December 9, 2011
I really hoped that I’d have one evening this week that wasn’t spent in tears, but the moon is full and grief runs high among my loved ones. And so, realistically, I suppose tears are the norm this week.
When I was young I thought there was nothing worse than my own personal afflictions. Now that I’m a middle-aged (if I live to be, say, 120 or so) woman, I know better. As a mother, an aunt, a great-aunt, a lover, a woman who put in the years necessary to nurture friendships throughout a long adulthood, I realize how wrong I was. The worst affliction is that which our loved ones suffer. Lay it on me, I scream to the gods. Send it my way, I have the knowledge, I have the experience, I can handle it! If I could take all the pain away from those I love by bringing it on myself, I would. But it doesn’t work that way, does it?
My son, my thirty year old “baby”, posted on Facebook this week that he was standing in fires of his own making. I wrestled my mom-self into submission and responded as the crone I am, the aging woman with the cauldron and intimate knowledge of the Old Ways. I told him that those fires are sacred. They burn away our illusions. They leave us standing here naked with nothing – nothing – except the realization that we surround ourselves with illusion every chance we get. We cloak ourselves in illusion as if it was cloth of gold instead of the mind-numbing crap it really is. Illusion is comfortable. It keeps us from examination of reality.
In the midst of psychic and emotional fire we burn away everything superficial and stand naked before ourselves. Pain is dreadful, pain is awful, but it strips us of everything except the knowledge of what’s really important in our lives. It gives us the chance to step out of the illusions and into the reality of life. It gives us a rare and sacred chance to see what’s worthy dieing for, what’s worth living for. And in passing along this ancient wisdom to my son, I think I might find a lesson for myself.
The fire doesn’t hurt any less just because the flame belongs to someone else. I’m standing in the fire also – the fire that is the pain of my loved ones. In this vicarious fire I find my own illusions stripped away and I find myself face-to-face with my own naked self, and I wonder: Is this my rite of passage also?