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It May Still Be Hurting . . . Somewhere . . . Someone

A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour.

— Carl Gustav Jung "The Philosophical Tree" (1945). 

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.

— R. D. Laing

I divorced. It was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. And, perhaps, the best. 

Up until then I was living the scripted dream. Not a clue about who or what I am, but being who I was expected to be and doing what I was told. Be a good boy, study hard, get good grades, finish school, start a career, start a family, see the kids off well on their own, retire, savor the golden years and a wonderful store of memories. Then, die. The last part doesn't usually get on the list until it's staring you in the face. Then it could be too late if you have waited for the house to be on fire before digging the well. 

Sometimes love don't feel like it should. Maybe she loved me enough to kick me out. Not to say that was my bride's motive; but the universe's, I'm quite sure. I had some lessons to learn. And, when your karma comes knocking, you will open the door. Or, have it opened for you. But, open nonetheless.

I was an ignoramus. Deluded, distracted, and ... full of it. Was?! (There are other opinions. Perhaps a concensus) The irony from my perspective is that just as I was waking up to the reality that I had it wrong in so many ways, the die was cast, and the momentum toward that break up was well under way. It was indeed a tragedy in any event. Not just for the loss and the broken hearts. But, the very idea of separation. Is there really any separation? In the Christian marriage vows it is traditionally asserted, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder". The Church may apply it to marriage in an attempt to put some weight on people to hang in there to make things work. In the total scheme of things, however, God has indeed joined all things together in his vast Creation. Separation is in the realm of appearances only. In Reality, it is an illusion. Funny, I got that from the Buddhists. And, you know what they think about God? Short answer; they don't.

I should also mention what with the divorce rate at 50% or so in this still early part of the 21st Century that it doesn't help marriage much in terms of keeping it together to be surrounded by a culture which promotes the pleasure of the moment, where every individual is free to see things in whatever relative way may suit them, and where romantic love is still promoted; the latter which only makes it inevitable when the bloom of passion fades, then why wouldn't anyone go looking for the next new thing. Or, when some new thing shows up, why not follow that. Hey! we're in love.

We can rationalize our own histories. I have my story. If anyone cared to ask, I would put it this way. At a moment of grace I realized that I was one lost sheep.* The divorce — and, by the way, also the simultaneous ending of a long career in business — was part of the Universe's message to me to wake the heck up (!). I saw the inevitability and necessity even then. In retrospect, it had to be. Existentially, how else could it have been.

I also saw into the myth we call "Family" from how people, even so called loved one's, behaved. If you want to know who your friends are, trying divorcing. Sides tend to be drawn. The impersonators show themselves unashamedly. Alas, the children too, may think they have to take sides. Someone is right, someone is wrong. On me, the prize of the latter designation has been bestowed. Of course, there's also the possibility that your children will wrongly assume it is their fault. It's an easy trap for their inexperienced minds to fall for.

It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that because a group’s members are in formation this means that they’re necessarily on course.
— R. D. Laing 

But, Family. Family is a game. A very nice game. One I subscribe to like everyone else. But, that game, like any other, has rules. In order to stay in the game you have to play by the rules. One participates in Family with the implicit promise and expectation that the rules will be observed, stated or no. Indeed, many of those rules are in fact unstated. At its worst it is a mutual collusion with the unspoken agreement to maintain the same fictions. Sort of like, hey, it's a shit pile. But, it's our shit pile. And we all agree on how it smells. And we all agree to like it that way. 

At its best, it gives all members enough loving space to express themselves freely, without judgement or fear of reprisal. In the dysfunctional family — I've heard it someplace that the definition of family is . . . dysfunctional  we don't call each other on our games, or our prejudices. Say something we don't like or don't agree with, and risk censure or ostracization. [Like some of the things I'm writing in this piece. But hey, I got nothing to lose. I'm already on the outs. Minds are made up.]

And, we have our favorites. And, hierarchies. I know of one who will be unnamed paterfamilias who, even now departed, occupies the role of sainted parent and exemplary role model. The kind of man children and grandchildren name their own male child after. 

