Is it OK to be out of the ordinary? But more to the point how safe is it? That is always the central and core question of my life from which all else radiates. I yearn to stream out into the world in the fullness of totality yet feel obligated to honor something too vague to grasp but that nevertheless reigns me back from moving full out into life. There are always limiting adaptations such as being a bit overweight, but not actually obese or dressing in a generic style but not too generic. Attracting too much attention either positive or negative still seems dangerous. I want to express my unique view of life but I fear drawing attention to myself. Paradoxically being too obviously shy of attention is also something to monitor. What is the problem with being noticed or even acknowledged? There is a mysterious apprehension involved. Actually it’s a type of agoraphobia. A deer in the forest is safest if its color blends in with tree trunks and earth as well as other deer and to come out of the forest only at night when visibility is lowest. A white deer, for instance, is at risk. Its stand out coloring makes it a target for predators.
"A missionary of the Middle Ages
tells that he had found the point
where the sky and the Earth touch..."
The sense of never being fully born into this world certainly fits with the need to be almost unnoticeable. These issues are powerful remnants of the past. I used to complain that my family believed in cutting all the grass to the same height. Nobody was supposed to stand out and in fact it was a cardinal transgression to call attention to oneself in any way. Another reason to avoid attention is that grass that can’t be seen can’t be cut. Yet another function of this rule is keeping harmony in the family. To call attention to oneself was considered inconsiderate if not cruel to someone else who might suffer from being pushed into the shadows. This was a continuous background concern. All actions and even thoughts that could put one ahead of any other person in accomplishment, talent, wealth or looks was to be avoided. To do otherwise was to be disloyal. But in hindsight I believe that much of the danger involved drawing unwanted attention to the family itself. And this is an exhausting responsibility. Much internal envy was generated. Anyone who didn’t fit in generated fear in family members and might encourage unfulfilled longings to do the same.
Predictably, I’ve always been drawn to people who were quite the opposite. My honey with his painted pants and boots, traditional native hair tie and big earring certainly stands out. Plus he has a big vibrant personality. My first husband stood out by being involved in all things esoteric, an attraction to unusual people and by being extremely bipolar. My mother’s fear of standing out from the crowd came as a reaction to the feeling like an alien. From our family’s perspective being alien was the worst social disaster possible. Of course everyone wants to belong but somehow belonging required that we not be unique individuals. We lived in a very dangerous world. Astrologically, speaking there is evidence in my birth chart for something hidden very deeply in my ancestry. I have four planets in the 12th house, the house of restrictions and secrets. The 12th house is where the skeletons in the closet are usually found. Included in the 12th house lineup are Mercury, Sun, Moon and Jupiter. To add some oomph to this situation as a Gemini Sun sign Mercury is my ruling planet and the Moon/Jupiter conjunction rising in Cancer is also a powered up situation. The Moon is ruler of Cancer and Jupiter is exalted in Cancer (This is old astrology terminology that still has a medieval tint).
I was just noticing how I always stop short of dressing in a real eye-catching manner, decorating with a unique touch or doing anything OUTSTANDING. That is the taboo word, “OUTSTANDING.” Being original is also a way to be outstanding. Of course I’ve fought all of my life to express that which is both outstanding and original. Both come naturally but then I tone them down to avoid attracting too much attention. It never occurred to me that I had a right to be here on this planet as much as anyone else. A therapist once told me that I was like a train conductor that shoveled in more fuel and put on the breaks at the same time.
Thus living in the shadows has two advantages despite the many disadvantages. First one can avoid detection and enjoy quite a bit of freedom to explore the taboo, and second it makes one harmless to other people because no one really knows you and they can project whatever they want onto your blank screen.
I’m aware that it is my next and most powerful lesson to genuinely, from the heart, believe that I have the same right to be as anyone else. It is a concept that still feels heretical. I know I have unique talents and strong character traits but I still have the feeling that coming from me it is inappropriate. I don’t feel genuinely born into this world yet. I have much work to do on rebirth! I remember about 20 years ago when Rebirthing was a trendy therapeutic modality. I suspect it died along with many New Age modalities but there was indeed a need for it even if the technique was somewhat naïve.
I’m taking more notice of the many ways I avoid calling too much attention to myself. “Too much,” is the operative word. One should look good, be competent, be hardworking, pay one’s bills and be responsible but not be too talented, too good looking or make more money than one needs to survive.
Recently I’ve come to the realization that my problems with work and money are the result of this foundational belief that it is dangerous to stand out from the crowd. When standing in a queue one should not be either in front or in the rear but somewhere toward the end of the middle. This is a difficult role to play in a world that encourages competitiveness and the drive to reach the top of the social ladder.
