain. Intensified by the ignorance and self-service of others. People like me, who do something destructive by doing nothing, by playing ostrich.
It dawned on me, how could I possibly feel anger toward God, or contempt, or tell myself that He didn’t exist, simply because of the hurt I felt at the way my Church has treated its people? I felt heart-broken, too, for Pope Benedict, who clearly looked defeated and deeply saddened at the state of things. I wonder, though, can you really humble yourself enough solve the dirty, messy issues of the lowly people when you sit in a gilded chair, holding a glittery and grand-looking crucifix-topped sceptre and wearing rich velvet crimson robes and crimson velvet Versace slippers? The sorrow of all of this lies in the fact that we can never solve a problem from within that problem. And the problem seems so diffuse because it exists in the very fibre of structure.
I want to understand. I don’t want to rage any longer. I don’t want to judge any longer. I want to hold mercy. I want to think of my ripple effect, of how my actions impact others. Because I am human. Because there is not ‘other.’ Because I am everyone. And everyone is me. Giving a homeless man and his dog my very last $6 in change feels equally as important to me as does spending it on feeding myself. Because I have a home to go to, with a full fridge and a Love whom I often feel I don’t deserve. Avoiding judgement and resisting the temptation to condemn lightens my heart. It makes room for love, for mercy. Examining my relationships carefully, remaining vigilant about the energies and personalities that surround me, frees me from destructive static that has, in the past, permeated my Self membrane.
I have work to do. Areas of calcified betrayal and pain that right now seem impenetrable. I circle them, try to warm them. From the inside out. I can feel it working. Thawing. But the betrayal feels too fresh still. Like a carrion, it tempts me, and I become the vulture of vengeance,
hungry lusting for retribution. And the more I feed on it, the sicker I become. That’s my present inner battle with myself. I’ve come to discover that only love and mercy can remove that sickness that grips me so much so that it renders me physically ill – unable to eat, nauseated, queasy, unsettled in the very pit of my viscera.
Like the snowdrops, the cherry blossom, the forsythia, the camellia ~ first to bloom here in Vancouver, the harbingers of spring ~ love arrives first. Before everything else. If only I let it, you know, allow it to breathe and grow and stretch. That means I have to breathe and grow and stretch. And balance. How do I do that?
Seek. Understand. Release.