Bhagavad Gita: Fear not what is not real


“Fear not what is not real, never was and never will be.  What is real, always was and cannot be destroyed.”

The Bhagavad Gita


“In principle and in potential we are immersed in good for we are in the Mind of God. But we have freedom, or volition, to create in our own experience, out of the possibilities of life with which we have been endowed, the prerogative of heaven or hell. So we need to shake ourselves loose from the tyranny of fear and superstition and isolation and the emotional traditions.”

The Spiritual Universe and You

Ernest Holmes


Beginning anew is the key to waking up. If we keep trying to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, even we begin to suspect our mental state as a hellish one, while we may not yet grasp who is at cause in the matter. Of course, we are always at cause in our experience and this is a difficult thing to consider when we are going through a rough patch.

If we start anew, we can begin again to directly experience this environment of good that is our natural home. What if all that other stuff we experience is something we have made of the good opportunity that we are given? One of my early Religious Science teachers, Rev. Dr. Dominic Polifrone, used to tell us that “Everyone goes through hell from time to time, but that’s no reason why you should stop and build your house there!” Each of us lives in alternating states of present awareness broken up by intermittent periods of unconsciousness—not all of them deep sleep! The practice of affirmative prayer, and the supportive practices of contemplation, spiritual study, service and mindfulness in our everyday lives begin to lengthen the experience of present awareness, or consciousness, little by little until those around us actually have easier lives as a result of the spiritual transformation that occurs in us. I believe that we know we are doing well when folks around us begin to have improved lives.

Not long ago, I was talking to someone here locally, and the practice of humility came up. I believe a true, deep, and spiritual humility arises in us when we realize that we are truly made of Divine stuff and we begin to tell the truth of who we are, making no more, and no less, of the lives that we are given. The more we allow God to be God in and as us, the more amazing the things that we are able to do with our lives; the more the people around us reap the benefits of what we (You, God & I) have wrought with the opportunity of life itself.

And, of course, we all screw it up from time to time. We get grumpy, impatient, tired or find an infinite number of other ways that we can block our divinity its full expression. You can fill in the blank for yourself here; you know how it looks when you get off track. From time to time we need renewal and self-forgiveness. I urge you to take a few minutes to release all feelings of failure, frustration, denial, or any form of self-rejection and judgment you may have held against yourself. We cannot begin anew and hold any form of grudge against ourselves or another. Picture yourself releasing it as a small boat on the river of life. Allow it to sail away beyond the horizon, forgiven, released and then allow yourself the respite that only such forgiveness can grant. Let it go. Don’t waste time making yourself wrong.

Wake up. All is well!  What you are afraid of is not real.


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My Life in Three Sentences

She was born into a difficult, violent family and thrived in spite of their poverty and lack of ambition.  It turned out that life was good. She loved it.

be_happy

This is a wall in our home that we see every day.

This is a wall in our home that we see every day.

Integrity: What Constitutes a Good Life?

“People who lead a satisfying life, who are in tune with their past and with their future- in short, people whom we would call “happy” – are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created.” 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychologist and Author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience


The following isn’t the best written thing, it is certainly not gender-neutral, but on the subject of Integrity, it does makes it’s point.  I understand that this is from an NGO in Mahashastra District of India and was written sometime in the early 1970’s as far as I can find out.  In fact, there are a couple of things I will quote in this post that I have lost the source material for in a flood of my office a couple of years ago.  I’ve used these quotations in courses I taught for ministers and others doing spiritual leadership coursework.


Maliwada Human Development Training School

ON INTEGRITY

We are going to visit the arena of Profound Humanness called “Integrity”.  Sometimes “integrity” is reduced to mean a kind of moral uprightness and steadfastness, in the sense of saying, “He has too much integrity to ever take a bribe.”
 But profound integrity goes far beyond this. Sometimes, in order to distinguish it from more limited popular usage, it is called “secondary integrity”. This is the integrity which is not constrained by limited moralities, however well-intentioned. The integrity that is profound living is the singularity of thrust of a life committed and ordering every dimension of the self towards that commitment. Thus the self is in fact shaped by the self, and focused towards that commitment. You can say that an audacious creation of the self takes place in integrity, without which you are simply the creation of the various forces impacting you in your society.
 Thus the basis of integrity is a destinal resolve – a resolve that chooses and sets your destiny and out of which your whole life is ordered. The object of that resolve is the ultimate decision of each person, and each person makes that choice, consciously or unconsciously. To do so with awareness is the height of man’s responsibility. It is incarnate freedom. It is what real freedom looks like. When man has thus exercised his freedom he realizes that to be true to himself ever thereafter he has a unique position to look at the values of his society.  He is no longer bound by the opinions and codes of his fellow-man, but reevaluates then on the basis of their impact on his destinal resolve.
Thus the man of integrity is continuously engaged in a societal transvaluation, a moving across the values of society and reinterpreting them in line with his life’s thrust. It does not give him the liberty of ignoring his society, but his obligation transcends the conformity of living within the codes and mores of his society. Thus the man of profound integrity always seems to not quite fit with his fellow-men, but his actions always are appropriate for him, even to those who oppose him.
No matter how odd the man of profound integrity appears to his neighbors, he experiences himself as securely anchored. While he is very clear that this world is not his home, nevertheless he experiences himself as having found his native vale. He experiences an eternal at-one-ness, not so much with the currents and waves of activity around him, but with the deeper trends of history itself. Amid the flux of wavering to and fro that is so evident in others, he experiences an inexplicable rootedness, as though he has sunk a taproot deep into the foundations of the earth itself. Though he experiences his life as a long journey, even an endless journey, towards the object of his resolve, yet he never senses himself as a stranger on the journey It’s as if he’d been there before. Original integrity is experienced primarily by this sense of at-one-ness.
Kierkegaard once wrote a book about this kind of integrity that he titled,” Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”. An ancient philosopher focused his wisdom around this integrity with the advice, “Know yourself, and to your own self, be true.”

The Maliwada Statement reminded me of something I had read by Charles Lindbergh (below) that addresses the same kind of awareness and motivation.  I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us,  or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration.   No matter who we consult, who teaches us, who we listen to, our choices about how we will live our life have far reaching consequences that are precious.

And there is something more to choosing ones life direction than a merely intellectual process or just choosing just what we like, as if we were at the local ice cream shop.  Given the discipline and practice suggested in this reading, we can make choices based in values that are deeply rooted in life itself as it expresses in and through us, and while these are our individual choices, the connection to the whole of life is apparent to us in our heart of hearts.


integrityI know full well that one of the greatest gifts that I’ve been given is that of awareness.  I see things, I hear things, and I feel things that I’ve recognized that other people just don’t notice for some reason.  I truly appreciate this gift, for it gives me so much in life that’s already there, just waiting to be seen.  I can stand still for an hour in a field in the mountains, just seeing things and feeling the air and hearing the sounds.  I love to sit in one place in the city, just watching people go by, wondering what they’re thinking, wondering what that look on her face means, how their lives are going, why he seems so agitated.

Of course, there’s a prerequisite to awareness–we have to slow down.  We have to realize that life is going to go on whether or not we rush around in order to get everything possible done today, and that our own mental, emotional, and physical well being is at stake.  We have a beautiful world that surrounds us, that offers us unlimited opportunities for peace, serenity, learning, helping, getting, feeling, hoping, love–you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need.  But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.

Rainer Maria Rilke claimed that there are angels and spirits all around us, but over the course of the history of humankind we’ve pulled away from the things that we used to be able to see clearly; we’ve lost our connection with this planet upon which we live and everything here.  I believe he has a good point–we’re so wrapped up in our jobs and television and movies that we almost never consider what’s here that we can’t see.  And as much as I dislike what the people involved in television have done to our culture (it’s not the television’s fault), I appreciate the show the x-files, for that’s one of the few shows that actually approaches the possibility of there being more than we can see on this planet with intelligence and respect.

