Going Under the Story: part two

What I am currently learning is that the sense of emptiness that is under my story cannot be disappeared through work, accomplishment, addictive entertainment binges or by achieving some illusive validation badge from society.

For years I have been meditating; keeping the house spotless; using self discipline to attend to the small, bothersome things first. The result has been a lack of passion. The result has been a deep moat of isolation around my being. No matter how hard I worked I could not drop the underlying sense of fear of making a mistake that would upon occasion arise like some horror movie violin screeching warning. I had to keep myself under control.

After eight years I am no closer to being in a loving relationship with a man. Art sits in my studio unseen, un-marketed and unsold. My books sit in a cupboard unheralded. The sense of loneliness becomes more and more pervasive.

I have grown in so many ways. I no longer awaken screaming from my nightmares. I have lost four sizes and made my body far more healthy. I have totally reconstructed the sense of power in my physical being. I have paid down a massive debt from my “reverse dowry” divorce.

The friends I do allow close to me are supportive, can be counted upon in illness and show me a model of compassionate growth. They are willing to accept all of me, all of my story.

Nevertheless, what lies underneath is The Upside Down World. And the flashlight I am using to go into that dark place is the word “naturally.” Who I am flows out “naturally” as a consequence of from what happened to me as a child.

Once, in a shamanic retreat, I saw myself as a child under the age of three laying in my bed with freshly broken bones and bruises. The room was dark and I wanted to cry. I was overtaken by the consuming pain of knowing that I could not cry out. He would come into my room. He who could hold a pillow over my head until I passed out; he would come in and this time he could kill me.

And since this memory came back to me as a woman in my sixties, I could allow myself to weep. I sat in a group of supportive people and once again came to the thought, “I didn’t do anything wrong. I am so scared. I am so scared.”

All of my energies as a child shifted as soon as my father arrived through the door. I was on hyper-alert and the assignment was to stay alive. Which of his six shifting personalities would arrive. Would he be the small boy who rocked and cried? Would he be the violent abuser? Everyone has seen movies like the Story of Eve, but I lived with it.

My entire life the survival tactic has been to say, “it was not that bad.” My self encouraging, warrior voice told me to just get on with it.

It was like being in a war zone and the buildings were collapsing, so you look for a path through the rubble. There is no point in sitting and grieving. Getting on with it is the only way to live another day. Keep moving.

But now, I am going under the story. What lies beneath in The Upside Down World is darkness. My bones are broken. My nose and cheek bone are broken. I was used as a sexual anesthetic for a sick man’s pain and my mother stood by and allowed anything at all. Anything at all.

And now I am connecting with “her”. I see “her”: the 18 month old; the three year old; the seven year old. For the first time in my life I am not afraid that feeling compassion for “her” will somehow kill me.

The big journey right now is to understand how absolutely terrified I have been most of my life. Because I am strong enough now, I can see how important it is for my future that I feel into the past.

And underneath it all is the chaos; the terror; the sense that if I did the wrong thing he would kill me this time.

The habit of mind of constant conflict that I hold at all times of my day is to ask the question,”What should I have done? Did I just make a mistake, a wrong choice?”

I can never be sure because I was dealing with an adult with multiple personality disorder. What would please one “being” would enrage another.

My patterns, my coping systems, my rigorous guarding of my boundaries make complete sense to me now. As I go down into the dark, underneath, I see how it has created a field of energy that has flowed out into my life.


My child; my little girl was left alone to deal with terror and there was no adult to comfort her. Until now. Until now. I am with her.

Going “under” the story.

Pema Chondra instructs those who attend her workshops the vital skill of going “under” the story. In her own inimitable way she chuckles as she reminds her students that anything they are feeling; anything they are doing will grow. If a person is practicing a skill it will become ingrained and more powerful.

Six weeks ago, I felt as if it was time to address some of the issues that I have just been pushing down in an exhausting attempt to ignore them. I began therapy again.
For me, going to therapy has a deep taint… I see it as a stain. To admit that I can’t do it alone is a sign of weakness and like some Classical Mythic being, I will have the vultures circle over head. It is a staggering weakness to admit weakness. It is an invitation to shame to admit shame. It is a uniform of the losing team to admit I have been playing injured.

So now, I am walking through the story with the guidance of a skilled therapist. I set myself the task of not being afraid of the fear. And it has been difficult.

For many years I have not cried except for others. A picture of children massacred in Syria will elicit the bleeding grief from my eyes. A television show about those who die alone will immediately trigger the flow of sadness.

But now is the time to go into my story and also to go under it. Once before in my life I connected to the brutality of my own past.

I attended a group session held in Telkwa, B.C. by a group of Catholic nuns who named their methodology Personal Human Relationship Study. We formed a circle and slowly build trust. Exercises helped us to open up the armour that each of us wore on a daily basis.

