I sit on my bed and sob. My new cat, Bara, has not come home for a day. It is likely that she will come back, but I have been tense and worrying all day, trying not to let it show, trying to be an accepting person who is not feeling this feeling, this wish to control what I love, the wish to lock them all in a room where I can see them and they can’t get hurt.
I was not really expecting to cry. I was expecting some storm, though. That dense nasty gathering feeling has been with me. I cry so hard the muscles of my eyebrows hurt. I am buckled over. And then I say aloud, “You didn’t bring him home. You didn’t bring him home.” I am in grief for Buddy Cat, probably one of a few more episodes that still catch me unprepared every time. God did not bring Buddy home. I prayed and I prayed. I was a good girl. Mostly. But God did not bring Buddy home.
I walk through the hall, crying and crying. It flashes on me and I say, aloud again, “Is this what you feel?” Is this the awful trick of free will? That exquisite humanity must be allowed to walk in danger or else they are not themselves? I can’t keep a cat inside. I can’t keep anything that wants to run in a box. A big nice comfy box, but still a box. I tried that. Once. There was a fire. They died. There is no safety. Now I am crying for them, as I write.
I cannot imagine having a child. I cannot imagine this feeling with a human life. I can stand it, barely, with the adults that I love. I do not know that I could bear to let my baby walk in this place. How do you do it? Mothers and fathers, how do you bear it?
Because you must. Because it’s more damaging to keep a life caged than it is to expose it to all the neutral violence and active malevolence that exists. In doing so, you unmake them. You stop them from being fully. You must.
SPIRITUAL SPACES ARE SO HARD. We need them to keep our shit together, we need that community for support in pursuit of the Divine and for connection with Divine in one another, but for some reason it gives everybody ego flares. Myself totally included. I sit there switching eyeblink quick between being smug because of how holy I am and then stricken about how smug I am and then sullen because I feel stricken and then total encompassing love and back up to smug.
It’s hard! And the people who seek it out are broad and difficult personalities to engage with. I remember this from my childhood and adolescence. I’ll scoop everyone into two large groups because we all love a reductionist organisation of humanity. There’s the wild ones. People who often don’t know how to fit into socially accepted parameters, either because they don’t read cues or because they’ve chosen to throw that off. They can make you very uncomfortable and they are where ecstasy is rooted. Then there are rule followers. Rule followers (me) can resent the wild ones because they’re having a good time and they’re fucking with the flow, plan, structure of the gathering. Sometimes that chaotic person is following a golden thread to where you should actually be and sometimes they’re just bringing chaos. They cause stress to the rule followers, who have internalised that if they’re good and do what they’re told, they will get the cookie of enlightenment (or what have you.)
My mom is a wild one. My dad is a rule follower. My brother is becoming more balanced as he ages. I would like to think I am too, but I ain’t. I love me some rules. I want to yank on the reins until everyone is doing what I say and we are all marching apace to God. I’ve tried to throw that off in a variety of unhealthy and extreme fashions, deprivation, immersion, isolation, to name a few. It led to me living in a motel with my cats and muttering to myself. It didn’t work. We must be balanced. If we can’t be balanced in ourselves, we must find it in our community. I need these staggerers, these holy fools, these wanderers into traffic. It’s my job to protect them. It’s my job to remind them. It’s my job to care for them and let them lead me down a weird and lighted road.
But it’s soooo hard. I can’t relax and feel holy. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe feeling like you’re a good person isn’t being a good person. Maybe feeling exquisite impatience and being kind through it is the training ground. I don’t have to like it. I often don’t like true lessons. But I’m here for it.