Back in the 70s, Judy Collins sang a song about clouds (Both Sides Now). We good little Catholic girls couldn’t get enough of that, singing it for contemporary Mass and plunking it out on our first nylon string guitars.
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sunBoth Sides Now, recorded by Judy Collins, written by Joni itchell
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
So, yeah…how we see things changes, with age, with experience. We get a little more cynical sometimes, or maybe a little less hopeful. The innocence of seeing the absolutes, seeing only the good things in life often turns into seeing only the bad, only the negative.
Experience can do that to you. Being lied to, and betrayed, can do that to you. Being victimized by those you were urged to trust can do that to you.
What fascinates me, always, is bitterness. Some of us go through unimaginable trials, victimization, horrors even and come out of that wary, perhaps, but not bitter. Others come through seemingly insurmountable challenges like champions, but have morphed into mean, biting, blaming and unforgiving bitterness. I always wonder if that’s merely a character issue, or a heart issue.
People who’ve been through suffering, who have found themselves in situations they didn’t cause, didn’t ask for, and couldn’t fix seem to necessarily be changed by the experience. I’ve seen this myself, having friends who survived the most atrocious instances of cruelty and depravity, but nonetheless came past that with the desire to help other people, to smile, to de-emphasize that part of their lives. In some cases, people who victimized them intended their death, but were unsuccessful. That is no small thing, but there is some deep well of a loving heart that could not be killed.
When I think of my own mother, who felt as though her divorce was wholly unfair, that she had done everything by the rules and still wound up divorced and with a queer daughter who would not give her grandchildren. For quite a number of years, she was profoundly bitter, hurt, feeling as though she’d been lied to. Her pain had to be somebody’ fault, and often that somebody was me, or her sister, or random people at the bank or the grocery store.
In my mother’s case, though, something changed down the line. She came back to herself, found her purpose again, literally rediscovered her faith. There are few people alive who could even imagine the horrendous things my mother did when she was so lost and so bitter. Nearly all of them encountered her after that period, and remember her as the sweetest, nicest, helpful little school marm they had ever known. I’m happy for them, really. They would not have been able to comprehend what I saw when she was bitter.
So, it’s always interesting to me when people make some monumental shift in their presentation, in the way they relate to the rest of the world. I would like to think that’s the result of having a heart that has not been extinguished, that no matter what, they understand that only love can set them back on their feet, not hate. That’s a fairly simplistic explanation, but so be it.
Because I’m me, simplistic explanations are generally not enough for me. I want to know exactly how the shift occurs, what they felt, how they managed to come out of the vortex of negativity and bitterness. Most often, people do not know exactly, it’s an esoteric thing rather than a cognitive thing. When it was happening for me, however, I felt that I was making a conscious and cognitive choice. I remember nearly the exact moment it happened.
It was some time in the late 80s, toward the peak of my drinking career (how weird to call it a career, since it didn’t pay me nor provide any hope of advancement, but whatever). I was deeply depressed and definitely bitter, because life was not coming through with things it had promised. Things like a relationship partner, weight loss, money, nice clothes, notoriety. None of that was happening for me, and it had to be somebody’s fault – someone other than me.
I was not a nice person during that time. Selfish and concerned only with myself, if you couldn’t move me closer to what I felt I deserved, I had no time for you. I hurt a lot of people, I’m sure, by forgetting obligations and reneging on promises to do things, even leaving them to clean up messes I made. I really didn’t care, unless you were my ticket to any of what I deserved to have. And damn you if you weren’t that person.
What nobody could really see was that while I was confrontational and aggressive on the outside, I was hurting and wounded on the inside. I always wanted to find someone who could recognize that and stay with me through it all. But, that’s not how it works. I’m still a trifle self-centered, but I don’t expect other people to be present in my life just to solve my problems or make me feel better. Yay, me. I’ve graduated to the level of an 8-year old who understands they need to clean up their room and put away their clothes and take their plate to the kitchen after eating.
Regardless, I came out of that somewhat juvenile phase, and I’m not that same person. Some of us, though, don’t make it. Some of us remain in that death spiral of hating everything and everyone for not giving them what they want. I’m glad my mother came out of it. I’m glad I came out of it. I’m glad I see others I know come out of it. None of us need to have that karmic debt on our tabs, at least that’s how I see it.
