Constance and I worked for two days this week via Face Time. It was the next best thing to her being here in my sunroom, where we usually write. Here’s a snippet, from yesterday’s efforts, of the many pearls of wisdom I collected over the years from my counselor, Pat.
Pat explained that we’re attached to the illusions we’ve created for ourselves and our families; how we’re supposed to look to the outside world. Thank God I didn’t have to face the Pinterest boards of adorable families in their clever houses–back then. Whether it’s a Fall football tailgate, linen napkins (monogrammed) or a blue blazer, these outward symbols of shiny-happy-familyhood are imprinted in our DNA.
We look around us for signs that we’re on track. In our culture, kindergarten starts at five or six, college at eighteen and marriage hits somewhere in the late twenties. These milestones fall under our cultural consensus. We’re in tacit agreement about this timeline, how and when a young life is supposed to unfold. But when addiction enters the picture, all bets are off.
I saw very early that Sam wasn’t going to hit the marks on our cultural timeline; but I spent years trying to keep him on track. In time, I felt shame that he wasn’t walking in lockstep with his peers. And wondered if the other parents had noticed.
But after a while, my arms got tired of holding up this whopping illusion. The burden got heavier and heavier and finally, I just let it crash to the ground. Exhaling, I relaxed my torso and let the blood rush back into my extremities as I stood solidly in my own truth.
As painful as it might be, ‘doing your work’, as Pat calls the emotional chore of facing your reality, means challenging the illusions that you’ve held, for so long, in a white-knuckled grip.
The ‘work’ is to confront your own reality with the most awareness and availability you can muster, on any given day. Some days, you’ll be more clear-eyed than others.
“So you wake up and you drift back to sleep. And you wake up again and you yawn and stretch, but then you fall back into a deeper sleep. It’s a process, Lynda. Two steps forward, then take a nap. Reckoning with your own truth takes time.”
“Why is that?”
“Because if you woke up all at once, it would just kill you.”