These are all among the many people who have in some significant way touched my life and transformed the way I am able to experience the world, to open my heart and soul, and to recognize and experience truth, love, and the Sacred. Initially, however, they posed a threat, a danger, to the way that I knew things to be. Or so I thought...
I believe I have likely been drawn to dangerous people for most of my life. What that has meant to me, however, has dramatically changed, evolved, and expanded over my lifetime.
The first was my mother, who was mentally ill and truly dangerous.* We had what could be called a trauma bond. An early therapist of mine, who spent an hour with my mother once many years ago, told me afterwards that I was "lucky to have physically survived my childhood." This was after my mother told him that I had "made her" put a pillow over my face and nearly suffocate me to death when I simply would not stop crying no matter what she tried. My mother was trying to convince my therapist, and anyone else that she could, that I was just born a "bad seed." She knew that one of us had to be "bad" and she wanted to be sure everyone knew it was me and not her. (Exposure to anyone who is severely narcissistic is to be defended against by all means possible, including sacrificing your own children.) My twin brother and I were about 13 months old at the time. However, the greatest danger I lived with and absorbed as a child was that it was not okay to be me. I needed to pretend. (*My mother is now, at the end of her life, and miracles of all miracles, successfully treated for her mental illness.)
Thus lay the foundation for seeking out others where we could be mutually supportive of each others lack of vulnerability and secret keeping and a whole plethora of distractions and addictions. I remember loving that old Jackson Brown/Eagles' song Take It Easy and at some deeper, less than conscious level resonating with looking for those who "won't blow my cover." That was something I could relate with, although I didn't fully understand the roots of this familiarity. And because there was so much that I didn't know about myself, I was drawn to people and into situations where there were real risks. There is a price to this not knowing.
Sometimes there were the common thrills of living on the edge - smoking pot, drinking, dropping acid, taking mushrooms and deciding to head out to climb Bundy Hill at 4:30 on a snowy Michigan day only to get lost for hours. There were also the times when things went beyond the edge, like the insane ride in the early morning hours on the freeway at well over 100 mph in Jack O'Leary's '69 black Mustang Mach IV. I was 18 and Jack and I were both drunk. There was another time over ten years later when I drove our infant son's babysitter home drunk on my ass in the early morning hours. Those were more the rarities. Much more often, however, were the subtle dangers I lived with day in and day out. These were the dangers of disconnection and at a deep level being a stranger to myself. This was all I had ever known. I couldn't imagine a different life.
Of course, there's a lot of work that goes into managing an image and staying lost to oneself. What I neglected in my heart I acted out through addictions and distractions and destructive behaviors, or I acted in through depression and anxiety and belief systems that convinced me to not trust, not talk, not feel, not be. At some point a bit of fog began to lift and I had this sense of having a "broken picker." I was drawn to people I found myself accusing of being emotionally unavailable to me. How it pissed me off when an early counselor looked at me and said, "Molly, well people don't marry sick people." Pissed me off! And I couldn't shake her words. What a blessing that I couldn't shake her words!
I've never known an alcoholic or addict of any kind who doesn't have a broken heart. We simply struggle to know how to cope with the pain we desperately try to avoid in our hearts. So, yes, we pretend. I'm fine, thank you very much. Or our problems are the fault of that asshole over there. Projecting our stuff onto others can become a finely honed skill, although certainly not a helpful one. And there are so many ways we try again and again to continue to run away from ourselves. We have a drink or smoke a joint, we shop till we drop, we work ourselves to the bone, we gorge or we starve, we have an affair and obsess about the illusion of finally having our needs met through this "perfect love," we isolate or surround ourselves with others who are also lost, we use our religious or spiritual tradition as a distraction and as a justification for our judgments, we blame and shame and demonize, we hold onto resentments and get hooked on being angry, we cling to bitterness and projections and pointing out with what is wrong with others, we're in and out of hurtful relationships, we become chronic caretakers (not knowing that there is a difference between caretaking and loving someone), we isolate and get hooked on TV or porn or sports or video games, and on and on and on. An early therapist told me in 1984 that I could be addicted to standing on my head. Anything to not feel what I felt, or know what I knew, or need what I truly needed. He told me I would need to make the long journey from my head to my heart. I had no idea what he was talking about...
Somehow it all began to change. I look back now and experience awareness of this Grace that kept knocking on my door asking to be let in. And the miracle is that I listened at all. When my dear friend Ann Baker told me on February 8th, 1983 that my husband is an alcoholic, I wanted her to be wrong! I was absolutely panicked! She must be wrong! I didn't even freaking know any alcoholics! And what a shame trip I had with that word! A-L-C-O-H-O-L-I-C. Yuk. I surely didn't know any. Yet, I could not or would not shake this sense that I had to find out. I simply had to find the truth - was my sons' father an alcoholic or was he not??!
Sixteen months later - after immersing myself in learning about addiction (I had to get it all figured out and under control), going through two treatment groups for spouses/friends of alcoholics, after trying to be a star Al-Anon member, and after pointing my fingers outward at nearly everyone in my life and in my family as having a problem with addiction (they were coming out of the walls!) - it finally hit me that I was either crazy or I was an alcoholic. NO! That can't be! But I had to find out. So, before I could stop myself, I made an appointment at a treatment center for an assessment. I had to find out the truth. I had to. The counselor asked surprise questions. Like - "Molly, what does an alcoholic look like?" The next thing I knew, I heard these words blurting out of my mouth, "Sure as hell NOT like me!" Wrong. And there was that doorway beckoning me to enter, to seek the truth. June 19th, 1984 was the day I got sober.
