Thursday, October 29, 2009

Prisoners of former situations

I am reading a very good murder mystery book that I got on sale, "The Skull Mantra" by Eliot Pattison (St. Martin's Minotaur: 1999) that is set in Tibet in modern times. The story starts when a headless corpse is found by a prison work gang which includes a veteran police inspector Shan Tao Yun who is in a Tibet prison for offending the Party in Beijing. Shan is a Buddhist and very wise and he observes his fellow prisoners even when they are released although few were. He remembers the ones from his time as an investigator:

"Everyone knew of former prisoners who never adjusted, who were too scared to leave their beds, or who stayed bent forever as if chained, like the horse, which, once hobbled, never tries to run again." (pg.63)

I have come across times in my life that I thought were brief and troublesome and later find out that when some time had elapsed I discovered I was devastated by the experiences of that time. I think many overweight people have this in their lives and that overweight is a way of compensating for it.

Such was a time when I was betrayed by someone that I thought was my best friend. I went on to better times and just put it aside but at the time I was numb with pain. Then lately I started to have dreams about a house I used to live in as a child. In the house was someone who was a relative of mine and he abused me as a child. I could not understand why I was having this dream over and over and the events were different from what had happened. I thought I had dealt with this relative and the memories. Then as I was writing in my journal recently about that dream, I realized that the dream was an echo of what happened between this so-called good friend and myself.

I had forgotten that when this friendship ended, it took away all of my confidence and left me with a huge mountain of anger. It took a lot for me to trust him as a friend in the first place and he used me, and then I realized that on some level I knew it. I wanted so much for him to be the person he wanted to be that I conspired with him in his games. There was a reason I dreamed of that long ago relative who abused me as a child for he was someone who was one of my caretakers. I wanted him to be who he wanted to be too. I was playing the same game too. That happens when you don't look at what is happening around you, you play the same games over and over again. I played the same game again. Then the anger stayed inside of me festering until I started to have the dreams about that relative who is luckily enough to be dead now. I became depressed because like the child of yesterday, I blamed myself as I blamed myself for the failure of that friendship.

In my dream, I had taken my old house that I used to live in and put my old work site there and transposed everyone. That is what dreams are. They are rarely about the people who the dream and the actors look like. After that old friendship ended, it was a time when my favorite relative died. Everything seemed to have crashed and I caved in on myself. I became like one of those prisoners who walked as if I had irons on my legs for I was as a child. I was no longer in that awful place. Good times had come to my life and I could not believe they had.

Often we become our own prison guards. I look up at the sky and notice how blue it is and that the clouds are beautiful. I can move my arms and legs any direction that I want. I know that this quest to be healthier is not just to be slimmer or even to be stronger but to heal. There is no doubt that like so many people, my injuries are deep and there is no fault that should be attached to me. I felt I had to hide the hurt and pain from the breakup of that friendship and that somehow it was my fault. It wasn't. It wasn't anyone's fault really. I am not going to feel shame for what is just the results of the passage of life itself. Life is what it is.

Years ago, I knew a ballot dancer who was really very good. He started a company that was small but building a good reputation. He came down with cancer. He was convinced that the reason he had cancer was because he slipped up somehow and let it in his life. He thought he could control life itself. He was trying so hard to find out what he did wrong. Then as quickly as he danced into our lives, he was gone. I was young enough to feel perplexed too. He was so young and so beautiful. No one can control life or death. Life is what it is and so is death.

For me, the trick is to not get bogged down as those former prisoners that Shan observed and to work hard to throw off the chains. It isn't easy doing it, but it's not impossible. It does take hard work and the capacity to be honest with oneself and not to blame anyone. Sometimes, it takes years to get over devastating experiences such as the former inmates of death camps. Some did it and others did not. I am not going to write down why those did not. I am only going to write what works for me right now. I need to be honest with myself and not blame anyone but let those feelings float on the rafts down the river. Heaven knows, there are others coming down in my direction that I need to deal with.

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