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Walking Into Walls

Posted in Adventures With Humans

Buster Keaton

Back in the late 80’s, I worked at a large film production house in Toronto. The offices were located in two Victorian houses joined together, so the walls and hallways were odd. One morning, I was talking with the assistant to the owner. She was seated at her office desk and I was standing in the doorway that was set into a jog in the hallway, so outside of the doorway there was a wall directly to my right. It was likely that we were laughing about something. When we finished talking, I turned to leave and walked smack into that wall so hard that I was thrown back onto the floor; Buster Keaton would have been envious. Was I hurt? I suppose my ribs were sore, but only from laughing. It was that kind of laughing–from the assistant and me, punctuated with great gaps of no sound, and then gasps for air in that kind of intake shriek. “Did this really just happen? Did I do that?”  A lesser bit, like stumbling on a stair, might have been embarrassing, but this was so over-the-top that I owned it. Of course, if nobody had been around to witness my crash then it might not have been so funny. It was in the sharing of the event, being witnessed by the ‘other’ that made it memorable.
Self-worth. Despite my walking into walls, I was offered a job in the company’s production office which I declined because I was a complete moron. People would have killed to have a chance at that job, and yet I let it go. Self-worth. Little did I know there was a battle going on inside me; there was my DNA and my potential to achieve, pitted against a whole slough of garbage mirroring from my childhood. I’ve written about the three ‘events,’ here, but the short version is, an initial argument with my father when I was less than 9 years old, my father’s suicide attempt of 1972, and then later, my mother’s own threat of suicide and my yelling at my instigating grandmother so hard that I burst a blood vessel in my left eye, and had a bleeding nose. These events contributed to my emotionally shutting down as a self-preservation mechanism; I stopped having opinions, my God the wind just blew through my head with nothing to stop it, certainly not self-worth. How about a “wait a minute! Is this how my childhood is supposed to go?” And I know many have had it worse, but still don’t you just get spitting mad? Don’t you? Don’t you get MAD? I mean, a little, “ARE YOU OKAY,’ might have been helpful, and you know we all come into this world with faith that it’s going to be good, damn it! I would like to posit that if none of the childhood stuff had happened, I would have taken the production job at the film company. Or, who knows, maybe landed on the moon, because everything would have been different. There was nothing I couldn’t do until the shift came and that shift is a sneaky thing; a subtle message that you don’t matter, so your grades begin to tank. You stop expecting  good connection because subconsciously you don’t think you deserve it. ‘Sounds like a lot of whining, but DON’T YOU GET MAD?  Of course there’s the old saying, “your parents did the best they could.” Well why don’t you just write that on a fish and hurl it over a bridge. I used to let this make me feel guilty for being so angry, but you know, even if you are ‘doing your best,’ but manage to drive over my foot, I’ve still got a broken foot. Are you going to simply park the car and go in to make dinner? GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. My whole generation has had to deal with parents who ‘did the best that they could,’ so never talked about emotions, or pain, or grief, and this is why we’re all in therapy or on medication, and this is why the leadership of the world is in the hands of emotionally adolescent men. Go ahead and google Putin’s mother; childhood makes all the difference.
I’m surrounded by people who believe that healing the psyche, you know, trying to figure things out, is dumb–worthy of an eyeroll. How can you not be curious about your behaviour, and what might be holding you back from not only enjoying life more, but contributing, serving the collective? In my experience, vulnerability is a super power, a doorway into reflective listening, and an opportunity to power down the ego and not only be present to yourself, but really ‘see’ the other there in front of you. I’m not here to rag on the ego; we need it to function, but when it stonewalls opportunities for healing, it needs to be gently given a hug, thanked for its’ efforts and yes, powered down so that you can feel deeply. What happens inside of your head when you read those words, ‘feel deeply?’ Are you compelled to pat me on the head and send me on my way? First of all, consider that every single person I know who is avoiding healing exhibits physical symptoms. Every. Single. One. To be clear, I’m talking generally, though not exclusively, about healing in the second half of life. This is when psyche is more amenable to opening up there after the first half of life when we thought we knew everything. During second part, we realize that we didn’t know shit during the first part at around the same time as we turn to face our mortality.  
Humans are meaning-makers, story tellers. It is story that builds our lives every day and to deny the real depth of your own life is to dismiss the foundations of your best story. It’s not easy.  We all deserved to be witnessed, to have kind caregivers focused on our best interests. We all deserved to be celebrated, even just a little(See Laurie Anderson's coolio mother story here). I painted some flowers for my mother’s room during covid, just to add colour. My sister asked her if she wanted me to paint some more to brighten things up. “No, that’s enough,” she said. You remember things like that, especially from your mother; an opportunity to be nice, to be gracious not taken. I’d much rather walk into a wall.
After the first fifty years of feeling invisible, the recent ten has allowed me to not only heal, but to discover my self-worth. I don’t regret any of that effort. I feel that the healing part is our job as humans–the only species in the universe that needs meaning to live. Through healing, we learn to feel, trust those feelings as soul messages, reflectively listen, and be curious. Life isn’t a competition. It’s an opportunity to realize your wisdom and share it. This is the best contribution.