Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Out of the Ashes

As part of the looking back and looking forward that so many of us engage in at the beginning of a calendar year, I have been thinking of changes I wanted to make last year. And since I have been trending glass-half-empty of late, I am especially noticing those that didn't happen.

A year ago on this date, I wrote about having recently taken part in a ritual dubbed a Fire Communion by many Unitarian churches.  In my congregation's interpretation, each participant fed into the fire a written phrase emblematic of a story we wanted to let go of. I wrote, and relinquished to the flames, "the wind beneath everyone else's wings."

With that action, I intended 
. . . to claim more of my energy for my own.  I have been immersed in nurturing others for more than three decades, and it feels like time to shift the balance. . . .I have depleted myself too much in all this caretaking, caregiving, and just plain caring.  I have allowed my nurturing self to devour equally important parts of my identity.  And I need to let go of the idea that any or all of these beings and causes will plummet to earth without my constant attention.  I can, and have to, begin to live more in my own life.
People close to me would make the case that I haven't moved far off that mark. 

So did the ritual fail?

My husband and I have frequent conversations about "spirituality," which I own up to, and he insists is not part of his life.  Wikipedia introduces the concept in this way:
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.”
It is hard for me to imagine anyone not experiencing this aspect of human existence, even if only subconsciously.  But at any rate, as an agnostic, I don't hold too strongly to many of the views and practices which claim my attention.  Nor do I feel certain that they aren't of value. But at least at the level of intention, my disposing of what pop pathologizers would label "codependency" was authentic.  But damn if it didn't rise again from the fiery cauldron that claimed it.

And you know that scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where Fawkes the Phoenix bursts into flames, and is reborn as a chick?  And how moved we all were at his regenesis?  Well, trust me, I feel no such redemption in the stubborn clinging to life of this self-limiting trait of mine.  When I threw it into the fire, I meant for it to disintegrate, and to stay that way.

What I take from this failure, I guess, is that magic alone is not going to be enough to rid me of this characteristic.  It will probably take vigilance, and effort, and forgiveness of my slow-changing self.  

Or maybe the resilience of my overnurturance, in the face of actions to destroy it, signifies some value in all my other-directed feelings and actions, and a need to tame rather than torch them.  

Perhaps I can learn something from this rite and the limits of its alchemy.  Something to shape my expectations with respect to the "sadness and anger" that I tossed into a solstice night fire last month.

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