Awareness is seeing all around you with different eyes–appreciative eyes, wondering eyes.  It’s knowing what you want out of life (and yes, you have to ask yourself in order to find out) so that you can go after it.  It’s knowing that things change, and that what you want today may not be what you want tomorrow.  It’s looking into the eyes of a friend or another person and realizing that that’s another human being put on this planet with hopes and fears and dreams and desires and needs.

As Rilke says, “perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.  Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”  Awareness is the ability to see that the way we see things isn’t necessarily the way things are–for every setback or terrible incident, there may be hundreds of ways to see it.  We have to choose to be able to see many possibilities, many explanations.  If we get caught up in being right all the time, we’ll never have the blessing of being aware.Shut your eyes and you will know what I mean by thought entombed in darkness.  Light comes through the senses, and not only through the sense of sight.  When you see without feeling, you are still partly blind; you lack the inner light that brings awareness.  Awareness requires the interplay of every faculty, the use of your entire being as an eye.

Charles A. Lindbergh


I believe that living a life of deep and full integrity requires this level of holistic awareness.  Carelessness and inattention are anathema to a state of integrity, though I will say, there are times that we have to give it a rest– just for the perspective supplied by a few moments of complete relaxation.

Comments from Open Salon

If you are here, thanks. Please comment and rate, if you like.
Hi Susanne: I also am constantly striving to live a life of
integrity. I believe that being present at all times is the key,
and that’s where the work comes in, it’s so easy to get distracted
and let the mind wander. I think maybe that’s it’s also possible
to relax in a state of integrity and just be.

My spiritual path is a blend of Tibetan Buddhism and Wicca
and I honor all religions at their core.

Compassion is a key element as well. A while ago, when I was
fretful about another person’s reaction to me, a friend told
me “let it go, people do what they do. ” This was an epiphany.
Every one’s point of view is as valid as mine, regardless
of whether or not I agree with them. In a way, that realization
is very freeing for me. However, it can also be a challenge,
because I have to live in my core and to honor myself as well.
I am a strong 9 on the Enneagram, which is all about finding
one’s core.

Thank you for posting this.

I liked this statement best:
I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us, or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration.
Very thought provoking post. Thank you for posting.
The picture of “Lindy” gave me some qualms when thinking of men (or women) having their own personal integrity outside the norms of their society. Lindberg was a leader in the pre-WWII “America First” (sound familiar?) organization which wanted to keep the US out of the war. His reasoning seemed to be that he agreed with the nazi idea of blood purity.
So what if their integrity is wrong?
It just seems that ideas/principles that you may form in your youth may not be useful your entire life. Making yourself the measure of all life is too egocentric and does not allow for change.
Couldn’t agree more, Rich. Inspiration comes from within.

I recently saw a Benny Hinn telecast where he was preaching
that the audience should not pay attention to their own accomplishments and attributes but instead to give “God”
all the credit. Everyone was enraptured by his dramatic
presentation, many were in tears.

O’Stephanie,

This isn’t about the expresson of ego at all, though that may well seem like it what it is saying to you.

Someone once said a similar thing about Heidegger to me. Since he didn’t “stand up to the Nazis, why should we give his ideas any creedence?” By then I was married to my husband and I knew exactly how lost in his/her work an individual can become. By the time he looked up from his desk, all kinds of horrors were happening all around him. He was so lost in philosophical theories that he was not PRESENT to the circumstances surrounding him. That doesn’t mean that his ideas were bad, but that he wasn’t fully practicing his ideas in his own life. This is a fairly ordinary fact of life for many people, don’t you think?

So here’s the thing: no one isright and good or perfect with every idea that enters their head. But perhaps if you think about the difference between being a person who behaves more like a sheep and someone who can actually do the right thing because they have learned to see what is right for themselves in a self-generating kind of way.

For a simpler, and less morally ambiguous example: when I was a kid I was a slob at home. When I began living on my own it became internally evident to me that it was the quality of my own life that I was creating with my habits. If I treated my home like a dump, who was it that was living in a dump? If I wanted to be treated well by others, how was it that I was treating myself so poorly? How could I expect or anticipate anything other than a mirror image of the conditions that I was creating for myself?

Thanks Rich. It’s nice to see that my point registered.
Dakini, yup, that distraction thing is a big deal, and I think it may very well be what led to the problem that O’Stephanie is grappling with in her answer. Sometimes we just make something more important than it needs to be, and that is one kind of distraction from the practice of presence. Can you name any other kind of distraction?
Susanne—thank you for upping the level of discourse about 10 rungs on the ladder!. Here’s my question: where have you found this noton of integrity in literatire, art or music?
Yes, thank you for your long response to me. Integrity is a wonderful thing. and you’ve posted on it beautifully. I see it in my daughter who is very observant and very good at being true to herself. I agree with you on all of this and just got to thinking.

Your post was thought provoking, so I did go off on a tangent of sorts. Did not mean to go off topic so much. I suppose that I was thinking of claims of personal integrity by those who would extend their guiding principle to others. And I also wonder how some tightly held beliefs might blind you to alternative perspectives but, like you say, if a person is observant then it would not present a problem.

I think that Ken Wilber goes after it with Integral Theory, for instance. Friends of mine who are artists certainly do. Mary Moore Bailey, art shown on a post on my blog earlier this month.
O’Stephanie,

Those are the people that volunteer to exercise our responsibility for us.

The law provides for such a thing formally in a power of attorney., but most of us would never think of leaving one in place except under extraordinary conditions such as illness or lack of capacity.

“Thus the man of integrity is continuously engaged in a societal transvaluation, a moving across the values of society and reinterpreting them in line with his life’s thrust. It does not give him the liberty of ignoring his society, but his obligation transcends the conformity of living within the codes and mores of his society.”

A simple test of your conformity:
Suppose that you are driving in a place such as the great plains or the Nevada desert, where you can see clearly for miles in all directions. Ahead of you is an intersection with another highway, and there is a stop sign for the road you are on.

You look both right and left, and see that there is no one on the crossing highway, nor is there anyone approaching nor following you. Do you:

1. Obey the law. Stop before crossing.
2. Slow down, perhaps even to a “rolling stop” before proceeding through the intersection.
3. Just drive right through without stopping or slowing.

I maintain that if you choose either 1 or 2, you are not taking respomsibility for your own actions, but are allowing an outside force to make decisions for you. Are you really content to have some paint on a sheet of metal afixed to a post (the stop sign) direct your actions? Or do you trust the integrity of your own decision making?

Observing the law can be a self-generated decision Wayne.
Music: Stuart Davis, Saul Williams
Art: http://www.infinitevisionart.com/ website for artist Pamela Sukhum
Alex Grey (I think you can find a book by him online)
Mary Moore Bailey, painter, http://www.marypaints.com
“Observing the law can be a self-generated decision Wayne.”

My point exactly. In my opinion, and if I understand him correctly, in Perls’s as well, ALL decisions are “self-generated”. The question isn’t whether they come from within, but to what extend are they reflective of your own self-interest. In the example I gave, the decision to obey the law is plainly a submission to outside authority, with no actual examination of any public safety considerations.

Self-interest doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere but within the individual. Even if we do take into consideration what the law is, we can observe for inner directed reasons, as we may have a value for cooperation with the law even if we do not agree with the law or like it. Or we can do it because “they said so.” The latter is not a self-generated position, but is other directed.

But no matter what our motivations, we are ultimately responsible for our own acts, no matter whether we are inner or outer directed. Thus, “I was following orders” was not considered a defense for genocide during the Nuremburg trials, for instance.

“Self-interest doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere but within the individual.”

