Tales of a wandering lesbian

Shaking the foundation

I realized that I would have to shed a few things when I decided to change my life. House, job, relationship. In honesty, I might not have had to shed any of them to go traveling short-term, and they weren’t all directly related to each other. The relationship was only temporally related; the house and job seemed like a good idea to let go of as I ventured out. And while I realized I was making an intentional decision to live the next part of my life a certain way, I’m not sure I fully realized that what I was actually doing was making a decision to live the rest of my life in an intentional way. It’s really only upon my return from the first leap that I’ve realized this. And that I’ve started to go about the work of embracing it.

There’s something that happens in situations where a person is being programmed. It happens slowly in the course of our lives, over years as people and situations shape us into the people we are. But it happens more quickly in intense situations where the programming is intentional. Take the military, for example, or a gang – or a cult. People enter with all of the pieces of their lives that they’ve accumulated, the preconceptions, the social and political views, the masks and games and walls that they use. They are stripped of all of this, as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Their relationships are removed, their possessions stripped, they leave their homes and enter into a new society, a new family, where, after being torn down, they are built back up. They’re taught to speak a new language, and to interact in a specific way, using a distinct thought process.

It’s a lot like law school, actually.

When I entered law school, it was like I had found a refuge. I didn’t need to be torn down or reprogrammed, because I was already using the language, thought process, and methods of social interaction that are cultivated in law school. Don’t get me wrong, this didn’t make me a great lawyer, but it did make me a great law student. While other students were dealing with being torn down by the process, I was able to put that part aside and focus on the studying. No tear-down needed. But the process of law school, and bar exam is, in my humble opinion, a professional example of the programming that happens in gang and cult situations. It’s just one we idealize.

So, anyway, I didn’t really go through that in law school. I watched it though. And when I decided to take a leap and shift into a new life, I didn’t fully realize that I would be entering a tear-down, build-up cycle. But oh, honey, have I ever.

I’ve talked about removing my home from my life, and the sense of freedom and groundlessness that has evoked.

I’ve talked about leaving a long-term relationship and embracing the friendship that remains.

I’ve talked about leaving a job that brought stability but great discontentment.

I’ve talked about abandoning the language; the words and humor that I use as both sword and shield in my life.

I’m not sure I’ve talked about the cumulative effect, however. There seem to be some people who think that my journey is something to be idealized – like law school. So I’d like to set the record straight. It’s a journey that I am glad of, but not one I would recommend to everyone.

Imagine selling your home and quitting your job to pursue your dream; discovering that you would like to have a home again – and then finding that you can’t get a mortgage because you’ve left your job to pursue your dream.

Imagine getting yourself into the best physical shape of your life – and then finding out that you’re not insurable.

Imagine discovering that you would like to share your life with someone, then finding someone who feels like they fit into your life – and then having the whole thing crumble in your hands.

Imagine experiencing all of this in the course of a few months – repeatedly.

It’s like believing that you’ve found a real answer to the great questions you’ve been asking yourself – and then discovering the “answer” is really a punch line to a joke you haven’t even heard.

Then imagine knowing that you have to let go of it all. Of the desires, and the expectations, and the judgments, and the results. That everything you have been programmed with needs to fall away, so that you can start again, this time with intention.

It’s hard.

I realized this week that I’ve spent the last 8 months in a period of intensive tear-down, pulling at the strings of the tapestry I’ve woven. The pretty pictures that I show the world, and myself. It seems like at this point it should be pretty completely deconstructed, but every so often I have an experience that slams me against the wall and seems to shout at me in loving tones, “no, my child, you haven’t quite gotten it yet.”

And that’s where I find myself now. On the down-stroke of a difficult lesson. One I know I need to learn if I am to move forward. One that I thought I’d already learned. And one that makes me seriously wonder what is left to deconstruct. What part of my foundation have I failed to shake. Because every time I start to rebuild myself, to look at the ways that I can move from tear-down to build-up, it seems there are a few more threads that need to be pulled, and vast areas of tapestry still intact, hiding the parts that I didn’t even know were there.

So I lean into the hurt, pulling gently at the threads while part of me clings to them, trying to salvage the parts that are authentic, and working to let go of the judgment that rises up within me every time I find another thread.  Because when I finally enter the rebuilding, I want to know that what I build will be solid.  That I’ve shaken all I can out of the foundation, so that next time maybe I won’t have to dig so deep.

Because there’s another where that the tear-down, build-up cycle is used – abuse.  And I wonder, at what point does the tear-down move from self-growth to self-abuse?  How deep is too deep?  (I know, it all still sounds so glamorous and self-indulgent.)

Even then, I’m not sure I know how to rebuild. I’m pretty sure it has to do with listening to the little voice. Hearing it, and listening to it. Nurturing it until it becomes not just a little voice, but a clear, respected rudder. I know the rebuild won’t be easy, necessarily, but I think I’d like to get to that phase now, because the tear-down is just hard.

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March 3, 2010   4 Comments