NO – A Practice Not An Event

I was about 30 years old when I first took in fully how much I do not like to be told “no” – not even by myself.  I was just entering the practice of law but in a job where I reported only to the owner of the company for which I then worked.  I was married to my first husband who worked nights and I barely saw anymore and I did whatever I pleased.  I can still clearly remember sitting one day and realizing that I had set up so much of my life so that no one could tell me “no” about anything.  I was quite pleased with myself at the time and for some time after even as my life shifted and I quit working to get remarried and adopt my kids – it was still set up so that I did what I wanted.  I just did not work outside the home and I had responsibilities to the kids but in my mind all my responsibilities were choices and no one was telling me what to do.  Just wow.  The ego driven mind.  Because I celebrated this.

The more my resistance to NO increased the more unhappy I became actually.  I just did not realize this was a huge part of the problem.  I’m not sure where my resistance to NO came from.  Maybe being on my own so young, maybe childhood trauma, maybe just a huge ego and mind problem, and maybe it doesn’t matter because it just was and often is although today I work on NO.

Looking back I can see how out of control I was.  My outsides were doing ok at the time.  I was not working other than taking care of the kids but that was full time because there were two of them and they were sick and I was quite busy keeping them alive and helping them grow.  But I had issues.  Eating disorder.  Alcoholism (present even though there were long periods where I did not drink at all).  Smoking.  Overeating.  Inertia and not taking care of myself.  Suicidal quite often.  And much if not all of the problem was me and my incredible resistance to NO.  I don’t want to oversimplify too much because life and karma are more complicated than that.  But in terms of my incredible unhappiness with me and life, the greatest part has been I think my resistance to NO.

Over the last several years in doing my personal work and healing I have had to bump up against this NO thing a lot.  A therapist called what he was doing reparenting and a lot of that was in saying NO to me about things I wanted or thought I wanted so that I could learn how to say NO to myself.  Its like a 2 year old child was running my life.  Even as I write this I can feel how true that statement is and how much this inner child likes to be in charge.  A child with too much power.  This therapist would often say things like do you really want a two year old running your life?  On the outside I would say that I did not but could feel the 2 year old inside getting very happy about being in charge.

I would internally lament about my lack of discipline – and sometimes complain out loud about this.  But the minute even I tried to make a plan, a rule, a schedule to do things differently or improve myself somehow I would immediately revolt and then my mind would make up reasons for why I did not have to do whatever this plan was and I could stay in my old behaviors and let that 2 year old be in charge.  A friend told me once that my issues with authority were so bad that if I were dictator of the world I would stage a coup.  And its true.  Thankfully less true than it was but still too true too often.

Mistrust and suspicion are the back story to my resistance to NO.  I did not trust other people and under that really I did not trust myself.  And my mind would gather evidence all the time about why others could not be trusted and it would tell me I could rely only upon myself.  The trap was that I clearly did not trust myself either.  So in this reparenting therapy, work on mistrust and suspicion have been vital.  Its a work in progress today.  Its a practice and I feel like I’m only on the beginning stages of this practice even though it has been several years of work now.

I read or heard somewhere that saying NO to yourself is a practice.  Like a muscle that gets stronger every time you use it and the next NO you say to yourself becomes a little easier.  So I started doing this practice a while ago.  First with very small things and sometimes the NO was really me waiting even just a minute or two before giving in and doing whatever the thing was that I wanted to do but knew was not good for me.  The giving in to my mind and its desires.

Wow, its hard.  Saying NO to myself is really hard.  Every time I do this I get to watch the gunas in action when I can actually sit back and just witness what happens in my mind and emotions.  First the idea of what I want to do (eat the cookie, have a drink, cigarette, whatever the unhealthy thing is/was).  Then the NO.  Then my mind practically screaming with anger, frustration, the desire to DO something.  Rajas.  Then the NO again.  Then the feeling of desperation and giving up, an internal collapse.  Tamas.  Then the NO to whatever the thing was again and the NO to doing something and the NO to the desperation and the giving up.  Then sometimes, more often now than in the beginning, a little bit of balance would come in.  Sattva.  Maybe a minute or two of peace.  Then it would start all over either with the same thing or some other thing my mind wanted to DO.  My mind loves to DO just as much as it hates NO.

