Friday, December 17, 2010

Bogeyman in the Closet

I was 22 when my boyfriend, Bob, got back from Marine boot camp. I was so thrilled to hear his voice. I couldn't wait to see him.

"I'm not going to come over." he said, "...I think you should just forget about me. I'll be gone for a long time. Things are different now." He would not budge on his position. He seemed oblivious to my heartbreak. I was stunned beyond belief.

My generation was born when the 'white picket fence' era was in full swing. We were here long enough to imbibe its false promise before naivety ended. I'm from the half of that population who fell into that gap (between past and future) the moment it yawned open. While Bob went off to become a fighter I was becoming a flower child. I left my job at L.A. Childrens hospital to work as a nurse at the West Hollywood Free Clinic. The psychologist we referred patients to for counseling had an opening and I started what would become 2 years of therapy. I thought I needed to talk about breaking up with my 'one true love'. Actually, it was the beginning of a journey to uncover rubble buried beneath the surface.

I remember 3 things from my 2 years of weekly sessions:

1. you pay if you miss an appointment ($35 was a fortune at that time!)
2. the word 'should' shouldn't exist in your vocabulary
3. My shrink had one favorite question: "If you were afraid that their might be a bogeyman hidden inside your closet, wouldn't you want to open the door and find out?"

The truth was NO, I'd actually prefer not to know. I remember how hard he tried to help me see the folly of such avoidance. I tried to convince us both that I had changed my mind. In general, my life is not based upon denial. I've been a delver--relentless about seeing through everything. But recently this dormant question resurfaced, so it surprised me to find that some of the bogeymen (I'd missed somehow) were still hiding in that closet. I stood face to face with the original question, once again.

What is so terrifying about opening that door?

For me, it was about the dangerous, evil bad guy I would find. As a catholic girl I'd learned that Dark power held hands with the devil. A power that only Light could triumph. Did my therapist fail to notice the rose-colored glasses I'd been given to wear? Why didn't he warn me about the price of leaving them on too long? Eventually LIFE removed them for me and I got to discover--the hard way--that Light/Dark is a package deal. They exist together in every single one of us. Bogeymen are everywhere. But every Bogeyman has a Guardian Angel. And no one should be locked inside a closet for too long.

Its not so much a question of whether or not to open the door--but rather, what to do with the angry pent-up energy of your escapee, whose been locked away. Even if he walked into that closet on purpose to begin with (and 'he' is you and me) there is a screaming need for compassion and understanding. Trust that Guardian Angel to handle this for you.

If my therapist had explained this to me, I would have realized that I wasn't opening the closet door to unleash the fury of hell upon myself, but in order to free myself from the tense burden of having to hold my breath while I resisted reality. Turns out there aren't two realities: a good one and a bad one. Nor are there villains and victims. There is only the scintillating impulse of Life's longing for itself. It surges through everyone, in whatever way it can.

Bob did what he thought was the most compassionate thing. And the forces I've been pretending not to notice are simply shadows looking for light behind closed doors. Their escape is my escape. Its one thing to take off the rose-colored glasses. Its another thing altogether to open the door without holding your breath. Maybe all any of us need is to breath more softly, more slowly and more deliciously. Actually, my therapist might have been onto something that I missed entirely, until just now: the healing power of silence. He would sit there without saying a word, until I spoke. Week after week, silence. If I didn't say anything the room remained still. Breath had space to take its time. Sometimes I wondered why I was paying him so much money. Now I suspect that the easy space between the words we spoke were his true gift to me.

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