A few years ago, I was friends with a woman who saw things beyond the physical, saw things in the spiritual realm and beyond space-time limits of this reality. Basedon work she’d done in that realm, and what she’d seen, when people undergo those kinds of revolutionary changes in this life, it’s sometimes a deep spiritual event. Sometimes, a sould makes a choice to leave, and another soul “walks in” on that body. Other people in the same plane with the physical body never see that, but experience them as profoundly different from a certain point forward. The “walk in” has access to all the memories and resources of the body, but the heart of the person has changed.
Believe it or not, that’s a more rational explanation for me to contemplate. It can never be proven, or demonstrated, but it seems to fit in with the sentiment I’ve always had that our souls make decisions we cannot understand cognitively. I’ve said before that I’ve met several people in my life who believe that everyone in our lives are the result of choice on a spiritual level. When people were first telling me this, I was just getting sober and complaining about my parents most of my waking hours. Their question to me was why did I choose those parents? Hmpf.
I understand a small chunk of that now, and it’s a very small chunk. For some reason, I wanted to get here (in this specific form) pretty damned badly, and lots of things had to come into reality for me to do that, I guess. Several previous generations had to come together in exactly the way they did in order for me to be here right now. That, of course, makes no sense to me, and I always wonder if I should have chosen the form of a thinner, richer, more talented being. I also wonder if I could have chosen to be like a deer or an elephant or an octopus, but that’s another story.
Anyway, maybe I’m a walk-in. Maybe my mother actually left and who she was at the time of her physical death was somebody else. Maybe the walk-in had missed the bus or something and was just a little late to the game. That would make sense, because my mother was late for EVERYTHING. Since I was a child. She was always late, even when I would tell her she was expected at an earlier time than was true, she would be late for the original time anyway. I had been left standing on the sidewalk outside of closed schools, closed stores, dark houses more times than I can remember. But I digress.
I have wondered if I’m a walk-in. If the original soul that came here had either finished its business or gave up (which seems more likely) I can see that. It disturbed me to contemplate being a second chance life, though. If I gave up originally, I wouldn’t know anything about it at this point, because that soul has gone on to some other incarnation or whatever else might be possible. It distressed me to think maybe I couldn’t hack it, and didn’t finish a journey that had defeated me. This kept me up for many a night, and that right there is some crazy stuff. I think I’m just supposed to make the most out of being here right here and right now? That seems to have been in the guide book somewhere.
I am rambling all over the place right now, for some reason, but I suppose it’s OK. I could be doing way worse things. When I woke up this morning, the dog was whining to go out. Despite being still really sleepy, I go up and took her out. She did nothing in the way of her morning constitutional, but sat and stared at nonexistent things and barked at imaginary bits of nothing. Maybe she was barking at the clouds, who knows. But, after a few minutes, I brought her inside and got back into bed.
For some reason, I was exhausted. A weird kind of exhaustion that made me wonder if I’d been building a house or planting crops in some alternate dream world. Every time I began to sink into sleep, however, my precious little furball began to whine. And she whined. I could not figure out what she wanted, but she kept whining. Finally, she started to bark. That means she wants something rather urgently, and I knew that she had water. I was sure I had fed her the night before. I could not figure out what she wanted.
After more than an hour of this, her whining and me hollering at her to stop, I finally got up again. Cussing. I was cussing up a storm. I wandered back into the kitchen, with her right on my heels. When I passed the food and water dishes, I affirmed that she had plenty of water. Her food dish was empty but I was convinced that I’d fed her last night. But when I paused there, next to the bag of kibble, she began to dance. And whine. And prance. *sigh* I guess I made up the part about feeding her last night. I poured a reasonable amount into the dish, just in case she was connin’ me, and walked away from the dish. She padded over to it, and sat down in front of it, and began to inhale mouthfuls of kibble. Bad mommy. Very bad mommy. She is now sleeping happily (and peacefullly) under her binkie on my bed. I’m sorry – HER bed. She allows me to sleep here. Sometimes. Hallelujah.