on leaving church

dear cindy,

 

i believe we must learn to validate ourselves. as long as we need others to affirm our worth, we will constantly be in chaos, at the mercy of value systems that are not our own.

i do believe we received very little validation of our uniqueness, our giftedness, our experience and perspective and our feelings, as little girls from our mother. for whatever reason, probably her own wounding, she was unable to nurture and affirm our emerging selves in that way. we must now mother ourselves. i also believe that because nothing was ever openly shared…feelings, ideas, or otherwise…that we became very sensitive in other ways in order to pick up those same feelings, ideas, etc. in other words, because it was not spoken, we had to learn to read other signals. when it was dared to be spoken by one of us…it was silenced. at least for me, that was my learning….taught by the bar of soap in my mouth.

 

cindy, one thing that really jumped off the page yesterday for me was when i wrote the word invalid….i was meaning in the sentence that my feelings were not validated, not real, in-valid….but of course the word has another meaning, paralyzed, crippled, (incompetent, to use the word you use about yourself). we were made invalid, emotionally crippled. when we at last see the word in this way, perhaps we can have empathy for our selves that were rendered impotent, castrated. perhaps there were none of the things that we have both been searching for in order to understand, love, and heal ourselves…no horrendous abuse, sexual or otherwise, no alcoholic parent…simply (simply!?) a slow insidious negating of our worth,  an eroding of our selves as valuable and capable, a diminishing of our feelings as valid indicators of our experience, a disconnection from our selves, our intuition, our bodies, a denial of our experience as true.

 

i believe that when we were told that we were wrong to feel the way we did, that we learned not to trust ourselves. if this all-knowing adult in our lives told us that we were indeed not right to be feeling a certain way, that we either were or should be feeling another way, then we had to come to reconcile that in some way. inability to accurately read the signals from our body is a result of this. telling/convincing ourselves in our minds that what we are feeling as pain is really not pain is another. believing that our feelings are not important is another. constantly seeing from another’s perspective our own reality is another. how often i have allowed myself to be harmed because i could see the experience only from the other’s perspective!! i have allowed my compassion for the other to overrule my compassion for myself…denigrating my self and my experience to uphold another’s version of the truth, deferring to their need at the expense of my own. i am no more important than another, but i am no less so either.

 

i am going to make a concentrated effort to honor the wisdom of my body from this day forward….pay attention to the signals it is telling me. it does not lie. it simply feels. i am going to try to stop controlling it in order to manage my pain….that means both extremes of control….bulimia, exercise addiction as well as trying to cover up or nurture  the pain with food in order to numb it. i am going to believe it when it tells me i am hurting, listen to it, mother it.

cindy, are you aware that one theory of marriage…or of any experience for that matter…is that we recreate the experience in which we were wounded, in order to heal ourselves, and we keep doing it until we finally give to ourselves what it is we need to heal. we unconsciously look for in our partners some aspect of our parents, hoping to get the love from them that we did not receive, to find ourselves good and worthy at last. you yearn and yearn for honor from your husband and your sons, for them to value your experience, your perspective, your feelings, but the cycle is the same. you believe their truth rather than your own….and this is the tricky part. you believe it on some level even if you consciously tell yourself that you don’t really believe that,  even if you reason it out otherwise, if you can think otherwise, understand on the level of your head, you feel THEIR truth in YOUR body. and because we have been taught to not pay attention to the feelings in our bodies, we let their version of the truth, or of ourselves, in without knowing it!!! i believe we must begin to believe in ourselves, to give honor to ourselves, all of these things which we desperately and at great cost try to get from another, to ourselves at last…..gently, with compassion. nurture. not through closing off to the other in anger or defense or justification, nor trying to appease them with just how good we are. i am finished with trying to ‘make’ another honor my truth by justifying, explaining and re-explaining myself, ‘make’ them love me by ‘making’ them ‘see’ me…. that is exhausting and impossible…running around in circles trying to stop up all of the holes through which another may reject me. i need to see myself as good first. i need to speak my truth to myself first. let it find its own voice, separate from the expectation and the needs of others.

