For the next several posts, I'll briefly discuss aspects of Emotional Intelligence.
These are skills that are vitally important as we go further and further into
the uncharted waters of COVID-19
oSocrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Often, the last person we pay close attention to is ourselves. Western culture has us very well trained to look at everyone and everything besides ourselves. We have been taught to rigorously evaluate others, events and things with a critical eye, often relying on the cultural narrative to justify our final conclusions. we have fallen into black-and-white thinking because, well, that's what everyone else does. We're part of an Us v. Them narrative that has fashioned us from birth. It has grown out of a scarcity mentality that is the unfortunate offspring of a capitalist system which drives us to consumerism without thought of finite supply. We can now see where that has landed us.
It's easy to fall prey to systems that unconsciously deplete and separate us from the earth and one another. Why is it easy? Because we're actually separate from ourselves, unconscious of our own motives, fears and foibles. But we're also unconscious of our own expansiveness, divinity and worth.we don't actually know ourselves.
Terrence McKenna once insightfully said, "History is not your fault". I like that. I'm not suggesting here that we are personally responsible for where we've landed as a species. Sometimes the narrative we hear is so condemning that we can do nothing but throw our hands in the air despairingly. McKenna suggests that we can have compassion toward ourselves for the predicaments we find ourselves in, both personally and collectively. Once that has been achieved, however, it is our responsibility to help steer the ship away from the reef as best we can. This begins with self knowledge. If we cannot understand ourselves, we truly cannot understand our brothers and sisters. We all live with elements of shadow and light within. It's our job to bring our full selves into the light with compassion. To see my own propensity for evil is to begin the process of forgiving myself, and in turn, others. To see my inherent goodness, is to recognize it in everyone.
I've wrestled with these ideas since I was very young. Growing up in a household where the possibility of being physically or sexually assaulted was an ever present reality, I saw what "good people" are capable of. Yes, good middle class, well respected, educated people. People who did NOT know themselves, but acted without restraint wherever the alcohol or drug induced stupor would lead them. I always wondered why such things could occur. I've come to realize that separation from self, condemnation of self, leads to a destructive projection of unworthiness and condemnation onto those in your path, even those you "love". The shame that comes in recognizing this, inflames the rage and leads to more harm projected outwards. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
There is another side to this coin. The side that is introspective and aligns with the dignity that is inherent to yourself and others. Inherent to the all creation and to the earth herself. The dignity of the individual garners compassion, respect. Each of us has that divine spark of sacredness as an expression of some Mind far greater than our own, very limited understanding. Until we can find that within ourselves, it will be impossible to afford that dignity to others, to creatures, to Mother Earth.
Know thyself. It's a tall order. It's why I do the work I do, personally and professionally. I won't say there aren't tasks as great as this one. But I do think it comes before all else. From the deep work if introspection comes a wisdom that is then ready to be carried into the world at large. It seems to be the task of this era. It is emotional intelligence. I wish you well on your journey.
When I was 18, my mother told me that she wished I had never been born. I was devastated, but it wasn’t the first time I experienced the deep crush of being unwanted. For most I’ve my life I’ve carried that burden personally, as if some inherent flaw within myself was the cause of such deep rejection. It’s taken a toll.
Then, at almost 60, I came to understand that my birth, and that of my siblings, changed my mother’s life forever, and not for the better. I came to realize that what she told me that day had little to do with me. With each pregnancy, her dreams were dashed, her bright future derailed. Pregnant at 19, unable to graduate school, she was relegated to a life she would never have chosen, with a man she didn’t love. She had few options in those days.
Not all are women are meant to be mothers. Mine wasn’t. Mothers are far from perfect, no matter that Hallmark tells us they are. I have tremendous compassion now for my mother and all that she suffered. I can see now that her neglect of me, which was laid on me like a lead jacket, wasn’t the result of some failure originating within me. It was that she lost her hope, her dreams, and at a very young age. After a lifetime of trying to reconcile my pain, I’ve finally learned not to take what she said and did personally.
My mother drank herself to death when I was 23. She was just 49. I wish I could hold her today and tell her I finally understand. That I see her suffering. I wonder what her future might have been. So many mothers need support. They need an ear, a shoulder, a break.
I wouldn’t call it a happy mothers day necessarily - they never are for me - but I’m grateful to have healed so much, learned so much. I've worked hard to heal this pain. I've tried to give what I never received, especially to my own children. I haven't always succeeded.
Often, those we love the most act out of pain that has nothing to do with us. My hope is to offer grace and compassion to those who struggle deeply. We’re all struggling now. Maybe this will be a time of great healing. Maybe we can learn to be kinder toward ourselves and others, to not take others’ struggles personally, but to lean in and offer help. Maybe.