Mythologies of the underworld

Joey Garcia

Four years ago, I had an abusive relationship. I was afraid to leave because of what my partner said he would do to me if I did. When I finally left, it took a lot for me to shake off that horror. I’ve tried to open up again, but I always return to feeling betrayed or hurt by others. I realize that I’m probably not really being victimized; I just haven’t found what I need or want. I want a healthy relationship with an aware person who is substance-abuse-free. I also want to pursue a career, but because of my scary past (a childhood filled with isolation and neglect in an alcoholic family), I go through periods of being hard to reach, even for myself. I’ve also lived on the opposite extreme: wide open, joyous, wildly passionate. It’s wonderful until something reminds me of the past. Then I’m back in the dark, isolated place. I seek balance, companionship, a life of adventure and self-care. But I’m out of answers and thought you might have some.

How good that you would allow yourself to be emptied of answers. The resulting spaciousness may re-acquaint you with your experiences in a way that invites a fresh perspective and healing. Toward that end, I invite you to read my response as information, not as a prescription. I say this because you have written about abuse. Some of that may have resulted from a habit of hoping that someone will take charge of your life and direct you. That can lead to feeling betrayed when situations don’t provide the comfort, support or intimacy that you expected. I urge you to remain in charge of your own life. Doing so may feel a bit wobbly at first, but ultimately, it’s freedom.

Consider the value of your history. Many ancient myths tell of the underworld, a place in which we face death but ultimately prevail. These stories are guides. You may have been threatened with death or believed yourself near it. Yet you live. You remain larger than your experiences. The strategy now is to not repeat your past. Don’t isolate or neglect yourself.

When you do, reach out for support from the Divine, a sacred book, a trusted friend or counselor. Let yourself celebrate that—as the poet Lucille Clifton says—”everyday something [that] has tried to kill me and has failed.” Remember, too, that betrayal is a common human experience. It simply teaches us to notice where we fail ourselves in an effort to make others happy. So any time you are in the process of learning to love yourself and others (which is what life is all about) you may risk betrayal. If it inspires you to sink into a dark place, imagine that space as a womb for rebirth or a tomb from which you will rise again. With that lens, eventually you can become the one you want: aware and substance-abuse-free and attract the same. But keep in mind that emotions are addictive. Emotional swings may be rooted in a pattern of thoughts that create a chemical chaos in the body. If you swing back and forth too much, consult a psychiatrist.

I consider myself a transsexual. What is the best way to come out to my family?

By understanding that they may not be as comfortable with the experience of change as you are. So tell them simply and directly (no apologies, excuses or justifications) while trying to keep your own need for acceptance to a minimum. Then give them time to adjust and the phone number for PFLAG. (And congratulations on loving yourself enough to become who you really are.)

Meditation of the week
An Arab newspaper worries about the upcoming U.S. presidential election: “We hope that Al Gore will fail and take Lieberman with him into oblivion. … Gore's success and in turn Lieberman's …would prepare the American public for … electing a Jewish president. …” Can you rejoice when your choices and risks startle others?

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