And as others shared with brave openness, the epiphany struck me. I saw in my mind a picture of an 18 month old child. I was 18 months old when my mentally ill father returned from France with his PTSD and became a dark, explosive and dangerous presence in my life. He went to a psychiatrist and a lot of good that did.

Mere seconds after that image appeared in my mind, the words fell out of my mouth.
“I was so tiny. I didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t my fault.”

I drove an hour home on a Northern isolated highway stripped of the not knowing. When I arrived home, I immediately called my mother. I asked her, “Was I abused? Did my father abuse me?”

She saw the world through her own fractured filter. As a person with Borderline Personality Disorder, she was deeply investing in being the victim. There was no room in the nuclear family for another one.

She told me a story. “I didn’t know,” she said. “I came home and he told me you walked into a door,” she said. “You climbed the car and fell off onto your face is what your father told me,” she said. “I saw him when you were 12 come up behind you when you were doing the dishes and grab your breasts. But that was just playful,” she said.

After that I slid down the wall holding onto the phone and I began to sob. I can’t remember the rest of her words.

I was not yet forty years old but never, once had I connected with a compassionate love with the toddler who was beaten and lay alone in a bed with her bones broken.
How could I deny her empathy and connection? Because I was taught to. Because none of us knew anything. The will to survive comes from bonding with the caregivers. Numbing out; making myself wrong; dissociation worked.

But now the story I live is simply not rich enough in texture and depth to explain the deep well of sadness that I carry with me from the time I wake up until I sleep.
With a loving guide by my side, my intention is to go under the story of my daily narrative and connect to the reality of how I experience life. And as I drive my car, I have Pema Chondra’s lessons to listen to. There is a bigger truth to explore.

What is Cultural Capital?

Cultural capital is a term developed and popularized by late-twentieth century French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. … Cultural capital is the accumulation of knowledge, behaviors and skills that one can tap into to demonstrate one’s cultural competence, and thus one’s social status or standing in society.

Cultural capital is the possession of tangible or intangible assets–be they institutionalized, objectified, or embodied–that promote social mobility but are distinct from financial capital. Cultural capital is measured by the value society places on an individual’s assets in a given situation. Financial capital is understood in terms of the economic power an individual can wield. The third fulcrum of power is social capital. Those who do not in and of themselves hold financial capital can through their connections access funding, publicity or vast network that creates power for themselves.

The movie star Cary Grant is an excellent example of an individual who understood cultural capital. He recreated “himself” by studying how connecting to cultural markers anointed other individuals that he admired. Hiring a speech coach, learning the manners and markers of elegance, dressing impeccably was undertaken to purposefully  transform his presence and power.

my parents who were the children of farmers and skilled laborers from the North of England and from Bosnia, Serbia went after Cultural Capital with a knowing vigilance. They knew and taught me so I could have the cultural knowledge I needed to move in a circle of more highly educated people.

And from that vantage point I read and attended plays. My father read books out loud to me from the public library such as H.G. Wells entire Outline of History. I was allowed to purchase the classical records series at the local grocery store and play the entire series repeatedly. Shakespearean plays were shown on a TV channel and my access to that program became more important than any other viewing plans that evening. My mother sewed clothing that was up to date so that I would fit in to the upper middle class high school I attended. I watched television to understand the world of dance and took dance lessons from the local parks program.

My grandparents were simple laboring people. On my father’s side they were illiterate. On my mother’s side they were barely literate. But I had access to learning in my environment.

A country can build into its structure the ability to enable its citizens to hold Cultural Capital. It begins with free day cares and pre-school programs. It extends to access to libraries, to art galleries, to public presentations of intellectual speakers. The conscious building in of culture as accessible is the way a country protects its future.

And why this is so very, very important is that those who are allowed to study and absorb ideas then go on to have self confidence in their own power. They then go on to become creative thinkers.They look at the future and see a problem and devise a solution. The society cannot ignore the intelligence and creativity that is on fire in citizens, or in new immigrants. The necessity for engineering a manner for these people to enter the gates of the leaders is foremost in the world today.

Norway has an entire generation of software designers and IT experts that have grown up from their farmer third world immigrants. The country provided free services to teach the immigrants how to navigate a new social landscape.

Canada needs to do this as well.

A person who is locked down into a lower class, who is unfamiliar with Western Civilization and cannot read can through design be systematically exposed to the vast world of ideas, history, art. It has been shown to be an effective way for them to utilize their passion and then go on to save that country.


They create small businesses that at a greater rate in Canada than Canadian born individual do. And in the future their creativity may go on to figure out how to protect water, how to prevent diseases.

We, as a society, place too much emphasis on financial capital. There are other methods of bringing value to a society.

It is one of the reasons it is so very important for people to be taught the joy and power of reading. Reading is the most rapid way to improve language thought patterns.
So a society providing free, rich, varied cultural experiences results in citizens who are acculturated.

