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The Greater Betrayal

The Greater Betrayal


My word is my bond. It’s an expression we seldom hear these days; it’s reminiscent of a time long ago when it was more common to take a person at their word. It seems harder now to trust people. After pondering why, my suspicion is that it has to do with our inability to trust ourselves. It is a lack of self-trust that renders us unable to trust others.
 
When we don’t trust our own feelings, we fail to nourish our soul, and when we ignore our desires in order to accommodate the wishes of others, we are committing the worst kind of self-betrayal. Some call it self-sacrifice and defend it as a noble and righteous way to be, but just look at that expression: Self-Sacrifice. It sounds downright medieval. I’d rather spell it mid-evil, for when we turn against our true nature, we are creating at least a mini monster, for we no longer live; we just exist. It’s as if we pulled on the word live by the “e” until the “e” wrapped around to invert the word and create the new word evil.

When we neglect the stirrings of our own heart to avoid the disapproval of others; when we put ourselves consistently in our pocket for fear that what we desire, or how we really feel, will disappoint others, we are creating a whirlwind of internal unrest. Soon we become unable to tell the truth even to ourselves. We become estranged from who we really are. We literally become a stranger to ourselves, and often become depressed, which is essentially anger turned inward and without the enthusiasm.

When we don’t trust people with the truth, we are telling those we love what Jack Nicholson’s character said to Tom Cruise’s character in the movie, “A Few Good Men.” We are telling them, “You can’t handle the truth.” What message does that give people? How can there be trust without truth?

Yet we’re all guilty of it to one degree or another. We all withhold…..if even just a little.

On the surface, being a person of integrity seems to go hand in hand with being honest, yet a person of integrity, if they are being honest, will sometimes not be able to keep their word. That’s a fact of life. Admittedly, it can be inconvenient or even hurtful when someone breaks their word to us, when they fail to keep faith with an agreement we’ve made, from something as simple as meeting for lunch, to something as serious as renegotiating the terms of an intimate relationship.

Life is uncertain, and even with the best intentions, if we live wide, open and full lives, breaking our word will sometimes be necessary because change is inevitable. Part of building supportive and sustaining bonds of trust is being open to the possibility that, with the passage of time, agreements or arrangements may need to be reworked, revamped, renegotiated. I used to be a slave to sticking with the original plan. I would feel let down or disappointed if someone backed out the last minute, or if for whatever reason we were unable to do what was originally on the map. If I were the one who created the need for a change in plans, I would feel awful or irresponsible.  But I have learned how much easier life is when we can simply go to Plan B, and without guilt or recriminations.  I have even been known to go to Plan C and D, and happily too.

I think more heartache has been caused by a failure to be honest, than by speaking the truth, whatever it is. In the name of thinking we are protecting someone by not acknowledging that something has changed, we do them and ourselves an injustice. We are so frightened by the possible consequences of being our authentic selves in every moment that we start to ignore those inner stirrings altogether, or we fail to share what truly matters with those we care about; sadly, when we do that, the blanket of our integrity begins to unravel.  So, in all honesty, a person of true integrity is someone you can count on to level with you in the moment. What you see is what you get. You don’t have to second guess them, because you can trust that if there has been a change in what is possible or how they feel, they will simply tell you.

We also betray ourselves when we maintain, against all internal evidence to the contrary, that we want what everyone else wants, or what everyone else says we should want.  (We really  have to stop “shoulding” on ourselves!) We betray ourselves because being different or initiating change is sometimes frightening. But if we don’t meet the truth head on, it will eventually find us anyway, and by then we are likely to be disillusioned at least, and, at worst, broken—and wondering why.

I am not encouraging, let alone advocating, breaking our word lightly, in a cavalier manner – not at all. I do believe, nonetheless, that we must be honest with ourselves in determining when and where we may have to break a promise in order to remain true to ourselves. Sometimes it’s a matter of what is at stake. Not keeping our word just because it suddenly seems inconvenient is not good for our soul and will not make our way in the world pleasant. When the thing we promised to do is vitally important to the other person, and it does not go against our spirit, it is a small sacrifice to keep our word even if we are exhausted and it will really tax us. However, if keeping our word is to be done only at the expense of surrendering a piece of our soul, we must give ourselves permission to reconsider.

