Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't make assumptions....

I got a call an hour or so ago from my beloved Aunt Margie. She's my mother's younger sister, and in the last ten or so years, she's become more like a mother to me than an aunt.

That said, I do not keep in touch as well as I would like to. I think about her almost daily, but almost never pick up the phone to call, and rarely write. And she doesn't do those things, either. It's like we have all these good intentions, but never seem to act on them.

I've never understood this behavior. My mom and I did it, too, and Mom and her sister, and probably on and on through the whole family. Not just Mom's family has this behavior pattern; my dad's family and I do the same dumb thing.

All my life I've felt guilty, like it's my personal failing that I don't keep in touch. Only recently has it become obvious even to me that phone lines work in both directions, that the mail delivers letters to and from people....

And once I realized this fact, I started wondering even harder why the gap between thinking of someone and acting on that thought exists, seemingly everywhere in life. How interesting.

No universal answers have appeared to me yet; if they do, I'll share them! But I have gotten some clarity about it in the last few days. And as usual, the process that led to that understanding is kind of interesting, at least to me.

I think that for my mother, Aunt Margie, and me, it boils down to insecurity. "If you really loved me, you'd ..." (fill in the blank). In this case, "you'd write or call more often." "If you really loved me, if I were really important to you, you would keep in touch." The fact that we don't do the writing or the dialing allows the other person (and ourselves) to reinforce the false belief that we really aren't important to the other one.

Interesting. I've been reading Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book lately. At first I got completely and utterly stuck on the First Agreement: "Be impeccable with your word." Well, of course! But as I read past the first couple of pages about how our word affects others, I came to the part where he asks that we love ourself.

Um, yeah.... And then I got stuck, realizing that for whatever reason deep in my psyche, I felt incapable of actually loving myself. Why on earth not? The myriad reasons I came up with are grist for innumerable future posts. I'm still not able to say it and mean it, but I'm at least able to entertain the concept. Progress, eh?

But then I started reading more. The Second Agreement is "Don't take anything personally." That one's helping--it allows some distance from the icky things that happen (real or imagined). The third one, "Don't Make Assumptions," is the one that really brought some insight into this business of "if you loved me, you'd ...." For example, here's what Don Miguel says:

In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don't have to say what we want. They are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don't do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, "How could you do that? You should know." ... A whole drama is created because we make this assumption and then put more assumptions on top of it.
I haven't gotten to the Fourth Agreement yet. But just these first three have helped me make some changes in the way I think, the way I operate. I am not beating myself up about not calling Aunt Margie. I feel sad that this is the pattern we've been following, but I am able to see it as one that's profoundly human. And I can choose a different way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Time for a funeral

I think maybe I’m getting closer to figuring out this latest dream series, or at least closer to peeling off the first layer of meaning. Here’s last night’s version:

I’m with a number of other people—family? friends?—getting ready for a funeral. I think it’s Dad’s funeral—it’s not very clear—or maybe it’s Gram’s funeral. It’s also not clear if they’re still alive or not. At any rate, Dad has been ill for a long time, and Gram is, of course, very old. I don’t remember any of this very clearly now, but there was more about traveling from home to wherever this was to take place, about packing, about trying to get everything done in time. Just a very busy dream. Not sad at all, just busy.
“Gram” is my father’s mother, Anna, whose ambition and drive were all projected onto her family, particularly onto her only son. Dad was always busy, always driven to do something, to keep moving. He, in turn, projected this need onto his own family, and we were brought up believing that sitting still, reading a book, or (worst of all!) daydreaming were signs of that cardinal sin, laziness.

This is the second time in the last few days that Dad and Gram have appeared in my dreams. The other night, in the dreamworld, we were traveling somewhere with lots of family and friends (of course). I was in our motel room, trying to pack up to leave. Somehow I’m the one who has to pack up the stuff that everyone else has left. All my things fit easily into my suitcase—I have packed very lightly for this trip—but there is a ton of food and dish soap and wet towels and odds and ends of clothing that still have to be jammed into my suitcase. I end up having to leave some of it behind.

So last night Dad and Anna show up during preparations for their funeral. Interesting. I think the message is that “Dad” and “Gram,” those two hard-driving, type-A personalities that I’ve internalized so thoroughly, need to go. I’m carrying all their baggage in addition to my own, and it doesn’t fit any more. Let’s get them properly buried so that I can move on.

This makes perfect sense. It’s that constantly moving, constantly judging part of me that makes me unable to meditate, to journey, to work properly with my dreams, to just be. Those things, to the Dad-and-Anna part of me, seem so worthless and—the perfect word just popped into my head—unproductive.

Sheesh. Those “activities,” those states of reverie, are the only thing that will help me move along my chosen path! None of this busy-ness that I so often get mired in will help in the least; it only distracts me from what I need and want to be doing. My soul-work gets neglected because it’s done in stillness and silence.

Well. That’s food for thought.