We cannot see ‘reality’ as it is, for the wiring of our brain compels us to see things as we are.
If this rings as true, let’s take out our compass and check our position again. We look for checkpoints. Even if, at the moment, we feel we are rafting like champs, unless we know where we are, though we might reach land, we won’t reach our destination.
My mentor, Yudit CS, lived in Jerusalem and I, in Australia, but the physical distance between us was never a hindrance to her guidance and to my learning.
So, intellectually, of course, I understood her teachings. And her holistic approach enabled me to begin a practice of active acceptance of What-Was, as it came down in the moments underfoot.
That moment-by-moment practice was challenging. It was long.
It was emotionally messy. Very slowly, I noticed a shift in me.
In my thoughts.
Not yet in my emotions.
Emotions, I’ve learnt, are activated by a familiar ‘signal’ that, in a nanosecond flutter that our eyes or ears relay to our brain. Even before we are aware of it, the signal is already identified as ‘immediately dangerous’ to our wellbeing.
Signals are sounds, words, visuals or non-verbals. In the case of an impending confrontation, they are as subtle as the other clearing his/her throat, a word, a change in tone, a tightening of their eyes, the pursing of their lips, a noticeable in-breath, the biting their bottom lip or the scratching of their head.
Once the alert is released throughout our neural pathways, a ‘feeling’ is then activated within us.
A sudden tightening in the stomach, a quickened heartbeat, a freeze-frame instant. Either way, they all unleash the same flurry of un-thought thoughts.
They prompt un-thoughts that push out words and gestures we might immediately regret, but … too late. They can never be unheard or unsaid.
Once released, the energy these words and gestures carry remains trapped in our heart and solar plexus. It remains, too, almost palpable in the space between ourselves and that other.
Reality check: over the instinctive emotional response of our nervous system, we have no control.
We do, however, have total control, should we wish to exert it, over our response to the thought and gesture activation that immediately follows.
We can if we slow it right down.
We can, if we remember to breathe consciously and slowly exhale.
Strengthened by my newly acquired understanding of life, there came a moment when I began rigging my ego-persona a.k.a. my little raft in preparation for setting sail towards my rainbow-desire.
A genuine reconciliation with my mother via the process of me finding my love for her was the course I intended to navigate.
In fact, I was curious about what such a shift of mindset might feel like.
I wondered where the willingness to open up to these possibilities would lead me.
Now, so many years later, I can confirm that the process has slowly led me to a much healthier, balanced life than I could have anticipated.
It is via email, the only mode of communication I had with my mentor, Yudit, whom I had not yet met in person, that, some 15 years ago, had come the first piece of advice.
Intent on helping me address the chaotic tightness that constantly churned in my solar plexus, which I attributed to the ongoing dysfunctional relationship I had had with my mother, Yudit reminded me that I was not actually a child anymore.
She said that I probably didn’t really want my mother to hug me all day and do baby talk with me. She added that I probably didn’t wish to entrust her with all my little secrets; that I was quite able to tap into my own self-worth while accepting What-Is and What-Was. She suggested that the process was, in fact, as a tailor-made karmic rite of passage into genuine maturity.
With a big sigh, I nodded.
Wise as Yudit was, she was probably right.
In truth, I never had any problem accepting the wisdom of Yudit’s teachings and reasoning, but continually rowing against the tide proved to be very testing of my best intentions.
Energising them was difficult.
Trying to break the habit of feeling and reacting as I had done all my life was nerve-wracking.
Peeling off the mask of my ego-persona, forgetting the past, all of it, even that of the previous moment – and side-stepping them altogether – is a messy process.
It’s a long-haul adventure into our psyche.
Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Well aware that back then, my mother thought my visits were too infrequent, I nevertheless visited her and my stepfather once a month for the afternoon.
As I drove down to the coast where they lived, my brain totally gripped by the survival instinct that activates ‘fight/flight’ symptoms and a plague of What-Ifs topped by resentment, I’d brace myself in readiness for the assault on my insecurity hotspots.