 
Sometimes, in order to continue growing, we must move to the place where uncertainty and freedom become friends.
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A Work in Progress…or just a piece of work?

Sometimes I feel I’m not where I thought I’d be at this stage in my life, yet my inner child wisdom tells me that progress is relative, for movement, even lots of it, if it is frenetic and harried, and in no particular direction, is little better than inertia. Movement in the right direction, however, even one baby step at a time…movement in the direction of your dreams? Ah! That’s progress!

That’s what I believe to be true in my heart of hearts, when I listen to the song of my soul. Of course, my ego sometimes plays me a different tune. My ego says, “Come on girl, you’re 66 already!” My soul says, “You’re only 66, Girlfriend, give yourself a break!”

I do know what I want to do with my life and have made several attempts over the years in that direction only to sabotage myself in one way or another, surrendering to the old tapes in my head from false beliefs I’ve acummulated over the years, some of which came from my misguided, albeit well-meaning, parents, both now gone. (It was a shock to discover that even after 50 you can feel like an orphan!)

My father, God love his soul, was a good man who worked too hard, played too little, was bitter and disappointed most of his life, harboring resentments, unwilling to forgive others for real and imagined slights. Even when I explained that forgiveness was more for his soul’s peace than for anyone else’s, he said, “I can’t let ’em off the hook.” He never got it that it was he who was on that hook.

The message I got from him, among others, and this was, perhaps, the most poignant: “What do you mean you want to do something you love and enjoy for a living? You’re supposed to WORK for a living. That’s why they call it WORK!”

My mother, God love her soul, was a good woman who had such a capacity for joy, but it was buried inside her. She loved music, had a beautiful voice, and was most alive when she was singing, yet she didn’t allow herself to know or experience much joy outside of the music. She lived her life with just a little piece of sky peeking through the window to her heart. She was sad and disappointed much of the time, complaining about, rather than claiming, her life.

From my mother I heard this resounding message: “You can’t expect to be happy in life. Nobody is really happy. If you expect to be happy, it will only bring you heartache and disappointment.”

Realizing that those tapes were playing in my head much of the time, however subliminally, took a bunch of years, and not a little therapy; yet even with that knowledge, it has not been a simple process to turn the volume down.

Every time I took that proverbial emptied-handed leap of faith into the void to start my own seminar business, I wound up running out of money, energy and or faith and went back to working 9 to 5 for someone else. That’s not to say I didn’t do meaningful work in the traditional arena, for I did, but that longing to do something more has always bitten at the heels of my soul.

I don’t want to recite the litany of my life here, but do want to make the point that even when we don’t think we’re making any progress, as long as we continue moving in the right direction, progress is being made. I have sometimes been without an income, but I have never been unemployed. I do things which bring me and others joy, and I know that is no small thing. And I’m always thinking. My mother used to say, “Camille, you think too much!” She even thought I read too much, so when she saw me reading something that wasn’t a school assignment, she would say, “If you have time to read, you have time to help me clean!” It didn’t take me long to become a closet reader. OK. OK. I was a bathroom reader (which sounds like bottom feeder) neither of which are too exotic. Truth is, I spent so much time on the toilet reading, I had a perpetual ring around my arse.

And now, if you’re in the mood….read on. I’ve inserted a half dozen or so of my shorter poems for you. I’d love to know what you think of them. I’m hoping to include them in a book with some of my shorter essays and quotes. The tentative title is THE WISDOM OF CAMILLE’S INNER CHILD.

All rules defied…a stranger lied.

Ethics bowed and left the stage.

In the end, my friend,

deceived, yet relieved,

honor regained, we will laugh…

knowing we have all been both idiot and sage.

1/3/04

I take God where others cannot;

it is a knowing I almost forgot.

I was reminded the other day

when I saw a child at play,

acting like a little piece of God.

2/4/04

Roadblocks to our happiness?

Those cursed how’s, closed doors,

dashed hopes, and broken promises!

Perhaps. Or are they simply hurdles

we need only climb over or walk around?

2/5/04

My turn!

As children, unabashedly at play,

we incessantly called out, “My turn! My turn!”

…sometimes even when it wasn’t.

