Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 908 – Day 914)
A few days ago I had a strange dream.
I wear eyeglasses and in my dream, the glass spontaneously shattered. When I awoke, I felt that this was one of those ‘important’ dreams in my life. I feel that it was screaming at me about that thing we all have but simply cannot see: our blindspot.
Many of us have problems seeing what is right before our eyes. When we are grieving, Kubler Ross tells us that there are stages through which we cycle, and one of those is denial. When we are in denial, we cannot see what it is that is presenting itself as a losss. We can not bear it. The other side of seeing – being seen – is also a challenge for many of us. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that all of us want to be seen – really seen for who we are – and loved as we are. But it is the risk that we will not be loved, or the belief that we are unloveable that makes being seen – really seen – such an act of vulnerability.
I remember sitting in a playwriting workshop one hundred years ago and my teacher, the award winning playwright, Joan MacLeod, spoke of her best friend. He was able to see her blindspot and she was able to see his. So, I asked around.
Before the first friend answered, I went through a list: I love someone and it is a challenging relationship. But, I have faith in the relationship. Was this my blindspot? I had a milestone birthday recently and with it, I struggled to reconcile my inner sense of youth with ageing. Is this somehow my blindspot? I carry more weight than is healthy and there are certainly emotional reasons for this. Could that be my blindspot?
Friends started responding. Some have known me longer than others, and some have known me more intimately than others. I thought of the woman with whom I have been closest, and of my mother. I thought of what they would say. And then a friend said it:
My blindspot is my self worth, she said. If I could see myself like others do, I would have a much different and higher sense of self worth.
I think to some extent, we all struggle with this.
Where do we develop our self esteem? I suppose it develops in childhood when we are seen and mirrored by our primary caregivers. What we developed as children is reinforced by our actions as adults. One thing is certain: we cannot have high self esteem if we are doing things in our lives for which we are not proud. But, looking at it now, no number of accomplishments and sense of integrity can ever completely fill that sense of lack, if we were not mirrored as children.
As a child, teen and young adult, I was applauded for certain kinds of accomplishments and parts of my personality. My artistic side was called ridiculous and I was chastised for being a dreamer. I was not loved for who I was, exactly as I was. I was not mirrored. What was seen and loved and what I could see and love of myself was like looking into a shattered mirror and seeing only parts of myself, but never the whole.
This week I had the task of painting a self portrait in my art class. I’m a beginner at drawing and at painting but I do my best and my best is usually not good, but also not that bad. So I sketched myself and painted in the glasses, focusing on my eyes and my lips. It was an interesting and intriguing piece. Many people suggested I leave it at that. I thought I would.
One afternoon, my father unexpectedly bought the family lunch and I had my painting in the car. So, I brought it in, and showed it to my family. They looked at me, at my unfinished painting, back at me and then continued their conversation without saying anything about it. If I had chosen to write a scene of psychic annihilation I don’t think I could have chosen a more perfect moment than that.
A few days later, I returned to the painting and decided to complete it. Although I had used a magnifying mirror and a low angle, the resulting portrait was distorted and more grotesque than even the magnification would produce. I look in the mirror and I know that I don’t look this way. And yet, I am blind to myself.
In my dream, I had been standing at a crossroads when my glasses shattered. I had come from a place where I had plugged in to ‘the source’, but my machine had been borrowed from a man.
When I was young, my father said on more than one occasion that I would never amount to anything without him. I am sure that he probably meant that I should be grateful for the roof over my head and my tuition. But the words went far deeper than that, for me, as a child. I am a half a century old and for half a century I have sought my father’s approval. Despite all my accomplishments, I don’t think he’s ever said that he is proud of me. If I cannot amount to anything without him, perhaps at an unconscious level, I feel that I fail to exist without his approval.
Consciously I have let go of this wish, but the unconscious has a way of holding on and repeating patterns. I love a man who disengages from me sometimes and although this is his coping mechanism, it triggers my earlier sense of not being mirrored. When he is engaged, he is able to see so much of me – the admirable and the less admirable qualities – and he loves me as I am. I am grateful that when he is able to stay connected, he models for me what I lacked in childhood. When we are connected, it is a joy to spend time with him and to work through our differences and come to a deeper understanding of one another and a deeper level of closeness. I sometimes wonder how I got so blessed to meet someone so kind and gentle, and I cannot express how grateful I am for him, in my life. He is working on staying engaged, and I am working on self-soothing and ‘holding space for him’ in his times of solitude. But the fact is that he is prone to disengage and not understand me. In those moments, I feel invisible. I don’t know where the relationship is heading but it has been a growth experience for both of us, and for my ability to stand up and ask to be seen, and for his ability to sometimes offer his gentle love in the face of my vulnerability, I am grateful.
I’m grateful for my dream because it has provided me the opportunity to consider the things that are holding me back and to which I am blind. In my dream, I was at a crossroads, as I am now, in my life. I am grateful for this moment.
My father was a writer and I know he had a real talent for poetry. He wrote love poems to my mother when they courted. He grew up in a different era and he suppressed his own artistic side in order to become a provider for his family. I am certain that some of his insistence on gratitude conveyed in those offhand, but damning words, came from his own experience of having given up more than any of us know, in order to be a husband and father. I know he has a soft heart, like I do, and despite his damaging messages, we are both writers, poets and lovers and in knowing that, I feel Oneness with him and I am able to love him despite the wounding of the past.
As we go into the holiday season, we return to our families of origin for at least a few days. My service this week is to write this to remind us all that we are always at a crossroads, that most of us are blind to how amazing we truly are, and to send out this reminder that there is always a new way of seeing the hurt that we carry with us, so that we can leave it behind us, at the crossroads.
For what are you grateful this week?