Friday, July 25, 2008

Rocks. Lions, The Twelve Steps and Having Babies

There used to be a professional dance series every winter at the local university. One of the women I went to church with, faculty wife, would buy tickets and six or eight of us would go, and go somewhere expensive for pretty desserts after.

One time we had seats in about the second row of this really small theatre. We think about ballet as airborne, ethereal, delicate ... We saw sweat, and the muscles that tightened and clenched, nipples erect, heard the "thump" after she leapt and landed, and always the footfalls or the slide of her foot across the stage was audible. It wasn't ballet she was doing; but it's one of those, "You can never go back from knowing it's like this," moments.

She was very tall, too tall to be a ballerina in a company, blonde, slender, elegant. After the intermission, she was wearing a yellow leotard. Dandelion yellow. It was just her. She did this dance. She had no props, okay, just her and the music, but she made me see what she was doing so clearly.

She had a bag of rocks. She carried it or dragged it everywhere, and it bent her double trying to shift it. She hated the bag of rocks. And yet ... She'd put it down in a corner of the stage and move away from it, and all the time she was away she'd watch it, then go back and get it. She unpacked it and took out some or all of these rocks ... and then she put them back. They hampered everything she did: got in her way, slowed and bent her, hurt her sometimes. And she couldn't give them up.

There has to have been a transition I can't remember; I remember the ending. She squatted on the stage and her body strained hard and she reached between her legs with both hands and gave birth to this bag of rocks. The part I can't remember is how we knew it was inside her; it had been outside, but giving birth is unmistakable. I was in labour with Tom from two a.m. until they found out he was oxygen-deficient and did a section cuz the labour wouldn't progress, the cervix needs to open 10cm and mine never got past 6, even with the pitocyn drip they used from 9 a.m. to make the labour. I had hard contractions every three minutes from 9 a.m. when they started the drip til 8 or so when they said we have to do the C-section.

I have never done anything that was harder physically. It starts out being the kind of hurt your muscles GET from labour, from work. Carrying or pushing. I think now Lamaze breathing is a type of self-hypnosis -- it didn't work for me. It hurt more than I could have believed: full-intensity every three minutes, there wasn't time for me to get a normal breath in between and I was sweating and crying. Months later, the resident who'd been with me told me that there was something about the angles of the uterus and pelvic saddle bones. That baby would never have come out; I'da just kept doing that until one or both of us died, if it wasn't for the section, and I'd always have to have sections if I had another baby.

So somehow, this dancer convinced us she could give birth to this bag of rocks, and she did. After that she was able to treat it kindly or lovingly, and then walk away from it forever, and you could see in her posture that she WAS free, finally.

I've always thought of my own bag of rocks since then. The people-pleasing and the lies, mostly, for me -- they were a bag of rocks, heavy ones, I carried around all the time and they prevented me. And I couldn't leave them, and sometimes I was even aware, this is me putting another rock in my bag. And God gave me what I needed to put it down.

I did a course at Div College, we read St. Benedict’s Rule, and had to write out our own Rule of Life. “Shit,” I thought, “I don’t have one.” But I do. I had to learn, the hard way, the Twelve Steps, starting over 20 years ago. So in my daily life, I do things that St. Benedict would have recognized – I pray. I meet and talk and listen with others on the journey. I do something just like an examen. I read St., Francis of Assisi’s prayer, “God, make me a channel of your peace …” And I’ve been told that the way to get the things I want into my life is to LIVE that prayer.

One of the most important things, and hardest, was Confession. You know, Anglicans are kind of dry about confession. We do it all in a group in the service on Sunday morning, and no-one has to say anything out loud. There’s no private confession on Saturday evenings. That’s probably good – how would you STAY in a state of grace all through Saturday night?

Step Four is “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Step Five is “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Ugh. Step Six is “Became entirely willing to have God remove all these defects of character,” and Seven is “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Four and Five were very hard. There were things I was deeply ashamed of having done. And the person I was going to tell – well, people who were supposed to love me had this habit of going away and leaving me alone when I didn’t do what I was supposed to. I had to tell someone I love the worst things I’d done – I was very afraid of what would happen next. He’d go away. I knew HE wouldn’t, but that’s what had always happened and I couldn’t see past that. What was more frightening was knowing what would happen if I didn’t. I’d be the one who went away. I’d have stopped being honest with the one person in my life I’d committed to myself to be honest with … and I’d stop being able to face him if I wasn’t. And, I’d go back to the life I had before, when I acted like a good girl, and did what I was told, and wanted to explode all the time. I didn’t, mostly, I did other self-destructive things. On the first Sunday in Lent, last year, I did it. I gave it all up to him. And that’s when I got free of that bag of rocks. I was like a bunch of helium balloons, that someone had let go the string of.

