In More Together Than Alone – discovering the power & spirit of community in our lives and in the world, Mark Nepo writes – – ” Staying present & not pretending allows a space of truth that others can join.” One of the great truths of all truths.
How different life would be if we & others didn’t retreat to the false safety of seeing & hearing what we want rather than what was done & said. While it is essential to always remember that we often don’t have the full picture, often mess up & mangle what we’re hearing or seeing, it is so terribly destructive when we reject a difficult present moment & twist it beyond recognition by pretending it is something else.
Consider my early life. My parents were put through the torments of hell by me in elementary school. I comfortably lied, pleasantly cheated & often ignored homework assignments. This was in the very early 1960s – still heart & soul The Fifties – when people feared looking into the dark depths of the spirit. Mom & Dad apparently never asked themselves, “Why?”
Looking back as best I can ~ impossible to really see those single digit days through the eyes of my 67-year old self ~ two dynamics stand out, both of which hark back to core others being ill at ease in a present moment & their apparent fear of any space of truth.
It’s important to know that my next-older sibling died on Easter Monday 1959, playing at his best friend’s house. He was eleven, I was seven. My mother’s way of dealing with her youngest son’s shocking, sudden death was to block it out of her consciousness. Unfortunately, what helped soothe Mom’s heartbreak was disastrous for me, her youngest child; I needed to process the tragedy as much as she seemed compelled to bury it.
There was no grief counseling in the late ’50s. The grief-consumed were expected to set it aside & move on. Totally the opposite of what someone like me needed.
The other possible factor, one that didn’t occur to me until my forties, long after John (a natural healer) came into my life, was that I facilely lied because lying was as much my natural home environment as water is for a fish. Being all big talk & very little do was what I experienced from sibs who were praised as exemplary.
After Ian’s death, my surviving sibs were eight, ten, fourteen years older than I was. Peter & Mim were revered as the brilliant ones, the academically gifted, the golden boy & girl of the family. But both were always more talk than do. What I heard & saw were two people who talked a good game but rarely took the field. So I didn’t either. I came up with terrific ideas for school projects & assignments, just never followed through with the DOING. Was clueless at the time – thought I was as much a lost cause as others did.
Oh, the damage done because people could not stay present, were compelled to pretend, seemed unsafe with allowing “a space of truth to open that others can join.”
Praise be, that just might be my John’s great gift. Staying present, allowing a space of truth to open.
Will never forget my first experience with an open space of truth. We’d been married a short time when, upset by something he had said, I unloaded on John. He looked at me, stunned, and asked, in a loving, firm & genuinely curious voice – “What is the matter?”
Those four words, spoken in a tender yet somehow neutral way, left me drop-jawed, speechless, totally flummoxed. No one had ever asked me to share my truth, distressed or not. ‘Whaaaaaaaat?” is all I managed to get out. Instead of getting testy with my dense response, he simply repeated, “What is the matter?”
I sputtered the reason for my unhappiness, something he had said that had left me feeling raw, vulnerable. My Keet looked at me, soaked it in, then responded with, “Oh, you heard me say….” & repeated, practically verbatim, what I’d sputtered, then continued, “What I meant to convey was…” & went on to say what he’d hoped to get across, without blaming either one of us for the misunderstanding.
Reading Mark Nepo’s words leaves me feeling profoundly blessed, on many levels. With the rare opportunity to be in a family that so clearly demonstrated what happens when fear takes root & sheds toxic shade over everyone. With being someone who didn’t quietly poison myself with internalized messages received (many not intentionally sent), but instead kept acting out my angst until FINALLY a teacher came along who told me, not just my parents, the mid-60s equivalent of, “Girl, you are one hot mess!” ~ ~ words I’d been desperate to hear for six long years. With realizing my natural state was some unknown but out there BETTER . With all the incredible voices who – from & in & through so many expected & startling sources – helped lay down fresh track where I went off the rails. With the miraculous friends who see in me someone who was a stranger to my own eyes & heart. With having the love of someone who is a heart shaman, a tender healer of my tattered spirit.
“Staying present & not pretending allows a space of truth to open that others can join.” My thanks to Mark Nepo for draping language over what I was born believing, yet could not – until now – fully express. What a blessing!