A piece of my mind is also a piece of my heart.
Years and years and years ago, a counsellor with an HMO made me an offer.
“We are a full service organization,” he said. “If you want, I can just check a box on this form and get you a lobotomy. Is that something you would want?”
We had a good relationship and I knew he was jesting, trying to make the point that however difficult it was to be smart and visionary, those probably weren’t bits of my nature that I would want to give up. I took his point.
Today, though, I again ask myself that question. Would I trade sharpness for ignorance, dropping my hard won knowledge for simple human connection and comfort?
I have spent decades trying to share a piece of my mind, knowing that was the way I could open my heart to others. While I learned to understand their mind and tend to their heart, moving beyond fear to encouragement with wit and grace, well, I haven’t found a two way street.
Recently, loss feels relentless. From running to save a turtle only to see a woman squash it under her tire, then seeing a show on pet turtles to investing in getting a phone repaired and finding it still broken to changes at stores around here, the millions of tiny cuts of a human life feel more and more stopping these days.
You can’t get back in balance just by cutting back. This is the lie behind the policy of austerity; more loss doesn’t turn the corner, just lets some slag off those that they don’t value.
Scarcity only begets more scarcity. Opening up and spending, spreading vitality like seeds to be tended is the only way to create more blooms, more possibilities, more joy to feed our hearts.
To open up, though, to pour what is left of your precious reserves into the world with the expectation of rewarding return, you need to feel safe. A sense that whatever happens, there will be room for recovery, rest or remembrance is vital to the willingness, the ability to assume the risk. Will someone else understand the pain, acknowledge the bravery, affirm the attempt, offer sweetness, encourage another attempt, or will you be left hanging, alone, with nothing but coldness and humiliation?
We are brave when we know that someone is there to help us get up again, someone who understands the ouch, someone who offers compassion and guidance, someone who has the scars and can speak from hard experience.
This is the role of the parent, the mentor, the coach, the director, the compatriot, the conspirator, someone who is in it with us, who will be there, flip or flop.
For me, finding that kind of safety has never been possible. I neither have the latent inhibition to bull it out or the network to share the event. My ego was pared back very early and my family, of birth or of choice, never was able to gel. There weren’t people like me who could welcome me home, embrace and nurture me, give me the warmth that empowers a restart.
My restarts came only from mental discipline, from individually developed practice, not from any kind of cultural connection, support network or received belief system.
“I have learned to trust myself,” I told a partner, “but now I need to learn to trust others.”
“Can’t you do that by yourself?” she responded.
My experience centred around negotiating loss. When I run into people who believe that loss could and should be forced to explain itself — “Oh why? Why me?” — I am incredulous. Looking for reasons is just trying to mine your current beliefs to rationalize a world you have no control over, a voodoo dance to avoid having to accept your own place.
Those who demand explanations are the people who I fear most, so “me” centred that unless their environment meets their expectations they look for someone to blame. Challenge and surprise aren’t opportunities for growth and learning to them, rather they are moments to identify evil and enemies, rationale to silence and smite them.
These people need their own belief structures so much that any kind of action to purify the world are justified in their personal understanding. They don’t have to be responsible for their own fear and discomfort, for challenges to their mindset, rather they have the right, neigh the obligation, to destroy those who discomfit them.
Maybe, just maybe, if I was more stupid, less sharp, without a lifetime of needing my brain to keep me stable and functioning, I would find it easier to live in their world.
Maybe, just maybe, if I was less threatening, less edgy, less theological, they would find a way to embrace and care for me rather than just writing me off or worse, trying hard to silence me.
Maybe, with a broken mind, more abject, my humanity would be more clear to them. Maybe then they would be kind and sweet rather than challenged and afraid.
As that therapist knew, though, that isn’t really an option for me.
My own safety is limited to my own mind, and while I can share that with others, they find it hard to make space for me, as immersed as they are in their own challenges and needs.
I have never found the safe spaces I wrote about in 1994. Those would be spaces where I could open up and be embraced rather than feeling the need to attenuate myself, dialing my essence back to lessen what others see as noise and keep comfort in the room.
Where are the places for tenderness and healing that exist for me? Is the only way to find them to pith myself, losing higher function I worked very hard to develop, tools that may offer aid and comfort to others who also need healing and empowerment in their lives?
A piece of my mind is all that I have. Not only do very few seem to want it, many seem to want to destroy and damage it.
That doesn’t leave me feeling safe enough to blossom.