I expect that you can leave the word “necessarily” out of that statement.

And, yes, I was referring to Fritz Perls. I used the last name only, as it passes the “Google test”. Search on it and his is the only surname reference returned in the first page.

Now you have me remembering what I got out of the Gestalt Group I participated in during my 20’s. “You do your thing and I do my thing and if we get together it’s groovy.” Kind of what you said Wayne.

I wonder, do we now realize that life might have a little more urgency than that sounded like it was encouraging us to engage? It’s one thing to be unattached and another to live life uncommitted.

It’s an interesting piece, Susanne, and I don’t want to say I disagree with it in some per se basis. I think the place where it leaves me nervous is that I’d say some sort of analysis of integrity of this kind is a necessary but not sufficient condition to a personal goodness.

It addresses personal needs in a way that is often neglected, so in that sense it’s useful, but it could easily be the tool that allows people to detach themselves from responsibilities that society reasonably imposes upon them. In particular, I could easily imagine someone from the Religious Right subscribing to this as a justification for their intense disregard for not only other individuals but even standing law protecting the rights of others. I could see a member of the leadership of any of a variety of aggressive powers using this as their doctrine. And, at the same time, it could be used by forces for good. It seems, as such, both soothing and pleasant on the one hand and yet quietly dangerous on the other hand because it is lacking in essential constraints to operate standalone as a piece of inspirational guidance, to the extent that it allows flexible manipulation of one’s sense of responsibility to others.

For example, I was careful not to rate that propaganda piece about abortion someone wrote this morning, and I’m being deliberate in not creating a programmatic cross-link to it here, but I did comment on it; but I could easily imagine its author using a creed such as the one above as the justification for his views (to which I did not subscribe).

Or so it seems to me on a first read. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Kent,

I get your concern, but I think that most of the people commiting criminal, fraudulent, manipulative or unethical acts in the world, and imposing their views on others are signing up for being the authority relied upon by the people who don’t wish to take direct responsibility for their own acts. What I am talking about might provide a high level of ethical leadership but it wouldn’t provide a good basis for manipulation. Remember those big Moonie weddings? How about the kind of life that the consumer culture intends to impose on us? What about the religiously motivated instances of discrimination and hatred or murder that have been committed throughout history? I honestly think, from my own practice of this idea that it is too rigorous for people who run roughshod over others.

Certainly it is possible that there are those who would pervert any idea, but really, that is no reason to avoid living ones life true to oneself for the rest of us. When we run into the sociopaths, they too provide us lessons in our own practice of living in the present, to our own level of present awareness, to our own choices to live our lives to the highest and best purpose that we can find for them.

Susanne, I don’t deny the existence of sociopaths in our society. But I think a number of the situations you describe are not sociopathic but just people with a misguided sense of patriotism, party loyalty, mission from a perceived God, or other such things. Those actions are not, in my view, sociopathic. (Cue Bill Maher to explain in more detail.) I don’t think modeling them as sociopathic is fair, but that isn’t the reason I care if they’re labeled correctly or not. I care because correctly identifying their nature is critical to predicting them and defending society.

And, once in a while, it’s critical to redirecting society itself when it has gone awry, such as when a nation starts to drive itself bankrupt in an attempt to drive Evil from the world, as the US has done. That’s not sociopathic either, it’s just well-intentioned people pursuing a misguided agenda with an untethered sense of personal integrity standing in the way of their stepping back and seeing what it’s doing to us. In plainer terms, I actually believe that Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld think they have personal integrity and a noble mission. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would totally endorse the piece above. That’s my point about its not being sufficient to define “Good”.

Perhaps you misunderstood what I meant, or I wasn’t clear. I was talking about a variety of ways that people do miserable things to other people, not just sociopaths.
Also Kent, Christianity requires that you give away your choices to following a prescribed set of commandments. The Nicene Creed requires that you recite certain things as truths that operate within your own life. That hasn’t stopped the likes of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al. And I doubt from the depths of my soul to the bottom of my feet that they would sign up for what I am describing here. It takes too much attention and dedication.
In the spirit of just being the wise ass kid tossing spitballs from the back of the room—while listening to Kent and Susanne’s exchange–I am compelled to wonder who exactly would be the person explaining this point of view to Cheny/Rumsfeld etc—and would that task even be possible!
interesting thoughts. ‘there is no fear in love’: a recent fav. quote of mine.
Chicago Guy, I should have thought of that myself!
You write: What I am talking about might provide a high level of ethical leadership but it wouldn’t provide a good basis for manipulation. 

Yes, and this is much needed. Thank you for your post!

Susanne,

This post certainly presents some interesting philosophical, ethical questions. I found myself wondering how many different interpretations there might be of this writing. Here are some of my thoughts…

***** “This is the integrity which is not constrained by limited moralities, however well-intentioned.”

It seemed that this one simple statement suggests far more than first appeared to me. First, I’m not clear on what “limited moralities” are; limited as opposed to what: unlimited? But the overarching question I had was this: how “well-intentioned” can LIMITED morality be? Why, how, and by whom, would morality be limited?

***** “Thus the basis of integrity is a destinal resolve…”

This statement immediately seemed questionable to me. We often recognize that someone who has strong “resolve” may also exhibit “integrity”. But I don’t know that I accept the premise that resolve is the basis of integrity. I only say this because, depending on how we define the two words, integrity and resolve, they could end up being opposed to one another under some circumstances. As a high-profile, current example of this, Bush’s Iraq invasion; his resolve in that undertaking, in my opinion at least, thoroughly undermined any integrity that he might have had. He was dishonest, and he failed to make any correct decisions; not much integrity to be found on the basis of his resolve.

***** “The object of that resolve is the ultimate decision of each person, and each person makes that choice, consciously or unconsciously.”

I also questioned the efficacy of describing a “choice” as “unconscious”. Doesn’t “choice” necessarily imply consciousness, awareness? Does making an “unconscious” choice refer to choosing based in ignorance, perhaps? I wasn’t sure exactly.

As I read this, the primary assertion, I thought, was that a person of “profound integrity” constantly questions, never accepts blindly what others say he “should” do, but considers carefully the impact that suggested actions might have, and adjusts his actions accordingly. He questions himself, as well, but remains confident in his actions through his truthfulness to himself. That questioning truthfulness to himself would seem to be the basis for his integrity.

Unconscious choice would be leaving ones choice to others or by failing to make a choice consciously, unconsciously choosing to let the prevailing winds to be in charge. Not voting has its consequences, for instance.
Yes, but not voting is a conscious choice, not an unconscious choice. This may be merely semantics to some people, but to me, words have meanings for a reason. Unconsciousness does not allow for choice.
“Remember those big Moonie weddings? How about the kind of life that the consumer culture intends to impose on us?”

My personal values come in great part from Fritz Perls, my intellectual values from Alfred Korzybski, and my views on consumerism come from Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.

We’ll have to disagree on that one Rick. Lots of people make no choices at all and I think that is a measure of unconsciousness similar to the legal concept of intentional negligence versus unintentional negligence. Unconciousness is when you know you ought to make a choice but you don’t. That is a choice. Not a good one, but the inevitable result follow in its wake.

If someone drinks and drives, and they know that it is a dangerous thing to do that could cause harm to themselves or another, but they do it anyway, if someone is hurt they have the level of intent that could make the results of an accident a felony on the basis of that intent to take the risk. They didn’t decide consciously to go out and drive a car and cause someone harm, but they did consciously drive while drinking. The results, the harm, are the same.