That doesn’t happen when the citizens are having limited cultural experiences.

We have seen through studies that the people who are struggling and sitting in a lower class can rise up with access to free libraries, to free art galleries, to free lectures.

The other part is to undertake to do as Cary Grant did and know what the markers are for the leaders.

And it is entwined in knowing creativity.

Many people have recreated themselves and garnered more power by studying what is expected by the culture.

But the “markers” for the acculturated are important to know.

I  just explained to you what my parents knew and taught me so I could have the cultural knowledge I needed to move in a circle of more highly educated people.
And from that vantage point I learn even more richness of the mind: about plays, or new books, or new theories. A habit of intellectual curiosity became the driving force of my life.

It is what Cary Grant did… a poor circus acrobat who assiduously studied the culture.
He learned how to walk, how to talk, what to wear, what the cultural history was in terms of art, music, intellectual history and then he spent the rest of his life not just “passing” but by becoming one of the icons of society.

The Fulcrum of Compliance

Today several things came together in my field of attention. First a very conventionally beautiful woman put a post up on facebook and I wondered about the idea of complying to the cultural concept of beauty.

When a woman chooses to have procedures, selects ultra feminine clothing, tilts her head seductively what motivates her? I wondered.

It is exactly what I am working through in my life right now. My mother conditioned me to “be pretty”. I had perms at 4 and 5 and back then the chemicals were beastial. My eyes stung. I could barely breathe. The curlers lifted up my scalp because they were so tight. The concern was that it “would take.”

As my mother made me dresses that restricted my muscular shoulders and shoved unforgiving mary jane plastic shoes on my feet, she reminded me of where my ultimate power lay. “Women must suffer for beauty,” she said to me during these ritual attempts to mold me into a feminine form.

mind prison

The idea of fitting in to a high school that was full of the richest people in my town was entrained in me. We lived on “the heights” where doctors’ houses perched, lawyers’ abodes were custom designed over-looking the lower levels of the town where chicken farmer, mechanics and factory workers lived. Their children went to the “other” high school.

I walked the hallways through groups of girls wearing cashmere sweaters with matching socks; with boys who got a TR3 for graduation. But I was a fraud.

My parents worked four jobs between them to build a house. I was a fraud. I was not interested in being pretty and remaining passive.

At home, I was beaten and molested. At school, I was mocked and strange.

The question of how one goes into the world as a woman is on the table right now. Posts in media are asking the question, “Why have women stayed silent.”

We have stayed silent for the same reason we had ribs removed in Victorian times: in order to fit in. We have stayed silent for the same reason we walk in shoes that destroy our feet. We have stayed silent for the same reason we refuse to speak up for equal pay.

We bleach our hair blonde. We look to our fellow captives to see how they accumulate attention and power and what we see is compliance.

A few woman break out and body build, or fight like hell for the dysenfranchised, or are brave enough to say #metoo.

It is a time of transition. Since the time of the Elysian Mysteries when women held the societal power, we have been ruled by men. Throughout the history since the Mysteries collapsed, we have looked around us to see how other women embrace their own slavery. What gives them attention from men? They move up the ladder because they are not a threat. They are available to be sexual presences in the work place because of the way they dress and present themselves.

We see through our own shadow.

Men do not have these restrictions on them. And it is time that women, each individual woman, sit down and have a conversation with herself. Who am I when I am not trying to fit into a persona? Who am I as a free spirited being moving through life?

From that point, things will change. It moves from being a fulcrum of compliance to a fulcrum of authenticity. I have faith that is where we are headed.

For me, I sit with the question… how was I conditioned? What choices are truly my own? I am curious. And not knowing is the beginning.

A failure of imagination

I have been puzzled when I see those who purport to be on the spiritual path post fear based responses to the “diseases” that immigrants carry. The dis ease comes from their fear of the unknown. The dis ease comes from the anxiety the individual carries about their place in the world. And the question is how do we get beyond Stranger Danger Mindset?

What people don’t understand, even good people, is that when you post a fearful response to refugees you are denying them their humanity. They did not ask for an invading army to come into their village and kill their parents. They did not ask for the drought that wiped out their supply of food. They did not ask for an earthquake to slide their village off of the face of the earth.

To spread the rumour they are dangerous to us MEANS we are sentencing them to homelessness, to starvation, to watching their children die of unclean water. When people post fearful things about refugees, we are denying them their humanity and their right to live.

The way out of this mental trap is to be able to see yourself in others.

our wounding makes us fearful

People who read copiously, are shown to have greater empathy. They time travel, inhabit different countries with different customs and learn to identify with people unlike themselves. The other is just another form of me.

The way out of the Stranger Danger mindset which is allowing us to turn our backs on people who will die without our help is to use the imagination.

Please put yourself in their place. It is what the empathetic person does. Look at that child from another culture and ask the question, would I let a child die? Face your own fearful attitude about life, and open your heart.