So what am I learning with this practice?  NO gets easier and the more I let things be and say NO to my mind the more peace I have.  Sure.  Its true.  I have been learning how incredible my ego is and that this NO practice is teaching me to trust myself and others some.  All good things.  But I think the biggest thing I am learning right now is that this is all a practice.  My mind wants very much for it to be an event.  It wants everything to be an event.  But it is practice.  All day every day.  Even when I have yet again let my mind spin out of control and have not been focusing on NO.  Its still practice.  Noticing it, not judging it, pulling it back and saying NO yet again.  NO has become a big part of my spiritual practice.  The kriya I work with.  Change is hard.  I can hate it and still work on it.  Another lesson.  I don’t have to like saying NO.  I don’t have to like the practice of it.  I do have to keep practicing though.  Its the only way that I grow and get any peace.  And I only have this tiny shred of peace to work with right now.  Its a new practice.  I hate it.  I love it.  I tolerate it.  I have become willing to do it.  Even if that means one tiny little thing for one moment at a time.  This war with my mind.  This fight.  This resistance.  This NO.  This practice.  This opportunity to have peace.

Are We Old Enough To Talk About Suicide?

Today my daughter wanted to watch this new movie 13 Reasons Why.  A movie about the suicide of this girl who apparently left tapes behind for people explaining how they were in part responsible for how she felt, which feelings led to her suicide.  I have vaguely heard of this movie before and knew there was some controversy about it but I had not seen it and I do not intend to.

The argument with my daughter was pretty straight forward.  She thought she was old enough for the topic and should be allowed to see it and “all her friends were watching it.’  I said, no, it is not your choice as it is my job to protect you and that I would decide after watching it or finding out more about it.  Somehow she came to the conclusion that my protecting her was an excuse – an excuse for what I do not know.

After soliciting opinions from people I trust who had seen it, I emphatically denied her permission to watch it.  She was pretty upset.  But all opinions that came in were that this movie glorified suicide without any insight or direction to something that would help someone with this struggle.

My daughter was so insistent that she was old enough for the topic.  But is anyone really old enough to manage suicide or the desire to end one’s life?  Having had this struggle and having attempted suicide in the past, I think not.  There is no preparing someone for the reality of this struggle.  We can talk about getting help and where to get it.  We can talk about what to do if someone says they are feeling so despairing that they want to end their life.  But the actual reality of that despair and what it is like to be in that or be in it with someone going through that?  There is no preparing for that.  There is help and support but that does not diminish the trauma of going through this as the suicidal person or the outsider trying to help.

I hear people say “the struggle is real” and “life is hard” all the time.  But these are flippant statements of minor struggles.  The struggle of choosing life is a whole other thing.  To have to face what it means to be here, with all of what life does and how the mind sees no other options other than death – that is the ultimate struggle.  To find meaning in life when the mind says it has no meaning.  To uselessly try to find meaning in the traumas of life, the pain, the suffering – only to find out that sometimes there is no meaning other than those things have brought us to where we are today.  To this point of finding joy amidst the pain and suffering.

What I have learned is that we have to process everything.  That most often the despair, fear, sadness just needs to be heard in detail.  That we can in fact go back and write a different ending – perhaps not “in reality” but rather energetically.  I have done this a lot in my personal work around my parents and the traumas from my childhood.  I have used statements like “that was not my real dad, my real dad would have done this…” and I have talked to my “real dad” and asked questions, told him how I felt with my therapist playing the part of the real dad, mom or whoever it was I needed to work with at the time.  It did change the story for me.  I did help me know that there is that essence of people – the essence of the real dad and mom to work with to help heal.  My therapist calls it part of the re-parenting process.  The work was unspeakably hard and required a lot of support.  But for me the decisions I made about life not having meaning, that nothing and no one was safe, that I had no worth in this world, that life itself was not safe and that therefore death was better were decisions I made during this trauma period when I was young.  For others I am sure the story is a little different although the feelings are so very often the same.

But as a parent now of these 13 year olds, I get to be that real mom.  The one who protects and nourishes.  I am a fantastic mom not just because I do these fabulous things with my kids but because I know what it is to not have that role model in my life.  I don’t know how I ended up being such a great parent but I did.  I did not act like my parents did.  I made different choices.  My kids will probably never know all of that.  They don’t need to.  They need to know they are loved and valued, that their love is precious and wonderful and more than enough.  I have told them bits and pieces of my life.  My struggle about life and suicide I do not share with them and I am uncertain that I ever will.  Certainly not now and not without good reason.  The hubris of youth thinks it is prepared for anything.  But its not.  I’m grateful that I know this and that I can protect my kids by saying no, you are not ready.  No one really is.  We deal with it and get help and support around it when it comes up but to say we are ready for that is just the mind being arrogant and indulgent.

This glorification of suicide in a movie frightens me.  Was it made just because it could be made?  Because someone had the idea?  Is that kind of like making the atom bomb without thinking of the consequences just because it could be done?  And why are so many parents just letting their kids watch this movie?  When did it become ok to detach from the consequences of letting children decide for themselves what they are gown up enough to do, see, and experience?  I may not be able to stop them from everything I think they should be protected from.  But I won’t sit blindly by while they expose themselves to things that are so hard, so traumatic and that will ultimately desensitize them to something that is truly horrible.