The First and Last Freedom
by J. Krishnamurti, published by Harper San Francisco
“There is hope in men,
not in society, not in systems,
not in organized religious systems,
but in you and in me.”
“To understand the misery and confusion that exist within ourselves, and so in the world, we must first find clarity within ourselves, and that clarity comes about through right thinking.
This clarity is not to be organized, for it cannot be exchanged with another. Organized group thought is merely repetitive. Clarity is not the result of verbal assertion, but of intense self-awareness and right thinking. Right thinking is not the outcome of or mere cultivation of the intellect, nor is it conformity to pattern, however worthy and noble. Right thinking comes with self-knowledge. Without understanding yourself, you have no basis for thought;
without self-knowledge, what you think is not true.”
“Our system of upbringing is based on what to think not on how to think.”
“True liberation is an inner freedom of creative Reality.
This is not a gift ; it is to be discovered and experienced.
It is not an acquisition to be gathered to yourself to glorify yourself.
It is a state of being, as silence, in which there is no becoming, in which there is completeness.
This creativeness may not necessarily seek expression.
You need not be a great artist of have an audience; if you seek these, you will miss the inward Reality.
Thanks Bart. I know that Krisnamurti was clearer about this than I have been here, but here I am struggling along, seeking to express this with some clarity.
You’re doing great!
Susanne,

I’m not quite sure what you/we are disagreeing on. If you are saying that an unintended result from a conscious choice or decision is an unconscious choice, so be it. But my point, here, is that what you are doing is redefining the words, giving them non-standard definitions, so my initial purpose was to determine whether we are using standard dictionary definitions, or whether the person who wrote this was implying something different, but did not specify what.

What you have defined is not the meaning of the words being used. Unintended results are not unconscious choices, they are what they are; unintended results. But if you wish to define them as “unconscious choices”, I’m okay with that as long as I know that is what we’re doing.

Integrity — wow, what a big question, and how inadequate any response of mine must be. But a few points that I find helpful —

1) when I look in the mirror, who do I see? Am I ashamed by the person who looks back at me?

2) when others see me, what do they see?

3) to what extent do I look for ways to help others?

4) to what extent am I willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the benefit of others? Will I be sad so that others can be happy?

5) to what extent do I put myself at risk for the sake of what’s right?

6) to what extent does self-interest govern my words and actions?

7) how much am I able to put myself in someone else’s shoes?

8) am I willing to “swim against the tide,” perhaps even to be ridiculed, for the sake of what’s right?

9) am I open to criticism, and willing to learn from criticism, and willing to be disappointed in myself?

10) do I treat all people equally? Do I favor the rich over the poor, the intelligent over the slow, the successful over the unsuccessful?

In other words, I think integrity is ultimately about love of others, love of the truth, and honesty about oneself and one’s failings. And sometimes — probably most of the time — the truth hurts. And it should hurt.

I just recently read the Bhagavad Gita and there are passages that give me solace and direction to lead a better life. One that comes to mind is in Chapter 2 under The Characteristics of the Perfect Sage verse 56, “He whose mind in untroubled in the midst of sorrows and is free from eager desire amid pleasures, he from whom passion, fear and rage have passed away-he is called a sage of settled intelligence. Or verse 64, same Chapter, “But a man of disciplined mind, who moves among the objects of sense, with the senses under control and free from attachment and aversion-he attains purity of spirit.” The Bhagavad Gita has many beautiful teaching passages such at these.
Rick, I am just saying when we don’t choose, in a sense we are choosing to let whatever will happen to go ahead and happen. Similar to a default position that automatically arises out of the failure to choose and that is also a kind of choice. Itr’s what happens when people say “Whatever.”
I find that sorrow thing a bit difficult. So far I have only been able to get to right action in the face of sorrow and tears. Also, I note, I have never fallen apart from “falling apart” if you get my meaning Bart.

If you read the Bhagavad Gita then I am thinking you would also enjoy The Crest Jewel of Discrimination by Shankara.

Thanks Susanne, I will look it up.

One question I had was how to define integrity and found a good discussion of it here. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/integrity/

Very thoughtful. Thanks. The article there really gets into it.
Susanne, here is one more link that discusses virtue and how the ancients viewed education and the pursuit of “human flourishing.”
This was a transcript of a speech made by one of my favorite professors at university. He had studied the Classics at Oxford. Hope you like it or it puts you soundly to sleep.

C:\Documents and Settings\khzz236\My Documents\Articles of Interest\Queens University of Charlotte – Dr_ Charles Reed Published in iVital Speeches-i.htm

Sorry, he studied Classical History and Greek at Oxford.
Thanks Susanne, that was fun and thought provoking. I might even have learned something although it takes me longer every year. Talking about virtue, religion and philosophy makes me think of the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda.” In it there is a dialogue between Ken and Wanda that makes me laugh at myself when discussing some of these topics.

Wanda: To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. I’ve known sheep who could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs, but you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?
Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it.

Susanne,

Okay, we’re on the same page…

Lovely response, particularly the conclusion:

“In other words, I think integrity is ultimately about love of others, love of the truth, and honesty about oneself and one’s failings. And sometimes — probably most of the time — the truth hurts. And it should hurt. ”

How much we unnecessarily hurt ourselves by trying to avoid the pain of being alive. After a few of my relatives had died, and particularly my grandfather, I realized that I didn’t mind a few tears when I was remembering him. It was as if the shadow of the deep love I had for him was travelling through me so that I would remember and perhaps long for who he was to me. We don’t break from pain, but perhaps from resisting it. I like knowing I loved people that much. Thanks Mishima, very thoughtful post with wonderful questons.

umbrellakinesis sez;”You mention not making a choice, and therefore living by default…”

General Semantics, created by Alfred Korzybski , refers to the study of what Korzybski called “semantic reactions”, or reactions of the whole human organism in its environment to some event. Korzybski called this reaction the most useful for human survival, i.e. delayed reactions as opposed to “signal reactions” (immediate, unthinking ones).

e.g. Obama = semantic reactions, Palin = signal reactions.

I like your post, Susanne. My trouble (and I admit I have to re-read your post later as I’m on my lunch break and rushed a bit) is that I find myself too aware. I can sit on that park bench or on that mountain for hours soaking in the world, watching the people, leaves, birds go by. But it hurts me. It’s like I feel the pain of the person walking past me and absorb it. I see a small rabbit and somehow know its mother is gone and I pray for it to avoid the coyotes and owls and the other predators. Damn, I hurt for the world. I know this sounds melodramatic but it’s true. You can ask my husband who watches me cry all the time (and yes, I take my meds).

So I guess sometimes I wish i was less aware and could harden myself a bit. But then who would watch out for the baby rabbits.

Dr Susanne, Thank you very much for this thoughtful post. It comes at a time in my life where I am learning to recognize and honor the gift of my unique voice as vehicle and vessel, and it requires courage, faith, serenity, many things, and above all awareness. Opening myself to what is out, what is in, and the alchemy of the marriage. It is a wonderful path, an alive one. And because I am not a seasoned traveler on it I look for and rejoice in inspiration, guidance and companions.
“…you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need. But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.” the last line here is particularly powerful for me.
I’m bookmarking this and returning to appreciate the stimulating comments others left here, especially those who had questions or misunderstandings – for your replies.

Mom Hit Us With Her Fist

Mom hit us with her fist.  Hard.

She also hit me over the head

with 1″ thick broom sticks,

I can still feel the dent–

she striped our legs with lathe

or switches, smacking with

either side of her hand,

hitting me with an iron skillet. Cold.

Anything that was handy really—

if she was mad and I was nearby.

Mom slugged me when I was tiny.

I would fly across the room

and land on the furniture,

arms and legs akimbo, stunned.

Or I’d smash into a wall and drop

to the floor in a shriveled pile.

I don’t remember being hugged

or kissed, or having my hand held

gently, kindly, guidingly.

I remember my arm being jerked

one way or another,

lifted off the ground like a rag doll

My shoulder painful, sore.

