I was watching the movie Aviator recently. It's a bio film about Howard Hughes. Watching that film is always fascinating to me, because it displays the life of someone who was clearly innovative and inventive and yet also suffered from a mental affliction, OCD. His attention to detail in his inventiveness was another sign of that OCD.
I thankfully don't have OCD myself, but I've always found the balance between genius and madness to be fascinating to both watch and to experience in my own work. My own inventiveness has primarily occurred in the context of magic, both in its theory and its practice and knowing beyond doubt what could be possible. My interest in other disciplines has also contributed to that inventiveness. And yet in doing a lot of the magical work that I've pursued there has definitely been an element of risk involved in terms of how far I'm willing to push myself to achieve my goals.
In the movie, Hughes is portrayed as a very driven and passionate person when it comes to his pursuits. I can appreciate that drive, even as I acknowledge that it is a two-edged sword and indeed you see that Hughes, because that drive certainly tests his sanity. My wife tells me that I drive myself too hard, and has asked me where it comes from. When I watched Aviator, I thought about that. I can't speak to any motivation that Hughes felt, but my own motivation is rooted to some degree in my emptiness, and it always has been.
I've always had a fascination with people who were geniuses and also dealt with madness. Some of that fascination is rooted in my own struggle with an electrochemical predisposition toward depression and finding a way to cure that depression instead of letting it rule me...Some of it seeing those people struggle with something within themselves and yet still be able triumph in some form or another despite it.
When I was young, I grew up in a situation where no matter what I accomplished, it was never enough for the people in my life. I eventually realized that any accomplishments I did make in my life had to be for myself, and consequently I pushed myself much harder than anyone else might have. I think, in part, that is why the ph.d didn't work out. I was research, experimenting and writing books while also pursuing graduate work full time. My pushing myself has often been a response to my emptiness to try and fill it up. My's observations about that has lately had me considering the value of not pushing myself so hard, especially when I consider that those who push themselves so hard may make a lot of change, but also end up pushing themselves into places where they can't recover. I, for a time, danced with madness while in grad school, resulting in several mental breakdowns as well as becoming a recluse...it's not a fun place to be. The emptiness might motivate my drive and indeed I still want to be driven, but moderating it some may be just as important, in order to live a life where I am happy as well as driven. Some of this emptiness working is focused on finding that balance.
I've lately been dealing with the root of my feelings about abandonment and neglect. Since these feelings are related to my sense of emptiness it makes a lot of sense to me to deal with them. The root of it all is in my childhood, in the experience of not really having a strong set of parents or friends to turn to. I mostly was either neglected or when I did get attention it wasn't favorable. I talked about it in therapy on the 21st of November, and it was surprising for me to acknowledge just how hurt I still feel so many years later. And this really is where my fear of bring shunted aside for someone else comes from, because so often I saw my half-sister given much more positive attention and interest than I received. She could get away with anything, while I was more often than not scapegoated anything she did. Then too there were all the times I was told to go outside, because I wasn't wanted in the house. If I was outside that was good, that was wanted. I never felt wanted.
Recognizing these feelings as the root of my emptiness is good for me. Yes, it's painful, yes it hurts, and yet it is a healing hurt. It is choosing to feel that pain instead of just analyzing it . It is hopefully letting it go so I can move on with my life in better directions than where I was previously.
An interesting realization I had. I am a very territorial person with certain people because I think of them as mine, as part of my pack, as people who belong to me. I can think of a few people this applies to in my life, close friends and lovers, and yes my immediate family as well in an odd way. I say that last because while I do love my family, I also recognize that there are certain things I can never fully share with them that I could share with the others by virtue of choices made by those others...but my immediate family is part of my pack as well.
With my friends and lovers that dimension of territoriality extends in subtle ways. I am possessive of them, but also protective of them. They are mine because I love them in such a deep way, yet really I can't fully possess...I can only possess my feelings for them; those same feelings cause me to feel vulnerable with those people. They touch me so deeply, and so they touch my emptiness and in touching that simultaneously show me a feeling of love and warmth and also remind me of that emptiness. As I learned this last year, love is a terrible force...this added layer of recent realization shows me how incredibly vulnerable I am in my choice to genuinely love someone.
Emptiness is finding something or someone who speaks you to on a very deep level, touching those places where you feel empty and bringing something to those places, while also emphasizing that same emptiness in a subtle way. Or it is finding someone who speaks so deeply to values that you have and realizing profound joy and gratitude in finding this person while also working on accepting that how often you physically share space with this person could be very limited? Emptiness contains fullness even as it embodies emptiness.
