A Message from Rand: The Ruling Fear Meditation

My late partner, Stuart “Alex” Lucker, channeled a writing exercise designed to help people identify what we want—or fear—most about a certain situation or aspect of our lives. This exercise, which I call the Ruling Passion Meditation, can be applied to subjects we would consider negative. So for this blog post, we’re going to take on the topic of our fears.

The Ruling Fear Meditation

  1. Number a sheet of paper  from 1 through 21 down the lefthand side.
  2. Set your timer for 5 minutes.
  3. Now write down everything you are afraid of, big, small, and in between. Write down whatever occurs to you, no matter how you are tempted to deny it. (Only you are going to see this exercise sheet, so you can be totally honest with yourself.)
    • The fears you write down might include fears around physical matters such as money, an upcoming vacation, losing one’s job, the roof of your house caving in, screwing up the math exam, contracting a terminal illness, nuclear war, being cut out of mother’s will, bankruptcy, staying fat forever.
    • Your fears may include inner, feeling-oriented matters such as a spouse leaving you for someone else; trouble with in-laws; the safety and happiness of your child or pet; rejection by teachers, family, and potential life-partners; feeling alone and unloved.
    • Deep intellectual, spiritual, and ethical fears, too, can be listed, such as fear that death is the end and a loving Higher Power is a fantasy; fear you have missed your true life’s purpose; fear you have chosen the wrong profession; fear that your work accomplishments will be derided, stolen, disproved, or forgotten.
  4. Try to come up with 21 different or related fears, one fear per line. If you can’t think of 21, or if you think of more than 21, list all those you can think of and stop there.
  5. Next, we’re going to grade the fears by intensity.
    • Set your timer again, this time for 2 minutes.
    • Read each fear in turn, asking yourself, “On a scale of 1 through 5—1 being the absolute worst, and 5 being simply bothersome—how strong is this fear in me today?” Number each fear from 1 to 5. Go down the list ranking each fear as quickly as possible, guessing if you’re not sure; don’t overthink it.
    • Now put a check mark next to all the fears you ranked number 1 or number 2. These are your Ruling Fears, the things, people, situations, and/or outcomes you most dread. Now you can take these fears and work on finding all the support you may need for taking action on how to prevent what you most fear from manifesting.

Next Time: The Family answers your questions (and mine) on any topic of concern.

On Seeking Safe Haven

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I’ve spent most of my sixty-five years of life looking for a person, doctrine,  or organization that I could build my life around. I started out looking to my parents to fulfill this role. I found early on that I could depend upon my father to provide us with shelter, clothing, food, and the luxuries of upper middle class Anglo life, but that he was largely unavailable emotionally and could not protect me from my abusive older brother. My mother I found I could depend upon to provide me with delicious meals, delightful books, affection, and consolation, except when her alcoholism and borderline personality disorder symptoms turned her manipulative, vindictive, and sexually abusive.

For years I felt torn between the two of them, and my ambivalence took an odd turn.

Mother put pressure on me to choose her over my father, which—let’s be frank—it wasn’t hard to do, given his loud, gritted-teeth complaints, self-isolation, and demands for absolute obedience. But I liked the fact that he was a writer, and I think I sensed his self-loathing, and I identified with him more than I liked to admit at the time. Now in the bedroom they shared, my father slept on the left side of the bed, my mother on the right. So at night I felt torn. If I slept on the left side of my bed, would I be symbolically choosing my father over my mother? If I slept on the right side of my bed, would I be symbolically choosing my mother over my father? So I compromised: I taught myself to sleep flat on my back, a habit I tend to follow to this day.

Once I entered adolescence, I more or less gave up trying to find refuge in my parents’ world and I sought refuge in my private dream world of comic books, science fiction, fantasy, mythology, and chaste fantasies of joining Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men, or being adopted as innocent school mascot by my brother Anthony’s Air Force Academy classmates. When I became aware of my homosexuality, I began fantasizing about finding a Mister Right, the perfect man who, in exchange for my exclusive devotion and access to my body, would console, protect, and give shape and direction to the rest of my life.