I don’t remember being loved,

but I remember loving,

I remember loving each of my

two sisters and two brothers,

and even the one who was sent away—

Adopted by strangers,

not spoken of aloud by the adults

in the room, whispered about

with my sister under the woven bedcover

in the chilly darkness at our grandparents,

or in the wagon wheel bunk beds,

When we were lonely and wished for someone

to love us more than a fist.


The following is from an email I sent to a group of new thought ministers, many  of whom wrote to me until there was so much correspondence that I needed to write this to help them understand.  I hope it helps you too.

You are all so very kind.  I heard from so many of you that I was surprised. For many years I didn’t say anything specific or of consequences about the way I grew up.  There was far more difficulty than just the beatings.  There was sexual abuse at the hand of two of my uncles and a babysitter that my mother brought to our house when I was in first grade.  I changed schools 27 times before I dropped out of high school.  I didn’t have contact with anyone long enough to develop supportive relationships.

But I didn’t want anyone’s pity.  I wanted people to see me, and not just the circum-stances of my childhood.  That became something of a habit.  Children who go through these hellish childhoods are treated with little respect and a lot of assumptions.  Charity and pity are funky, awful things that embarrass children and make them different than the other children.  If that wasn’t enough, the last thing I needed as a kid was someone trying to sell me on Jesus’ blood and the salvation of my soul.  You’d think I had dragged these circumstances in upon myself into the deep hole folks acted like I was in.

I was much the same as I am now as a child, and when I could escape the darkness of the attitudes that people around me had, the labels that they wanted to put on me, I was able to see something more possible for myself.  I was tougher than my sister, more self-contained and self-reliant, but I was the oldest and even in the worst circumstances, being the oldest calls a child to take charge for the benefit of the younger children. I learned at a very young age that folks don’t look very far into things, that they are easy to jump to conclusions and don’t see what is right in front of them.

I consider one of the great accomplishments of my life to be that I am profoundly ordinary.  I don’t mean to deny my gifts, or accomplishments, but that the kind of being ‘special’ that draws undue attention for things that were not my doing, well I just didn’t want that kind of attention.  I didn’t live my life depending upon my appearance either.  I like being appreciated for the things I chose to be.  In the end, it is our personal choices that matter.  No one wants to be a victim.  We either let Spirit in, to act as and through us, or we allow the circumstances of our lives to hog the spotlight and bring attention to ourselves for reasons that are neither of our own making or which simply cannot bring us the true Joy of life itself.  I am all for Joy.  That is how I am made.

COMMENTS FROM OPEN SALON

Susanne, I cannot imagine that type of treatment as a child; nor can I imagine a parent doing that to their children. But, I am glad that sisters & brothers were there to comfort, love and support each other.

This is a powerful piece and sends a message of despair that parents can all taken notice of. Thanks for sharing.

Rated for honesty

This is powerful and hints at where you learned to be so kind. I’m sorry it was from suffering.
The prose of brutality serve as the most effective means to stand up to its onward march.
Susanne, I was with you every punch of the way. My mother was much like yours. She beat us with whatever was convenient at the time; wooden ping pong paddles, broom handles were also a favorite,fly swatters, spatulas… I guess she’d found out that it hurt your hand when you punched someone. It’s amazing what a child will forgive, for a very small amount of love. Once we were adults, my mother treated us very differently. It seemed that once we were no longer dependent on her, we were easier to love. Later in life, when mine was a total mess, she could fix just about anything with one of her big bosomed hugs. Crazy, isn’t it? junk1 Rated
Suzanne, you took a subject we see all the time, unfortunately, and made it personal and real. I did not suffer as much as you. My mother’s weapon of choice were here words and an occasional and surprising pop on the mouth. She’d bust my lip and then deny she’d done it. Sort of a wierd world to grow up in.
You have certainly found a way to cope that helps others!
Oh my God! This is very upsetting and it felt like a slap to me too…
You wroteso clearly of yourexperience and without any trace of self-pity…don’t think I could do it.

My mother spanked us too much I think but much, much less than she had been…I think she was physically abused and I know she was verbally and/or emotionally abused…I am trying to understand her better now that she is gone, since January 12th, and I want to better integrate, in my own mind, all of who she was and WHY she was the way she was to us…
My mother suffered depression all of her life…I am sure early trauma and never knowing if she was going to be hit or hurt some way was the cause.

Sorry Susanne for all of this. There were times when people and to some degree society thought this treatment was acceptable. I hope this behavior will soon be a thing of the past.

You are a sweetheart. If your thoughtful mind and disposition blossomed out of hardship, you have lived to best a person without love or empathy in her heart. You have survived!

Moving and powerful. Hugs to you.
rated
A wonderful piece. And a difficult one. Thank you.
Susanne, I grew up in a country and within a vanishing culture where parents were supposed to hit their children when they–our parents–were angry. Never mind if the anger was at themselves, at their children, or at their neighbors. Call it crazy, but somehow we felt it was part of their job description as parents and that they were showing to the entire barrio that they were not spoiling us rotten. When we were small, my brothers and sisters were never spared by both our mother and father from the fist, the rattan switch, the bamboo stick or anything that was within reach—the ever handy belt, a slender piece of firewood, whatever. The funny—or should it be sad?—thing was, my siblings and I never harbored any hatred against them; nor did these shared blows and lashes draw us closer to each for supportive comfort. Perversely, it seemed at that time, we felt that whatever anger they directed at us was some coping mechanism in a tightly knit barrio community that had no use for a jazz guitarist (him) and a failed seamstress (her). They are both gone now and we, my four brothers and four sisters
Sorry, I hit the Post button before I could finish with my post.

…have gone to raise respective families of our own. And on our parent’s death anniversaries, all of us gather at the ancestral house and among the stories we tell our children during these reunions are their grandparents’ “wicked” ways. And they ask us: “How come none of you went crazy or rebellious or all screwed up?” And we tell them: “Because we all loved your grandma and grandpa.”

Crazy, isn’t it? And I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense.

powerful and sad beyond words, portrayed beautifully

I know some of this though not to this extent. I am with you.

This makes me ache for you and for all the children who are brutalized in our country every day. KD Lang had it when she sang “the rights of the children have nowhere to stand.” Thanks for this post.
Dramatic free verse. Was your mom abused too? Abusers sometimes like to pass on the pain for a reason I will never fully comprehend. Peace.
Powerful and vivid. I hope it helps to write this stuff out – I know writing is therapeutic for me. My mother used words, not fists, but we found out near the end of her life that her mother did use physical abuse at least at times. It all made more sense. So it trickled down and now her children treat their own children lovingly. The trail ends, thank god.
Wonderful but sad. Rated. Take a look at the post “The Nuns Made Me Do It.”

It’s amazing people still grow up and can be happy. Good for you. It looks at though you found that love instead of a fist!

Ah, Susanne, you took my breath away with this one. Right there with you. Moved beyond words that that that little girl was able to turn into the woman that you are, who transforms, transcends, and remembers.
Thank you, each of you, for your kind remarks. I always wondered if I could write my own version of “My Papa’s Waltz” but it never came until last night when I couldn’t sleep.

I don’t think that anyone can ‘understand’ this, though there are folks here who have their own parallel experiences, such as junk1, Gayle, and Mitidor. I think our culture was accepting of such behavior when I was young. I have a story about why I know this in me, so I will save it for that.

Matt Brandstein, you most clearly stated the truth: “The prose of brutality serve as the most effective means to stand up to its onward march.” For those who have suffered at the hands or the words of their parents, what we have to say about it is exactly the tool we have that turns the tide in our own lives and for generations to come.

Yes, there was abuse of my mother and her brothers. My uncles told me about it when I was a young woman. My grandmother was orphaned in the flu epidemic of 1918. I believe she had a very hard life.

