Thursday, 14 July 2016
The wake behind the boat
Who does this life belong to, anyway?
(I'm feeling thoughtful today, and working it out 'on paper' so to speak. Feel free to skip this one if you're not in the mood for ruminations.)
I never did catch on to the 'self help' book trend, but a couple of years ago I picked up something by Wayne Dyer from the book table at a church sale. The title escapes me at the moment but it's a rather nice book. Cheerful.
One key point that he makes is that we are not bound by our pasts.
In an interview on the web, he puts it this way:
"All you have is now. That’s all there is. The whole idea that you’re tied to what you’ve been is nonsense.
I use the metaphor of a boat going down the river. When you’re standing at the back of the boat, looking at the water as you’re going along at forty knots, what you see there is the wake. The wake is the trail that’s left behind. You can ask the question, “What’s making the boat go forward?” It can’t be the wake. The wake can’t drive the boat. It’s just the trail left behind. It can’t make the boat go forward, any more than the trail that you’ve left behind in your life is responsible for where you’re going now in your life."
Now maybe that's a bit of an oversimplification, but maybe it's not. Maybe the problem with these ideas that seem too simple to be true is that we like to complicate things. It suits the ego to believe that nothing so simple could apply to me, because I am a complex being ..
We also, I think, like to feel trapped. By our pasts, by our commitments, by whatever holds us back. Being caught in the slipstream of an external force gives us an out, a good reason to say "I can't". We want the freedom to do xyz but when we don't have the courage or faith we need somewhere to lay blame, and that blame is often some individual traumatic event or period in our past.
Traumatic events and patterns of events leave their marks, that's for damn sure. They leave us limping emotionally, or scarred over so we won't feel, or overly cautious, unwilling to take risks. They can also make us overly sensitive to the feelings of those around us. The kindest among us will do almost anything not to hurt someone else's feelings, up to and including limiting our own lives, curtailing our own dreams and talents so that another person won't feel abandoned or hurt or .. fill in the blank.
That's bullshit of course but we all do it. Every single one of us has used someone else's feelings as an excuse to avoid our own discomfort. It's bullshit for them too - I don't want my feelings spared, not really. I'd much rather know what's really going on than be coddled. Wouldn't you?
I've had occasion lately to re-examine some feelings I have about a past event. Pretty traumatic it was, too. About as bad as it get, in fact. I wasn't in the middle of it, but a family member was. I took on that trauma, because well, women do that, especially when it's family. A burden shared is a burdened lightened, we're told .. It was many, many years ago so eventually I had come to a place that I rarely thought about it, or so I believed. But when it all came up again in an unexpected way I discovered that it had been pushing my boat all along.
So while it might be, as Wayne Dyer says, "nonsense" to believe that we're tied to our (or others') pasts, until that's visible to us, we are, in effect, very much tied to them.
But - are some things actually best left un-examined? Is it possible, or advisable to examine all our traumas for evidence that we're using them to propel us in ways we shouldn't? I don't know the answers there. Not a clue do I have, even when it comes to my own stuff, let alone anyone else's.
When we have been the victim of abuse or violence, we're supposed to remind ourselves that it wasn't our fault, we did nothing to deserve it, etc. etc. I've never found that entirely helpful. In a way, it erases us from the event. We had "nothing to do with it" almost means we weren't a part of it - yet we were, and are again, every time it comes up as a memory or the scar of it aches on a damp day.
Several years ago, when something triggered flashbacks of memories I didn't know I had from when I was no more than 3 years old, I had a valuable lesson. I realized, when they came up, that although I didn't know they were there, some part of me had been malfunctioning all along because of those events. Meanwhile another part of me was more highly functional because of them.
It was an interesting study, that. As I see it now, the early childhood trauma, buried, behaved like a grain of sand in an oyster, an irritant to my psyche that couldn't be removed so I built something around it. A pearl. Not a perfect pearl of course, but a pearl nevertheless.
So Wayne Dyer has a point .. to a point. We can't let the past (as we're aware of it) dictate our direction in life, or harden us too much. But what about the stuff there that we aren't aware of? And the reasons behind reasons for what's happened that we just can't ever know?
Enter faith, stage left.
I am, by nature, a positive thinker. The rainbow is my banner - not the queer one, the actual rainbow that's up there in the sky when the rain ends. I've even been accused by those close to me of using my perpetual rainbow-thinking as a stick rather than a carrot in a "things WILL get better, dammit, so cheer up!" kind of way. I can't abide to see anyone close to me glum or stuck in negative thought patterns. (That would be the imperfection in my pearl, I suppose, ha!)
I'm also trying to learn how to discern what can be fixed and what can't be, what should be faced head on and what should just be avoided, especially in my interpersonal relationships. As chagrined as I am when I discover some aspect of my own past is holding me back, it's just as bad when it is someone else's stuff restricting my growth.
Removing oneself from unsatisfactory relationships is actually an important life skill that I encourage everyone to learn. Putting up with someone who drags you down or sucks on your energy does them no favours; as resentment builds between you, they suffer too. It's an affront to your relationship with your self (and I would dare to venture, to God as well), to be limited by anyone - or limit them - without very good cause.
I can't, from one day to the next, put a bead on exactly "who I am". I'm in a state of growth - I hope. I don't even consider my life to be my own, it belongs to God. He's got things up His sleeve for me that I don't and can't know about til they are set in motion; even then it's going to be chock full of Mystery.
That means anyone in my life has to accept that about me and I, them. True friendship - in my world - is a form of covenant. It's an understanding that what we share is not that we belong to each other, but that we each belong to God. Each one of us might be called away on a new mission at any time and that's okay - even reason to celebrate.
So .. anyone who tries to prevent your growth is doing more than being a lousy friend, they're trying to put themselves between you and God?
Uh-oh. Is that good? That can't be good.
But does this mean I can only have friendships with people who share my brand of faith? No. But I sure don't like having to bite my tongue lest I induce eye-rolling by using the G-word. "God", in our society, is not a word used in polite conversation. It's okay to use it in vain though.
Ha! Oh, we live in interesting times, don't we?
I am guilty of something that truly makes me cringe - I often hide my faith. I especially don't reveal that I am (becoming) a Christian, read the Bible with great joy almost daily, pray. Nope. I still have enough of the pagan in me (and small "p" paganism is acceptable these days) that I say Mother Nature when I mean God. I use euphemisms left and right or avoid anything that will bring my faith into the conversation at all. In fact, believe it or not, there are people in my own family who have known me for years who I don't even talk to about my work with the plants - because if that comes up, so does my faith and they'll be backing away politely before I know it. Then there's that wildcrafting blog where I'm so careful not to let 'woo' come into it.
I don't like that about my self. It's not like they'll feed me to the lions.
However, who wants to hear me spout on about it? The people who do, find me somehow. These others, well they don't want to know, so why insist?
Gee this is getting long, if you're still with me, thank you. I wish I could come up with a way to neatly wrap this up, some sort of concluding statement ..
Nope. Don't have one. Today it was all questions and postulations.