I imagine a world where each of us is compelled to simply seek the truth, again and again, over and over and over again. If we are alive and breathing, I believe that there are always more layers to our fog to be lifted, greater consciousness to experience, and a more expansive love to know...
What began to happen for me over 30 years ago is that doorway after doorway, layer after layer, belief system after belief system, the world as I thought I knew it has dropped away and been transformed. I once mostly surrounded myself with those who wouldn't blow my cover and I wouldn't blow theirs. It was dangerous, unthinkable, and unimaginable to live any other way. So we had this mutual and totally unconscious and unwritten agreement to limit our intimacy, our vulnerability, our truth with each other. To keep a "safe" distance. And when, at a conscious or often unconscious level, everything is scary and no one is safe, then we are driven underground within our own bodies. The walls come up, higher and higher, and any doorway out becomes more and more obscured. Our blind spots build on one another and there is this cascading effect of ever deepening pain, disconnect or numbing from the roots of that pain, and disconnect from ourselves and from life. It's a hard way to go.
My twin never found his way out. He checked into a motel room on January 27th, 1978 with his vodka and Valium and never came out, alive. John left two suicide notes. He spoke of the anger he could not free himself of. "If only I weren't so angry about not being loved, maybe I could find the love that I need."
Ours is a love starved world. Or so it is for many. And I can certainly speak to this through first hand personal experience and also professionally as a social worker for the past three decades. The danger with being cut off from love, cut off from deep connection with ourselves and others, cut off from what is Sacred, is that we can find ourselves in circles of friends, family, community, and culture which in some way mirrors our own disconnect. And that danger then becomes compounded when it ripples out into the world. It wears many faces. In families, it can be trickle down addiction, depression, anxiety, abuse, chronic neglect of our deeper selves, and a relentless inner critic that won't stop pointing fingers at others or ourselves. And this rupture, this breaking of our conscious experience of the Divine, then becomes a mirror for what we find in our culture. Addictions, depression, division, distractions, polarizations, violence. And the harming - and the denial of that harming - which has its roots in our individual and collective hearts, then ripples out onto our Mother, our Earth Mother. When we turn away from pain, that pain has to go somewhere.
Over these many years I have come to recognize that there are different kinds of dangers, some authentic and some an illusion. As something greater than myself has propelled me along this path of truth seeking and love, my belief systems related to who is safe and who is dangerous has been turned on its head. Before entering the doorway of my awakening, my unconscious comfortability and familiarity was with others who were also fearful, hurting, addicted, asleep. Healthy people freaked me out. If someone didn't like happy hours, there was just something wrong with them. And I'd be fine, thank you very much, if my sons' dad and my mother would just get their shit together. They were my problem. The miracle is that when God sent a lifeboat to my drowning self, I took it. I actually grabbed on. I didn't say fuck you and walk away. Yes, I still fought and resisted and was scared to death and hated "growth spurts," but I grew anyway. Yet so many are oblivious to the life rafts tossed to them offering new possibilities, possibilities which actually transform and heal and save lives.
Instead, we often turn our backs to anything which threatens reality as we believe we know it to be. We identify those Others who offer us a new story, a new possibility, a new awareness as dangerous and worthy of our outright rejection. Thus, many of those in the pictures I share above, and in the additional names I added, have been ignored, marginalized, or demonized, their wisdom deemed to be no better than that of a freaking ________ (fill in the blank), a terrorist, a communist, someone who hates America, etc. (i.e. someone who doesn't think, believe, worship, or look like me.) "You're with me or you're with the terrorists!," George Bush declared. He lied. Because the greatest danger that I have discovered is the danger of the "terrorist" within ourselves, that part of us who builds unconscious barriers to truth and love.
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." ― Rumi
When I did not allow myself to open to new realities, new perspectives, new belief systems, new people who rocked the inner and outer world as I new it and offered me a new one, a deeper and more authentic one, I was turning my back on life. We are here to grow. We are here to love. We are here to remember the Sacred. We are here to reconnect with ourselves and one another and with our Earth Mother.
My passion for truth and love has proven time and time again to be stronger than my fear and resistance and attachment to those stories and belief systems which may have worked for a while, but were now limiting and needing to die so new ones could be born. Among my abiding prayers is that each and every one of us will ask in ongoing ways for whatever Grace and spiritual support we need to awaken more and more deeply - to see how we hold back, how we avoid ourselves and others, how we let our fears stop us from the next step in our evolution. If we are alive and breathing, there is more work to be done. We can ask for greater courage, connection, support, and love. We can ask to stay open, even that our world be turned on its head if there something that is in great need of being let go of. We can be that brave. We can care that much. The Divine is within us and all of life. This is the Sacred thread which has woven us all together. May we all please feel that - feel our Sacred connection. Your joy is my joy. Your suffering is my suffering. We are all related, all connected, all in this together.
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” ― Pema Chödrön,
"Escaping resentments and becoming generous, escaping arrogance and becoming humble, escaping self-concern and becoming concerned about others: Personal transformations of this kind are not the work of flesh and blood, they are the gifts of grace." ― Gregory Baum
"Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, ...
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; ...
... and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without."
― Robert Browning
The narratives we often allow ourselves and one another are often limiting rather than expansive. These belief systems are many times more likely to be part of our fearful smaller selves than the deep love, courage, and wisdom of our hearts and souls. May we all allow our inner splendor its escape. It is time. We are needed. And we need each other.
Wtih love and blessings,