This is so painful and powerfully descriptive I could almost feel the blows. I cringed, I jumped, I wanted to run. My stomach hurts, my heart hurts for you and your sisters and brothers.

To have gone through this abomination and emerged with the ability to love and allow yourself to be loved is nothing short of a triumph of will and spirit and determination.

Now I understand a little better why you always seem to understand. I’m so sorry for your pain, but very, very grateful for your courage.

Thanks Sally. Writing saves a lot of people, be it good writing or not.
Susanne,

I did not realize you had this kind of history in your family. Thanks for sharing it with us.

I think we have all experienced some kind of abuse in our lives. I was abused as a child, too, although the physical abuse I suffered did not compare to what you have described here. For me, there was some degree of physical abuse, but what really hurt and caused problems for me that reached/reach far beyond the physical, was the mental/emotional abuse; the power of the words that were spoken to me so constantly about my shortcomings, and my apparent innate ability to “embarrass” my mom did far more harm than the physical abuse.

RATED

Yeah, a difficult and moving post. I had an abusive childhood.
Hit by both parents who were themselves abused. You stopped the
cycle.
AND NOW YOU ARE LOVED.
Susanne, it was physical abuse for you and emotional abuse for me…but it hurts no matter what. I really understand, respect you for the fine person you are.

I’ve got your back. Rated.

again, i wonder almost randomly (well, not randomly in this case cause i’ve been meaning to get over here for some time) onto a post and my breath is taken away from me by what i read.

i don’t know what to say susanne, except maybe that you’re an inspiring example of how it’s possible to be so much more than where we came from.

Wow! Powerful! I hope you’ve healed.
This is really sad.
Susanne,
Sending you hugs of love and healing from someone who can relate. Thanks for sharing with us…it’s a very brave thing to do.
Susanne, Thank you so much for this heart felt and honest post. It was beautifully written. Brought tears to my eyes. I send you lots of love and hugs from someone who can relate and who has been there. There is since in violence against another life.
You have been very brave to write this.
Thank you for sharing
Thank you again for reading and commenting and mostly, for caring that such things happen to children.
yow. painful to read. i think you hit it.
Susanne – I am so sorry for the pain and fear you must’ve experienced as a child… this is such a powerful piece. I can’t stop thinking about it and wishing the little Susanne could be protected from these blows. I hope you have found some peace in adulthood, although I know there are scars.
I am struck by how difficult this is for so many to read when for me it is merely a few of the facts of my childhood. It took quite a long time to get to the place where I could say these things in the same way that I say I am left handed and have golden hazel eyes, I am no longer blond the way I was when I was this same little girl. And if you saw a picture of me from this time you would know that I hid this secret, and that you could see in me then the same happiness in my being in spite of the misery that visited me from time to time.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Your piece (poetry) was very heart felt. I have been blogging my stuff so I can understand the injustices that many went through as children and no matter how old you get, you never forget. The only good thing my parents gave me was a lesson on what to avoid being like. Peace of mind to you and thanks.
Sarah, Just keep writing. It gets clearer. I promise.
People, all people, are capable of all kinds of horror, of inflicting all manner of suffering on each other. This in itself is difficult to accept, (though I feel we must), but to imagine people are capable of doing this to children and their own children is just something I would love to reject even though I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of cruelty to my children and my parents. It’s something to question and deal with and ultimately learn from. I’m sorry for you because of what your mother did to you, but apparently your life has turned out *sweet, in spite of the misery* I hope. Sad, thoughtful poem.
“I don’t remember being hugged

or kissed, or having my hand held

gently, kindly, guidingly.”

Oh, sweetheart. There are no words to describe, but you did. You also are taking something so ugly and unimaginable and creating beauty from it.

Thank you for sharing something so deep and painful, yet so tragically common.

Thanks Mari. It is good to be understood and well received.
Unfortunately, this happens everyday, every week of every month in every year.

Anyone who’s worked with children knows the back stories. I can’t tell you how many times CPS, child protective services, has come to my classroom and all the classrooms I’ve been in thus far to take a child away.

Colleagues and friends have their own stories as well, and we talk about it as a way to get it out of our system.

And I suspect this is a way for you as well.

It horrifies me what children are subjected to. Maybe that’s why I’m always happy and smiling in the classroom.

It’s to make the children feel better and at the same time to mask the sadness of the true reality you’ve written about it.

Susanne: First I am very sorry that you had to endure that as a child. Unfortunately, far too many of us had similar childhoods.

All the things that you described my mother did to me. My stepdad loved me unconditionally and never touched me; and when he was home she would not touch me. The rest of the time it was totally without any rhyme or reason when or why she would go crazy over some small thing.

The difference was that my mother would then go into periods of remorse that manifested itself in smothering love and affection that created for me what I later learned was a classic love/hate syndrome.

As I grew older I continued to honor the idea that a child was never to lay a hand on a parent and was to take his/her punishment no matter what it was.

It all came to a head when I was a senior in high school getting ready to go to school and she came at me crazy and screaming and seething with rage and struck me with a wooden suit hanger in the side of my face. The hanger cracked and she drew back to hit me again. I reached out and grabbed her wrist and squeezed until she let go and told her that she would never hit me again. Ever.

I got in my car and went to school. When I got back all of my clothes were scattered all over the yard, my stereo and games and anything that had anything to do with me was thrown, mostly broken, into the yard.

I gathered it up and never went back. What a sad mess that was.

Reading about your pain brought all that pouring back out of recesses of my memory I almost never access.

God bless you, Susanne, for growing into the compassionate and strong person you are today.

Monte

Difficult to read, sad, and powerful.
Well written (though it would be worth writing even if it wasn’t.)

It’s amazing that you grew into the kind person you are today.

I had a problem dealing with how somebody who claimed to ‘love me’ could cause me so much pain. I had bruises but never a broken bone.

I was kept home from school a few times even…

It took me a long time to trust people. I still have flashbacks sometimes.

I wonder if I’ll ever know what it’s like to love someone completely. I have ‘trust issues’ I’ve been told.

It shouldn’t hurt to grow up. In other words, your parents shouldn’t be allowed to wail on you with abandon. My first home visit with my second serious girlfriend was marked by an explosive beating by my mother. I yelled at her to leave me… She didn’t give an inch. Later, she helped me move out after another violent confrontation.

I owe her a lot. As repayment, I married her… She got the short end of the deal by far, but most men marry up… Cheers to the wives! We thank you… 😉

Oh Susanne…this is so raw and painful even just reading it. I can’t understand why people do these things to their own children. I hope that you and your brothers and sisters are in a much better place these days, far away from that abusive fist.
Magnificent and sad. Rated.
Hello, Suzanne-
thank you for the poem; feel free to call my attention to your posts anytime.
Things left unsaid and worth exploring include who did love you; How did you become the good-you in the now? What ever happened to ol’ violent mom? I’m not saying this should be included in the poem; it is a gem unto itself. Only that there are rich fields for exploration.
I was born in the early 60’s, kid #10 of 11. Catholic. No birth control. The realities of family life as opposed to the idealism preached from the pulpit…well. My rich fields to write about.
I would gladly have consented to be aborted if my absence would have meant any less resentment and pain in Mom’s life. Yet, I don’t think it would have. She would have found another way to manufacture it.
She was a kind of prisoner. Of her biology, of her ideology. A child posing as an adult. And so many of my siblings have carried on the unconscious drama of rage and control, misuse of power over the very people they claim to love most.

I’m in your neighborhood now; if ever you attend Seattle unity church, look for me.