But, never mind that he may have been an unreconstructed bigot and racist. He used the N-word with the same kind of familiarity and ease one has when asking for a bag of potato chips at the convenience store. Also, he was what they call a good ol' boy. Never said an untoward thing. Never went against the grain; ever. Possibly, not even when it was the right thing to do. His role model might even have been Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life". A peach of a man, by everyone's estimation. But, let's not dwell on any flaws. And, with the passing of time, it may even come to pass that he will rise in shared memory to saintly status. He was loved. And, that is as it should be. But, the narrative painting him as hero ... I'm not a fan. He wasn't so keen on me either. 

The man showed nary a hint of introspection. Eschewed the inner life as if it were a command from God. Or, why rock the boat? Kept his uniform strack. Obeyed the rules. Just like any of us, he had his flaws, I'll bet. Maybe did the right thing only when he was sure no one would object. But certainly when everyone was watching. Kind of a human careerist. He knew how to polish the apple. The script of the family romance drama called for that role. And he now even in memory fills it with distinction. A child named after him to carry on the legacy. 

The foregoing will prove my point if there offense is taken. Maybe, also, prove that point that I am in fact [still] an ignoramus. Any umbrage just proves the shoe fits. And, your indignation is a sign of your complicity in some family myth. 

Woe to any family member who breaks or goes against the rules. We are invited to bring love into the Family nexus; but, of itself, the Family is not particularly loving. Family exists only in the consensus of the participants. How loving or not any particular family may be is something else. And, what's loving to some may be just a kabuki drama of nice manners to others. Family is a social construct of necessity and convenience. That is a good thing. 

This is not something to which we usually give much, if any, thought. Reflect on your own situation and see what rules are in place that are coercing you to maintain your status as a member of your Family. And, what it would look like if you didn't behave as expected.

In my ex-wife's family where I was an "Outlaw" (that's her revered father's term for "in-laws") there seems to have been a niche in the narrative for someone to play the role of "That-dirty-rotten-bastard-who-done-her-wrong". When I first arrived on that family scene I learned about the former husband of one of her aunts. He had that distinction. Not much said, but a clear indication that the guy was stone no good. Never discussed, just you knew there was strong disapproval. Even a sulky, brooding emotionally damaged daughter for good measure. 

Currently, I believe I have that particular honor. At a wedding where I was granted rare invitation I said good bye to my former Mother-in-law for what would be the last time. Her foot was ailing and she used a special therapeutic contraption. Jokingly I whispered in her ear that I bet if her foot was in better shape she'd be kicking me in the butt right now. She righteously retorted "That's right". So long, dear heart. Don't hold on to it any longer than you can. It only hurts you. And, you can't take it with you when you go. 

Point of fact, I think I may have graduated to a role tantamount to Who-has-ever-heard-of-him. My own daughters have fully engaged relationship with their mother. Wonderful. With their dad it's let's get together when we're in the vicinity and we have some spare time and it suits us. And, let's have it be in a public place like a restaurant because then the length of the visit can be kept short.

To exacerbate the situation in the divorce, others in our life may have had their own opinions on things. One such take, unabashedly put right to my face — from my dear brother no less — sees it as me abandoning my family. Strong stuff. I think that has more to do with his own need to see me as the bad guy. I did, after all, break up his cozy arrangement as the doted upon only child for his first nine years on earth.

Sides were also taken. That's classic, isn't it? Still remember my ex-wive's uncle getting me on that phone and telling me from some righteous position above me, that I was an "asshole". Ouch! And, dear sir, that makes you ... what? Right. 

I found out who my friends were too. Yet, even in the face of the disdain of loved ones, being shunned by them, I held it as my duty to myself and to them to find my true way. My life took a sharp turn toward that goal and everything before that had to be left behind. Now, please to understand, I didn't set up that goal by myself. It was presented to me. You know, the hand of Universal Fate, kind of thing. And I saw it. But, really didn't have to do anything but let it unfold. It was in the cards you could say. 