Of course, I expected the worst.
Is it surprising now that I almost always got what I expected?
Sure, I felt vulnerable.
Exposed – helpless.
Obviously, I had not yet internalised what it meant to be aware and awake, present in the moment underfoot.
I had not internalised either that vulnerability is not a weakness.
As we battle against emotional exposure, uncertainty, and risk, our sense of vulnerability becomes the gauge of our courage.
Reaching beyond our fears, we choose where we step with our words.
When aware and awake in the moment underfoot, we choose the best steps we can take in that moment.
When our options are limited, we choose one that is coherent with our best intentions.
One step at a time – or one well-managed wave at a time – we move forward in our expedition of a lifetime.
The much-respected self-help and spiritual author, Wayne Dyer, said, ‘Our intention creates our reality.’ It’s true, of course, but it only works that way when we’re ready to commit to the long-haul journey of self-discovery.
Sometimes, during those visits, my mother and I would go to the beach.
Sometimes, we walked on the esplanade, went shopping, stopped at a café along the way or simply enjoyed the sea view from her balcony.
Pricked by what I was hearing her say, time after time, my resolve to remain calm, open and present for my mother, too abruptly clouded over with the same-old mix of vulnerability, shame and acute resentful non-acceptance of her, as I perceived her.
My perception of my mother’s self-centeredness repeatedly tested my resolution to not let any reactive thoughts drift me further away from the course I had set to reach my rainbow desire.
Her instinct for divisiveness seemed compounded by what I sensed as an utter inability to take responsibility for any failed consequence, whether it was with her friends or neighbours or with me or with Myahr, my partner of many years already.
I resented, too, her unwillingness to consider the appropriateness of a meaningful ‘I’m sorry’ to anyone.
In hindsight, I now understand that, more than unwilling, my mother could not process any thought any differently.
Her persona did not allow her to do that.
And, of course, my mother’s unreasoned suspicion of everyone else’s motives, including mine, pricked me hard and often.
And, I, still driven at the time by my own ego-persona, again felt that in my mother’s eyes, I was ‘not enough’ as a daughter, not enough as an adult – that I, not my lifestyle choices, were a disappointment to my mother. That her ‘love’ was entirely conditional upon performance.
She was the uber Judge.
And that I was powerless to change her views.
Powerless to make her see ‘me’.
Under such circumstances, needless to say, sharing any of my work-a-day apprehensions – among others – with my mother was never an option.
She acutely feared the shame of what others would think of her for having a gay daughter, should they ever find out.
That phobia compounded the level of complication in our relationship. After all, I was already 50 and thought I had done enough to demonstrate my ‘reasonable’ character and value.
No matter what, my ego-persona kept battling the possibility that I was not only unworthy as a daughter but an unworthy human being, as well.
So, of course, on edge, I pushed back every time.
Very tempted to slam the door shut on us – forever.
Though that never helped me feel better, my ego-persona felt that, by pushing me into fight mode, it had done what it could to ensure my self-preservation.
The thing is, wherever our attention goes, our thoughts go, too. And our thoughts dictate the next step. Unless we take charge of the moment underfoot to create a different next moment than otherwise.
The one thing my mother respected about me was my profession. But, it, too, set me up for many anxious moments. Of course, my apprehension that, perhaps, one day, I might be shamed in the workplace was not open for conversation between my mother and me.
As an aside, regardless of one’s level of expertise, integrity and professionalism, it’s impossible for a high school teacher, such as I was, to please every student and every parent all of the time.
Thus, on and off, for the best part of my 40 years career, I apprehended the day when students’ whispers and jokes, either thoughtlessly intended as funny or deliberately spiteful and vengeful, would yank open the doors of the private-life closet in which I lived since I was 19.
Whenever I sensed tension in a student or in a class, I dreaded the possibility that one day, I might be exposed as ‘that teacher. You know …the lesbian’.