The problem was that, owing to incest trauma, I felt sex was dirty—not just homosexuality, but all sex. I got this feeling from my mother. So I decided that I did not want to be sexual at all. After my father’s sudden death in early 1971, I sought out the sexuality-free surrogate family I’d always fantasized about: I became a celibate Fundamentalist Christian for seven years.

The people with whom I worshiped were good people, genuinely trying to live by Jesus’s teachings of love and forgiveness. Although my self-betrayal ate away at me, the love and acceptance they showed me had a healing effect on me. They gave me a refuge from the storm of my life. But in the end I left the church, and Fundamentalism, in large part because I felt I had been putting on an act. Though I was indeed celibate for most of the seven years I was with them, I now know the difference between celibacy, born of lifestyle conviction, and sexual anorexia born of abuse trauma. And I was not the only one who left. Several years ago I discovered that the pastor of the last church I attended had been gay, and had committed suicide because he had not been able to reconcile his faith with his physicality.

All this took place many decades ago. Today, at 65 years old, five feet seven inches tall, and 290 pounds, I am far from healed; I like to joke that I have more issues than National Geographic. But I have a renewed faith in Divine Love, from Whose womb I was born and to Whose womb I shall return, and for Whom my homosexuality is a natural species variation, not a monstrosity or a curse worthy of damnation. And I have been fortunate in meeting numerous fellow travelers, straight, gay, in between, and undecided, whose kindness has consistently reached out to me in dark times.

So if you are tempted to give up who you are to get love, don’t give in to that temptation. Start asking for help, and keep on asking until you start getting it. It can and does get better, but only if you refuse to let your abusers win. •

My Landlord’s Dog

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My landlord’s dog is a white female American bulldog named Julie. She is 8 years old, and exudes sweetness and love to such an extent that nearly everyone who meets her tells my landlord, whom I’ll call Jim, “If you ever decide to give her up, I’ll take her.” I rent a room in Jim’s house, and when my cat Urdwill was alive, Julie accepted him as one of the pack; if anything, he, not she, was the more aggressive and territorial of the two.

For the past few days I have been caring for Julie. About 4 days ago, Jim was taken to the hospital, where he has been ever since, with a cracked pelvis from a fall, a deep upper leg infection, and urinary difficulties. Jim is a very large man, and it took a four-man team of paramedics and firefighters to transport him from the upper tier of the bunk bed where he sleeps down to the gurney they had waiting for him. When I spoke to him on the telephone yesterday, he sounded disoriented and frightened. In his deep bass voice he said, “I’ve never felt so helpless before.”

I can believe it. Jim is 74, with a lifetime of international sales, business ownership, and professional rugby behind him. When I met him, about 2 years ago, he had been reduced to spending most of his time in a chair in front of his large screen TV, watching sports programs. I learned that some years back he developed a brain embolism that impaired his hearing, eyesight, balance, short term memory, and completely erased his sense of smell, which in turn has reduced considerably his ability to taste anything. A Type Two diabetic, and a heavy nighttime vodka-and-cranberry-juice-cocktail drinker, he is also a hoarder. Nearly every square inch of his house is filled with sports equipment, boxes of books, clothing, heaps of old bills and letters, tools, memorabilia, and trash, and the yards around his house sport several huge, inoperative vehicles, including a chartreuse van and two trucks, one of which has a mobile hot tub attached to it. (In the Seventies, Jim used to drive this rig around Santa Fe, renting it out to partying hippies.)

Despite his brain damage and short term memory loss, Jim notices at once if anything new appears in his vicinity, or if anything is thrown away or moved from one spot to another. “Is that your towel on the washing machine?” he asks. “Did you move that [tiny scarlet] tag from the desk to the side table?” Severely depressed, he goes to bed around midnight and gets up around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. “It just doesn’t seem worth it most days to get out of bed,” he told me.