This unconscious belief explains the mystery of why I’ve pursued but never been able to work in an environment that I would thrive in or make enough money to go beyond basic survival. I fear buying beautiful things for the house, or myself because it’s a dangerous indulgence that I’ll be punished for. Of course I often buy things I want anyway but it is like an act of rebellion and I feel that it will have consequences. It’s a rush of freedom to go on a spending spree. It feels wonderful. I’m like an escaped dog in a fast trot pulling its broken chain through the neighborhood, refusing to think about the consequences at the end of its spree. Even so I don’t go on truly extravagant sprees. That would be way too dangerous.
I strongly believe that anything that ancestors have not finished or resolved is the living generation’s inheritance. Whether or not one believes in karma doesn’t matter. The ancestors rule the unconscious. Sometimes the ancestors go so far back that they are not even included in the story we are told. This applies to cultures, tribes and nationalities as well as families.
I will probably never know just who my ancestors were. Too much was hidden and misrepresented. I know that my mother’s father was very sensitive about race. My grandfather gave us an Irish name but I suspect this was only the storefront. The Irish part is undeniable, but I’m pretty sure there was more to the story. He had a great sensitivity about color and culture. He didn’t like my mother to spend too much time in the sun because she tanned very dark and with her straight dark hair looked like a Mexican or Indian child. He also became upset with me, when in my early teens I developed a fascination with Mexican and Navajo style dresses. I was always drawn to everything coming from parts of the world our family was supposed to reject. My first school friend was Mexican and Catholic and my parents didn’t approve. Their disapproval didn’t faze me. I always secretly did what I wanted but didn’t argue. Avoiding attention was also a way of having what I wanted in spite of taboos. This wasn’t about rebellion, however. It just had a right feeling and I’ve always done what felt right. My grandmother, on the other hand, didn’t even want to be Irish. She insisted that her ancestors were Scottish and English. However, when I looked on the map for the European town they were reputed to be from, it was in Ireland.
I have always suspected that My grandfather Connerly’s family may have once moved from the Appalachians to southern Illinois before emerging in Northwestern Nebraska where he met my Grandmother. He played the fiddle and guitar and had a wide repertoire of old country music. The light bulb came on a few years ago while watching a PBS program on Appalachia’s music. I instantly recognized some of the songs. It is also likely that they also had some native ancestors.
On my father’s side the official family stance is that we are purely whitebread people of the working class. We are Protestant, average in every way with European ancestor’s and nothing particularly interesting in our background. Our family image was painted with deliberation using the blandest palate. My folks always bought practical and plain vehicles and lived a conservative, stable life in a house that my father built himself room by room over many years. But things keep popping out of cracks in the closet door. I especially remember an excursion we made to Divide, Colorado. I was a teenager at the time and I loved to visit graveyards in Old Mountain towns. The stories that are buried with the dead continue to fascinate. On this particular visit I came across two gravestones side by side bearing our family name. One was of an infant and the other a young child. Since our family name is not that common I called my parents over to have a look. My father, always understated, quietly approached. Then he stated, “this must be what my cousin was telling us about.” And this is how I learned that these graves were the purpose of our trip to this lonely old graveyard high in the Colorado Rockies. As it turned out my father’s father had a previous family held secret from my father, his mother and his siblings. A cousin had revealed the story to my father’s oldest brother breaking the promise to never tell the family about these graves until my grandmother was gone. Since she was approaching 98 years this cousin feared her children might die before knowing their father had a previous family.
Although few of us know the story of ancestors several generations behind us, especially in America, it is still imbedded in our psyche. The story comes out cryptically in our everyday life and the struggles we encounter. The study of Anthropology and Paleontology has held fascination since early childhood. I don’t believe I really have the patience to meticulously uncover and clean bones and artifacts from the past, but the enchantment of what is hidden in surviving fragments of ancestors and their tools has a strong pull. We are the products of the past and the past is fulfilled in us or dead-ended in us. We have a very real control over the past to the degree we are aware of the past within us. In fact there is no real past, present and future. Does our language not deceive us? Time is another system for organizing experience. In our culture we tend to visualize time in a linear way. But it can also be experienced in vertical layers as well.
The destructive power of apparently harmless family secrets is awesome. However there is a creative paradox hidden within them as well. Healing is an act of creation and creation is an evolutionary process. Sometimes psychic surgery is necessary but drastic procedures may be a sign of failure to transform an apparent disaster into an act of creation. The separation of dimensions and realities may only be perceptual after all. We all exist in a universe that we barely know. The fractal patterning within realities both physical and beyond physical are potential paths leading both forward and backward in time and space and one can catch the road to creation at any point in these intricate unfolding patterns. My ancestors in their attempts and mistakes dropped me off in a strange place but to paraphrase a common saying all roads lead to home.
I don’t know just what my ancestors feared. Perhaps they carried a racial or cultural association that it was expedient to hide in the name of survival. I’m sure they meant well and had no idea of how it would play out for us all down the road of time. Things change and what was once a cause for shame can become something to be proud of. But either way these social obstacles are potential soul fertilizers to a gardener of the soul.