“How are you taking care of you?” The question was posed as if I should actually know what the hell he was talking about . . . “what do you mean?” “I mean, how are you going to get your needs met without her? You are responsible for getting your needs met . . .” It was one of my early counseling sessions. I had begun attending as a result of a marriage that was disintegrating. My divorce came like the proverbial thief in the night; a silent, unexpected, incomprehensible villain wielding a razor-sharp stiletto that cut to my core with dread-filled precision and speed.
I was the good kid . . . always was. I studied hard, stayed out of trouble, listened to Mom and Dad, never got my folder pulled in middle school study hall, played sports, volunteered for service oriented activities, got elected to church council as a college student, paid my own way through the university, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs, drove my drunk friends home, married, had 2 wonderful kids, worked to make my self better and get better jobs, bought the house, then the next house, and thought a 16-year marriage was doing fine.
‘Trouble about divorce, is that when the door is opened, the truth is an uncomfortable visitor and the looking glass reveals a self that bears witness and culpability for past shared events, and the internal voice must finally say: “I am the reason too, why this happened.”
During those first couple of months, I am now convinced; I really had absolutely no idea what his question meant. As my heart-mind continued to ponder this question, it became my first focal point, the first bone of a skeleton on which I would build the body of my new life. A second question, not sure if it came chronologically second, but probably second in its imperative: “What do you want your life to look like without her?” This question, too, so sonically sheared the truthing-wall, that I contemplated it for probably longer than a year and half. For me, with this single question, my counselor directed my thought-energies in a forward momentum while simultaneously highlighting the importance of my own self-examination and self-determination. In one stroke, the question cracked like a whip and over time, I found it often snapping me out of periods of self-loathing, shame and bouts of a victim mentality. Although I am uncertain if he is aware just how much he helped, the fact that he had been a practicing psychologist for nearly 40 years gave me suspect that he knew exactly.
“But how will I know when I am ready . . . ?” I asked this question to him multiple times, in multiple ways, from multiple angles through multiple voices . . . on different days, different months and even different years. Over those times, I attached varying end phrases to this beginning, “. . . to move on?”, “ . . . to make [this choice or that choice]?”, “. . . to let go of [her, of my own guilt, of the pain, of the indecision, of the house, etc.]?”
His answer, grounded and steadfast, . . . was invariably, the same . . .
“You will know.”
Three words. That’s all. During the darkness, all I could do was hold to hope that this guy knew what he was doing and that he was right. As I moved more into the light it became very, very clear . . . he knew what the hell he was talking about . . . He was right.
“. . . and so . . . it is time for me to shed the guilt and shame of my youth, shed the expectations of my fathers and mothers, and embrace who I truly am.”
There are many ‘aha’ moments in life, some arriving with stunning quickness, like a sudden, thunder-clapping lightning strike amidst a mid-afternoon downpour on a long walk. An electric event that purges your entire body of earthly grit, refreshing it with a scintillating, surreal pulse of life and breath . . . as if the skies beckoned the earth to shake . . . waking you from some unperceived stupor, and life – your life, is forever changed.
Others come slowly . . . painfully . . . excruciatingly . . . frustratingly . . . slowly . . . as the germination of some long-forgotten wild-flower seed that shows no proof of its existence or growth underground . . . ne’re permeating the thin membrane of topsoil in a garden of seemingly well tilled earth. Until . . . finally . . . it opens . . . with slow, deliberate motive and eventually, grows fruit in an abundance heretofore unexpected, undreamt of, most certainly producing an aromatic beauty with essence unknown previously to the world of humanity.
An ‘Aha’ thrells with inertia . . .
This is a website about what has become known to me as: ‘the Work.’ We’ve all been involved in the Work to one extent or another. Some as observers; some as fellow sojourners alongside friends, relatives or strangers; some as full-blown participants – either willingly or unwillingly – in the Work.
The ‘Work’ is part of a larger metaphor . . . that of the Sacred Journey. Humanity and the shared experience of its characteristics are a source of constant reflection, struggle, and exploration for our species. Questions about Ultimate Concerns and Ultimate Reality abound in our physicality, our relationships, our logic, and our emotions. When we, as individual humans, experience a tragedy or crisis that strikes to the core of who we are, we can be faced with an emptiness of such enormity, that we experience a shredding of threads that bind us to meaningful existence, and we face the peril of plunging into a figurative or literal abyss. Life ceases to employ color, and all is wept to black . . . a Jonah sized fish . . . a box from which escape is neither probable nor imminent.
In such cases . . . it seems our very soul questions, “What is the way forward?”
The ‘Work’ is also the story of my personal journey into, through, out of, and sometimes, back into – the darkness. In my story, I discovered that the metaphor of the Sacred Journey, and The Work are, indeed, the same thing. My journey is not, nor will ever be complete. For those of you that have been in, or near the darkness . . . you know of what I speak. For those who have not . . . in one way or another . . . your path may one day encounter the prison of darkness. And, in whatever way this website may provide help on your journey, may you find your peace.
“. . . but right now, the inertia of my life is leading me down this path . . .”
And then . . . there are times, when we reside in the place between the desert and the oasis. . . a ‘no-place’ of interminable stasis. A vast, featureless landscape where, while the air is no longer acrid and laden with sulfur, is not yet full of the cool, refreshing, life-giving well water we seek. It is a barren landscape of gray, dread and unseen, a foreboding neutral, time eclipsing all anger and agitation, a speedy standstill where naught is oscillating but pale motion, space in nothing, like living in a line devoid of depth, peace in nothing, rest in nothing, a soul shaped song bereft of voice, as a veil obscures a dimensionless world . . .
And thus, on we walk, seeming endlessly, as we wait to arrive at the oasis.
It is called many things . . . The Waiting Place, Stuck, No-Man’s Land, and a thousand others. It is a place and a time of neither blackness nor light, of agonizing pain nor of brilliant light and ‘aha’ moments. It is a grayness of life and numbness that bleeds colorless stupor where our faith, our patience, our tranquility and our resolve are tested to endurance’s last shredded thread. The single encounter among this vacant landscape, horizon to horizon, is a solitary pillar of our own psyche, mirrored with every facet of our own fear, frustration, pain, anger, anxiety, and self-doubt crystallized since our birth. It is feeling my daughters’ pain as they struggle to adapt to my life choices made as I struggled out of the darkness. It is the husband walking along his wife through anxiety and pain, unable to fix, heal, or make things better . . . it is the wife feeling overwhelmed, powerless to make what is troubling her better, driven to find a solution, but realizing none . . . for now.
“And I know that this will bring discomfort, confusion, pain and unsettled feelings to those I love . . .”
There is a time . . . when the world is overcome by blackness, an emptiness that shakes the foundation of all life and shatters the quickening core. A darkness unparalleled in the physical world. It enters upon a death-knell of selfish arrogance and kills all beauty and wonder. It’s depth, a famine of the soul that grips you . . . emptying your essence into a swirling void of fear and pain. A vile filth-pit, stealing and eviscerating, leaving you bereft of any virility you possessed. There is a time . . . when you reach the end . . . the terminal point of the winding road, when you stand . . . precariously and ominously . . . on the precipice. Looking down, you see the vacuum . . . an immense, overpowering ice-shadow, reaching toward you to steal you . . . deceptively taunting, purring a vomitous call, it declares a vile, poisonous promise to rescue you. Your heart darkens; as fear and hopelessness envelop you . . . you shriek an inhuman scream, beckoning to the apparitional spectres that float closer to you to swallow you as you succumb to blackened dread. Powerlessness takes you, your muscles release, you crumple, and deathly, you fall . . . over the edge . . .