Breaking Illusions

I embrace today’s soul. I embrace my emotional exhaustion, or should I say, welcome the new emotional muscles?

I knew this test was coming. My knowing showed me a fissure, a rip in my illusions about a beloved person. I have had a tendency to imagine particular kinds of others as clean in their intent, imbued with qualities I want them to have, because I want to see them with the shine of the symbol they have become for me. Many of us do this. We make leaders, athletes, movie stars, and other achievers into symbols and lose their human qualities. When they become oh-so human we discard them along with their gifts.

One of the most loaded symbols is “Mother”. Religions have sprung up over the holy symbolic connotations of Mother. To be Mother is sacrosanct. Mother is sacrifice, is love without question, is feeding even from one’s own body, is carrying children and giving birth, is care of the hearth, is the making of food from the gifts of the earth. She is the ultimate creative power. Like anything a symbol embodies its opposite. Mother out of control is supreme control over her children. She smothers them, she demands absolute loyalty, and she force-feeds them with guilt and food even as she eats her children. She is destruction.

Our mothers are demigods until we sprout into our personhood, our potential mother/fatherhood to take our place. Then, they become essentially, biologically, rivals. Either we make friends of our rivals, or we throw them over. Each culture decides differently. In this larger cultural overlay of “civilization” that has supplanted our indigenous cultures (and all cultures have indigenous roots) children are encouraged to make anyone older the enemy.

And then, as we become mothers (or fathers) the story begins again, and we make our way.

Are there archetypes for children? There are for filial behavior. Remember the prodigal son? They aren’t quite so loaded however, as children are expected to malleable, given to youthfulness. What happens though if they don’t grow up, if they cling to childhood?

There can be no Mother symbol (or Father symbol) without children.

There are many paths around a symbol, around how we see and interact with each other. We make symbols of authority figures, and again of particular political leaders, athletes, actors, etc. We even make symbolic figures of each other as friends, colleagues….but I continue to believe one of the most powerful is Mother. A Mother gives; a Mother takes away.

Smashing those symbols, those illusions and setting free the people inside them can be liberating, and even so, absolutely terrifying. Those symbols can be life preservers in the deep, deep ocean of psychological waves and shifts.

I remember the day I decided to see my mother as a human being. I chose to see her as a little child, growing up under the duress of extreme poverty with a mother who didn’t know how to love. She became a human being, someone on the path alongside me. She was no longer a towering figure of perfection gone wrong. I found a way to forgive her, to forgive myself. Our relationship shifted. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t transgressions or failings. There were. There are. We are human.

Yesterday I had to face an immense illusion. I had worked on it for years. Perfected it. I had carefully built a symbol. I used materials of hope, and put together a design made of how-I-thought-it-should-be, and had hammered it together with wishes. Hammering with wishes is like hammering with handfuls of water. I had created someone wasn’t there. And the someone-who-wasn’t-there was who I had imagined interacting with me, was whom I had been relating to all this time.

It broke, as such illusions eventually do. What I had created was no longer there. Instead, what stood, was a very small and raw human being, with immense insecurities, failings and fears.

My first instinct was to defend myself, to fight.
Breath and love began leading me, first to see the illusion I had created, then to act with integrity even as I feel the pain.

And for me, most of all, because of my particular tests, I had to acknowledge my knowing. Knowing is beyond the human mind and emotional field. It has always told me the truth. The truth can be painful beyond measure.

Mvto, knowing.

And mvto, or thank you, dawning. This morning is another day. Each day has a soul, is a being, and loves to be acknowledged. How beautiful you are in blue blue sky.


river said...

dear Joy, this is layered and depth reading. . .thanks!. . .like your examination of the Mother archetype. . .it is such a rich one. .

Years ago i read about the "devouring sow" as being one of motifs/archetypes of the Great Mother and i remembered something from my own childhood that had been such an intriguing haunting primal glimpse. . .

The look on my birth mother's face as she was watching a mother pig devouring her newborns. . . it was not the look of horror but rather her face shone with lightness and edged with giddyness. . .

In that moment in deep places that perhaps only a woman in poverty, with eight kids, married to a man that loaded her burdens even more can know, she found an image that expressed the dark feminine that is unacceptable to express. . .

There has been a time in my life with a Divine Mother from India when i experienced the Great Mother in Her terrible form. It was the Kali energy, and it was other worldly in its power and awful awesomeness. In that glance of Kali, i remembered the line from the Bible," the beginning of wisdom is fear". It was both fearsome and awe bound together, It produced a deep instant awareness and alertness, as if i were only eyes, watching. I have wondered since if that is why Kali is often shown as eyes. Is it because in Her terrible form the reaction to Her energy is just stark awareness? My breath hung for i was only eyes watching and waiting to see if i were going to be devoured, like a small animal that is prey. The two words awesome and awful seem like they could not reside together, yet in the terrible form of the Great Mother they point to a aspect of Her fullness and majesty that I do not have the vocabulary to communicate. . .As you indicate the archetype is so very full and rich, awesome and awful, destroying and delivering and on. . . and on. . . and on.

Years ago i had a healer tell me something, i think she would also tell you; "marci, most of the time when people speak of projection, it is in reference to projecting the negative we cannot see about ourselves on to others, but what gets you in trouble is that you project the best of you on others and then are blown away when their hearts are not nearly as full and open as yours". . .Joy, that is probably what you where doing, and what you saw was truly who you are. . .I think a good way to look at it is to see it as a statement of your heart, and pull it back and give it a home within. . .