Some might call that a cop out. Let them.

Even after several years the shunning continues. Now that is real love, actually. Just in case I get some pangs of sentimental attachment. "Stay away . . . forever". I have recently been directly told in so many words if I don't like it, then that's my problem. And, for good measure, that all concerned have moved on and that they don't have any unfinished inner business going on when it comes to me. Could it be that it's just a case of out of sight out of mind. Oh yes, the gold standard for the family is to eschew introspection. So, if it's there, I might bring it up. So let's not bring it up. Let's not have him there. 

But, I know a little secret. My then recently ex-wife and I had a meet up once on the steps of the New York Public Library. Between those two famous lions. She tartly asserted to me, "You aren't in my life!" She had her own ignorance too. I responded by pinching her nose. A tactile asserting of the reality of what was right in front of her nose really. She protested. Just another proof of my abusiveness. But, she may have missed the point entirely; most likely, if I had to say. Yet, I know what she was saying. I wasn't in the commerce of her daily life. But, I was there with something to say as well. 

We are connected. It's in the nature of God's creation.

I was  — and, most certainly am — in her life. Don't you count me out, my darlings. My healing is yours. And, I don't care if you agree with this or not. The success of my project to be myself does not require agreement, support, or participation from anyone else. What's real can't be threatened. Just to suggest you may want to look at whatever disagreement, if any, with this you may have. And ask yourself, just who put it there? I am willing to be 100% responsible. Take as much responsibility as you will.

It is a pisser when you have children raised in an ethos which eschews introspection, and you are held in disrespect and distrust by them, while at the same time you're attempting to point them to look inside. For me, another lesson in trust. And, courage. Courage to let it go, not worry or concern. They are children of the Universe first. I didn't know who I was. So, I didn't directly instill in them any sense that they were anything other than two little girls. Which, dutifully they accepted.

Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiosity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that.
— R. D. Laing 

Here is a pertinent quote from The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology by Chögyam Trungpa, page 166:

Confusion is two-sided; it creates a need, a demand for sanity. This hungry nature of confusion is very powerful and important. The demand for relief or sanity that is contained within confusion is, in fact, the beginning point of sanity. That is what moved Buddha to sit beneath the bodhi tree twenty-five hundred years ago — to confront his confusion and find its source.

Of course, the divorce left a dissonance, especially with our children. But, I believe that dissonance — that confusion — in its demand for relief and resolution is the grace for them to find their own sanity and forgiveness. My part is to let the Universe work in this situation. And, trust.

We parted company after ten years of marriage and the birth of two little girls. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church which unequivocally forbids divorce. While I would be considered liberal in my stance on the Church's rule, the years of indoctrination had their effect. It was a devastating experience all around. Not least, for my darling little girls.

It has been several years and the wounds of the past are being healed. But I do reflect on the injunction, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder". That's from Mathew and it is, as far as I know, the bedrock of the Catholic position on divorce. In short ... no way.

But, for good and bad motives, people divorce. The reasons are legion, and my point is not to cover the whole topic here. But, it seems to me that there is a larger meaning than just concerning marriage and divorce that I would like my children to understand.

I believe my ex-wife and I did ourselves and our children a disservice. It's one thing to decide to not live together. What often gets missed is that in reality the notion of separation, it is an illusion. And, one pays a tremendous price in aliveness and proper care of the soul for maintaining that fiction.  

Of course, the plain fact that daddy wasn't part of the usual household family scene was jarring enough. It broke my heart to hear, "Please come back and be our daddy again". My daughters are grown now with children of their own. I wonder if their own wounds are healed, or healing. I do know for certain my healing is their healing. Their relationship with me is mostly arms length. Cordial, of course. And, surface mostly. I do sometimes put in a word or two. But, if it doesn't agree with what they already think or want to do, it falls by the wayside. Let's just say I don't have the experience of being a parent whose children will do anything whatsoever just because I asked, or said so. The reason (pig headed?) given to me is that I don't approach things in the right way. I lecture. My take, what's the matter with you that you have to have things delivered in just a certain way? 

