October 3 – So Unused to Emotion – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

We are so unused to emotion that we mistake any depth of feeling for sadness, any sense of the unknown for fear, and any sense of peace for boredom.

We are so schooled away from the life below that anything beneath the surface scares us.  But the need to look beneath the surface doesn’t go away. In part, this accounts for the barrage of violence we see in films; as the introspective need to look within, once denied, comes out anyway in big stories of people being ripped open, in chases that end with the opening of bodies against their will. Denying  the need to look within only empowers it in another direction, and we find ourselves paying to sit in the dark, unable to look and unable to turn away, as people like ourselves are physically and psychologically forced open.

We each do this in a more personal way, too. In my thirties, I was unwilling to look deep within at the source of my low self-esteem, but found myself digging in the garden with an unexpected urgency, eager to uncover some root I couldn’t name. I have also found myself over the years picking at myself, at cuticles and blemishes, picking at little wounds until they bleed, and I have slowly realized that this is my soul’s need to look beneath the surface diverted by my refusal to do so.

My own struggle to open my heart has been a long one. I have been married twice, have survived cancer and a cold mother, have tried to hold onto friends like food for twenty-five years, and all that has fallen away. I use solitude now like a lamp to illumine corners I’ve never seen. And thoughI am scared at times that, after all this way, I will come up empty, I still believe that going inside and bringing whatever I find out makes all the difference.

When we bring up what we keep inside, it is sacred and scary, and the rest of us don’t know if we want to touch or not, like reaching from a ladder into a nest of baby birds. It’s too soft and sacrilegious. It seems a place where human hands do not belong. But I invite you anyway. Go on—let others reach in honestly—so we can say,“This is who I am when no one’s looking.” For each of us is a fledgling that eventually, if fed, will fly.

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