This piece comes out of a writing prompt – when you read the word ‘mother’ consider mother including society, culture, extended family, religion, and institutions.
TELL THE NONFICTION STORY THAT YOU DON’T WANT YOUR MOTHER TO KNOW. YOU KNOW THE ONE. DON’T CENSOR YOURSELF.
My parents loved to entertain. It was one of their uncomplicated pleasures. I remember lots of people milling around the small living room of our apartment (the very room that was my bedroom at night), laughing and telling dirty jokes and stories.
I was the official “would you like some hors d’ oeuvres” as I walked amongst the bodies of my parents’ friends.
I can still taste the feeling of having an important job to do.
When I was in my late teens my parents had another party, this time in their home in Los Altos, their very first home.
I had outgrown passing out snacks and I see myself standing on the edge of the living room, next to the fireplace. There is a woman sitting in one of the upholstered chairs, swaying slightly, with her eyes closed and her head slanted towards the heavens. I don’t remember how I know she was a musician – I think a pianist. I also don’t remember how I knew she was lost inside some piece of music.
You know that place . . . getting lost into something bigger than yourself, that sweet, sweet enchantment that comes from forgetting yourself for a moment. Losing yourself inside the music you are playing or listening to, sinking into the soil and the leaves of the plants as you garden, soaring weightless as you master the high jump. That delicious moment when the world around you, the thoughts inside your head disappear.
What I can still see clearly is the ecstasy on her face. I can see her husband standing at her side in an otherwise empty room. Most of the other guests were in the kitchen or family room.
I am not sure if I would have this memory – the simple, lovely image of this woman living in her own transported world at that moment if it wasn’t for my mother’s reaction.
My mother’s reaction, after all the guests had left and she could be free to complain. She found it rude and completely inappropriate and annoying . . . and if I read between the lines . . . threatening.
I have to remind myself at this point that other than her husband no one else was in the room (except me, to the side, as I remember it), which says to me that no-one had been “harmed” here.
What stands out to me, wondering why this memory comes to me at this moment, is the world’s admonition against introspection, walking to your own drummer (or pianist in this case), and allowing yourself to get transported into something other than the “party” at hand.
A bit of a tangent here. In George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo (a remarkable fictional tale of Abraham Lincoln letting go of his beloved son, Willie, who died at the age of eleven) Willie has let go of his earthly body and is in the moment of transformation. He does a dance and a jig. Throwing his hands wide into the air he sings “ALLOW, ALLOW, All is Allowed now All is allowed me now. Getting out of bed and going down to the party, allowed. Candy bees, allowed, chunks of cake, allowed! Swinging from the chandelier, allowed; floating up to ceiling, allowed.”
He goes on: “Whatever that former fellow (willie) had, must now be given back (is given back gladly) as it never was mine (never his) and therefore is not being taken away, not at all!
As I (who was of willie but is no longer (merely) of willie) return
To such beauty.”
ALLOW, ALLOW – breaking the shackles of . . . what . . . the constraints we buy into, the being good/rebellious for being good /rebellious sake, the belief we are what we are told we are. Breaking the shackles of the conditioned mind and ALLOW, ALLOW our deepest longings, our very own song.
And returning to such beauty!
I am humbled by what it has taken to tell the truth I didn’t want my mother to know. I am humbled by the power of wanting to belong. I am humbled by the fear of being misunderstood. It is a reckoning to see, really see, the cost we pay for following society’s distractions, for getting caught up in the throes of the collective beliefs that seem to dictate our lives and divert us from such beauty – the truth of our being.
And oh, the irony here. The story . . . the truth I didn’t want to tell was not about the abuse I experienced, although I didn’t want to mention that either.
And then . . . deepening the irony here – while there is the ego’s requisite shame . . . and regrets . . . around abuse, about the hurtful things I have done to people in my life, along the way, about being profoundly self absorbed for so much of my life, about being blind, about blindly following other people and ideas, about cheating on an important exam – these are not what come to me as I contemplate the question being asked here.
No, what I really didn’t want to tell . . . what I kept to myself was my inner life. How I felt, what I desired, the night-time and day-time dreams that I cherished. I shielded this, I nursed it, I kept it tightly embedded in my chest and heart.
Instead, the greatest impact on my life has been hiding my soul, my essence. Not allowing myself, not being able, to shout from the mountain top the unfettered, unwavering joy of being alive. Simply that.
Of looking within. ALLOW, ALLOW
Of tasting the sweet purity of what is real – what is true. ALLOW, ALLOW
Of crying with grief for the pain I/we feel. ALLOW, ALLOW
ALLOW, ALLOW the water, blood, heart, and marrow of life – unrestricted and uncensored – to overflow and permeate and move on its own, as it will.
I know I am not alone in the masquerade. I look around and see my fellow beings struggle and, at times, question themselves. I look around and feel my fellow beings’ pain, reaching out for each other and something, anything, to blunt the feelings that confuse and scare them.
What I think we want more than anything else is to live in what is real, to experience the freedom of being ourselves, to know love, no matter what – explore what it means to be alive, to be fully and completely present to the truth as it appears to us, day in and day out, moment to moment.
I know that is what compelled me . . . that is what kept me looking and looking, outside myself in the form of reading and teachers and philosophers and inside myself, following the bread crumbs from my soul. A quiet, still voice inside kept me focused. No matter how long or lost I got into the world’s distractions and my own wounds, the steady drumbeat of my soul reminded me to “remember”.
Remember what really matters.
Without any need for proof, other than the deep alignment and holding I feel, I know there is a presence . . . a silence, permeating every cell of my being and is the coherence of everything we see and touch and interact with in our world.
This presence, this “other-worldly” intelligence has made itself known throughout my life, sometimes quietly and sometimes loud enough to wake the dead; and has emboldened me, over and over, allowing me to leave the party no matter how many times I was frightened or had to pay the price of not belonging or ended up hurting someone’s feelings or sensibilities, or walked directly into the unknown.
And now, as the new captain in the house, guides my every movement. No, in fact, IS every movement. IT is wholeness itself. It is completion itself. With gentle compassion presence revealed that the party and the complaint; the introspection and the pains, the music and the disharmony are all of one piece. Imagine for a moment, compassion for everything . . . everything. There is nothing outside, there is nothing wrong, nothing at odds.
That is one mighty and strong presence. And profoundly real; the realest thing I know, the realest thing I can even imagine.
To invoke this presence, we must go beyond that which confines and imprisons us. ALLOW, ALLOW. This presence, this love, is an energy and speaks its name again and again, quietly and fiercely, from within all of us. It is up to us to turn inwards, to listen, and follow its sound. Turn inwards; Introspect, reflect, contemplate the inner landscape. Nowhere else will it be found, and no one can sell or rent it to us. It is to be remembered, allowed to grow in the very core of our being.
ALLOW – ALLOW.