Reflections

Fight, Flight or Surrender…? (Or a Whole New “Level” of Empathy?)

I’m sitting here this morning, experiencing…  something.  Knowing words (even my vast and deep aquaintance-ship with them) will fail to adequately capture, yet compelled to express what I can…  Restless.  Unable to sit still long enough to seek comfort in meditation or other focused activities.  Too grounded in “what is” to escape, too flighty to “act” in any coherent or productive manner, too lost to feel secure, too beaten down to want to try, and yet…

And yet “I” still exist – empowered, connected, secure in my Self, certain of my ability to navigate and survive.  Questioning, but not truly seeking answers, for the rhetorical seems to suffice.  For behind the experience of everyday living is the echoing timbre, the consistent, measured heartbeat of single, simple words…  What?  Why?  Where?  Who?  When?  But not one of them sticks around long enough for a reply to form.  It’s as if the answers themselves are pointless, and the questions a habit carried over from some other time…

I used to play a game at times like these (I started very young, my earliest memories of it around three years of age).  I would sit quietly on the sidelines of life and watch others, then “make up” stories about their lives, based on what I “felt” when I looked at them.  The stories took on more nuance and advanced plots as I aged, but the process was always the same.  I would mostly never know if my “stories” reflected any truth about the people I observed, but the process itself helped me fine tune both my ability to identify and name feelings, and my understanding of people, relationships, and life in general.  It also taught me a great deal about compassion, about putting myself in someone else’s shoes, about real “needs” versus stated “wants,” and about my self, as every such experience was tainted by my own expectations and desires…

Over the past few weeks, I have delved deeper into my emotional cauldron than I have in recent years; there has not been the option of skating across the surface of things, simply naming, ruminating, and letting go.  I find myself immersed, drowning, yet easily able to breathe when the panic subsides.  I have known a rage so real (my own, no less), that the “beast” within me quivers with the need to lash out and devour all within range – friend, foe and stranger indistinguishable in the red haze.  I find myself commiserating with those who act out in seemingly senseless acts of violence, wishing that I, too, could find some relief that way.  But I cannot separate myself enough from the victims of such acts to make such an outcry possible for me…

I have felt so completely defeated that I wished for nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cease to exist in this present time and place.  But I cannot “give up” on my Self, or abandon those others with whom I have so deeply bonded (people, animals, and trees alike)…

So I walk through each day, head spinning, feet stumbling forward, simply trying to acknowledge each new wave or experience as it happens, reeling from the onslaught of sensory and emotional data.  Shielding does not appeal to me, as dulling the experience does not nullify it or erase it; it merely minimizes its intellectual impact, driving my thoughts ever further from my feelings about life.  Such distancing is not true detachment, after all, just a dilution of the poison that will allow me to “suffer” longer…

A few days ago my 17 month old granddaughter visited me in my dreams, just as we were both awakening.  She stood there as her baby self (not the spirit self with whom I have so far interacted), and babbled baby talk at me.  When I acknowledged her by name, and asked if she had come to visit Grandma Lisa, she smiled.  I told her I loved her, and she giggled.  And when I mentioned I needed to wake up, and waved good-bye to her, she waved back…

I found this encounter significant for a couple reasons.  One, it was the first time she projected into my dreams, and she did so as her current, chosen form; that seemed huge to me, that she now has such a strongly developed sense of self.  Two, it seems to take our bond to a whole new level.  If she is expressing such an ability in dreamwalking, at this age, I can only feel excitement about where it might lead…

Yesterday I attended a kids Halloween party with my daughter and grandchildren.  It was noisy, chaotic… frantic almost, as if the need to “celebrate” something, anything had long since overwhelmed the significance of form; it didn’t matter why we were all there, just that we were.  My granddaughter appeared shell-shocked through most of it, her usual curiosity and fearlessness swamped by the immensity of the experience.  I could relate, and yet I found myself eager to engage.

We wandered around, aimlessly, while my grandson played, and I found the “stories” seeking me, rather than the other way around.  I saw smiles and laughter, intense enjoyment, plastered on faces beneath vacant eyes, as though the masks on everyday faces had long since lost touch with the reality of individual lives.  I saw surprise, and glimpses of presence, when I reached out to acknowledge individual beings, complimenting costumes, praising performances, or thanking them for being there.  That first moment of shock in those vacant eyes when they realized I was speaking to them was… I don’t know…  heartwarming and heartbreaking, all at the same time…

There was a young boy who no doubt practiced for weeks to get on that stage and sing for a crowd that never even looked his way.  He and his father walked away dejectedly from the stage.  When I caught up to them to shake the boy’s hand, and tell him I thought his performance was amazing and to thank him for performing, neither he nor his father knew how to respond…

Then there was the man I was suspicious of.  No reason, no overt acts that appeared irregular, inappropriate, or threatening, and still…  I actually warned my daughter to be aware of him.  I found myself stalking his presence through the crowd.  I even had my daughter pose for a picture so I could capture his image in the background, just in case…  In case of what?  I have no idea.  But my feelings were real.  And whenever my eyes crossed paths with him, I felt this tension, this certainty that a breaking point was near, and that certainty triggered fear…  More than once he locked eyes with me, and though I “felt” calm, nonjudgmental peace toward him, I could not deny the desperation that shone back at me.  His eyes were not vacant, and he was clearly in pain…

A friend recently suggested that perhaps this is just the way things are now.  The past is no longer an adequate map for navigating the present, because its rules no longer apply.  The future can no longer guide us because our goals cannot align with the way things are developing; it is too unpredictable, unstable and unstoppable to shift.  There is only now – fight or flight in each moment, and radical “surrender” to what is, forfeiting all hope of wants being met, and most cases of need…

But I cannot help but wonder if this is all just a reflection of a whole new level of empathy…  Which would actually represent “progress” would it not?

Hmm…

 

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7 thoughts on “Fight, Flight or Surrender…? (Or a Whole New “Level” of Empathy?)

  1. Hi Lisa.
    I have read quite a few posts from my friends ‘across the water’, and these are indeed ‘times that try a person’s soul’.
    The probability of a European heritage and our continuous history of trials, tribulations and cruel mistakes gives us a pragmatic outlook, even if that sometimes chips away at our senses of justice.
    The weight and the pain which falls upon the individual is a variable quality dependant on so many factors and yet each in their own way can make their own pathway through.
    For none of us are truly alone, and those of us, the vast majority who care for each other and not just ourselves will, in the finality prevail.
    Best wishes Lisa
    Roger

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow Lisa this resonates so deeply right now. The dark night of the soul seems to be engulfing everyone right now. It’s like the world is getting ready to emerge from the depths of the earth into the light. May your granddaughters smile lift you and light the way forward. Much love ❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

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