Today our twenty-two-year-old son announced he’s joined the crew of a traveling carnival. What do I do with this news? Should I be happy he’s no longer earning part-time wages at a dying K-Mart? Should I be terrified of all the peculiar dangers awaiting him on the road? I can’t wait to take the news to my renegade fringe-Catholic community of fifteen aging souls, where I can count on everyone’s prayers, chuckles, and authentic love.
What else do I do while on my own wild carnival ride? Perhaps explore my responses with unflinching honesty, perhaps blog about them. My passion is for what lies beneath the surface of random events and encounters: the complex emotions, the not-so-obvious layers of meaning, the spiritual dimensions. I have journaled for many years, and have recently published Ollie Ollie In Come Free: A Memoir of Swallowed Time. My lens for exploring life is colored by depth psychology, my spiritual practice, the communities I belong to, and the family-system healing workshops I lead.
When I was in psychoanalysis three decades ago, I was always told, “Follow your thoughts.” It was astounding where my free associations led, down circuitous paths deep into my psyche. I got to know my own human soul, and began to recognize how much I have in common with others. In meditation I am told to “let go of the thoughts.” And that too is phenomenal. Sometimes it lands me right on the lap of the Divine. Either way, moving past distractions to the core of my being has given great richness to life, and I like to converse with others who have experienced this deeper reality.
So much of what I have learned is about paying attention, and trusting the significance of what I notice. In facilitating Family Constellation workshops, I take in the shifts of energy in the room when certain words of truth are spoken out by members of the group standing in for the client’s ancestors. When I receive body work, I bring to my awareness the tiny, subtle changes in sensations. And during the years when I was writing my memoir, I allowed my young girl’s voice to well up from deep within, knowing it was authentic. How? Because authenticity for me has an unmistakably clear, vibrant energy. The challenge is to open myself to what is real and present in all circumstances. This is how I want to live, to write, and to be of service to the world.
I notice, for instance, how at the breakfast table I have increasingly been shielding my eyes from newspaper articles about crime and punishment, because they make me ache too much, not just for the victims but even more for the perpetrators, for the system that locks people up and wastes entire lives. And so as I take the reform of the criminal justice system very seriously, I wonder at the same time what experiences make me a “canary in the coal mine?” What accounts for my almost unbearable distress over something others are just beginning to question? Does it grow out of my experiences of panic as a child? Out of a surplus of compassion? Do I identify subliminally with an ancestor who committed a crime? Was I imprisoned in a former life?… Is there a former life?…Why does reincarnation not appeal to me, but it does to others?… Perhaps tangling with such random, intriguing personal questions together can open up new energy for social change.
I have spent my adult life learning to attune myself to spiritual reality. It was through paying attention to what wells up from Spirit that I made difficult decisions in parenting my three children. It is also these promptings that have given me in recent years the courage to publish my memoir, to try out for a selective choir at age 60, and to carefully observe from day to day the opening and closing of my heart in my relationship with my husband.
I want to explore the evolving world from deep within my own witnessing self. As the daughter of a historian, I marvel at how societal consciousness seems to shift in crazy quantum movements, yet like Teilhard de Chardin I see the world as a “divine milieu” slowly gathering critical mass. So suddenly in my own country people can marry whoever they like; mass incarceration is being called “a failed experiment”; the Confederate flag will come down, 160 years late. Maybe people just get tired of old ways they never noticed were old. There is a burgeoning of new possibilities, even in the midst of serious backlashes, that fills me with hope. I want to explore the nature of my hope.
I look forward to writing about small events and large ones, always noticing how they are infused by grace. In expressing myself vulnerably about what really matters, I hope to inspire others to do the same.