Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Circle Dance

Even as I find so many words advising me to remain calm, emotions swirl, rise and fall with no predictable pattern. Wanting to believe this all has some purpose, each evening I look for a constructive accounting of my time and struggle to hold onto faith.

Since the surgery now seems far off, I must learn to live with the disability. Spasms come and go, some days intensely and others barely at all. Much of the time, my energy feels nearly normal, as much as I remember. I feel as if I could pick up my feet and run; such a simple concept, but like a dream to me now.

It comes time then to look for a job.

A blessing that has kept me from being homeless, accepting money from my father now becomes an emotional challenge. To study his influence on my childhood and remain dependent on him to this day feels unacceptable. Difficult as it is to shed the skin of compulsive productivity with which I was raised, it is nigh impossible to take his money and ignore his questions about what opportunities are available. My entire life—even though only talking through my mother to him—I have felt compelled to explain and justify every step in terms of leading myself forward and creating a life he might approve.

So often there has been the urge to step aside and contemplate, ruminate with scribbles on paper the words and images that flow in my head. This injury has finally stopped me cold (I nearly wrote “dead”), but left me too shattered to think, much less write many words. Weeks have turned into months and I have grown quite accustomed to the quiet, the lack of pace and urgency, the various positions I rotate my body through to keep myself from getting stiff and more sore.

Hardly a movie on Netflix have I not streamed, nor status quote on facebook have I not read. Nearly every minute of the World Cup soccer matches held me enthralled, tempted me to play. I can now lie quietly for hours at a time, head propped, eyes closed, not asleep, not thinking…waiting.

Music draws me out. Band practice and shows help me feel normal. The banter with my son and keeping him fed, his room and clothes clean are realities requiring my happy focus. We have had some wicked games of Parcheesi. Visits to friends have provided exquisite distractions.

With more energy for several weeks, I have scoured the classifieds and sent resumes galore. With so little being built these days and unable to be on the job sites at this point, I have to look farther afield, but my construction experience, unfortunately, makes me look unqualified for other offices, despite the bright spotlight I shine on all the peripheral skills acquired in managing money and people as well as lumber. Any responses so far are to inform me they will interview other, more qualified, candidates.

So still and silent as ever I wanted to be, energized and supported financially by my father, I spend other days in search of writing opportunities. My eyes blur from the links on Craig’s List, click after click, imagining how well I could write copy or edit. Emails flow into the ether by the quarter hour with little response except a few politely formulated notices of unsuitable fits. I am proud of my perseverance, the same persistence that made me take another deposit in my construction business, convinced I could do the next one better.

Still, the mass of rejections in all directions takes its toll.

On Sunday, after several days of hard spasms, my body refused to budge from the couch. The computer connection took more energy than I had fingers to type. Phone conversations were an effort better left unspoken. Between the heat and the constant pressure of clothing on the tube into my belly, I never even bothered to dress. A pizza box was on the floor and the sink was full of dishes too dirty to invite the effort.

Recognizing this state of dishevelment might frighten anyone who chanced to visit, I checked in with my sister 3000 miles away. She knows my story well and the work I have been doing only hinted at in this blog. She could support this mood of lethargy, saying my work is in the silence of the inaction. She too heard my father’s voice often so stern, lately more bewildered, advising me to produce, account and justify some more. This sitting on the couch, she agrees, no matter how unhealthy it might feel, is somehow vital to my psyche and the healing that needs to take place far deeper than re-opening the urethra.

The next morning, even though raining and dreary, with purpose miraculously renewed, I clicked through dozens of more classifieds, eager, determined, and supremely optimistic. The mood carried well into the next day, a barrage of emails gone out against the few coming in. Music dates are booked, a few short stories readied for new markets. Ideas percolate rapidly. Inspiration ignites the grey skies into sunshine, opening my heart again, offering all (such that it is) I have to give.

My faith is deep that talents will find their home.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Topsy Turvy

For nine months now, a period we associate with pregnancy, I have been stuck on my couch in contemplation of my circumstances both sad and joyful. Equally in observation of the world still going on around me, I have felt both a separation and union.

Formerly a history buff and current affairs junkie, I have slipped into a state of intellectual lethargy. However frightening, the oil spill seems far away in another country. Having argued loudly against the invasion of Iraq, shame makes me notice I barely glanced at the headline for the latest Vermonter killed. My interest in the balance of China’s rise versus our demise has vanished.

