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A Profile In Fear (Part Two)

I think that over the past 40 years i have slowly changed for the better.  I have pushed against the "wall" and expanded my comfort zone.  I have recovered some courage.  i have become more "real"  I can see six things that have made that change easier.

1) Dianne.  I am sure that many people have had my back, supported me, forgiven my strangeness and absence of life skills.  I was blind to most of this and am always surprized when someone remembers me as a "good brother" or a "good friend."  But there was one person whose love and support should have been impossible to miss, though it often was.  Dianne has been my spouse for nearly 55 years and the first 20 of those must have been sheer hell for her.  She was totally honest with me, expressing disappointment the many many times she was disappoiment, expressing anger when she was angry, calling me on my laziness and cowardice, threatening to leave, dragging me to counsellors, social workers, priests, or psychologists on six different occasions in three different cities.  I always knew that she loved me and cared for me even when she could not stand me.  She is disabled now and wheelchairbound and i do most of what gets done.   But if i had to take care of her for a hundred years, i could not repay her for those first twenty and another five when my growing up occurred at a snail's  pace.  Without her i would be "scrawling geneologies of kings on subway walls."

2) The Tao Te Ching.  I had probably read the Tao Te Ching earlier but got nothing out of  it.  I was one of the "three in ten" who laughed when i heard of the Tao.  In 1974 a friend of my son gave me a copy of the Gai-Fu Feng and Jane English version.  I was introduced to the Chinese mind which is sometimes religious but always philosophical.  I quickly learned that, from a  human point of view, reality is unnamable and mysterious. "dark" as another version says.  My teenaged blackness could now be seen in a more positive perspective, yang is the other half of yin.  Anything negative that could happen to me could be made useful.  There is no occasion to fear anything, let alone the phantoms of my imagination..  Since my first reading of this book i have never thought of suicide.  I continue to read from it almost daily.  "Should i fear what others fear, what nonesense!"

3) Al-Anon  In the late 1970s our son's alcoholism became so apparent that my wall of fear and denial could not keep it from my awareness.  He went into treatment and we were referred to Al-Anon.  The first meeting seemed so useless to both Dianne and i that it was certain  that we would not "keep coming back."  About seven years later our younger daughter expressed an interest in treatment and we started going to Al-Anon again.  This time we stayed five year.  Then Dianne's breathing and mobility problems made it difficult for her to get out, and i continued to go to twelve step meetings (AA, Al-Anon, and Emotions Anonymous) for another year.  This was my reintroduction to spirituality and it dovetailed neatly with my emerging Taoism.  I owe a great debt to Al-Anon which taught me not to enable alcoholism but also how not to fear it.

4) Antidepressants.   I had often that i might get more depressed than most other people and that part of the cause of it might be neurological, but i was unwilling to pay $150 to a psychiatrist fo find out.  Finally, in the early 1990s my primary physician agreed to write me a prescription for sertaline (zoloft).  A have since learned that fear and depression go together and that anger (of which i had plenty) is frequently a manifestation of fear.  Soon the depression abated, along with anger and fear.  I have tried  other anti depressants but always returned
to zoloft which, for me, is very effective and has no apparent negative side effects

5)  Seeing Autism.  In 2001 i retired from teaching in order give my full attention to Dianne.  By now my retreats behind my wall of fear had almost completely stopped.  But this did not make me "normal."  I had also been hiding behind a wall of academic "objectivity."  I tried to solve "problems" by giving lectures.  My conversational skills were still close to nil.  A brother's granddaughter had been abused by an adult fried and the Granddaughter (who was ten) felt that the  punishment given to her abuser by the State was far worse than anything he had done to her.  My brother could not comprehend that attitude.  I launched a lecture on comparative mores which left everybody shocked and angry.  Dianne was especially angry and i inferred from her anger that  i  had screwed up again.  Two days later i was listening to NPR and heard an interview with Tim Page, music editor for the Washington Post, about his discovery of his autism.  As he described his childhood, i thought to myself, "That's me."  Now that i know something about autism and, in my case, Asperger's Syndrome, i can monitor my behavior.  Now i not only don't have to fear the consequences of my bad behavior, i can avoid the behavior itself and am doubly protected from that fear.  I feel safe without become unconscious; in fact, my awareness enhances my freedom from fear.

6) Interspirituality.  About ten years ago i read a new translation of St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul.
The translator, Mirabai Starr, was not a Christian, she seemed not to  even be a practitioner of  her own Jewish faith.  She spoke of  her love for John and the many things she had learned from his poetry and prose.  I was impressed enough to start following  her blog which revealed an "interspiritual movement" in which she is a participant.  Nobody knows the mystery, but that is okay, because everyone can learn how to behave in the face of that mystery.  I am learning to fear nothing on earth, nor in heaven, nor in hell.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2016 01:41 am (UTC)
Such an honest sharing of yourself and your journey. Grateful.
Feb. 4th, 2016 02:49 am (UTC)
Thank you, Jeff. :)
Feb. 4th, 2016 05:08 am (UTC)
Just one word - wow.
Feb. 4th, 2016 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Feb. 4th, 2016 01:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

Because I love you, I really enjoy reading about your life.

And your story is also testimony to Solutions.
Feb. 4th, 2016 06:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

That was easier to write than i expected it to be,
and i think i learned a little about myself in the process.
Feb. 4th, 2016 06:53 pm (UTC)
Such courage you have in examining your own life! And I so admire your willingness to find solutions and help in ideas, people, and medication. In one way, I feel sad that you didn't have access to an affordable and good therapist when you first were depressed, because I know that depression is a hard thing to bear, but in other ways I think maybe you did better with finding your own way and your own solutions.

Certainly anyone who stays successfully married for 55 years has some skills in relating to other people.

Thank you for telling us about your life so thoughtfully.
Feb. 4th, 2016 09:57 pm (UTC)
You are welcome. :)

If the other person is willing and able to bear the burden of the relationship, social skill on the part of one may not be so necessary. :(
Feb. 7th, 2016 10:17 am (UTC)
I love love love you, Bobby! So pleased and proud and thankful to be your friend
Feb. 7th, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC)
:) Back at you! Honored to know you and love you,
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )



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