Jim is on Medicare, and has had a string of caseworkers who come by now and again, disappear, and are replaced by new caseworkers. This is not because Jim is a difficult client to deal with; he is remarkably sweet tempered for a man with his background and in his condition. It’s because New Mexico, one of the poorest states of the Union, does not allocate much money to social services, and typically caseworkers are paid little, overworked, and overscrutinized by middle management longtermers anxious not to lose their jobs. Still, it’s a good thing Jim has Medicare, as he tells me he will be in hospital for at least another week, and in the meantime I am more or less in charge of taking care of Julie. “She misses you a lot, Jim,” I told him. “I miss her a lot, too,” he said, and his voice broke.

I find myself grieving, for Jim’s pain, certainly, but also for my own. My father, pictured above, was a big man, too, with a bass voice, and like Jim had little liking or talent for asking for help. Tonight I miss my father keenly. I was scared of him, much of the time, and angry with him, much of the time, and yearned for his approval and acceptance all of the time. He filled the house I grew up in with his presence just as Bill fills this house with his, and after my father died, of the last in a string of heart attacks back in 1971, the house loomed vast and empty without him in it.

I have no reason to believe that Jim will die, not this time, anyhow, though the events of the past week are clearly a wakeup call for him: change your ways of handling your pain, or make a humiliating, and possibly protracted, exit, stage right. But however long he is in hospital or rehab, and however many changes must take place in his house for it to accommodate his new fragilities, for now, I am here with his dog Julie; and our hearts, both hers and mine, are aching. •

 

 

 

 

Visions of Divine Love: An Audio Talk

Spent last Sunday morning giving a little talk at the Celebration, a spiritual congregation in Santa Fe. I told them about some spiritual experiences that I had last fall. Those of you who are interested in this sort of thing might enjoy giving my talk a listen. Of course, being a Pisces, I got choked up with emotion several times.

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On Fear of the Dark

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I have always been afraid of the dark. When I was a boy in rural Connecticut, I used to lie awake at night, listening to our old house creak around me, watching shadows creep up the walls of my room and across the ceiling. I was afraid to go down into our cellar, where the washer, dryer, and Mother’s canned goods were kept, because there was a back room, seldom lit, that opened on a cavernous passageway so thick with darkness you could see no farther than a few yards into it.

If you have lived all your life in the city, you may not appreciate just how dark rural nights can be. Outdoors, night transformed our friendly open fields and woods into thick dense shadow, particularly when the moon was on the wane. Affable nocturnal cricket-chirp and brightly lathered starshine mitigated my outdoor night-fears somewhat, but I still feared the gaping open mouth of our barn, and watching horror movies on our black-and-white T.V. didn’t help matters. The shows that scared me were ludicrously tame by modern standards: Invaders From Mars, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, the British horror series Way Out, every episode of which ended in maniacal laughter. Nonetheless, afterwards, upstairs in my dark bed, I would clutch my stuffed animals and my mother’s rosary to me as though my life depended upon their protection.

Bathrooms, too, scared me at night, particularly bathrooms with the doors shut. So did bathtubs with the shower curtains drawn.

I know why, of course. In the dark, the familiar turns alien, just as when people the child depends upon for security and solace suddenly and without apparent warning show unexpectedly strange, severe, or malignant sides to their personalities. My alcoholic, emotionally disturbed mother’s sudden personality-shifts, my older brother Manfred’s sudden, sneering, verbal and physical attacks from nowhere, my parents’ unpredictable fights, all these terrors I projected onto the Enemy Out There Somewhere, unforeseeable in the dark.

I am 63 years old now, and I wish I could say I am no longer fearful of shadows. After all, I have spent a good part of my adulthood examining my own shadow material, as the psychologists call it, and I have had moments where visions of Divine Love have made all shadows flee away. But still they return. And one thing I know: I must learn to make friends with the dark if I am to someday face my inevitable death with equanimity. For as much as I preach that death is the doorway into Light, my inner child fears otherwise. And we ignore our inner children to our peril.

— Copyright 2014 Rand B. Lee.