On the Thursday, I met with my Parish Priest, and did “The Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent”. Confession and Absolution. I’d told him – I’m not telling you what I DID – I’ve done that. When the time came to fill in the blank, I just said, “The things I gave up to Bob on Sunday night.” It was enough. Steps Six and Seven. Then there was making amends … That’s a story for another day.

I go back sometimes and look at my bag of rocks and pick it up, and sometimes I even carry around new rocks for a while, an experiment ... But way deep inside, where babies grow, I KNOW that bag of rocks is NOT me anymore, and I don't have to have it, and I know how to put them down if I do carry them. And I'm upright and free.

All right, having a baby is hard, hard work. It was awful when I was going through it, and I'll admit, I begged them to turn off the pitocyn, just for 10 minutes so I could stop crying and get a grip. They couldn't. Poor Steve, the resident, was almost in tears telling me he couldn't.

AND I GOT THE BABY AND I'D DO IT ALL AGAIN IN A HEARTBEAT. Your body forgets pain. I remember that it hurt that much and it is impossible to go down inside and make it hurt again like that so I can feel it. Women have more than one baby because your body forgets and the end results are worth everything you give for them. I remember the shame and fear I had before I told someone what I’d done and who I’d been. But they don’t hurt me inside any more. And feeling like this is worth what I did for it.

All that was triggered by the Inward/Outward message in my e-mail box this morning:

It's heavy to drag...

William Stafford

It's heavy to drag, this big sack of what
you should have done. And finally
you can't lift it any more.
Someone says, "Come on," and you
just look at them. Trees are waiting,
mountains. You never intended
that it should come to this.

But Now has arrived and is looking
straight at you, the way a lion does
when thinking it over, and anything
can happen. It's time for the cavalry
or maybe the Lone Ranger. But they
won't come. Maybe the music will
spill over and start it all again.

Source: The Way It Is, New & Selected Poems

I was gonna share that with a friend and say, "I know what this is," and it turned into this post. I never intended “that big sack of what I should have done” to come to what it was, and the Lone Ranger isn't gonna be able to rid me of what's inside me. But the Now can if I'm prepared to cooperate with it. And the lion looking at you thinking it over ... Lions have been important for me the last couple of years – two years ago, I listened to Bruce Cockburn alla time -- "Had another dream about the lions at the door and they weren't so frightening as they were the time before and I'm thinking about eternity. Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me." And now, lions and ecstasy are linked for me.

You’ve heard this before, if you’ve been hanging around, but it’s a new video and a live version.


Wormwood's Doxy said...

It's a beautiful post, Kate---honest and true.

I'm glad you were able to confess and put that bag of rocks down. I've been there, and done that---it was so amazing to realize that I was LIGHT! (And you can read that however you want to...)


Kate Morningstar said...

Thank you, Doxy! Yes, I was Light. I'm not afraid any more, not in the same ways anyway, and people are different with me. It's a great gift. I'm glad for you too!

Jan said...

Kate, wow. What a beautiful post where you tied your life, the dance, and all our lives into this truth. Carrying that bag of rocks is such a wonderful image.

When I spent five weeks at the Meadows Treatment Center for depression in 1995, I remember the counselors would have people carry things around--Like a huge trash bag of stuff to signify the garbage we carry around with us all the time. Thanks for reminding me of this with an image that evokes the heaviness much better than those other bags.

Thank you so much, Kate.

Kate Morningstar said...

Thank you, Jan. I think depression is one of the seven levels of hell. Please God, we never get back there.

Pagan Sphinx said...

There are people who have weighed me down. Gratefully, not that many. One I have chosen to get to know in a different light and we are both the better for it. The other two, I have chosen to sort of leave behind. Some talk about it as though I've burned bridges but I have seen it as entirely a matter of not only my freedom but my emotional survival. Sometimes I feel guilty about it...

Thanks for a thought provoking post. As always.