The story of my own life has also receded in importance. That my dad hit me unable to express his love and my mom loved me more than I thought I deserved becomes irrelevant to my reality, subject for thought only in so far as it tells a story of how one soul came to recuperate on this couch convinced somehow intuitively that the physical injury was not what needs most to be healed. Even my battle with Blue Cross loses its immediacy as I come to believe the surgery will fall into place once my mind has applied the medicine internally.
The history provides the words to this humble one who feels compelled at last to write, even though still bewildered and unsure of what the subject matter must be.

Although I repeatedly underscore that so many are so much more worse off than I in their physical, emotional, and/or financial circumstances, still my story is rife enough with hardship that many friends and acquaintances have wondered at my ability to keep my spirits high. One difference, I think, is my willingness to speak openly, take the risk and declare my insufficiencies whole-heartedly. Not for sympathy come these proclamations. I simply am honest and open because the truth—even with its ugly shadows—is ever so gloriously bright.

Shame, guilt, fear; these are energies that keep us in bondage. If our blemishes are hidden, so too our beauty is covered over. By taking responsibility for my foibles, no longer a victim, I declare my ability to change, seek solutions, grow in heart and rise out of the pain.

Along the way, clues have been available, synchronicities appearing too numerous to discount, fueling the marvelous idea that I am being led just as much as I believe my choices are free. Like the very road map we have laid across the physical landscape of our state, nation and world, each fork in the road has an intersection a little farther along that can get us back to our planned destination or lead us onwards to some vista or inn that is a complete surprise...and delightful nevertheless.

At a dinner recently with a group of strangers, each knowing only one or two of the others previously, I was amazed at how easily the conversation played around this idea that we are spiritually in the midst of an immense planetary transformation (some would say “inter-galactic”). It flowed not in the abstract “as if” level of speculation and hallucinogenic imagination, but was reality as strong and clearly as the table in front of us and as nurturing as the delicious food we ate.

So many people in different areas of my life refer to this as “woo woo” thinking, yet I am astounded at how many and how smart, sophisticated and stable they are. There used to be code words tentatively floated which, if recognized, opened a door of spiritual comradery. More often now, as confidence grows, those words are abandoned and people simply speak without embarrassment of the wonderous events unfolding.

Wonderful events?! Oil increasingly smothers a huge region of the Earth. Wars and genocide devastate entire populations. Famine and greed destroy struggling cultures in desperation. Gross materialism consumes our resources. Climate change threatens the landscape. Entire industries are collapsing and a world economy seems as flimsy as the paper (and assumptions) on which it is written.

Still we thrive on an optimism that predicts the meek shall inherit a marvelous and loving world. Choices are being made. Pathways converge and intertwine miraculously. People find each other and a table of strangers quickly become intimate friends. Hearts are open, even as fear exerts an ever desperate pull and tries to hold us to life as we have known it.

In faith, more and more, we ready ourselves to let it all go.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stars & Stripes

An article online today explains that rather than predicting the future, astrology looks at patterns. A series of eclipses in this period not experienced so intensely since 1944-46 infers that a world of personal transition and societal transformation may be repeated.

Other events align to generate more speculation, most specifically the date of December 21, 2012 when the sun reaches its farthest point from the center of the Galaxy and simultaneously eclipses that center from the planet Earth. The Mayan Calendar ends on that day, creating much debate predicting the actual end of our world or our world just as we know it (my preferred).

In advance of this, Hurricane Katrina heralds the affect of Global Warning and the Pacific Ring of Fire seems to be increasing earthquake activity. An oil spill, seemingly unstoppable, threatens to change the entire Gulf habitat and moves farther inland with every rainfall.

Personally, my body has been wracked cataclysmically. I choose to view the injury as a manifestation of the turmoil that rocks my soul. Seeking answers in the way I have lived my life, evaluating the belief systems that have led me to this day, I am overwhelmed by the mystery of the future and decide that a better focus is on the Here and Now. Living life in the moment might better serve my higher purpose (whatever that may be) and self.

Not for a minute do I think I am special in my suffering. I know people fighting cancer for their very lives. Others lose their farm from drought and over-population; still others their livelihoods in an economy teetering on collapse. More families split up. Tragedies conspire to break us down.

In one mood, I wallow on my couch despairing that this surgery will ever happen. My tube might never be removed and life returned to normal. I wince with pain and shuffle along while others swim, dance, hike, bike and kayak (this is Vermont, you have to understand). Oppression bears down with or without the humidity that has been hovering so many days in a row.

The tide recedes or a splash of laughter tickles the heart and the world seems suddenly brilliant with promise. The change might occur with the strum of a note, the trill in a song, a smile in conversation, or the breeze through a window rolled down in a car cruising the open road. More often than not, activity—being utterly in the moment—fuels the joy.

