Renewal Two : Critical Periods
After the death of my mother and another relationship, both of which occurred in tandem, I find myself relentlessly bouncing between a broad range of thoughts and feelings.
Watching my mother pass away was like watching life without hope of renewal. The search for, and the loss of, renewal had been evident for the two-and-a-half years of my mother’s journey from a stroke until her death, an early one brought on by careless procedures. I realize that this entire perspective of seeming hopelessness is from my window, but I believe that it was the same view my mother saw–and that was hard to watch.
The death of a relationship is very similar, with the exception that, until the last, it always seemed possible for it to cross that critical threshold from which it could never be not-a-relationship (though there is always a relationship, one thing to another). This one had been especially hopeful, as we had survived some profound downturns. Truly, the relationship had been broken and renewed. And that process had been very difficult. It is always tough to be forthright and open, the true and difficult work that is a journey of love.
But the essential ingredient that sparked the problems was not erased. It was discussed and it appeared to be met head on, but the lingering doubt that she would not get what she wanted apparently remained. When insecurities drive a relationship, it will be driven to insecurity. And so it was, fear became more important than transcendence, promises gave way to doubt, deeds reverted to old patterns of blame, and the state of love was set aside for imaginary futures where one didn’t have to change and renewal was someone else’s responsibility.
It is easy then to find faults, used as excuses to mask unwillingness and fear. These building blocks of destruction masquerade as indisputable facts and block the positive energy that nourishes and renews a relationship. Instead, words dance in the mind that proclaim the fear of not getting, or of getting what is not wanted. It is almost inevitable that when this negative dance occurs, negative outcomes will follow.
A funny thing happens with positive energy (adaptive or uncontaminated energy), it makes everything available and asks for nothing more than to be shared. It has little patience with bargaining. Negative energy (energy more likely to become contaminated or maladaptive) makes available certain things, usually what one fears they cannot have, and it always asks for something. Such energy is concerned with perpetuating dependencies and bargaining is its method of control (yes, bargaining can be playful and fun, but as a premise of accomplishment, it is a dangerous game).
My mother could not bargain renewal of her bodily life force. We could not bargain or coerce appropriate care. I could not bargain renewal of my relationship, and the dance of words in my head only provided a kind of pharmaceutical renewal, the small comfort of logic and the victor of point/counterpoint. In a life imprinted by the power and force of bargaining, losing is a tough and depressing process.
There is little solace for a being so imprinted, even as I acknowledge in some now remote corner of my being the gift of another critical period, and a time available for new imprinting; a new window to see the world of positive energy and an opportunity to shut off or to ignore the internal dialogue that promises renewal, but provides only quicksand.
Critical periods are a time for imprinting. They can be biologically programmed as in the embryonic stage or in the stage of language development. They can occur at birth, or in first love, or in new philosophical discoveries. But critical periods are almost certainly something that we have learned to avoid. Perhaps Freud was right in seeing two basic human drives–seek pleasure, avoid pain.
It seems to me that critical periods are part of renewal, and that sometimes we may have to create them. We certainly need an arena where we can empty our learning and set our navigational system anew. But we have limited biologically-programmed critical periods, perhaps evolution recognized the biological and environmental danger and need for support in such times. Certainly there is plenty of danger, but there is limited support. At the individual level, we seem to naturally seek comfort and avoid the discomfort of such periods. On a cultural level, our society does not much tolerate critical periods after childhood (not that they’re much tolerated during childhood), though we might get some limited space after the death of a loved one, or of love.
In any case, I find myself in yet another critical period. My body hurts, my mind reels, my heart aches, my emotions tumble from feeling to feeling without safe harbor. To compensate for the onslaught, I have attempted to keep busy–to fight the battle with distraction. Yet, in what seems like another part of myself, I feel I must rage against all that brought me to this place, to not leave that life quietly. However, in the midst of my own discomfort and uncertainty something beckons me to be still and not add to the problems. Even more, something beckons me to enlist wonder and to create myself anew.
It is the proverbial and paradoxical mix. I guess that’s why it is called a critical period. I hope I at least learn to make these periods a little more deliberate instead of having them sneak upon me like a thief in the night. For now, I apparently have some emotional and cognitive white-water rafting to deal with, like it or not.