Heartbreaking, and beautiful at the same time.
Suzanne:

Here’s an excerpt from a recent post of mine, dealing with my mother’s dementia and the sudden death of my father: http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=62794

“When I was in my early teens, I had one of a series of major arguments with my mother. I recall how she stopped hitting me and reached down to remove her shoe so she could hit me with that– I was getting to be too big for her to effectively use her bare hands. When she reached for her shoe, I grabbed her, dragged her to the ground and told her that the next time she hit me I would hit her back. From then on, whenever we argued she would run to my father and ask (or berate) him to do something about whatever it was I had said or done– she never struck me again.

I mention all this because after several days of dealing with her behavior while all of us were hurting, my mother got angry and slapped me. I didn’t hesitate– I slapped her back. Her dementia, my respect for others, the knowledge that my father lived with her for sixty years without hitting her (that I am aware of), my understanding her pain and feeling my own, none of that mattered to me; all I could think of was that, after more than forty years, I had kept my promise.”

I am so so so so sorry that this happened to you and your siblings. So sorry.
Your poetry speaks to me so clearly and painfully. I wish I could write about my childhood as powerfully as you.
Highly rated. At some point, I guess, the recognition of this forced you to a concerted action to end the cycle. So many never figure this out and I’m guessing your Mom is one of them.
I’m stunned into silence and screaming for your healing. Rating for the writing and BEGGING for everyone to read this. Including you, Joan and Kerry.
Cartouche, I am healed, clear & centered, so don’t worry. I don’t think Joan or Kerry are likely to read this. They have other interests that they are pursuing.
You mirror my soul….
From violent unloving background
A wealth of understanding finally….
And my totally broken heart is mended….
But it took the light of understanding…. shining it’s torch at me and bringing back the hope that underneath the cruelty …..
There was love, masked, but there…
I was, and am sorry for the pain this shadow cast over our existences…
{rated}
That was lovely nahatsu. Thank you.
Susanne, what a heartbreaking set of memories. I think you’re so brave to put this into words rather than squashing in the back of your mind – though that would be tempting and I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to go to this space every day and still function. If there is any peace that comes from sharing I hope it comes to you. I live on the other side of the world but your pain comes through loud and clear. I feel for you and hope you find some joy in your present and future.
I am a very happy girl with a haunting past. It is good to be me. I share this now because I can and because there are children out there having this experience now.

Thanks for coming by.

Susanne, this is a horrendous and sad thing that you have gone through but, I’m glad you had the support and love of your siblings.

Remind yourself of your goodness and strengths. You have survived and that is a victory. You are an amazing lady!

Susanne,

This is difficult to read. I wish we could rewind and I could loan you my mother. But perhaps you wouldn’t have turned out the remarkable woman that you are.

I wonder if there are a few advocacy organizations for battered children that you would like to bring to OS readers’ attention. I guess after experiencing something this horrible, I look for a way to do something about it.

I suspect that Dan the Man has had a huge role in your healing. Give him and the cats hugs from me.

Hugs and admiration,
Mary

hi, susanne, it sounds like where I grew up. Something like this can kill your soul. It killed my sister’s spirit. 50 years later she’s still wounded.

I read your writing and know that you’ve survived it–and more. Gone on to live a good and useful life.

Thank you John. One of my sisters is like yours and another is more grounded like me. This kind of childhood settles on each of us differently.
After working for 5-1/2 years in foster care and 3-1/2 years in private practice, I have no illusions about the torture which parents will inflict on their children. Many times clients will ask me if they will ever be “normal.” My response is that they will never be the people they would have been if they hadn’t been abused, but that with time and work the abuse will become “something that happened to me” vs the monster in the dark that keeps you trapped. It is clear that you reached this place in life, and for that I am happy for you, despite all that went before.

I still occasionally stumble. Last night I was watching a movie and a character looked so much like my 1st stepfather, that for the first time in years I had a flashback. But it was short, and when it was over, it was over, and I remain who I have worked so hard to become.

Merwoman,

Good for you! The same thing happens to me from time to time. The mind likes to take what is happening right now, no matter whether it is truth or fiction, and categorize it as if it is the same or equvalent to something that happened earlier in our memories. It’s mechanical and has nothing to do with the hard work it takes to clear up ones life and grapple with a nightmarish history. It’s interesting to me now because I can simply observe it rather than be taken by it to a dark place in my memory. The fact is, most memories are not entirely accurate anyway and some things we think we know are not even completely accurate and true.

Dear Susanne, this is one of the most important posts written…opens windows and doors of reflection and insight , and shared pain too, for so many readers…

I love how you said you are a “happy girl” … how many can say that? even with “good” childhood backgrounds??…happiness seems a frail element in American or the Western World life…yet you have it and I believe you when you tell us that you have it…to overcome the past is a life struggle for many, even for me at times, I am so impressed by you!
You did a BIG thing for many, many people by writing about this subject. BIG.

Thanks again for your comments and concern. I hope that what I have said does make a difference to people, that they can see themselves or think about how they treat one another with love and respect, and if they don’t, that they wll look for the source of their unhappiness.
Sorry I’m late to this Suzanne. I loved the language of your poem. It sent me back too a bunch of decades, sure, but mostly it just made me love you so intensely I could kiss and hug away every distant and lingering trace of your pain. You are beautiful, inside and out, and whether it’s my own pain and love I’m projecting or yours, who cares– it redeems us both, so what a celebration!

x nada

Very sweet Nada, thanks. Keep doing your spooky good love with your kids and dance happy on the earth!
My God you’re brave……I admire you so much.
Riveting piece of writing…..a mature step to bind the assailing hands of the oppressors.
Gary, I am glad that you were here to read it. Some eyes you just want on your work, and yours are some of those eyes my friend. Thanks for your kindness.
Susanne, thank you for sharing your story with us. I am all for joy too and I want you to know that yours shines through.
Root and Branch

My mother’s fidelity to her marriage bed
Was rooted deeper than any Penelope.
My father’s departure, he no homeward bound Odysseus,
Became the charybdic black hole where anger
Anchored her against the uncertainty of failed expectations.
Thus the bitter bark of abandonment roughed skin once caressed
And spiteful acid pooled where aroused blood flew.
Her graceful limbs turned twisted sneers of gnarled branches.

We, her children, thought or mother beautiful.

She wore every grey venomous leaf left to her
Like a wreath of glorious victory,
Their rattled whispers sighing:
Your father was a good man.

We played out our youth
In the shade of her love
As if nothing was wrong.

I understand too well. For me there was no touch that didn’t leave a mark. Not all of the marks were visible cuts and bruises. Sometimes they were worse. Beautiful and brave.
Thanks Zul. I do understand.
Thank you.

It’s funny, but it seems to me almost like these words have been put away and because you read them they are ‘out’ again.

She Hit me: Forgiving My Mother

I wrote the original version of this about 20 years ago and have re-edited it a bit.  (I’ve had a few more insights into relationships & forgiveness in the intervening years). I have practiced forgiveness long enough that I have forgiven all the people who hurt me as a child, and myself for the ideas I once held about myself as a result of an abundance of the difficult events I reveal here. What a freedom comes of forgiveness! We don’t have to let those who once hurt us suppress our lives, limit our choices or dim the luminous nature of Love that is borne in each of us and seeks to express as us… 


She Hit me:  Forgiving My Mother

Rev. Dr. Susanne Freeborn


Me and Mom

I changed schools 27 times before I dropped out of high school. That was only 45 days before graduation. This was not because my father was in the military. It was mainly because my mother was single–with 5 children by the time I was in high school. My parents never married. It wasn‘t for want of a proposal by my father that they did not marry. He begged my mother, but she was having none of it because her first husband had deserted her when she was still a teenager, and she was not going to let that happen to her again. It mattered not to her that my father loved her or that they had two children together. She was not going to be hurt again. Then my father killed himself a few years after they had separated, when I was only seven years old. He drove his truck into an enormous Coastal Live Oak tree at 60 miles an hour somewhere near Fresno, California in the great San Joaquin Valley. He left a suicide note they said, I wasn’t allowed to see or hear it.

