Family Visit

October 28, 2009

“I have learned to create a space for myself to be who I am by separating from other people” it occurred to me at the very last day of my family visiting me. They came here for three weeks, all the way from Poland. It was the first time I spent three weeks with my family since 2000, since I moved to USA. I never considered my move to America to be an escape. It was a great opportunity at first, then I was in love. I didn’t really want to move here all that much, I did not come here for the sake of the place itself. It was to be with a great Zen master, then to be with my husband. And yet I had nightmares, for years I would wake up terrified from the same dream of being stuck in Poland, unable to leave, unable to come back here. I would sit in bed, cold with sweat, and I would repeat to myself that I’m here, that I’m safe, that I’m here. I did not feel that I was escaping my family when I moved here. There was nothing to escape. Technically I lived with those people in the same apartment but there was no relationship, I thought. I always had my life and they had no place in it, they had nothing to do with me. Once I moved here a phone call, or an email, once every half a year, or once a year, seemed perfectly sufficient to “keep up the appearances” of being connected, and to keep them at a comfortable distance. And yet I remember the first time I went back to Poland after coming to America. I only spent one night in my old home, in my old room. I was pacing the room back and forth like a tiger in a cage. I felt trapped, snared, terrified that something could happen, that I would have to stay there, that I would not be able to leave. It took me 6 years to screw up my courage and go back to visit again. There was really nothing to be afraid of. My family has plenty of issues, God knows, but I wasn’t terribly abused. I was not tortured, raped, starved, locked in dark cupboards, I did not have to live on bread and water. My parents are not evil monsters nor heartless psychopaths. And yet I could not be there, I could not be with them. And then they came, my mother, my sister and her son. They came to stay with Chris and me for three weeks. They brought Poland with them, they brought my childhood back, threw it in my face and I realized that I have to look at it, face it this time, or those three weeks will be a torture indeed. So I looked. As I watched my mother, as I interacted with her and my sister, I could see, one after another, the source of my traumas. I could see my fears and the defenses I put up to protect myself against them. All the my problems that, in themselves, seemed inexplicable, were put into context and I could see where they came from. My defenses now made perfect sense to me. And I realized, at the end of the very last day of my family’s visit, that I have learned to create a space for myself to be who I am by separating myself from them. Once I decided that I don’t want to be like my parents, that I don’t want to be like my sister, I removed myself from them. I was myself, as I wanted to be, because I didn’t belong to the family anymore. On the very last day of my family visit I realized that I am myself, as I want to be, by removing myself from a relationship with everyone else. I am who I am by separating myself from others. And if I can’t maintain the separation, if I can’t remove myself, then I am gone. Who I am, myself, unique and original, is gone, as I merge with whomever I am with. And the possibility of this happening is terrifying. Terrifying enough to hunt me with nightmares. Those last three weeks were very intense. My relatives just left a couple of days ago. I’ve been sitting in my office, which now is my office again (not the guest bedroom), in the wonderful peace and quietness of a house occupied only by Chris and me. I’ve been sitting here, in silence, after three weeks of speaking nearly constantly, in two languages at the same time, and I could feel my body relax. I could feel my head open, I could feel my mind slowing down and expanding. My body is resting. My body is resting not only because the stress of being a hostess, and a tour-guide, and a translator, is now gone. As I realized that I am who I am by separating myself, I also realized that I don’t have to do that. I don’t need to be always on my guard, I don’t need to be always careful about where I am, and with whom. I realized that I am who I am, in any place, with anyone. I realized that I don’t have to remove myself from any situation, from any person or company of people, that are not just like me, that don’t support being me. I am who I am. I can be who I am. In any place, with anyone. I can simply be me with everyone and everything, always, if I choose to. Is there a point of me being who I am otherwise? I can enjoy being God all I want, I can revel in my uniqueness by myself or with the select few I feel safe with, but what good does it do to anyone? What good does my being here, on earth, right now do to anyone, if I can not be myself with others? What good is there of my being compassionate only with compassionate people? What good is my being enlightened only with enlightened people? What good is there in me be being open and tolerant only with open and tolerant people? I can have a nice, pleasant life, being who I am by myself, within the limits of the world I created for myself, admitting only those select few who “fit in”. By being who I am with others, with anyone, at any time, I can change the world.

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