Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Is Buried

A storm surge caused by weather off New Zealand brought waves up to ten feet high last week to our little piece of the Pacific Coast that normally sees less than three foot waves this time of year. It brought water nearly to our doorstep while the impact of the surf pounded the sand like a bass drum, reverberating through our home. The churning exposed a striated rock-face of ancient tar compressed into black stone and tossed two inches of fine black sand--so soft and springy that it felt like walking in the clouds--onto the shore.

The beach is recovering—the black sand washing out to sea and the black rock-face disappearing under the sand. But there is something significant in this revealing of what is buried. It is much like the emotional landscape of my world over the last few weeks. Something long-buried was dug up and exposed. And it came up with fury, as if it had been trying to make its way to the surface for many years and then thrust itself forth at the smallest relief of the weight that had buried it. 

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
That passion has eased and the regularity of daily routines is slowly covering up its raw face, but for a few weeks I caught a glimpse of the anger that I am carrying that is so old it has been compressed into stone. Anger from lives so long ago that I would need to dig like an archaeologist to understand the culture that informed its creation--using the shards of memory around it to date its origin.

What I do know is that at the heart of this anger is fear. And with September 11th approaching, this fear is poignant. I was walking east across Midtown Manhattan from our apartment in Hell's Kitchen to my job near Grand Central when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. And I was angry. Seething would be a better term. Caught between the demands of my relationship and my job. Fearful of losing both if I didn't figure out how to appease both my boyfriend and my boss, who were having a tug-of-war over my time. What I didn't see then that I see now is that my preoccupation with satisfying the demands of these relationships had caused me to neglect the relationship that should have been my primary concern. What was seething that morning was my self rising up and lashing out at what I thought was chaining me.

What I thought was chaining me. Somewhere below this victim mentality is buried a pattern from long ago. From a time when my survival was subject to the will of another—a wife dependent on the goodwill of her husband, a daughter whose future stood at the hands of her father, a servant who had to obey to be sheltered another day, a slave whose defiance would mean death.

This feeling of oppression is not consistent with my current reality. In this lifetime, I have the opportunity to experience tremendous freedom. How do I chip away at that layer of buried oppression when I can't see it? How do I set myself free from the old patterns when I don't know where they came from?  Or is it enough to recognize that the rock exists—a touchstone to set the past in relief--so I can transform my choices in the present.

I'm not sure. This one feels like the work of a lifetime. So I guess, only time will tell.

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