I wrote this the day after the Connecticut incident and although it’s my intention to imbue my life with the lens of the nurtured heart approach – because it’s simple and doable and most often gives me the lift I’m needing – I wasn’t able to get there. Thinking about this tragedy led me down so many garden paths over the last few days, so many rabbit holes and nightmares. And so I keep trying to find my way back to this approach which I am choosing wholeheartedly to follow. I’m a deep thinker/verging on that line of mental illness sometimes.
Learn by Doing…
I’d say I’m on just on the brink of the bell curve where most people wouldn’t know I had any problem with my mind. I know everyone has one, some say it’s actually ONE MIND we are accessing and I can’t see any other way it could be, and THIS part of THAT mind seems to go into the dark chaotic spots and get stuck. NHA helps me move on out when I’m ready. And sometimes being in those spots brings me greater wisdom, sometimes not. It has brought me compassion though for others struggling with mental illness. And for this I’m grateful because nothing’s worse than being in that dark place and not seeing any of those invisible hands reaching in.
What I came to is greater belief in our interconnectedness, and a less tentative faith in my higher power who sees the whole picture in some way that I don’t and can’t. Love is present here. I know I exist. I know I love you. You (my sister) who I probably know because very few people are ever gonna read this. I know that in the moments that follow this typing “I” will be in many other places in this mind. But for right NOW, here I am knowing that I exist, that Love is the glue of our connection. Ultimately.
When I was growing up – let’s say from ages 10 to 31 - the benchmark of all tragedy was the Holocaust. This is how you knew what terrible was and everything else was just less terrible. It was also how you knew that God was a construct of lesser minds. Minds that didn’t really get the magnitude of how terrible life could be – and if life could be this terrible – if men could have really sent other men plus other’s men’s women and children to a gas chamber to die – then clearly God was a construct of a lesser mind. In my growing up mind therefore, the real adults, the non-believers, had some secrets with which to replace the God idea, since clearly, even to my mind, there had to be some explanation for 1) why terrible things happen 2) why we are hurtling through space on a relatively tiny ball 3) why I still craved falling in love.
Today I believe in God and I have only few clues for what that means. But I cling to them and the clues seem to expand. When one of my brothers’ died of Aids in 1991, and when so many of another of my brother’s friends were dying of the same disease I had a conversation about God with an artist friend of mine. She was a twin and the Jewish Australian child of Holocaust survivors. When I told her that my brother’s death left such a mark on me that I had a religious experience and now believed in God, something still very unpopular in my circle in those years, she brought up the Holocaust as her reason for not believing in such an idea as God. Why would God take all these men from us (our beloved Aids victims), she asked after we had already discussed her parent’s experiences?
I came up with my reason. “Well maybe those 13 million murdered souls are like the richest compost; without them the soil WE need for our growth would be impossible.” She glared at me. “What about your brother then?!” “Is he compost too? “ I didn’t know. I said, “Well, maybe some of those Aids victims were Nazi death camp guards and Aids is just part of a karmic debt they are paying.”
She was my art teacher so we went back to our canvasses quietly. I had just lost my brother, probably just days before, and she wasn’t going to argue with me. And my mind then as now is not known for linear thinking.
Our family lost a second brother a few years ago to suicide. He suffered from depression on and off in his life, and other delusional states of mind (like constant regret for a past that never was altering with a harping for an unlikely future). He was a successful biologist too; he owned his own home, and he managed to meet two wonderful women eventually and know love with both of them. He was generous with my niece and nephew and later with my two children.
And he kept a gun around.
I think it helped him to know that if he got really depressed, he’d have an out.
When I went to clean out his house I found a business card from the gun shop, it was old and torn, on the top shelf of his closet. I remembered two long ago conversations when I found it – one was about the gun. He told me he had it and that he kept it on his top shelf. He was a very liberal guy politically and his thinking sometimes led to strange places. He was keeping the gun to protect himself from right wingers and their crazy policies. These conversations usually took place over the phone and there was little use in arguing, as he was better at it than me.
The second conversation I recalled was his telling me that he had actually tried suicide once before. He lived in Florida and was depressed about a foot injury that dogged him with chronic pain. He went as far as rigging up his car so that it would fill with carbon monoxide before he changed his mind. I remember hugging him after he told me the story and that we both said how glad we were that he was still alive. So I must have been with him in person and not on the phone. Such is my memory loss.
