“…It is the time of burning, hate exposed.
We shall have to live with only Kali near.
She comes in her fury, early or late disposed
To tantrums we have earned and must endure.”
In a previous #1000Speak
post I wrote that I hate certain people. That seems a jarring juxtaposition with the concept of compassion.
I was talking about the period of time after I’d left a horrible husband and was just trying to make it through divorce proceedings without my children and I being eaten alive by the machinations and manipulations of a vengeful, angry man whose lawyer rated just this side of shyster. I was talking about the arrival of Kwan Yin and my life, and a beautiful, affirming experience that has stayed with me all these years. And I wrote “I fucking hate those people,” and I didn’t edit that sentence out despite the theme of the post…compassion.
But…compassion doesn’t have room to fucking hate someone…does it?
I also wrote about being determined to take the high road and to stay positive, to refuse to be drawn down to the level of petty spite and tit-for-tat shenanigans that so many divorces are composed of. It was a lofty goal, and one I kept to, and I was proud of myself for not taking one action or speaking one word I could regret.
But divorces take a long time to be finally over, even after the ink is dry on the papers, when there are property issues and especially when there are children. Long after our particular divorce was final, my ex kept it up. I won’t go into it other than to say if there was a Stupid Pet Trick he could pull, he pulled it. Anyone who has been through an acrimonious divorce knows of what I speak. Every time, I sighed and laughed it off, continuing to take the high road — until that one big one that I just couldn’t laugh off.
Really, after crap like this has been going on for years now, how can it not become a bubbling pit of noxious green in a smoking landscape? What’s surprising is that it took as long as it did. Because what I saw, finally, was that I had not escaped the abuse at all. I’d merely escaped close physical proximity. As long as there was anything binding us together, he was going to keep trying to control and manipulate and inflict injury every chance he got, and it didn’t matter to him if he hurt his own child in the process.
Boiling point reached.
One evening, I blew. I mean, blew. I ranted, I raged, I threw things (sorry, but when I let my temper go, it’s the kind that only the sound of breaking glass can assuage), and before I knew it, I was screaming, “I hate that goddamned son of a bitch!”
Finally the storm blew itself out and I collapsed onto the couch. I was hoarse, shaking, out of breath, and utterly appalled at myself. Who was that horrible woman, screaming her fury and shredding an invisible face with her hands and stomping all over invisible guts on her living room floor? This was not the person I wanted to be. That was not the emotion I wanted to be filled with. This was not the evil I wanted to be reduced to. Feeling disgusted with myself, like a failure, I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep. Again.
But then something happened.
When I woke up the next morning, the sky seemed bluer. The birds sounded sweeter. I know it sounds smarmy, but it’s true. My kids both seemed happier, for some strange reason, and so did I. I felt lighter, almost like I was walking an inch above the kitchen floor as I poured cereal and coffee. I felt freer. As I checked backpacks and kissed my children out the door to the school bus stop, I knew we would be all right. And we were. As simplistic as it sounds, it’s true: things got better.
And then I knew that I hadn’t lowered myself at all. What I had done was to release something that had been inside me, eating at me this whole time. Anger and hurt are like an infection under the skin. No, not like – that’s what they are. Pretending it’s not there accomplishes nothing; it only makes you sicker without you even knowing it, until all of a sudden it brings you down. If you don’t acknowledge its presence and lance it and get the poison out, the infection will spread. You will not be free of it until you admit that it’s there and get rid of it. The earth stops shaking and rumbling when the volcano blows. No sacrificial virgin required.
I had no need to feel guilty, either. I’d been afraid that my negative feelings would do damage if I let them out, but I had it backward. They do damage when you don’t let them out. (Reminds me of a doctor I used to see, who told me my ulcers would ease up if I’d just learn to be a bitch.) My anger hadn’t hurt my ex at all. But it had set me free to do the work I needed to do, to clear the landscape and build anew.
Kwan Yin’s gift to me was many things. It was a nod from the Universe, that I was handling things and myself correctly. It was falling and skinning my knee and being drawn onto the comfort of a lap, with no minimizing, just “there there” and all the hugs and reassurance I needed. It was a call to serve, to have compassion for those in my life and for those I don’t know at all and will probably never meet again. And perhaps most of all, it was a reminder that I deserve to be taken care of too, and that means shining a light into dark corners and getting the bad things out. Doing what we need to do for us: self-compassion.
I sat down to write this #1000Speak
post on building from bullying based on my own recent experience with workplace bullying and the Demon Boss from the Seventh Level of Hell, and that is when I realized that I haven’t built anything from it. Not really. I’d sought counseling when I was in the middle of it, and I’d identified it, and I’ve escaped it. I’ve made enough progress that I am no longer a stew of anxiety, worry and fear thrumming through my veins like electricity and tears always ready to brim and sleeping one or two hours a night, if that. But I haven’t gone much beyond that. I’ve found refuge in school and a job where my talents are utilized and appreciated, but I haven’t built
. In spite of getting out alive and moving on, I still feel helpless, I still feel worthless, I still feel sad. I am still afraid.
The poison is still there.
This is the part that really sucks: Even though I didn’t do this to myself, and I am where I am because someone else behaved in a cruel way toward me, it’s still me who has to do the work to get out of it. And there is work to do. Bullying and abuse hurt. They harm. They cause injury and lasting pain that most of us aren’t capable of just bouncing back from. A band-aid doesn’t cut it. And even though it isn’t fair, we, the injured ones, are the only ones who can do the work to make ourselves right again. They do the damage, but we pay the price if we want to get back straight.
It’s not fair. Who ever said life was fair? It has to be done. Cruel people knock us down, but it’s not until we allow them to keep us down that they win.
“…Kali, be with us.
Violence, destruction, receive our homage.
Help us to bring darkness into the light,
To lift out the pain, the anger,
Where it can be seen for what it is–
The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.”
~ May Sarton, Invocation to Kali, from the collection Grain of Mustard Seed (Norton: New York) 1971
My beloved Kwan Yin is always there for me, always, but now it’s time for Kali, time to tear down some noxious walls and dig up some poisonous weeds. Then I can build.