“I don’t know if it is healthy for me to be her friend” was the thought I had many times over many years of friendship.
She was like a Tornado.
Early on, I became swept up by her wake.
Not because I wanted to “fix” her problems, but because she kept insisting that I if I didn’t try, I was a truly selfish and ungenerous person. So, twenty years ago, I was “hooked” into proving her wrong.
A few moments of illumination came when my father died. Within two days of his passing, she asked for me to call the electric company to dispute her bill. In the Jewish tradition, it is a deep sign of disrespect to speak about money during the “shiva” period (period of mourning), let alone ask the person who is grieving to “do” for you.
The next thing which occurred also had to do with money. My father’s estate had settled and I had received my inheritance. My friend had to move because the house she was living in was a home she was renting, and it was being put up for sale. She literally said to me, “you have money, you should put a down payment on a house for me so at least I’ll have a place to live.”
The thought I had was this: “because you’re in turmoil, I should throw my life into chaos?” I knew my answer.
It was a child’s answer.
It was an adult answer.
The answer was “NO.”
It’s astounding to look back as an adult and remember this. What I feel now is compassion for myself. For how I “replayed” aspects of my family system which were broken and unhealed. My friend was aggressive and needy, all at once. And for a period of time, we played out a relationship similar to that of my family relationship which still needed a tremendous amount of healing within my own psyche and within my heart.
I was only in my twenties at the time. And I would repeat this pattern of drawing people towards me (with whom I would recapitulate familial relationships) several more times until I was ready to consciously and decidedly choose to heal the parts of myself which were ready to choose and claim healing.
There is a song by country singer Miranda Lambert called “The House That Built Me” with a lyric which will help illuminate what I am talking about here:
“I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
this brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it’s like I’m someone else.
I thought that maybe I could find myself.
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave,
won’t take nothing but a memory
from the house that built me.”
Admittedly, I’ve spent many hours, days, years rejecting where I came from. But without acknowledging the source, without feeling into the truth of ALL of my history and acknowledging “THE FULL CATASTROPHE,” I know I can never heal the broken pieces of my life. And they can never be pieced back together. Perhaps, these three surgeries are giving me a new start at piecing myself back together on a bone-deep level.
The truth is, I BELIEVE in things. I believe in possibility. I believe in change.
When I was around eight years-old, I used to fight with my grandmother constantly because she said something which angered me terribly. What she said was this:
“I can’t change. It’s my conditioning.”
I was only eight. But I knew that what she said was nonsense. And by that time, I had already saved her life twice. Once due to calling for help when she was on the floor nearly dying from anaphylaxis, and the other time, due to a more personal choice, which I cleverly found a way to pull her out of, because I refused to line up with what she was saying, unquestionably and fortunately, quite convincingly.
When she threw her “conditioning” at me, I wouldn’t buy it. Plus, I didn’t like the word “can’t.” My mother had already been divorced twice by then and because I was a vigilant child, I could see “bullshit” from miles away.
Subsequently, my grandmother and I fought with one another well. With deep, grounded love. It is one of the reasons I miss her so much. She fought so DAMN HARD FOR ME. For WHY she loved me. What I realize now is that nothing mattered between us when we argued except for how much and WHY we loved each other.
When you have it, when you KNOW IT, PROTECT IT.
HOLD IT INSIDE YOUR HEART.
Carry it in your heart every day.
FIGHT FOR IT.
As long as you are alive.
Because life changes in an instant.
REMEMBER AND HONOR what built you. EVEN if you think it was ugly.
Because something beautiful may have come before it. And if you have it in you, OWN and HONOR the UGLY. THE FULL CATASTROPHE!
People tell me I am pretty. I balk. I have vitiligo. I am losing my looks. It is degenerative. For the rest of my life, it will continue to get worse. I joke and say “just call me the ‘spotted yogin.’”
The body is fleeting and impermanent. (I know mine is just a “rental!”)
But the source of love is ever-present.
I can still feel my grandmother’s heart beating inside my own.
Fighting with my own. BUOYING my own...
And I know where I can, as an adult, continue healing, continue piecing myself back together. And continue saying “YES.”
Full Catastrophe and all!