Tuesday, March 12, 2002

These Crossroads
As I kid I used to come home for lunch from school, and my mom and I would listen to the radio while we ate. "Grand Central Station: Crossroads of a Million Private Lives" the mellow-voiced announcer would croon, launching us into the personal stories and histories of people we probably would never meet. Such is also the nature of Blogland.

Right at this moment, some of us are grappling with the kinds of stories that should be told and retold planetwide until we all "get it."

Meryl Yourish, Mike Golby, Steve Himmer (and others to whom you can link from their blogs and comments) are trying to understand the heart-and-soul breaking pain that victims of anti-Semitism and racism and bigotry of all kinds suffer. Such is the value of Blogdom.

I remember almost ten years ago, when my job involved going into schools in Harlem and helping them begin to assess how to begin making improvements in how students learn and teachers teach. In my life I have had dear friends of every possible race, color, creed, age, and sexual persuasion. I do not consider myself a bigot, but neither have I experienced the devastation of bigotry.

The first time I got out of the subway somewhere in the middle of Harlem, I realized what it feels like to know you are the "other." I was the only white face in every direction and I had no idea where I was or how to get where I was supposed to go. So, I stopped and asked directions -- of people on the street, of store owners.... And everyone I asked was helpful and nice and, slowly, I made my way across unfamiliar streets with unfamiliar faces and found my destination. No one there thought of me as "other." That was my hang-up. Things are always more complicated and, at the same time, less complicated than we think. No wonder we're all confused, and that's why we need to continue the conversation.
Weaving Cody’s Thread
I am consistently motivated to latch onto blog threads that Richard Cody spins. This time, he winds around Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious and the archetypes that emerge from it; Alan Moore’s notion of Idea Space, unbounded by time and place; and Stephen King’s comment about “unearthing” his stories from some deep, buried place. His post is worth reading on its own, and so I’m not going to quote from it.

Last week at my “group” meeting (this is a group of writers and “seekers,” all of whom -- except for me -- are M.D.s or psychotherapists), I announced that I was taking a hiatus for a few months. Weblogging has given me an opportunity to practice writing “personal essays” – a switch from poetry that I’ve wanted to make ever since I took a workshop several years ago in that genre at the summer conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild in Saratoga. Blogdom is an environment designed to embrace the personal essay.

The group facilitator took out a copy of a Volume 25, Number 1, Spring 1990 of Voices: the Arts and Science of Psychotherapy, which contained an article I had submitted for this issue on “Psychotherapy and the Mythic Journey.” As a parting gesture, he asked me to read from that article, a long essay interspersed with some of my poetry. The article matches up nicely with the pattern of Cody’s blogfabric, and so I decided to share the beginning of it here:

I am used to the company of shadows. One I remember from earliest times, when as a child afflicted with serious bouts of asthma, I spend long lonely weeks with only my radio, my books, and my paper and pencils to distract me from the boredom and isolation of my sheltered life. Restricted from the physical play that would connect me to the outside world, I learn to reach into the dark places behind my eyes for the companions and the adventures that are denied me out in the streets. I use my imagination to give some satisfying form to the loneliness that accompanies me always, like some sad and shadowy muse. Over the several early school years during which my illness rules, that Shadow becomes my guide to colorful inner lives of my own choosing – worlds of willful princesses and warrior queens, of dark erotic forces and fierce exotic songs. Rather than fear the dark realms into which my shadow leads me, I learn to trust it magical power to help me build the paths I need to find my way out of my sterile room, from the careful and ordinary family with whom I still feel an outsider, a changeling. As I grow older and the asthma subsides, the Shadow that has become my knowing guide continues to assert its presence through my writing and through my interest in things magical and mythic.

Years later, working with a friend/therapist/poet/shaman, I begin consciously to call upon that loyal Shadow to help me shape the chaos of feeling that brings me to his door in the first place.

And that is how I met the Tooth Mother and discovered Lilith and Kali and found out that dancing with one’s shadow is not only not dangerous, it bloody well can change your life.