Sorry dear reader, dear self, for putting us through all those memories. I’m commiserating really. These are tales of my sufferings. And when something or other wakes me up at night, either a memory of my own loss, worries, miseries or doubts of some kind, or when some kind of tragedy strikes, like yesterday’s Connecticut school mass murder, the mind gets going in these directions and so far there is a desire to meet itself right here.
And then intention is required. Vigilance to the trajectory of God and God’s Goodness and God’s Greatness. I don’t know how we are linked in the mind of God, except that we are all linked. This I know - as a matter of logic – if you don’t draw the line at skin – we are all connected molecule to molecule. And as a matter of faith – it’s just something I know since my first brother died and I experienced the most exquisite agony watching him go…
My heart fills up with a constriction, a heaviness of grief. And love. It’s almost unbearable to think of all the love the parents, the brothers and sisters, the families, of those small children and their brave adult teachers, are feeling right now. It is their hearts breaking open that is also breaking ours. I know there is a lot of anger coming.
And I think of the desperation of the young man, and no doubt his family who lived with him for twenty years, that led him to beyond his brink, and I think of my brother who often told me he wanted to shoot the surgeon who operated on his foot that gave him so much pain for so many years.
In a little while I’m getting out of my comfortable bed where I am writing...but first I check my email
The last visit with a lively nun was the best. She gave me great advice and also affirmation of some questions. For some reason it sunk in, at least for yesterday, and at work several little miracles occurred, easily; helping me see I'm actually in a very cool position of potential.
Up early to see sunrise from a waterside walk, and then go to yoga where Angela Davis attends, along with my astute, dear friend Sheeted.
But now my twinkly colored Christmas lights bathe the toasty cottage with beautiful, hopeful light.
Yes, so sad of the violence in Connecticut, and elsewhere. You know “Jesus loves the children of the world... whether yellow black or white, they are one in Jesus' sight.. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
My friend “A” is a nurse at San Quentin. I recently feared for her life when she called to tell me she wanted to join her brother, who like mine had recently taken his own life. She could think of no reason not to, including her daughter who didn't seem to care for her despite those years of selfless parenting we parents imagine we are devoting ourselves to, and including our friendship much less.
Here she tells me that she made it to church and she got some needed help. I'm glad of course.
I think about San Quentin, that place of horrors (and miracles too as she tells me) where so many other lives have been influenced (and often destroyed) by our culture’s fascination with guns….and I wonder how many of us in our country yesterday, with this awful news, have not been able to take a moment to grieve in a comfortable bed…because the abundance of guns, their availability…has already touched them to their cores and left an open wound to painful to poke at.
So – HELP! Are you on the way really?
It is a simple prayer of the truest kind.
The one that has no answers for our specific problems which are of our own making.
Certainly the solution will not be found in going over all these maddening details of my family history, and yet I spoke them again.
I reached down as deep as I could go to maybe join those grieving hearts and I’m reaching out my cosmic hand and saying please hold on, please know that you are not alone in your grief or shock.
I’m not sure I’ve arrived at my nurtured heart approach.
I don’t think so sister.
Aye yai yai Erica. You are a whack job. Albeit an intermittently grateful kind of whack job.
Later in this day I learned that a family friend who just had an adorable little baby is in the hospital – suffering from a bi-polar episode. I went to visit her and told her my story (a little bit of it anyway)….I nurtured her. I saw her Greatness and nothing else. I told her I did not entertain the darkness anymore. I told her I was learning to be and loving being Strong in my Resolve to stay connected. I demonstrated what I meant by reaching out my right hand to one imaginary pole and the left hand to another imaginary pole and told her that with these two poles clarity comes…She listened.
She told me that she was triggered by thoughts of her baby being unsafe. This idea really scared her. So much so that when my daughter called me from the movie theater where I was due to meet her, my friend's whole demeanor changed from fairly calm to the verge of panic. "Are your babies alright?" Yes they were. My 11 and 13 year old were just fine though pissed cause it looked like I might be late so I needed to go. I left her wide-eyed and in me was some fear that maybe her mental illness was like way worse than mine ever came close to being...and maybe I've just been making all this shit up about myself.
I called her yesterday and she said I helped her a lot. She sounded for real. Today she comes home to be reunited with her baby, teenage son, and gentle husband. I don't think anyone told her about Connecticut. But it occurs to me that like those animals who knows when earthquakes are coming, my friend had some kind of mind-bending premonition about the safety of all our babies.
So I stick to this approach. I have to now. I return to my breath to our Love and Connection, knowing that all those who have gone before us, are in a really good place with nothing but love for us and for each other. Why would I want to think any differently than that?