The Bottom Falling Out
Joel and I recently completed a 7-week series of birth classes based upon the book "Birthing from Within." The instructor said something that I've been musing upon. She said that in labor, you will be tempted to just lose it...to forget your breathing, your pain-coping practice, your mental endurance required for full relaxation during rest periods. She then said, "So just lose it." Something about this notion of fully embracing the fall into the abyss resonates true in my being.
There is no appropriate way to birth a child. There is no appropriate way to mourn the death of your mother or mitigate a divorce or face terminal cancer. All there is is the bottom dropping out, our own personal dark cavern of fear that we all must face, and face alone. No one can bring this child into the world for me. No one can mourn Denise for Jessica. Maybe we should stop trying so hard to grasp at the sides of the cave, to stop desperately reaching for that hand of help. Maybe we should stop looking all around us to see ourselves in other's eyes. Maybe in this dank space, there is no welcome mat for the ego. We are all degraded to our primordial selves through pain and grief. Why is it when we feel like screaming that we instead gently weep? Why is it when we feel like scratching out the eyes of our soul, instead we make to-do lists? Why, in god's name, when we feel like dying, do we politely sip our hot tea by the fire? We keep ourselves so tightly wrapped up in all these civil emotions and try to sell others on our facade of health and inner peace - even in the hopes that we will believe ourselves to be evolved beyond primitive despair. Perhaps, in the imagination of our souls, what we really need is just to fucking lose it. To scream bloody murder, to scratch and scratch until we bleed, to die - bit by bit as we fall into the well of our worst fear coming true.
Wouldn't it be a relief to hit that bottom and feel solid ground again, despite our nursing broken bones from the fall? It is only in being at ones lowest that we can, in any possible way, forage a way out. There are beautiful organisms that can only thrive in wet, dark conditions. There are things we will never discover about ourselves and others if we spend our lives avoiding and repressing the realities of pain. Once we stop being so damn afraid of the engulfing blackness, then, and only then, can we realize that our eye-sight has keenly adjusted and we can see more clearly than ever before. That sight will no doubt reveal that you are indeed strong, that you are humbled to being a collection of particles, and that there is great comfort in ultimate release. That sight will be the very thing we need in order to climb out of the abyss.
Additionally, when we see our loved ones bordering on their own soul-drop, we must let them. I will keep watch at the entrance to ward off predators. I will yell down often to encourage your return, for of course the abyss is no place to stay - there is more life to live once you emerge. But I refuse to advise you to avoid your fears. I will let you go and trust in your strong soul to give you what you need. Once we stop trying to save others, keeping them from doing what they need to do because we ourselves have the greater need of being helpful in crisis, then will we know our true substance as friend, wife, mother, daughter, teacher, human.
That substance, fellow humans, is a gorgeous, miraculous mix of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon atoms. That this amalgamation can have the awareness of self, much less the evolved ability to endure and grow from personal suffering, blows my mind.
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.”