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Learning to Love, Alone
An Ordinary Disaster — chapter 28 — My Mother Was Not a Woman
This is part of my book-length memoir AN ORDINARY DISASTER, one man's proof that despite what may seem like our inability to hear it, we can all learn to listen to ourselves, and to act upon the inner voice of our self, our sanity and our soul.
My mother was not a woman, or so it seemed to me.
Because of the nearly-impossible psychosexual juxtaposition between mother and woman, I imagine it’s rare to be able see one’s mother as having much in common with the magical creatures that stoke the fires of men’s dreams—but still, all mothers are women, and, as I said to a young friend recently, we’d be better off if we could see that “she’s not just your mother, she is a woman—and the first you will ever know.”
My mother though, she showed me nothing of the womanly realm. No soul or color. No ritual. No musical laughter, sly wit or waggling finger. No blood or fire—and so I got no sense of who she was as a human animal.
Now I know that it wasn’t just my father that contributed to me being so angry and alone—and to my ambivalence about having children. I used to think that I was depressed because of a lack of fathering, and that is as true for me as it is for most men—but it was my mother that passed her own anxiety—and depression—on to me. Not serious, lying-down clinical depression, just the daily drag that thirty to fifty percent of Americans carry around—and for good reason. Jung could have been writing to either my mother or myself, or some combination of the two, when he wrote that “American life is, in a subtle way, so déraciné, uprooted, that you must have something to compensate the earth. ...Look at the rebellion of youth...against the utterly inhuman form of life. You are absolutely divorced, you know, from nature in a way, and that accounts for the drug abuse.” As almost all of us are, my mother was detached from her physical self, and from her unconscious, and so, no wonder I started out that way too.
The field between us was lifeless, and as the dead queen of her cave of silence, I had no choice—I had to run, for fear that I’d end up the same way myself. My recurring dream of running and trying to get away, that was me, but it was also her, and the message was the same for the both of us. In depression, of course we wish to escape the pain of being depressed. There may be some temporary escape from the symptoms, but there is no getting away from the root causes of depression—silence, lack of truth, lack of connection with other people and with the unconscious—without having to become someone meaningful. I spent many years wishing for relief from the anguish, without having to do anything myself, and so the dream recurred again and again and again.
Now that dream is gone, I can see what the it’s been trying to tell me all this time. Most anyone who has studied dreamwork will recognize that the characters in a dream almost always represent parts of oneself. I was running from some parts of my own self that just wanted to catch up, sit down and have a word with me. Those unconscious parts wanted to tell me some important things—that it’s OK to be the Frisco Kid; that I need to be outside, and moving; that it would be good for me to drink less; that I should remember to become an artist.
They had all of those kind and useful messages for me, but I was afraid that what was chasing me was depression, and that if I let them in close enough to hear, that that would make it worse. I was afraid of the monster, so to speak, when I should have been speaking with the monster. This is the nature of dreams. Instead of stopping to listen, I ran, and so those daimons could not help me—and I was left to do ‘it’—life, that is, by ‘myself’—that is, without them, without my whole self. Not surprisingly, I found over and over again that I could not.
Only once I stopped running from those friendly little monsters, and allowed myself to listen to their messages could I integrate them into who I am. Feeling more whole now, I feel more able to do things by myself—or otherwise—and, having gotten their message across, my pursuers are no longer so anxious to chase me down to the end the dock and see me leap into a deep and angry sea.
From as early as I can remember first being interested in girls, my heart began to ache. It’s also true that I always felt very highly sexed—and of course, there’s no reason why the two can’t coexist, or that feeling so deeply affected by the heart might mean that I’d be any less pulled by the body.
Since I was also running from my mother, who was not a woman, and I did not stop to ask her for her messages either, I had no idea what I wanted or needed in a woman—or how to love one. I didn't have that first example of what a woman was, and so, even though I came for love, I didn’t quite know what that was made of. Of course I ended up pursuing both love and sex with an addictive passion.
I didn’t know what I was looking for. I just had to risk it—and to their great credit, I have an army of loving sisters from different chapters of my life—and I feel them all around me, but there were so, so many endings. There was a cost. Some pieces of my heart, and of theirs. So much sadness came with all that joy.
I knew before Kate and I split up that I had a pattern with women, and that it was rooted in an emptiness that I felt whenever I was asked about love. I couldn’t really say clearly what love meant to me—and I was still looking for a woman to teach me. Many tried, but they could only do so much.
I had to learn for myself, and the unfortunate truth was that I couldn’t learn how to love while I was in a relationship, trying to do the thing that I didn’t know well enough from the start. I was stuck, and once I realized that, I resolved to spend a year entirely apart from women. I adhered to a diet of sorts, with no dating, no sex, and only minimal contact with women at all.
I had to leave them all behind to break the cycle. Alone at last, I found love welling up from within me, for myself and all around me. I felt love in a new way, not coming from anyone else, but as an energy of my own, and, eventually, something that I began to understand how to share. For whatever reason, that was what I hadn’t absorbed from my mother—the first woman—and so I had to learn it later on.
Out rolling in my van, running in the high mountains, sleeping with the sound of the river, for the first time in my life, I was truly alone, fully alive, and totally free.
Collectors Edition + Golden Ticket
This is part of my book-length memoir AN ORDINARY DISASTER, one man's proof that despite what may seem like our inability to hear it, and all of our attempts to avoid it, we can all learn to listen to ourselves, and to act upon the inner voice of our self, our sanity and our soul.
I’m planning on producing a special first edition for subscribers and early supporters—a collectors edition, you could say, each copy of which will include a ⭐️⭐️ GOLDEN TICKET ⭐️⭐️
Each golden ticket is unique to the ticket holder, and will be redeemable when the correct moment presents itself for a specific piece of magic applicable to the unique situation, field, or relationship that exists between the two of us.
Especially if you’ve been following my work with interest, now is the time to become a paying subscriber. Paying subscribers will be able to order a FREE* copy of the first edition of the book (you pay only shipping), and, also, just as importantly, your commitment will show your appreciation for the work I’m doing here, and your support as I move into the next chapter of the book’s journey.
Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home — Toko-pa Turner
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I’ve got some questions for you
How do you see your mother, as a woman?
Do you have any recurring dreams?
What have you been trying to escape?
What message might whatever it is that pursues you have for you?
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