May 17, 2009

The Wisdom of Playing “The Fool”.

I often find myself standing at the edge of a metaphorical cliff.  Behind me is my current circumstances, whatever that entails.  It is the known.  There is a comfort in knowing what to expect…payoffs for staying in painful circumstances.  In front of me is the unknown.  It is not “comfortable” because there’s a steep drop to the bottom and many unknown factors.  Will I fall?  Will I fly?  Will something come along and rescue me?   All sorts of fears and reasons not to jump into the unknown assert themselves.  To my logical mind, It seems wise to go back from whence I came.  It SEEMS wise, but is it?

Again, right now, I’m standing at the edge of another cliff.  In front of me is something new and foreign.  I have three choices:  1.  I can deal with my present circumstances despite the fact that they are causing me pain.  2.  I can hem and haw, one foot stuck in the past, one in a better imagined future …or 3.  I can lighten my load, look back on all the leaps of faith that I’ve taken (oh, there are many) and decide that this is going to be another time when I’ll jump…trusting that my proverbial wings will spring into action and the “universe” will provide the wind for me to glide upon. 

This time, I’m choosing option 3.  I find that there are usually challenges to this decision.  More reasons to stay behind seem to spring up all-of-a-sudden…perhaps some background would be helpful.  Here’s my story:

I lived in San Francisco for a solid seven years and spent a fortune there.  In fact, I went broke.  I found myself in Southern CA last October and decided to try my luck in Los Angeles.  I had some fabulous experiences, but was still broke and my mother’s home in Irvine seemed the best place to shore up until I got on my feet financially.  The trouble is, for deep-seated reasons, my younger brother Ben, who lives with mom, too, hates me.  Apparently, I remind him physically and otherwise of dear old (departed) “dad”, who treated Ben and everyone else in the family to lots of abuse.  

Ben got physical with me a week after I moved in and I called the cops.  It seemed a sensible thing to do at the time.  I mostly wanted to know what my rights were and the operator insisted on sending someone out to the house.  There were plenty of times in the past when I didn’t stand up for myself.  Now, as an adult, it was time to set some new rules for conduct and appropriate behavior.  I did not press charges but requested that my brother take an anger management course.  He agreed to look into it. 

The fact that my brother got in my face and forcefully asserted his dominance was frightening enough.  What made me really sad, though, is that my mother took his side.  I was seeking comfort from her, and what I got was blame and fear.  Why fear?  She was broke, too, and my brother was paying rent.  If he moved out, she was screwed.  Plus, my other two brothers are estranged.  If I caused trouble with Benjamin, she might lose him, too.  So, I got the blame for causing strife at home.  In her eyes, I must have done something to warrant his anger.  She didn’t see what happened.  What she did see was me super upset and angry.  She didn’t care that I’d been violated.  To her, my showing anger and being upset in her home was a violation to her.  I should add that mom doesn’t deal well with displays of fear, hurt, anger. 

I didn’t have any other place to go, or the means to get myself elsewhere.  As painful as it was, I had to stay and deal.  I decided to stay the hell away from my brother and do my best to get myself centered and situated.  I had some success with that.  Moving into my childhood room was painful and brought back all kinds of memories for me to deal with.  I decided to work through them, seek work, save money if I could, and find a way out.  After a while, I became comfortable in a way that breeds complacency.  That’s what I mean about hidden payoffs.  Here are some examples:

  • I finally had a room to myself…after working in a hostel in SF and sharing a room with 3 mostly random strangers, that was precious to me.
  • My mom provided food, shelter, and sometimes transportation…the car for the day, rides to the Metrolink
  • I knew what to expect in some ways
  • There are five awesome kitty cats that I completely adore and that offer me comfort…cats have always followed me around…I’m like a pied piper for felines
  • There are other creature comforts, including a lovely garden to enjoy
  • I wanted to help mom get her house organized and “feng shui’d”

I believe that in order to get to the next level, we have to grow beyond our current circumstances.  I looked for ways to leave, but I was too comfortable in some ways.  I thought, I’ll wait until just the right opportunity presents itself.  My brother and I were keeping our distance from each other.  His slamming doors in my face, saying spiteful things and generally being a ball of rage sucked, but at least he was staying away from me physically. 

Mom and I were working out some important negotiations between us.  I came to the realization that she could not provide the kind of support I was looking for.  I had to find that from myself, my friends and, occasionally, strangers.  Things seemed ok.  Not great, but okay. 

The truth is that things were not “okay”.  I was sick more often than I should be.  It took extra effort on my part to connect with myself, to find my own voice.  My spirit was dampened.  There are a lot of things that my family hates about me, unfortunately.  Although I was dealing, I wasn’t thriving.  Things came to a head when I asked mom what she wanted most for mother’s day.  Her answer?  Make peace with my brother and appologize for calling the cops.  Sorry mom, not gonna happen.  I refused to appologize for standing up for myself and we battled it out in a bitter arguement. 

So, again, I find myself standing at the edge of the cliff.  Behind me is everything that I know: the good and the bad…in front of me is an offer of a place to stay with my friend Tony and his wife near San Francisco.  That’s on another cliff.  I decide to make the leap.  Then, the work I’d planned on doesn’t come through…my niece moves in and things seem better at home, plus I want to spend time with her…I don’t have the cash in hand to go to my friend’s place…there are many unknowns…there are so many reasons to stay where I’ve been…maybe I could “deal” with things a little bit longer…

There might be more reasons popping up every second.  And still,  I know I need to make the jump.  I decide that I’m going to take the leap of faith regardless of the comforts that I’m leaving behind.  I look back at the many leaps that I’ve made.  They’ve all been successful so far.  I’m still here! 

I know, deep down, that opportunities will present themselves to me once I fully commit to making the leap.  I know where I’m going.  I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but a way will be shown.  Doors that I haven’t seen before will open up…my spirit and my higher power will take me to a new place…it might be a strange new place with new challenges, but I trust that it will all work out for my best interest. 

I’m once again playing the fool.  Whether that seems wise to anyone else or not, it’s what I know in my heart I must do.  In tarot, The Fool  “is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool’s wisdom and exuberance. On his back are all the possessions he might need. In his hand there is a flower, showing his appreciation of beauty. He is frequently accompanied by a dog, sometimes seen as his animal desires, sometimes as the call of the “real world”, nipping at his heels and distracting him. He is seemingly unconcerned that he is standing on a precipice, apparently about to step off.”

Whether one believes in Tarot or not, the fact is that playing the fool requires much faith…faith in oneself and faith in one’s higher power.  To me, there is much wisdom in having faith.

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