Recently, the Solstice and two eclipses have approached with such fanfare of portentous promises for transformation. Patience has been advised across the internet and in so many conversations to all those who struggle. Skins were predicted to be peeled of all hindering fear and lives that appear so complicated would be miraculously simplified into harmonious celebrations of love, peace and happiness. “Let the sunshine in…Let the sunshine in…”

Denied my surgery, I looked forward with excitement to spiritual healing.

Those events have now passed and the sun still rises and sets again. Clammy sweat between my skin and plastic bag remind me that miracles are perceived, not self-evident. The humid air still lingers, but my feet can be dipped in the lakeside water and the palpable relief of the evening breeze sings “hallelujah!” to my aching soul.

In my Igroup last night, men supported me to remember not so long ago when I stoically insisted I was perfectly fine and would beat back any and all challenges, wearing the obtuse smile of the Kool Kat pretending he was not affected by any hardships. This year, I have learned to ask for help when I needed it and stood on my own when I had to. I have embraced my children both inner and real. My body has been broken, but my sober spirit has risen to accept the pain of growth and nurture the joy in play. I have risked love.

Postponement of the surgery cannot mean life continues on hold until such time as bureaucracies see fit to turn the wheels. I am in charge of the sunshine in my own world, the heat, the cold, the companionship and the desolation. I can people the landscape and paint the colors however I like. Rainbows or blues, the choice is mine.

Fear eclipsed by passion is the true transformation.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Warriors in Blood

The first indication that I had major work to do as a man came thirty years ago when I took the EST Training. After hours of de-stabilization and witnessing the self-concept of others torn asunder, I offered myself to the cruel fangs of the leader, but she inexplicably asked me to sit back down, apparently too tightly wrapped in my confident façade of good fortune and prosperity to let loose. For years, I joked that the experience revealed my biggest problem was my belief that I had no problems.

Even a divorce and second marriage full of financial and emotional stress shaping the next twenty years could not dissuade me much from that core belief. An undaunting optimism pushed one foot in front of the other, seeing challenges as opportunities in a compulsive determination to prove that all would be well if I just worked a little harder. Nearing a second bankruptcy and often locked out of my own bedroom, chinks in that armor suggested some internal wounds, but I stubbornly moved from counselor to counselor looking for corroboration in the problems surrounding me, not so deeply inside myself.

Growing desperate, the persistent suggestion of a friend to try the New Warrior Training finally aroused my attention. Witness to astounding cathartic upheavals in the other initiates, still the compassionate and confrontive container of men could not force a breakdown of my own tightly held certainty that I could control my own destiny, and in some measure, the people around me. No amount of mud smeared on my face, taunts and physical restraints designed to humiliate my façade of bravado could ignite the anger in me needed to get vulnerable. I felt the sting of a tear, but could not weep.

As quickly as the ride home, I could talk to my father on the phone about my newly acquired perspective around the “de Moll Legend”. At home, late into that first night, I shared insights with my son since his was the open door. A pen soon felt more comfortable scribbling in my hand. Within six months, I moved from a separate bedroom into my own apartment. My old guitar came out of its case.

This blog became a process of self-discovery, like a journal but shared with friends (or strangers who have become friends) as if not brave enough to proclaim my journey, the lessons might be lost. Still, despite smiles and laughter, loneliness and hardship, the exterior remained hardened, tarnished, but unyielding.

In my weekly I-group, my work continued, stories repeating themselves, but still holding myself rigidly together, eyes rolling at ritual and heart shielded. I conveniently fell in love with a woman who loved me back as a friend. One man, in particular, pushed hard and it seemed a true shedding of a tough skin might be imminent until a scaffold collapsed, changing the course of everything. Tears have welled and sometimes over-run, but I have still not been wracked with the sobs of grief and gratitude witnessed in other men.

Last night, my son, drunk and vomiting, was delivered home safely by a designated driver. For several hours, we sat on the bathroom floor in near darkness, his body convulsing at first with ugly spew, but soon with emotions deep and uncontrolled. For the first time to me he could openly lament that his innocent childhood had been selfishly spoiled by parents who chose to fight each other more often than showering love on their children. In the same breath that he could forgive me, he could actually curse the circumstances that caused such stress and declare his anger that I was unable to make it better. His body shaking with sobs, he professed to the deep and profound weariness of having to take care of us, his parents, trying to make everything okay.