I meditated tonight (Nov 25) on my territoriality and my tendency to give up if I feel I/that territory isn't valued. It was a meditation on emptiness as well. My tendency to give up is that emptiness, the painful resounding feeling of being rejected again in some form or manner and so withdrawing myself away from that rejection. If s/he/it doesn't want me, then why should I continue to show effort? I want to be wanted, as much as I as also want to show my own desire for someone. I recently noted how I never really felt I'd had anyone fall in love with me, anyone show a level of desire FOR me that hadn't already been shown significantly in advance by myself for that person. I can think of one exception, but given how that turned out...Ironically this is the way of all relationships...one person shows more interest initially than the other does. Rationally I know this. Emotionally, I am still that child with the sunken eyes who watched as others were more valued than he was. This feeling of having to give more in order to receive; it seems like generosity, but it masks one of my deepest wounds: That I am somehow not worthy enough of the love, friendship, etc. that I want. And it's only now that I can consciously admit I feel this wound in me, this wound which is part of the emptiness in my life. I am that wounded child that cries to the moon for solace in the night. I see that wounded child in my eyes. His fear is so tangible. He is so tired, and yet he has no trust of anyone. I think one of my favorite musician's John Terlazzo sums this child up:
I am the loss antagonized child who finds no vision in the street. There are no shelters, no places of refuge. there's no protection. There is no Priest. So I yell at the moon, "I won't be this child!" and I yell at the sky, "I give up this child tonight!"
But I can't give that child up. I must enfold in my arms, give him sanctuary, warmth, love, and an opportunity to heal. So my arms are open. I enfold him in my torn white robes and I tell him to tell me how he feels and I listen...I listen so that I can heal his wounds and mine and find succor and peace with my emptiness instead of continuing to try and give it up.
We had Thanksgiving...Even after eating so much, I feel so empty. I feel the emperor stir and put his hand on my shoulder and he whispers to me about feeling unloved. I spent a year on this emotion love, and what it revealed is the great emptiness within. In some ways this elemental working is an extension of last year's love working, which is quite natural given that this emptiness was born out of the feeling of not having love when I was so young. I feel incredibly needy sometimes for attention and I realize it is something I've felt most of my life...A child's desire to be loved and accepted unconditionally, and even now that child is within me. There's a theme of a child in this month's working...that's another direction to go in.
Nov 28th: A discussion with my therapist and some thinking about my interactions with my mom helped me realize some fundamental issues in regards to my emptiness as well as some of what I mentioned above. I realized I'm angry at her because of feeling micro-managed and smothered and controlled, but also angry because I got her bad habits. I got the micromanagement (to a degree), the money paranoid issues, etc. And I'm like, "Dammit, how'd I get those from you when I didn't come to live with you until I was 15"
Just goes to show that a person is susceptible to emotion/thought viruses at any age. It was actually really good for me to realize I felt anger toward this person, but also compassion and a desire to mediate my anger in a way that could actually help us heal our wounds as opposed to prolonging them through senseless fighting. Recognizing behaviors I didn't like from her, that I sometimes do has actually given me some food for thought on how to change those behaviors in myself, as well as recognizing how others might feel when I do act on those behaviors. I feel empowered...I also actually feel pleased with myself, because one of those behaviors, advice giving without asking is one I've cut down on a lot, because of the life coaching training I received. I can still improve, but I realize just how much I have changed and it feels really good to say, yes I can change! It's a little triumph and yet one that shows me I'm on the right track with this emptiness working.
Dec 5th. Every time I meditate on emptiness I feel irritable afterwards. The wounds have been picked I suppose. Emptiness is an ugly feeling tonight. Part of me wants to take up the knife and carve myself open, creating a display of art and magic with the bloody trails I leave on my skin. Naturally some of this is brought on by the digging I'm doing into this feeling of emptiness.
For instance, realizing that the reason I observe people so closely has much less to do with interest and alot more to do with survival. When you grow up in a situation where the people around you are unpredictable in their actions and treatment of you, you try and find patterns and predictions so that you can, as best possible, avoid the worse consequences. There is some part of me that feels so angry with certain people in my life for realizing just how deeply they affected me. I watch everyone I know closely, waiting for what I would consider the inevitable betrayal. Hardly a way I want to live life, but realizing just how subtle that particular behavior is, and how much it's informed how I deal with people.
And dealing as well with the awkwardness of being direct, to a point which can sometimes work against me, because even in a culture where supposedly people are direct there's a lot more subtleties going on than what I care for dealing with. I'm not a subtle person, and I have no desire to be a subtle person, because of all the games that seem to go with such subtleties. I'd much rather just put it all out on the table. Problem with that is, when you deal with people who look for subtleties, they can't really believe that you are that direct. They look for the hidden dagger you are waiting to plant in them. How ironic that last sentence though, because one could interpret my watching of others so carefully as what I just described above. Good things to recognize, but recognizing them right now just makes me feel irritable with everyone and myself.
