Monday, August 17, 2015

The Search for Family

My last course I took was in Eastern Religions. Besides learning about Gandhi (and being reminded of how important spinning was to him ) and Buddha and rich, wonderful things like the Mahabharata and Upanishads, one of our assigned books was "The Accidental Buddhist". In that book I read a passage that really struck me with its truth.
"In Buddhism we talk about the mind that abides nowhere. The homeless mind, the mind that's not attached, the mind that's not dependent on a home, or a country, or a nation, or money, or job, or status, for its essential identity. And a lot of what I get from talking to people in their 20s who come into Buddhism is a sense that they literally do not have a home. Their parents are divorced, there is a sense of tremendous fragmentation in families. I talk to kids coming into Buddhism who don't know where their mother is, don't know whether she's living on the East Coast or the West Coast, haven't seen her for twelve years or something. We have these amazing stories that we are all aware of. In a way it is a very sophisticated, very evolved understanding. They take one look around and see that their last shot for any kind of security or equanimity is inside, because everything around them is falling apart. Their families are falling apart, their society is falling apart, and they see that they can go with it, and just fall apart too, or they can try to pull themselves together, and the only place to go is an entirely interior place. There is simply no outside place, they can get absolutely no footing outside. There is no sense of family, no sense of community."
I understand this completely because for years, I have searched for a whole family. I have been wrestling for some time with my most cherished desires for family, this dearly-held dream, and how it is not to be for me. Sometimes I do wonder if the notion of family we have in our culture is irretrievably broken, given the number of divorces with children. Are we expecting too much? Are our notions of family archaic? My own parents' divorce was completely justified and needed to happen. However, I did not divorce myself from the dream of an intact, supportive family, and this dream has haunted me through two more marriages. I tried to set things right, and ended up with the same deep disappointment in marriage and sometimes,even men. Listening to my own 20-year-old daughter's song she wrote about not having a home, I was flooded with guilt and sadness for all of us. My own four children will share this loss with me...this feeling of homelessness, and will have to struggle to find a home within themselves.
The  Story captures this lonely, homeless feeling in their exploration of divorce and gender roles within their song "Angel in the House." They write: "My mother moved the furniture when she no longer moved the man" "She listened to the angel, she said to flatter, she said to coo, she said it don't matter" and in one phrase they sing, "it's back to the wheel, back to the fire, and onto the high wire"
Back to the wheel...back to a primitive state where all that exists is your essence. You are forced to rely on yourself. It's sink or swim. It's get out on the highwire and learn to balance.
 It's fighting the dragons of courtrooms and people who make you their scapegoat. It's protecting your kids for all your might. It's learning the terms...the rules of engagement....the devaluing and well, reduction, of something-someone you dearly loved, this desire for family, into a file in the courthouse. Yes, there sits your family in an ugly courthouse file. To see your passion, your dearest dream, your foundation, your identity as wife and mother annihilated and reduced is an immeasurable loss.
We of the divorced set try to kid ourselves and our children by saying they have TWO homes now...isn't it nice? Ugh. There is a mountain of their own unsettled grief that they will have to come to terms with, and my concern is that some may learn all too well how to please the adults but cannot quite find themselves.The exception are the adults who can put aside their differences and consciously focus on  giving the children a good life.
 I deeply grieve having a sense of wholeness in my own kinfolk. I feel the weight of the fragmentation and the disconnection. And then, I have to believe "family" is a phoenix. What will rise from the ashes is not the rebirth of the notion of family I have bought into all these years,the cultural picture,  but it will be wider, more inclusive, and will require me to rely on people and resources in a different, more expansive way. I already have a very real and beautiful and sincere and supportive community that very much serves as family.
This is a phase of grief for me. I have finally mustered up the courage to write about it, and feel a sense of closure coming. As always, it's all going to work out and everything is going to be ok.