He worries that so tightly held together, he cannot feel. His body refuses to let down, his emotions clutch. His heart is carefully monitored to only open so much and so far. He aches to know passion and is terrified to feel the possibility. Petrified that feelings for a young woman might turn into the kind of painful codependence he witnessed in his parents, he is attracted to women living too far away or emotionally out of reach. I know exactly of the struggle he was relating.

Embarrassed that it took the alcohol to loosen his tongue with me, embracing in the darkness, we vowed to continue on this path so different than the one I travel with my own father. All three of us yearn for love and connection, seek freedom in and from our shared bloodline. That the youngest is the farthest along, the most able to crack himself open and speak his truth, gives me hope for my own future, comforts me to know that some parts of this life I have gotten right.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Punch and Duty

This morning I awoke early and refreshed, yet moved straight to the couch and fell back into a deep somnambulant sleep. Several times I came to the surface, and even though I have things to do, could not break free of the deadening slumber. Resolved this week to move forward, to rise from the couch, to free the passion that remains blocked in this broken body, I kept tumbling back into the murkiness of that dark unconsciousness not unlike the one I had feared so much and avoided when the surgery was postponed last month.

In the weeks before my scaffold collapsed last October, I was working very hard on a study of my childhood. My New Warrior meetings and a long drive with one man in particular were barrelling me towards an emotional confrontation with the rock steady conviction that my early days were ones of bliss and happiness, nearly perfect in the balance of love, opportunity, laughter and challenge.

“But you weren't safe!” my friend shouted at me, hands off the steering wheel and punching at me, threatening as dangerously as I had only known in ugly exchanges with an ex-wife. Then a silly game came to mind which I had played with my own little kids. On the approach to an intersection, we often chanted as if we could control the light, “Stay green, stay green, stay green…”

Although I had joked about sitting at red lights with my father, I had never connected that chant to my own children with the early memories of the few rituals I had shared with my father. This was the essay I was writing the day I set my pad aside to go back up the scaffold and landed in the hospital. I reread it several times in these months of recuperation, meaning to finish it, but now it has disappeared entirely—as if the concept itself is trying to escape back into the subconscious—and it needs to be rewritten.

My father used to hit me.

Never ever in anger, but wallops to my head and body nevertheless were regular punctuations to our times together. We could be in the lightest of moments, soaked in laughter around the dinner table, and his arm would punch affectionately at my head, stinging me to the subconscious core, bewildering me in surprise.

Saturday mornings, as the only son, I relished and dreaded his invitations to run up to the lumber store together for donuts (rarely allowed by mother) and whatever he needed for whatever project he was artfully adding to our home. A red light along the way could create an eon of awkwardness while he waited, hands on the wheel, not sure how to acknowledge our companionable quiet. Suddenly that hand would swing out and down, slapping my thigh with a force raising a welt and tears, accompanied by a cry of “how the hell are ya!” that was supposed to make it all okay.

Nothing could be better for fathers and sons than to throw a baseball back and forth in the evening’s stroll towards twilight. The sense of ease at day’s end and the silent bonds growing thicker between each toss and catch should create wonderful memories wordlessly, stretching to generations beyond in both directions. Mine include coming to my mother in tears with a palm so swollen, red and fractured, in such pain I wanted to never catch with him again.

He loves you, Sweetie,” she would console and explain, “He’s just not good with words and doesn’t know how to say it. In fact, he loves you so much, the harder he throws, the more he wants you to feel it.”

Fifty years later, I begin to understand that a near perfect childhood was regularly ripped asunder by an unspeakable violence. That we had such wonderful times of Santa Clauses and sledding, pumpkins and waffles, camping and singing made the blows that stunned me seem just passing pains like bee stings, insignificant and acceptable when living in an old apple orchard, part of the territory.

With no love less for my father, I have come to understand that this was not okay and taught myself to say to him directly "I love you". I await without expectation for him to answer me back with similar words.

The realization of this darker side of growing up explains and justifies many of the struggles I have borne to live up to the grand expectations from myself and others laid before me all these many years since. I can now comfort the little boy inside who still stoops under the agonizingly heavy load of the canvas tent he had to carry up the long, steep and narrow path. I can tease, coax and challenge the New Age man uncomfortable and shy with his spoken words and hesitantly uncomfortable to reach out softly and express his feelings.

Most importantly, I can forgive the man who tried so hard to stay so long with a woman whose own frustrations at not feeling loved were expressed with violence.

After nine months on the couch and a long, deep sleep, this Independence Day feels ripe for a parade, celebration and fire works. It begins with what has become our traditional sunday brunch with my own son and the words clearly spoken, "I love you."

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