 

can i give a few examples? the disease, pain,  i feel in social settings is one. i think that because i have been taught to disconnect from my body, from the signals that it gives, that i allow myself to be bombarded by every negative energy in the room and i don’t even know it. i simply experience the mental anguish of incompetence and judgment. even when i can reason it out in my head…as i was saying earlier. i am not sure i have this all understood yet…i am just beginning to work on it. this is what i noticed last Sunday. i was standing with a group of parents for about an hour during the registration process of Jeb’s camp. i ‘thought’ in my head that i was merely observing, noticing the ways that this person feared for her child, the way that that person used harsh labels for hers (lazy, etc), the way another person had no interest in what was going on in anybody else’s life but her own (anybody else’s experience was not of importance to her). i really thought that i had detached and recognized what was the other’s stuff!!! why then was i so physically exhausted, so drained at the end of an hour? i had successfully detached alright, from myself, from my body. my body was absorbing every ounce of negative energy. no wonder i felt so exhausted! in disconnecting myself from my feelings, living inside my head, i had not even allowed myself the choice to accept or reject or let pass through the energy. i want to live inside my body, cindy. and i want to learn to do it in a way that does not hurt from the bombardment. right now, i think i escape it because i have no means of controlling it (ahh.. there is that word again, the one so often associated with eating disorders) and the inundation is too, too much for me to feel…it would annihilate me.  i need to learn ways to be in my body in a loving way….create a loving filter through which to receive, aknowledge with compassion, and let pass through somehow…or something.

i do not want to close myself off. i don’t want to erect rigid boundaries, but i am ready to admit that my current mechanisms for coping with the overwhelming pain are no longer working for me, nor what i desire for myself. as glenn and i discussed yesterday, this bodily sensitivity (intuition) is also tremendous gift….it is what may make me a good healer, for instance….this ability to feel  what another is experiencing. it is what persons have seen in me when i am in safe settings…on retreats, workshops, etc. it is what fills me with compassion….and passion. but i must learn to create safe settings for myself…take the safety with me, feel the other’s reality without the cost to self.

 

as to the situation at church. i will forward to you the dream, it is still in my files somewhere. i believe this was my subconscious screaming for my attention when i was so strongly denying the feelings in my body. what happened was this. during the month of May, one of the women who had questioned what i was teaching in the high school Sunday school class was given the opportunity to teach the class. she used the opportunity to espouse to the class her belief in a God who condemns to hell those who do not accept Jesus as their savior. to her, the purpose of life is to get into heaven or hell, to pass. she taught the kids that the idea of universalism is untrue….that the only true religion is Christianity. when some of the kids questioned this, they were told that they would be ‘prayed for’.

 

this is what i did…i understood in my head. i held her in compassion, understanding that she was living in a place of fear, and that for one whose meaning for life comes from such an understanding to strip that away from her is to leave her meaningless (although now, from this distance, i might be able to say that is not a bad thing…new meanings emerge from the death of old ones). i tried to stay detached from the situation personally, acknowledging that it was hers to own, not mine. her reality, not a judgment upon mine. i saw her wound and her fear. persons acknowledged how compassionate i was being…to see from her perspective. but you see, that is so easy for me to do..i have been doing it my entire life!!!! diminishing my feelings through understanding the other’s.

 

meanwhile, my body was raging. it felt like a knife in my heart, a blow to my gut. i ached for the kids being fed the poison of fear, being caught in the middle, manipulated and pulled in chaotic directions by a divided church. i felt the chaos of the unsafety, of not knowing who to trust. i felt the chaos of erratic values…the child in myself trying to figure out where to stand to avoid the blows of an unpredictable parent. then came the dream…and when nadia asked me if it reminded me of anything that might be happening in my real life, i denied it…..the last week that i went to church, i cried to don afterwards…i just can’t feel this way every week although i couldn’t name what or why i was feeling. i just couldn’t bear it, it hurt too much. it took me too long to release it. the church is so divided, in so much pain, so filled with fear and judgment…that is the energy that i received into my body each week….dividedness, pain, fear, judgment.

 

and so, i did it again, you see….understood the other’s wound, the other’s perspective, accepted the other’s version of reality, at the expense of my self….invalidated myself, my experience, my feelings, my needs for the sake of the system…family, community.  though i was probably angry somewhere inside, i silenced myself, turned the anger inward….when perhaps i should have turned the tables.  like i mentioned earlier, we do recreate the scenarios in which we are wounded until we finally heal ourselves.

