Robbing Ourselves of Joy
Personal demons, we all have them. Almost a full year ago, there was a jail break in which many of my personal demons somehow found a way to erupt into my daily life. I brooded, I withdrew into silence, I had little patience for my students, my colleagues and my friends. My life partner was left wondering “who is this stranger?” With the barriers between inner and outer world disintegrating, I had to choose between engaging these demons or retreating even more from life. For those who have been following here, you know that I chose to engage these demons. My latest effort, the walk along the Grande Randonnée 65, has been the most intense of these efforts. I say “most intense” as it was an attempt to engage these demons without the guidance of an analyst, without the support of the significant people in my life, without the safety net of community and home. I went to France to be alone with myself, to force myself to be present fully on both inner and outer dimensions without the distractions of others and places which had enabled me to “avoid” this needed confrontation.
“Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. They are anything that makes us so uncomfortable that we continually run away.” (Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, p.29)
Ouch! Double ouch! That is likely the best description of how I have been dealing with my personal demons for a long time, continually running away; running, running, running.
“We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, hit someone, or throw a pot as a way of not facing what’s happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.
All over the world, people are so caught up in running that they forget to take advantage of the beauty around them. We become so accustomed to speeding ahead that we rob ourselves of joy.” (pp 29-30)
Guilty! Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, China, Canada! And this is just the running during the last eight years. It was only in France that I came, somehow, to “wake up” and stop running. And even then, it took about a hundred miles before I became aware of the fact that I had been running. Yes, I had literally been running at times on the GR 65. It took a lot to have me wake up. It took intense body pain and a literal confrontation with one of my ghosts to accomplish what meditation and psychoanalysis hadn’t been able to accomplish.
I am not fully there yet, but I am on the right path, my path. And, I am taking it slowly (doucement, aller doucement), one day at a time.