At least up to early 2016 when I retired, the cultural expectation was that homosexual teachers, particularly women and particularly those not involved in physical education, would remain ‘in the closet’, as the expression went.
The likelihood of being ridiculed, harassed and vilified – of being ‘labelled’ and potentially losing my credibility was very real.
Obviously, that recurring fear of potential exposure did not do much to fortify my sense of self. It did, however, contribute significantly to my level of chronic anxiety developed in my childhood.
Good news: that worst-case scenario never happened. Nowhere near.
That said, I hope that so many years on, pushed along by social change, the deeply-rooted anti-gay sentiment has begun to wane across all strata of our culture.
In truth, regardless of our responsibilities, activities and lifestyles, over-thinking what others might be thinking is draining.
It’s emotionally exhausting.
Imagining their thoughts as potential threats to our wellbeing creates what we randomly call stress.
We feel the contraction of the anticipated lack of safety and rejection.
Stress and anxiety, I’ve also learnt, are activated by the fear of the gaze of others, the fear of being judged. They are our body’s reaction to the fear of being found lacking and shamed. They come from the fear of suffering emotional consequences we are not willing to suffer.
Saying, ‘Don’t run away from fear. Harness its power instead,’ is a great thing to say. Now that I think of it, that fear of the judgement of being deemed us ‘deficient’ because of one’s sexual orientation – and the inevitable, ensuing feeling of shame – might be comparable to the apprehension one feels when contemplating the possibility of their cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s.
It’s not so much about the fear of ‘losing it’.
It’s more about the fear of the stigma attached to ‘losing it’.
That, too, is about fearing the gaze, the judgement of others.
That, too, is about apprehending the burden of responsibility befalling loved ones or worse even – the apprehension of being left floundering on one’s own.
All that ‘freaks us out’ has to do with our perception of being or becoming ‘less than’.
Back to the main issue of attaining my rainbow desire.
I was my mother’s only child.
Surely, I would tell myself, I should be important to her. She should appreciate me, if only for being a financially independent, healthy, decent human being.
How dare she not!
What if she never budges from her position?
Is she even able to change her mind?
Interestingly, and contrary to frequent advice given to those who feel trapped in a toxic relationship, Yudit encouraged me to not cut the ties with my mother.
Tirelessly, she urged me to hang in there, but hang in there differently.
‘Karmic destinies, CC!. We don’t see them. We don’t know anything about them. We don’t think about them, but their blueprint is the blueprint of our purpose in this lifetime.’
I read on.
‘This time around,’ Yudit had typed in her daily email, ‘the karmic choreography of growing up with a distant mother is one key feature of the hand you were dealt from the start.
Long before you were born, CC, your intended purpose was and still is to go beyond your self to find love for your mother because she has been picked and co-designed to be YOUR mother in this lifetime.
You’ve been too focused on your own needs. You’ve forgotten to search for your real mother. You know, the one authentic one that lives inside the heart of the one you don’t like.
You’ve made your real mother as invisible to you as you were to her as a child.
So, for you, now is the time to remove from your own heart all this negativity about your mother’s temperament.’
Then, sometime later, Yudit added, ‘Heal your thoughts now, CC. Later, they will heal your emotions. They will reduce the fire of your anxiety to ashes. Be a brave warrior.’
Pierre Cardin, the French fashion designer, passed away in 2020. He was 98.
‘I design for tomorrow. I never go backwards,’ he once said.
Gold mindset, that one and, up to us to make it work for us as well as it worked for that man of enduring international fame.
So, dear Reader, what actions are you ready to take here, now, to facilitate your personal upgrade and that of those who are near and far.
No pressure! 😊
Carole Claude Saint-Clair©2021
P.S. Dear Reader, I’d love your support in spreading the word about All Matters of the Heart and Soul of our Culture. Read. Reflect. Share 😊