 

of course, this is not new. the erratic nature of the system has disturbed my sense of safety for a long time. remember how i used to rail at the discrepancy between the love i experienced in certain settings, versus the fear i experienced in others….until i had healed that particular insecurity in myself, i could not understood that it was the other’s wound and detach myself from it. until i lifted that aspect of myself to a place of trusting in myself and my wisdom that i did not need it to be affirmed outside of myself. until i stopped giving away all of my power and my love…letting it leak through the boundarylessness that is me just as quickly as the fear of the other rushed in.

 

yesterday, i read something about that. it was talking about making oneself vast…versus bound. the illustration was the a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water can change its chemistry drastically….but a teaspoon of water in a lake has very little effect. i want to create that kind of vastness for myself…that kind of love.

 

i want to feel. i need to feel. my body is screaming for me to feel!!! if i don’t allow myself to feel a thing, i cannot make a choice as to whether or not i wish to receive it, i cannot make a choice to meet a feeling with compassion, to surround it with love….

 

my relationship with the church is so convoluted. on one hand, there is an indebtedness. the people of that church literally loved me back to life. but i must separate the individual people, from the roles they are forced to play, and from the system. indebtedness is a dangerous line that i must tread lightly…much of my accepting the pain and diminishing of myself in my marriage was tangled up in indebtedness to bob. on the other hand, i feel a deep longing to give to these people that i love, to help them to also heal, to offer a portion of healing in return. that is different from feeling that i owe them my pain. on the other hand ( i have a feeling i will be an octopus before i complete this) i too quickly slip into the familiar wounded child mode which was the basis of our relationship for so long….and too easily accept from them that the reason for my feelings is my woundedness…invalidating my experience as somehow a remnant of my wounded flaw or my personality. on one hand, i experience an honoring of the depth of my spirituality, a yearning for it to be shared, on the other a simultaneous resistance to it. the power structures are so confused….sometimes i am an equal and other times the need for control strips me powerless. a part of me feels like an adolescent who must leave home in order come into my own power as an adult, in order to be received on an equal footing with my parents. a part of me wants to simply assume that role without requiring the blessing of the rite of passage  (indeed at other times, i have yearned for a ritual of passage…yet a part of this new learning for me is that, as no one else can validate me, my feelings or my experience, likewise, no one else can empower…or disempower…me. i must give that gift to myself, by believing in my goodness and my giftedness and my connection to divinity) a part of me accepts their role as peace-maker, appeaser, centrist, relationship at all cost…a part of me bawks at the hypocrisy  and denial that requires, the fragmentation and inner dividedness which that creates rather than the wholeness that they seek. on oner hand, i empathize with how painful that reality must be. on the other it feels like the proverbial lukewarm…this mixing of the cold and hot of the church resulting in the suppression of passion.

 

sometimes i think it would be wise for me to look elsewhere for my own nurture, detach myself from the nipple…stop scrambling with the others for a teet, recognizing all the draining to the mother which that also implies….replenish my spiritual energies in another environment, so that i can return to give from the empowerment of that fullness, grow that vastness i was referring to. sometimes i think that would be gift to them. right now, i am also merely being depleted by the nonexistent boundaries and the negative energies of the system. perhaps if i could remain detached from the community in some way, i could be of greater benefit to it, offer my services freed from and unbounded by the systemic power loop into which i get swept. perhaps i could be more objective, less entangled somehow. glenn thinks i would benefit from such a professional setting, from the natural boundaries inherent in it. he has also recounted for me his own experience, following seminary, of being nurtured and grown by his first congregation into finding his own voice, then, how after he found it, he found he could not use it in that place…..

his own experiences of parishioners choosing to leave and the resultant equalizing of the power dynamics in the relationship.

 

i love many persons at the church. i really want to be a blessing to them. sometimes i feel as if i could be that if i were not in a position of needing them to be a certain way for my own nurture, or in a position where my passions are necessarily silenced because of my position in the body of the community, a position of freedom to be the gift that i am. sometimes i feel as if i hurt them when i speak my truth…but if i were separate from them, uninvested in receiving from them what it is i need, perhaps i would not feel the betrayal, the unsafety, the pain. i could come to them separate, different, but equal, choosing to  have compassion and honor for the place that they are in , in the role they have chosen to play in the growth of Love in this place…as they might be free to offer me the same.

 

enough for today already,

all is well,

vicki

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