Interesting, as adults we wonder when it will be…

when, in truth, though some may disagree…

it is always our turn.

We have but to take it.

2/6/04

Persistence…

Persistence, unlike patience,

is not in waiting, waiting, waiting;

it’s in doing, doing, doing.

Ah, how I love words.

2/7/04

I wonder if God’s face scrunches up

when in prayer we humbly ask “Can I….?” or

we plead, head bowed in shame, “Please….May I….?”

instead of knowing it is ours already

and simply saying, “Thank you”  in advance.

2/8/04

All the things I fear….

the monster “what ifs” that I dread…

are but villains of my own design,

like boogie men under my bed.

2/9/04

Self-deception is misinterpretation

of the truth we were meant to live.

Self deprivation is soul annihilation…

and they will evaporate… Poof!

…as soon as we forgive.

2/10/04

A Success Haiku

Success, late is fine!

You will not find me asleep.

Don’t knock. Just come in!

2/11/04

Wings Haiku

I can bear the pain

when I remember it’s just

my wings coming in.

2/12/04

Out of sight…out of mind.

Out of body…so sublime.

Or so I pondered. And then oh what wonder!

An Angel tugged at my ear and whispered,

“You signed up to be in the Body Sacred.

Take a deep breath of life, Child.

You’ll be back home soon enough.”

2/13/04

Thanks for listening.

 

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Happiness Always Returns

Happiness always returns.  Just thought I’d let you know, in case you should ever sense its absence.

Perhaps it returns, in part, because while it’s away, it misses you even more than you miss it.  “What’s that?” – you say.

Of course, whether we are being assaulted by the daily doldrums or struggling with an enduring, deep depression, there are times we are certain we will never know happiness again. Is it possible that the simple act of being certain we will never know happiness again could keep it from our door? After all, if we don’t know a visitor is coming, we might not be home to invite them in.  If we are asleep when they knock on the door, they might think we are not up to entertaining them, and move on.

We need to be willing to entertain the notion that happiness will return. We need to consciously leave the door to our soul open, place the key under our spiritual doormat, a light in the window of our mind’s eye. We must expect and be ready to receive happiness when it returns, when it comes back home where it belongs. I know I want happiness to find a home with me. I want it to live within me, to set up residence, rather than merely visit, but, at the very least, I want to remember that happiness returns, and live in happy anticipation.

For some people, the times of year that traditionally wreak of happiness for most people,  the holiday seasons, for instance, are filled with sadness and gloom. Maybe the holidays always find them alone, or they just bring back too many painful memories of holidays gone wrong, or happier times that are no more. Those are the very people who sorely need to find out that happiness returns.

I was a caseworker years ago in New York in the Children’s Division of Protective Services. Unlike happiness, I was not a welcome visitor—well, at least not at first, for my initial visit, always unexpected, was for the purpose of investigating allegations of abuse and or neglect. I found that one way to get in the door, after announcing who I was and why I was there, was to assure them that I was there to help the family, and that I was interested in the safety of their children. Once inside, I gave them a few blank, unlined sheets of paper and a pen. I asked them to write down what they felt was going on in the home and if there was anything with which they needed help. That set a tone that usually opened up the lines of communication. I wanted them to see me as someone who was willing to listen to their side of the story, who respected their opinion, and who would leave them with their dignity intact.

I gave them unlined paper so that I could later do a little handwriting analysis. I would also verify their birth date, so that when I returned to my office, I could do a mini and very rudimentary astrological chart on them. OK, you caught me. I did most of that at home because, let’s face it, those methods were unique to me, and not part of the traditional arsenal given to us to do the job. In point of fact, the only training we had was  of the “on-the-job”  variety.

Armed then with their perception of their situation based on what they’d written, a better idea of their character from their handwriting, and a clue on their nature from their chart, I constructed a plan of action that incorporated several viable approaches to solving any problems within the family. If I had learned, through my unconventional but hardly nefarious devices, that they had trouble making decisions and required direction, I would say, “There are several things we might do. We could do (a), (b) or (c). I suggest we try (b) first and see if that helps. What do you think?”  They would quickly agree and feel they had contributed to the solution. If, instead, I learned that they needed to feel in control, I would say, “There are several things we might do. We could do (a), (b) or (c). Which would you like to try first?” I, of course, was sure to provide them only with viable alternatives. I never asked an open-ended question like, “What would you like to do?” Or “How can we help?” I instinctively knew doing that could have disastrous results because they might easily come up with things that we could not permit, or which we were unable to do. However, given several viable choices, they would make theirs and we would go with that, which gave them some semblance of control over their situation.