I seem to occupy a niche box in their heart. The term is called pigeonholed. I am not part of whatever family they live in, at least in the conventional getting-together sense. And, there's a problem with that. Not with whether or not we are getting together. But in the matter that concerns the heart.

You see, if your heart is closed anywhere to someone, then that part of your heart is not available to anyone. Including those who you are committed to, and want to, love unconditionally. Conversely, if your heart, or a piece of it, is only reserved exclusively for someone, then your whole heart is not available to anyone. There is a friction there that wants to be resolved. It won't go away until it is settled.

I do believe that friction can be a blessing in disguise. If you want to let it reveal itself. The option that is too easy to take is to just ignore it. Out of sight . . . kind of thing.

I don't have the answer to why there is so much divorcing going on. I have an opinion, of course. I want to say though, the seeds of discontent have to do with objectification. When you are in love there is no other. It's "I Thou". When troubles show up (and they always will when there are egos) there is a temptation to start to look at your loved one as a "her" or a "him". In short, there is a separation. Maybe mental at first. But, the story develops, you may even have some agreement from outside others, and finally you have a "HER!" or a "HIM!". It's called "crapping yourself out". Unless this separation gets cleared up, it's very easy to go to the next step and enfranchise the position legally.

So be it. Just to remember that the original sin in all this is the idea of separation itself. What God has put together, let no man put asunder. The Catholic Church bases its prohibition on divorce right there. But, the larger and more exquisite truth is what God has put together can't be in any way put asunder. As Mr. Dylan sings, "Ring them bells so the world will know That God is one.

Here is an excellent quote on the subject; specifically, on objectification:

Much of the disharmony in relationship can be attributed to our belief in objectivity — the notion that we experience other people the way they really are. This belief in objectivity tends to arise with the belief in separation. Through this separate me, I see separate others. Once this division is made in the mind, there is a tendency to believe that I, the subject, can see other people, the objects, exactly as they are. And in that tendency there is a kind of mental sleepiness or blindness to the fact that every time I see subject and objects, I am thinking. I fail to see that I am looking through a filter of thought. 

When we believe in objectivity, we have difficulty seeing that our thoughts, emotions, and sensations paint others in a way that is unique to us. Our views of other people are shaped by our memories, personal histories, cultures, worldviews, and psychological and emotional traits, along with various other influences. The painter is inseparable from her painting. We don’t see others the way they are. We see them the way we are.  

* From Osho . . .

. . . Come to understand the futility of so-called worldly life. . . . [One should understand] one thing — that something needs to be done immediately about his own being. If he goes on drifting in the old way, he will lose the whole opportunity of this life. . . . [He became] alert that up to now he has lived wrongly, has moved in wrong directions. Has been too concerned with things and not concerned with himself, has been too concerned with worldly prestige and power and has not been concerned about who he is. [He] is turning towards himself . . . [It] is a miracle — the energy is moving back towards oneself.

Ordinarily, the energy is moving away from you — towards things, targets, in the world. The energy is moving away from you, hence you feel empty. The energy goes away, never comes back; you go on throwing away energy. By and by you feel dissipated, frustrated. Nothing comes back. By and by you start to feel empty. The energy is just oozing out every day — and then comes death. Death is nothing else but that you are exhausted and spent. The greatest miracle in life is to understand this, and to turn the energy towards home. It is a turning-in. It is not that you leave the world. You live in the world — there is no need to leave anything, or go anywhere else. You live in the world, but in a totally different way. Now you live in the world but you remain centered in yourself; your energy goes on returning to yourself.

You are no longer out-going: you have become in-going. Of course you become a pool of energy, a reservoir, and energy is delight, sheer delight. Just energy there, overflowing, and you are in delight, and you can share, and you can give in love. This is the difference. If you put your energy into greed, it never comes back; if you put your energy into love, it comes back a thousand-fold. If you put your energy into anger, it never comes back. It leaves you empty, exhausted, spent. If you use your energy in compassion, it comes back a thousand-fold . . .

On our interconnectedness ...

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