Revising & emending

“If your mind carries a heavy burden of [the] past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.”        Eckhart Tolle

Revision is about re-seeing.

Revision:  1. emendation, correction  2. reconsideration, review, reexamination, reassessment, reevaluation, reappraisal, rethink,

Revise: reconsider and alter (something) in the light of further evidence

ORIGIN: mid 16th cent. from French réviser ‘look at,’ or Latin revisere ‘look at again,’ from re- ‘again’ + visere (intensive form of videre ‘to see’ ).

As the stories from my past, those little blots of shame, are exposed to light and air, they lose their substance, do a little cartoon-like “poof” and virtually disappear.  I honestly didn’t believe it could happen.  I took it on faith that sharing them was a good thing to do; I hoped it would sap their power.  I’ll be damned; it did.  If I search for the hurtfulness of that comment by my grandfather’s friend (see post on 2/27), even the memory is as insubstantial as a bit of fog. And the sting?  I truly cannot summon up the pain and shame, even if I try.  It’s gone.

“Revise:  To reconsider [my life] in the light of further evidence.”

Further evidence.

“Most of us can remember shaming events from childhood that felt defining.  But more than likely we remember them because we didn’t process those experiences with parents who were open to talking about shame…  I don’t blame my parents for that… They didn’t have access to the information we have today.”            Brené Brown

For months now I’ve been asking “Why?” these shaming episodes have retained so much energy all these years… and the answers keep coming.  With each new insight, my life story can be emended.

Emend:  to correct.  It’s not about changing the facts, altering what happened to make a prettier story.  It’s about correction; in light of new information, correcting the story I’ve been telling myself for 50+ years.  As I cast off the ugliness of the events I’ve used to define myself, the spaciousness is hard to describe.  The challenge & delight now is choosing how to move forward.

“The quality of my consciousness [today] is what shapes [my] future.”

Game on.fog

Shrinking patriarchs

I want to express profound gratitude to two individuals whose writing and insights have given me enormous comfort and courage as I proceed with the examination of my life story.  They are not alone in the pantheon of the wise and kind, but they are stellar.   Star Fruit 1 Thank you, Brené Brown and Eckhart Tolle.

I will begin with this quote from Brené Brown:

“Our stories of worthiness – of being enough – begin in our first families.  The narrative certainly doesn’t end there, but what we learn about ourselves and how we learn to engage with the world as children sets a course that [may] require us to spend a significant part of our life fighting to reclaim our self-worth…   (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, p 216-217)

Here’s one of the first memories that comes to mind.  I’m a preteen, visiting my paternal grandparents.  We spend an evening at the home of their long time friends, people who have known my siblings and I since we were born. After supper we play a game of Scrabble.  I’m enjoying the experience; not exactly a ‘grownup evening’, but special nonetheless.   When there is a debate about the Scrabble acceptability of a word, I am sent to the next room to fetch the dictionary.

The moment I am out of sight (but not ear shot), Mr. G pronounces “It’s a shame Cathy takes after her mother; she could be a very attractive girl.”  My grandfather concurs, deriding my mother’s body size and agreeing that I am not likely to marry well. At the time, I didn’t even notice that their wives did not speak up; I shut down completely and didn’t hear another word all evening.

How or why has this ‘minor’ incident continued to be so charged?  Well, I’ve answered this question before:  I have given it power for years.  I enhanced its strength because I never spoke about it.  I never even imagined telling my parents what I overheard.  Never.  Why?  Did I believe that they agreed?  Was I already so convinced that I was unworthy and therefore had no reason to complain, since they were just speaking the truth?  Was I scared of what my parents might say?

                                                          * * *

Owning my story does not mean making it my life story – creating my reality by perpetuating the story line.  So, I’ve made a museum.  Actually I think I made it long ago, enshrining the incidents and people who caused me to feel pain and shame; those who shamed me.  The central gallery has contained larger-than-life-size images of my father and his father.  That has been the core, the heart of the collection:  Childhood.  There is also an Adolescent wing.

For many years I’ve wandered these halls, having locked myself in; I was trapped inside.  While there, I regularly re-lived these events and the figures of these men grew with each replay, like characters in a tale by the Brothers Grimm.  In silent action clips, I fed their looming shadows, swelling their images for decades.

As I’ve begun sharing these stories, owning them and sharing them, owning them by sharing them, I realize I’m no longer alone in the halls of my museum.  As I stand in and walk through these halls of shame with others, I see the images I’d created of these men are beginning to shrink into insignificance.  They no longer dominate my life story.  Powerful shame-loss.

The tightly sealed doors, now open from the outside, have allowed others to enter and join me in the museum.  As the enshrined figures shrink, the storybook power that had sustained them is broken, triggering the release of the interior locks.  I am able to leave, to exit these galleries built of my stories.  I own them and now I can leave them.  With the shattering of the spell, I awaken, seeing where I have been trapped and discover that I can walk away!  As I take each step, with each bit of distance, my vision clears.  The museum shrinks and I begin to see so many other elements of my life: things that are also and now my life.

Meaning…

What was the meaning of the quote I posted on Wednesday?

Since I took the sentence out of context and it was significant for me because it spoke to my personal situation at that moment…  Let me first provide a link to the works of Eckhart Tolle.  The friends who suggested I read his work several years ago told me:  “Either it speaks/makes sense to you or it does not.”

I sincerely hope that you find some meaning there, as I have.

“Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.”

This stuck a chord, because I was ‘taking myself far too seriously’.   I had chosen to respond to a situation through my shame filter.  In fact, I had chosen to enter the:                SLOUGH OF DESPOND

You may say…”What the…?”

Allow me to share a wee bit of literary history.  In the 17th century, a writer named John Bunyan (not the American folk hero, Paul) wrote a book called The Pilgrim’s Progress.  It is an allegory, describing the journey of a character named Christian, who encounters characters named Evangelist, Hypocrisy, Pliable, Obstinate and Help, among others.  I think you can get the idea.

It’s not my cup of tea, but apparently it spoke loudly to the 19th century writers, Louisa May Alcott and Emily Bronte.  It was in their works that I first encountered the Slough, when I was a girl.  The expression spoke to me as well.  The Free Dictionary defines the Slough of Despond as:  “Depression, a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity.”

“The name of the slough was “Despond. Here, therefore, [I] wallowed for a time… because of the burden that was on [my] back, [I] began to sink in the mire.”  (from The Pilgrims Progress, The First Stage)

So there I sat, in the 21st century, wallowing in the Slough.  I suppose one could say that the writings of Eckhart Tolle and the support of some good friends took the place of the character Help and pulled me from the Slough.

I am no longer sinking, but doing a lot of thinking.  I hope perhaps this digression was at least slightly entertaining.

And wasn’t that a gorgeous display of radishes and beets in the photo I posted?  Taken at the Brattleboro VT Farmers Market last October.