Curiously enough, after several months working in that unit, my supervisor, who had started giving me cases that the other, more seasoned caseworkers, couldn’t seem to handle, approached me. She asked me to close the door to her office, sit down and tell her what I was doing that was not in my reports because I was more successful at resolving cases without having to remove the children than any of the other caseworkers in her unit. I knew the other caseworkers would never adopt all of my methods, but, speaking strictly off the record, I, more or less, described what I did. My supervisor, although impressed, admitted she would only be able to share with my coworkers my idea of asking clients to write down what they saw as the problems in the family. She said she could not formally encourage or endorse the use of graphology or astrology in dealing with clients. To her credit, however, she never asked me to stop using them.

You may think I have digressed from my topic, but I have not. I was setting the stage.

In my five years as a caseworker, contrary to popular opinion about what kind of person abuses or neglects their children, I visited people from all walks of life. I visited the homes of attorneys and police officers just as often as I went to the pockets of poverty nestled nearby. I met people of every race, strata of society and economic background. I encountered women who were wearing designer outfits, yet leading lives of quiet desperation with husbands who abused them and their children. I came across men and women who had succumbed to alcohol or drugs and left their children to fend for themselves. I witnessed strong women, proud women, with six children, ten children, struggling to put food on the table, embarrassed that their children weren’t properly dressed for school. I saw weak men who beat their wives and children. I saw defeated men who had been beaten down by a system that sought to judge them rather than offer them a leg up.

God has forsaken me.”  “There’s no God, you know.” Those are a couple of the things I would hear at some point from quite a number of the people I was allegedly there to investigate, but was truly there to serve, for I viewed my job as a higher calling. Of course, I was not there to discuss God; it would have been outside the realm of influence for my position. However, I could not bear to leave them in such spiritual pain. What I did in those cases was to say Camille, the caseworker, was going to take her lunch break, and I would leave their apartment or home, then come right back in and visit with them for a while as Camille, the woman, and we would talk about God in a very nondenominational way. Of course, those talks never made it into my reports either, and while I disclosed my use of graphology and astrology to my supervisor, I did not share my lunchtime discussions about God with her.

When I spoke with my clients about the notion that God had forsaken them, they unilaterally pointed out the debris of their lives as evidence, and I always made this same analogy. God is always there and does not forsake us. Just as the sun is always there, but clouds sometimes obstruct our view, when we can’t see God’s hand in our lives, it is because of our cloudy thinking. Then I did just two simple things: (1) I assured them that God loved them. (2) I taught them a new way to pray.

Sadly, most people pray, beating their chests, imploring God to grant them what they want, while at the same time claiming that they are unworthy. That’s like telling the judge you’re guilty, then asking him to set you free. I suggested they accept on faith that God wants to give them their good, and that when they pray, they say THANK YOU for whatever it is they desire, as if it is already theirs, rather than ask for it. I also asked them to get a notebook, and to write in it every morning upon awakening, and every night just before going to sleep: ONLY GOOD COMES TO ME – ONLY GOOD GOES FROM ME. I said to write it over and over for at least one full page, more if they felt like it. Then I asked them to write down in that same notebook, at least once a week, all the things for which they were grateful, and to be sure to include those things for which they prayed.

Before I left, I would ask them to tell me what they expected the next day to be like. A few would say, “The same as every other day has been.” If they said that, I would counter, “If that is what you truly expect, then you will not be disappointed, for that is what you will get.” Others would say, “Better than today.” And to them I would respond, “If that is what you truly expect, then you will not be disappointed, for that is what you will get.” Still others would say, “I don’t know.” I would answer, “You don’t know? Great. Your future is a blank canvass. Now paint it the way you want it.”

And so it is with all of us. We must expect happiness to return, for if we do not, it might find another place to lodge.

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