Sometime ago, I told my daughters the story of a woman who came to me after I'd given birth by Caesarean to console me. Your feelings of sorrow of not having experienced natural childbirth need to be expressed she told me. The support group for women who gave birth to their child through Caesarean could help me find a safe and caring environment for that expression.
I didn't know I should be missing the pain of pushing my child through the birth canal. I didn't know my child needed the pain of being squeezed through such a tiny place.
I didn't know what I didn't know. That pain was necessary. That the journey of life hurts.
I wonder how the butterfly feels tearing its way through the cocoon. Does it hurt? Does it spread its wings in those first moments of life outside the protected web of its self-imposed incarceration because its wings are hurting so much it will do anything to relieve the pain? And in that first painful stretch, discover, it can fly? Does a butterfly even want to fly or does nature just take over and lift it up? Does the eaglet even want to leave the nest?
Ignorance is bliss.
German philosopher and linguist Jean Gebser wrote, "And it would be well for us to be mindful of one actuality: although the wound in the head of Zeus healed, it was once a wound. Every "novel" thought will tear open wounds . . . everyone who is intent upon surviving—not only earth but also life—with worth and dignity, and living rather than passively accepting life, must sooner or later pass through the agonies of emergent consciousness."
Yesterday, I sat in on the 'parade' for a of police officers who patrol the downtown core. Because the zone which they patrol includes the homeless shelter where I work, they are often bringing individuals to the shelter, as well as encountering them on the street. The goal of my being present at their parade is to initiate dialogue that will help us find the common ground that links us in our goal of helping those who are homeless in our city.
Tearing through my pre-conceived notions and opinions hurts.
One of the officers asked me, "What do you want out of these sessions?"
I want us to hear each other and to find a way to common ground where we respect the work we each do, knowing it is part of what is necessary to support and help the people we serve.
Then, why don't you....
and the list began of the things we need to do differently as an agency to help people better.
Ah, if it were so simple.
I sat in that room and felt the weight of unborn possibility heavy in my soul. I almost cried at one point. I felt so helpless in the onslaught of their insistence that we, the shelter, are the problem.
"How many people here believe that because we built a beautiful building that opens its doors to anyone who comes through them, homeless increased in our city?" I asked.
A majority of hands rose.
I gave the statistics. 1992 homeless count. 476 homeless individuals counted. Each subsequent bi-annual count -- homelessness rose by 32%. Even after the shelter was opened in 2001.
We didn't draw people to city streets. We didn't pull them into homelessness because we wanted more money from the government. People came because of what was happening in their lives. They came because of addictions and mental health issues and breakdowns of families and communities and a host of other causes... all of which we contribute to, or tolerate because.
It's the 'because' that's hard to define.
Why has homelessness risen throughout western society? Why are more rehab beds needed? Why is divorce a 50/50 outcome of marriage?
And that was the hard pill to swallow yesterday.
I know their hardened lines and entrenched opinions about what we at the shelter do are founded on their frustration that there is no answer for many of the people they pick up off the streets and carry to our doors. That when they arrive, we watch suspiciously to see if they've 'harmed' the individual, must hurt.
"Do you help natives get back to their communities?" one officer asked. "What are you doing to reconnect them to their families?"
"What if they don't want to go?" I asked.
"I had a young guy who, all he wanted was to get back to his reserve but he couldn't afford a ticket. Why don't you buy him a ticket?"
"We don't have the funding. Do you?"
"No. But that's not our job."
"And you think it's ours?"
"Well, you get government funding to run the shelter. Why don't you use it to help people get back home."
"We do," I replied. "And we start with where they're at. Sometimes, it's all we can do. Keep people safe, provide them shelter, where ever they're at, until they awaken to the realization that they're desire is to survive -- and to survive, they must go through the pain of recovery."
Hard place. This realization that to live we must break open the wounds we've been anethesizing through our addictions, behaviour, denial...
And it is just beginning to form in my head.
For all of us -- where ever we are, is in that moment, exactly where we are meant to be. Realization, awakening, knowledge comes through the pain of being places we don't want to be. Places that no longer fit us and discovering, we are not just passive observers of life, we are our lives, exactly the way they are unfolding.
When I was in an abusive relationship, I took the passive path of least resistance. I fell into the belief, I could do nothing, changing nothing, be nowhere else than in that painful place.
I was passive. I told myself passive stories where I was not the heroine, but the victim of my circumstances.
In active engagement with my life, the pain of realization, of awakening, hurts. But go through it I must if I am to live this one wild and precious life fully awakened in the rapture of now.
I had to go through the darkness to find the light. There were a thousand paths I could have taken, that relationship was one of the one's I chose.
I was unconscious.
Of my own pain grappling with the self-created cocoon of my thinking that someone else could give me happiness, someone else could give me everything I wanted in life.
For those experiencing homelessness on our streets, their sleep is long. Their pain deep.
Some will awaken. And until they do, we must keep them safe. Keep them alive.
Sometimes, it is all we can do.
And sometimes, all we can do when others criticize, condemn or complain is open our hearts and minds and let them give voice to the pain that drives them into believing, We are not doing enough.
In our 'not doing enough' we are being all we're meant to be at that moment. As best we know how. As best we're willing to accept without going through the pain of birthing a new identity, a new way of living, a new path to walk. All of us.
Accepting that the pain we feel in this moment is the pain of life birthing itself through us every day, every moment, -- now that's a more challenging place to live.
This is a work in progress -- I'm not sure where it's going -- but I am willing to let it have birth as it comes into being. Not 'being perfect' is painful. It's a good place for me to be.