12-09 We are getting ready to move. I've been doing most of the packing and I feel uprooted, liminal, neither here nor there, nor anywhere. I feel alone. I know once we move and get settled in that I'll be fine, but moving is a strange activity.
On top of that my adventures in hopeless romance have continued from last month, leaving me still feeling unsatisfied and a little bitter. I confessed to my wife that I felt I'd been given emotional blueballs, earlier this month because of different situations with different people. Yet I have no one to blame really, other than myself. It is I who puts myself in these situations. It is I who chooses to foster some hope that this time said person will actually feel interest and want to reciprocate. It is also I who is too direct, perhaps, for my own good. And there's still just a bit of guilt from last year and some secret part of me which says, "Don't you deserve it after what you did?" That guilt still lingers. It's becoming less. I'm forgiving myself more, but there's still that part of me which is angry at myself. And so perhaps that part is both masochistic and sadistic and enjoys putting me into a situation where I twist in the wind of longing, wanting some connection that seems, at the moment, to be denied. And yet I can't help but think that this isn't just on me. In only one case was the person I was interested in able to be direct and upfront and explain that she couldn't reciprocate. That act of kindness (and it was kind of her) means so much to me...it helped me see a new level with her and appreciate her further because she didn't feel need to play a game and see how long I'd twist...
Looking at this from the perspective of emptiness, I ask myself: What will finding "love" with any of these people do for you? What need does it fulfill? What does it block? How much does this need cause you to limit yourself because you perceive these people in a particular way?" All very rational, good questions. Emotionally working toward the answer however is a bitch. However, I think working to that answer will pay off, both for myself and my relationship with myself, and for future relationships with other people.
Dec 11 In thinking about what I wrote above earlier, and actually feeling it as well, there seems to be a need to find some kind of acceptance, some place where it's always warm, filled up, perfect. A need to perfection, which is unrealistic, and yet there, because if you had a very imperfect childhood, like I did, you want to find the opposite the rest of your life. I've looked for it from other people, but I also need to look for it in myself. Last year's love working helped some with it...perhaps this year will do even more.
Dec 12 I figured out what the title is for this month: Obsession. Really commenting on Aviator should've told me that, but it was made fully aware to me today until I stopped over at the place of someone I like, because I hadn't heard from them in a while and pretty much made a fool of myself. Something she said really stood out to me: "It's great that you know what you want and that you're so in touch with it, but you don't know yet what I want and where what we have between us will go." And she's right...and I realized that I had, once again, let my emotions get the better of me. I let myself become obsessed with a particular desired reality, over being open to what could occur. A lust for a result, big no-no in magic, and here I am doing it. I can tell you why, but it doesn't excuse it...It does illuminate into the emptiness though.
I was thinking about it on the way back. If my emotions are gateways into emptiness, they are also gateways for emptiness to express itself and obsession, to me, is an expression of emptiness. If you've watched Smallville, you've probably noticed that as Lex becomes the "evil villain" that he becomes, he also grows more and more obsessed. That obsession is what leads him down the dark path he goes. He can't control his emotions or desires...they rule him. And I can sometimes be obsessive myself. Anyone can, but since this is about my magical journey, I'll focus on me. To me obsession is the loss of control to emotion...it's where emotion takes over. When I was young I didn't feel emotions. I repressed them. It wasn't until my late teens and twenties that I really began to feel emotions and then they overwhelmed me. Even to this day, as is obvious by what occurred, I still get overwhelmed by those emotions. I've learned how to feel them and yet control the expression of them to some degree, but today illustrates a way to go.
In playing Kingdom Hearts again, I see a similar vector to Lex and myself. The villains become heartless when they let their emotions control them. They allow the emotions to take control to such a degree that they lose perspective. The heartless is really an embodiment of raw emotion, while the nobody is an embodiment of intellect.
So where does this leave me? Besides feeling humiliated and unhappy with myself, it was a good cosmic slap upside the head today that I'm still looking to much to the external. Don't get me wrong I didn't think this person was going to take away my emptiness, and yet on an emotional level my feelings came out of this desire, this need, this whatever. I've spent the last two months trying to get involved with someone or another...it's been a fairly mindless activity for me, benign in a way, but at the same time not so much because I am hurting. But that hurt has really been caused by myself, by trying to find something with someone.
It's time to shift focus. No more looking for other relationships until I can get a better handle on my emptiness. It's time to start some other meditation techniques I have access to. Do that, work through this feeling of need and desire and go from there. It takes a while, but yes I really do learn lessons eventually. We are moving tomorrow. I'm going to post this today and start the new month off when we get internet access again. And please wish me luck with this emptiness working...it's just as hard as the love working was. This month really kicked me ass.