There is not much point in going too deeply into a description of the pain and suffering of my childhood, just a sketch will do. Remember the Fifties and Sixties? Being a single mother was not common then, nor was it understood, supported and God, there was no respect at all.  We would be called “That woman and all her brats.”   Women didn’t make even close to equal pay, child support was not enforced, nor was it reliably collected by the state even if there was a court order in place. Our family life was a serial travelogue of spots between a rock and a hard place.

We were all bastards. One of my two sisters still doesn’t know her father’s name. None of us had five different sets of school clothes, and making friends was a dangerous business if you knew that you were only going to end up moving away right after you finally made some friends. And leave we did, because we were evicted from our home repeatedly when my mother ran short of cash.  During my sophomore year of high school in the spring, when all the promise seems to be returning to the planet, we had to eat corn meal mush for two months straight because there was nothing else. We were very desperately poor and it was very hard for my mother. She came home exhausted from her job as a cook and beat all of us out of her frustration and anger.

At one time we were taken from her by the state and sent to live with our grandparents after a neighbor saw her beating me with a stick of lathe. A couple of years went by and then they sent us back to her, though nothing had really changed, except what house we lived in. During those years I fell prey to sexual molestation by two of my uncles and a male babysitter. When it was discovered, my grandmother acted as if a nine-year-old girl could actually be provocative to her sons, who were much older than I, one of them in the Navy. She taught me to feel guilty about the inappropriate behaviors directed toward me by men.  She said men only wanted one thing.  I didn’t feel safe in the world unless I was with my Grampa, but I couldn’t always be with him.

I tell you this so that you will understand why I had to come to know forgiveness intimately. Children who have a difficult childhood usually think that they are in some way responsible for what went wrong and we blame our parents for what we perceive as their failures to love, protect and provide for us. We, and our families, are fundamentally wrong in our own eyes. My poor mother was damned from the beginning.  If the circumstances weren’t difficult enough, Freud was let loose on the world prior to her arrival and I was taught to profoundly blame her for everything. However, blaming Mom and my father brought me no peace, and only more suffering and a state of perpetual victimhood.  I loathed being a victim.

I don’t remember exactly what it was that brought the miracle of forgiveness to me. But sometime during college, when I was around 28 years old, I was pursuing Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland and I began to see the culture that my family had lived in a wholly different way. I saw the terrible economic and societal pressures my mother had faced and saw that she had not given up on taking care of us, even though she was alone and without much help. Even if she had to lie to the landlord or creditors, she had always done her best to keep us safe. No matter what. And I began to realize why she had been angry and that in her grief and anger she had hurt us.

I became a little less overwhelmingly angry and disappointed with her and began to forgive her. I began to let her love me the way that she did instead of the way that I expected her to love me like June Cleaver. I began to love and respect her for how she had taken care of us, swallowing her pride, setting aside things that she had been taught, like honesty, so that we would be OK. She didn’t expect much from life, so she didn’t, couldn’t, have great hopes for us in matters of education or future professions. I saw the price she paid. She simply ensured our survival. She thought life was hard and so it was. She really didn’t have much time for being a soft, warm & loving mother.  She was more like Sisyphus, continually rolling our family up a hill, never reaching the top, never being able to relax or to rest.  Love does not always fit others pictures of what it ought to be.  When you live only to survive many things look as if they belong only to others.  Still my mother kept a roof over our heads that had a door to the world.

Realizing this allowed me just enough space to see another possibility for my own life. That I had all the say in the story of my life. My barely blessed mother let in just enough light under the door for me to see another kind of future. My life was very hard when I was young, but it has been one miracle after another since the day I began to forgive my mom.

I had to forgive my mother so many times that it seems like I have made that choice an infinite number of times. Yes our life was hard. Yes, I was horribly, overwhelmingly angry. Yes, I thought for a very long time that it was all her fault. Then I thought it was my fault. Along the way to forgiving Mom, I forgave myself into a life of freedom and joyous self-expression.

My Mom lived with me after having experienced a series of strokes, and I took care of her as tenaciously as she took care of me when I was a child. I kept flowers in her room because she said that “they look like happiness” and because, for me, flowers symbolize the grace of God. A grace that allowed me to see the error of the judgments I made as an innocent child against her and against myself.  Mom died in January 2000.  I am so fortunate that I used my time and my life the way I did prior to her death.  That the wisdom of forgiveness revealed itself to me and I was able to share it with her, I couldn’t be more grateful for the peace that existed between us when she made her transition.

Trike

Questions About God: Einstein on Being of Service

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seemingly for a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”  Albert Einstein

Susanne 2014

Being of service to others takes our focus off of ourselves and looks for how we might be useful where and how we are. When we feel grateful, we naturally want to share ourselves and our good fortune. Being in service only increases our gratitude and joy and our experience of the unity of all life.

When we choose to be of service in the depths of life’s deepest anguish, when we can engage in the deepest alchemy that life has to offer at such times, this is when we know that we have grown in Spirit. “I am alive in Spirit, Spirit is alive in me,” is a chant sung in many New Thought centers written by singer songwriter Melissa Phillippe.  These words point to the same idea that Einstein is pointing out in the quotation above.  We know Grace through these generosities of Spirit that we share.

Times are difficult, and such times are a powerful time to know gratitude for simple things; Love is such a simple thing. Love knows no bounds nor does it require that life or anything within it be different in any way. It allows life’s difficulties to surface to find the divinity hidden within each experience. May we appreciate this divinity in all of life for the hidden gifts within each difficulty.

“Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favors you have received.” Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)

This modesty of spirit is a matchless empowerment of the heart and a source of deep wisdom.  A single unity underlies all life, now is the best time to explore this unity.

Getting Along

The capacity for getting along with our neighbor depends to a large extent on the capacity for getting along with ourselves. The self-respecting individual will try to be as tolerant of his neighbor’s shortcomings as he is of his own.  Eric Hoffer

shouting match

Sometimes our neighbors look like a shouting beast to us.  I don’t know if we tolerate shortcomings so much as mirror them with one another, revealing something that was hidden and then projecting our understanding on another, to free ourselves from the burden of knowing this uncomfortable truth about ourselves.

Comments

Susanne,

that last paragraph really spoke to me — very nicely worded.

rated

Susanne, I could not agree more. To love others, we must first love ourselves.

Rated
Love the Photo
Greg

Projection is bacially seeing others through the perspective of what we cannot or will not accept about ourselves. Most of the time we are entirely unconscious of the projection and won’t even know what the trait is but “see” it in the “other.” i.e. greedyness, envy, jealosy, self-pity, which we deny in ourselves. One sure test is that you dislike or hate someone who you don’t really know–just “instinctively” reject since our intuitions quickly detect it.

But there are also cases where we can know and see the particular trait in the other person, are not projecting, but still know it is something we have to keep at a distance, since the trait, such as “selfishness” limits the trust we can rightly place in that person.

Also, sometimes, there are cases where there are no projections at all, and we recognize somebody else is a “fraud” or what I call an “emotional felon.” In those cases, it may be necessary to make our distust known so the person is aware that we aren’t going to allow them to take advantage of us. Good fences make good neighbors.

Interesting question to start my day—and LOVE the photo.
I appreciate your coming by to comment, each of you. I like things pithy and quick that make me think about something worthwhile. That something that seemed so to me is for you, and that you said so, well it strikes me right where I live, in a good way. Thanks.

Ben, is correct about fences, or boundaries. It is sometimes important to let people know that we don’t mean to be taken for fools or marks. The idea that we might be projecting is one to keep in a handy pocket for regular employment so that we don’t confuse our own stuff with the likes of those with whom we interact.

Thanks again.

Couldn’t agree more. Great photo.