Tumultuous times are upon us in the United States of America. Indeed “United States” seems like a misnomer as ever growing disunity establishes itself with the installation of a new administration that was appointed to office despite that the people elected another. This challenges the very core of what any democracy stands for. And many, myself included, fear the ramifications. Just two days along with the new leadership our fears are materializing. Beautifully people are fighting back — A LOT of people! And in a grand way!
While my concerns are many, in reflection what hurts my heart most is knowing that some in my own family support the very administration that has promised to challenge — and where possible to take away — so much of who I am. It is hard to imagine that we could be of the same blood and yet be so different. In retrospect being different is a theme that I was born with and have lived all my life. It has brought great gifts personally and even has given me the ability to do the work I do so that others might feel less of the pain that comes with it.
This time though it feels different. Never have people so close to me supported devaluing the core of my differentness. This is my personal experience of course. Equally disturbing is that they are also complicit in supporting what the new administration has pledged to do to harm so many others in the name of “America First,” so that they themselves may feel some sense of security that likely itself is a malicious “alternative fact” offered by an administration simply to perpetuate false hope in exchange for support from people unwilling to examine for themselves what is really happening. Many of us stand to lose enormously as a result of their decision to remain ignorant.
For the past two years I have been writing a new book. Paradise (re)Discovered is the universal story of the journey of discovery, or rediscovery as it were, that we all take as we navigate the trials and tribulations of our lives. The thesis is that we all come into this life knowing exactly who we are. But from day one we undergo an initiation of sorts. Our family and society at large teach us who we should be based on their, and in my case others’, expectations of how and who we should be. Of course their inability to allow us to grow independent of their expectations is borne of their own fears and needs and perceived imperfections.
As we come of age and strike out on our own we hopefully begin to individuate from the family and with that process comes challenges — some big like I and so many face now and others small. No matter, each presents an opportunity through our response to it to rediscover and ultimately to honor who we really are. This can be a difficult process. It requires self-examination and rejection of ideas and behaviors we were given that we now discover do not honor and serve us.
The book is not a huge undertaking; it’s pretty straightforward. But one reason that it has taken so long to write is that each chapter forces me to take the next steps in my own process. In the process I battled with the fear of making such a personal journey public. This is not because it is my nature to be concerned with such a thing; I share my life with clients and others everyday. The fear comes from what I have been taught to make decisions based upon — questions like, What will others think? What will my family think? What if my family disagrees with some of what I remember? Will they disapprove? Might they be angry?
As I write, my journey of rediscovering who I am now teaches me to ask, What honors me most? It teaches me to be guided only by that. What honors me most, what takes me back to who I really am, may not serve others. And that’s okay. This is not selfish. I trust that it is impossible that something harmful to another could honor me. So regardless of what another might think, the greater good will always be served by asking myself this one question only.
As the new administration unfolds and the United States of America takes on a direction different from any in its history and one that is against the very essence of what a democracy is, I am challenged to take the next steps in my journey. Roberto Assagioli taught of the importance of disidentification: “I have a body, but I am not my body.” “I have a mind, but I am not my mind.” “I have diabetes perhaps, but I am not a diabetic.” While each of these things might be core aspects of who a person is none defines that person. Disidentification reminds us of the importance of keeping each aspect in perspective so that none has undue influence.
Today I add one more statement to my disidentification: “I have a family, but I am not my family.” I am reminded of and comforted by what I learned in New York in the 1980s when I worked with individuals struggling with addictions and what came to be called HIV and AIDS. Most struggled with both and many if not most were disenfranchised by their families. Their very survival depended on their willingness and ability to establish what they referred to as their Family of Choice — one or more individuals who accepted them as they were and who never betrayed their trust and needs. I am blessed with such a group that I have cultured for various reasons over the years but never have I felt the need to embrace them more. And many of them are already feeling impact more than I.
I am also comforted in knowing that the United States of America is undergoing a parallel process of rediscovering whom she is. The current situation is a challenge that forces the same self-examination on a national scale that I am undergoing in my own life. In witnessing the en mass resistance to what is morally wrong and against the very nature of who we are as a country — and indeed against humanity — I am reminded that, as always, All is Well. Paradise (will indeed be) (re)Discovered.
With Blessings and Gratitude,
from Santa Fe, New Mexico