Friday, July 29, 2011

Phantom Pain

Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old Adam away?

I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard something curious on that score, sir; how that a dismasted man never entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir?

It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine once was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a hair, do I. Is't a riddle?
~Herman Melville, Moby Dick. 1851

This seems to me at this moment an apropos description of the human heart, the grief of any loss, and the feeble desire to share the experience, or to have another take away the persistent suffering that such loss causes. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Being concerned about another's comfort and happiness is a very different thing than being responsible for another's comfort and happiness.

I just butted up against this distinction in the last 24 hours.  Realizing it's time to make a change in the habitual way I handle my relationship with my son has been a lightning-fast, hard lesson. This is a very difficult identification to face.  If I'm not constantly concerned with and responsible for ensuring the smooth sailing of his life, then what kind of parent am I, really? Don't I care about him at all?  This is what goes through my head as I face this change. In looking at how to move past this old pattern of being, then, I'm faced with this fear that I'm sending the message that I don't care about him at all.  It's a dynamic that is based in the history of my experiences with and regarding him and his care.  It's tried, and true...and now it's truly trying.  

The way I show my care and love for him is by taking responsibility for his moment-to-moment emotional state. Yeah, that doesn't sound at all pathological when I type it out like that. Feels strange to be downgrading my attention on him...that really, my only concerns need be his health and well-being and safety...but that the minutiae are up to him.

So. Okay. time to move into a more mature phase of our relationship. Time to allow him to be responsible for himself more, his own sense of happiness and comfort. So what if a particular thing isn't his first choice, or if he's resistant to it. Is his basic safety assured? Then get over it. Or don't.  But it's not my problem.  As he is about to turn 13, moving into something closer to manhood, it is time. I've been holding him back, without realizing it. He's coming of age, and I'm realizing that it's time for our relationship to do the same.  So, this is the allowance I can give him. To allow him to be responsible for himself.  My desire is for his happiness and fulfillment. My job is to let him seek it himself.

UPDATE:  If I'm releasing all this misplaced energy and attention...what am I freed up to do now?  Where could that attention go? To what projects/thoughts/creations?  The possibilities feel expansive.