I am glad the sky is blue for you this day. .

butch said...

Joy: Thank you for the deeply felt, per usual, reflection of our tendency to accept illusion over fact, film and fiction over life.

As a woman, a mother, with a mother, and memories of your grandparents, you always seem to find a way to shed light on the dusky shadows of our illusions.

My own mother passed on at 39 years old. I did not think of her as just a person with foibles and emotional issues until she was gone. "She was receptive to cancer," one doctor honestly said, implying that she had secrets and several kinds of sadness that she chose not to cope with. One secret she took with her was who my real father was, something is has taken me 40 years to adjust to; set adrift in my 20's, parentless, a type-A loose cannon thriving on competition, focused outward, blasting obstacles and people from my path. Sometimes just the word "mother" makes emotion well up within me. She did her job, and then left me to find my own way. Anyway, thanks for sharing, and letting me morph my mundane morning into a spice of emotions.


Dakota in Spain said...

Hello. I'm sorry. I really hope you can find some way to... well... not to suffer or... to bear that suffering...
I failed with family relationships. I did think I was getting somewhere in a few of my attempts to apply all my heart-intelligence to "solving" incommunication, or whatever it is it brings us this abyss. But each time, after tons of work, in a second, so to say, my paper castle collapsed. Life events helped build up a truly sad and sudden ending and I carry the scars in me, perhaps its a wound, the truth is I don't think much about it because there are things in life which you just have to swallow, and I think I can't feel any more pain.
I decided to build my life around friendship, the freest of all relationships, which - I knew - included the freedom to part - but without hurting each other I thought. In the last few years I have bumped into total disillusionment (is this the word?). I feel deeply let down by human relationships, being someone who is willing to construct and share. But... I realize it is not our specific problem (my friends were good people, I am a good person, too), but - I think that might be what you mention about archetypes...? - a problem in a species, a species with a faulty intelligence (capable of some good things, at least of imagining them, but unable to escape its non-intelligence, its destructivity).

My only answer to these sad events (I'm really bad at suffering, I must say) is that I focus in doing the things I love doing (or I find the lovable aspect in even those things I have to do - I'm an artist! :D ). I see that relating to people is easier if you stick to developing some kind of specific project, and that's also a kind of loving.
I suppose something really bad with love-pain with children must be that you can't avoid thinking they're part of you, and that it's really hard to understand or bear that they're as alien as others, except that you know tons about something of theirs that nobody else knows about. But then, that might not be what actually constitutes their prevailing identity. Well, I can't explain it very well.
As a teacher, I always say: I have to give them the best I can. So I put the best of me in the pot. But then, I know I cannot make any kind of guess of what that will do to that person. What you put there, even if it's the best you have, can be just one ingredient more. How can we know? Sometimes the ingredients are noticeable, and sometimes they aren't, and you are always the same person, even if you evolve. I mean, it doesn't depend on you. And if we were really able to know anything about the person we have in front of us, perhaps we would never attempt to put anything in the pot... I don't know. It's sad but life needs to move on because those real problems have not much of a solution and time flies. We die and that's it. (Well, I'm someone who does not believe we trascend once our mind-heart dies).

Well, take heart, keep safe, and keep connected to your sources of joy (that doesn't work against anything, right?), which, apart from being in your name, seem to be in many places! :)

butch said...

I just received my copy of WINDING THROUGH THE MILKY WAY this weekend, and I have played the shine off the CD already. Listening to your mp3's is cool, but getting a good dose of Joy cannot be beat. I remember many months ago you mentioning that some faction or other did not think the music was "Indian" enough. That is such bull pucky, and as you rebutted, did they need more flute, less jazz, more chanting, more drums? For any of you out there that still do not know this, Joy just enjoys herself to the max when she performs, and as her line notes mention, "Poetry singing, saxophone, flutes, ukulele, stomp dance cans and shells, rain stick, other percussion and moving around: Joy Harjo" It really is rich, layered, and one can dance to it, kind of bucksin blues, Hawaiian delta jazz, Rez rock and roll, with some metaphysical new age reggea thrown in. It blew my mind, and I loved it. Thanks for putting it out there.


daydreamer and midwife said...

thank you, Joy.

deborah said...

two things, after reading your brave post.

First, "it broke, as such illusions eventually do." Our illusions are so much a part of us, it's as if WE are breaking...

I broke like the sheer face
of a cliff, like crystal
inherited from the family matriarch,
like a carapace:
every bone in my body,
each cell. I broke and I broke
as if each crack
were a catalyst,
as if my sould were made of dominos,
as if breaking
were a secret disease hidden
in my genes,
. . . I broke
for hours, for days,
for years – flailing, snatching
at fragments and shards,
sure that healing mean setting
each break, believing
what’s shattered
should be made whole.

I wish I’d known then:
we must break the casting
to reveal what’s been
fired within.

And then, I remembered too something Gloria Anzaldua wrote that has helped me: she said that after colonization, what we have are many broken shards of culture and identity, and we can either try to gather them up and reassemble something that can never, really, be whole again - or, we can gather them up and create something new, a mosaic of who we are now.

And once, Linda Hogan wrote, the presence of scars isn't just the reminder of a wound; it also indicates the presence of healing. That, too, has comforted me.

Your post is so wise and brave that I hesitate to offer what little I have that might help, but I also remember we're each of us always those little girls inside. Take good care of yourself.