Rescue Me!

Return from the retreat has been interesting, well, and often quite challenging. I am struggling again with the discrepancy between how i want to live my life and how i am actually living it. Thanks to my rediscovery of Buddhist tools, including what i learned on the retreat, i now know that whenever i struggle, i am telling myself something. What’s the story here?

The first layer i uncovered were thoughts like “i am all alone” and “i don’t have the support i am longing for.” Parts of that are true. As i pointed out in the previous post, transitioning would be a lot less stressful if we had a basic income guarantee. I sensed that there was more to this, though, so i dug deeper.

I uncovered a somewhat embarrassing (it’s so totally not feminist!) wish to be rescued. Longing for someone – yes, a prince on a white horse – coming in and, well, making it possible for me to do what i want to do without worrying about a place to sleep or food to eat (i am trying to reframe “making money” here…). Ay! While this is couplemania at its worst – being in a couple would solve all my problems – i think there’s more to it. Underneath the longing for someone is a more fundamental longing for trust – trusting that i can survive.

And there is another way of looking at this rescue wish, a way that does not label it as couplemanic or anti-feminist but rather goes beyond the normative forces that turn the rescue wish into the prince. Wanting to be rescued by someone reflects my deep longing to not be separate. Although separation might be an illusion of the mind, as i learned last week, it takes a particular form in our society that is build around the veneration of individualism. Everyone can achieve something if we just work hard enough (there are other myths in this idea beyond the myth that we can do it by ourselves, which i won’t unpack here). We live in our separate little houses (or huge ones), drive in our separate little cars (or huge ones), and when we’re out and about, we don’t look at others, staying in our separate little world. Separation is a way of life.

Mainstream culture suggests one way to puncture that separation: Get coupled. Then we’re at least two who can together – heroically – face the wall of separation that now separates us from the rest of the world. It’s a tad less lonely, yet we’re still stuck in separation. Growing up in this culture, i internalized this way of avoiding separation. Having experienced a few years of life, i know now, though, that this doesn’t even work on the superficial level society suggests. I was very, very lonely in my marriage, for example.

Looking beyond this mainstream panacea, i can see that my rescue wish is really a wish to move beyond separation. Since inner and outer transformation form an integrated (non-separate!) whole, i can work to overcome my separation anxiety from two sides: My inner beliefs that suggest that i am separate from everything else and my outer reality that is often rather isolated. And they go together, for i sometimes notice that i keep myself from reaching out because of shame, which probably boils down to my idea that i am separate. Likewise, being more isolated feeds the shame – i must not be good enough for company. Inner and outer transformation go together.

Okay, nice. That’s how i ended the other post. And there seems to be something missing though: What the heck am i doing with this realization? How can i use it to help me move toward the life i want to live – in a world that is filled with separation even amongst those who seem to be embracing more alternative life styles (because we’re all oh so busy). I am noticing my good old friends, the thoughts that there simply must be something wrong with me – and that’s why i haven’t found the thriving community in which i can flourish. I can (mostly) see this now as just a thought – and then i am left with the puzzle: What do i do? How do i build community? Inner and outer transformation go together. Can that insight help? Maybe i can be more verbal about my frustration and point out that if we work 60+ hours for social change, we’re not living the change we are working so hard for. And maybe i can also push through my wanting to hide and reach out instead. Or maybe i’ll just sit with this confusion and see if something emerges. However, i can’t do this alone – the outer work calls for changes in others, too.






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Rescue Me! — 2 Comments

  1. My friend and I were talking about this the other day. We’re both content with our status, and with our lives in general, and yet, as Lorelei from Gilmore Girls once put it, “sometimes I just want someone to pick up the dry cleaning.” We are human, after all, and sometimes, the burden can feel a little too heavy for one person.
    The truth is, just like some married people fight and aren’t there for each other, we can’t always be there for ourselves.
    Keep fighting the good fight, Rachel, but don’t be afraid to give yourself a break sometimes!

    • Thanks for the reminder to take breaks, April! I read that – and decided to turn off my computer right then & there. :-) If nothing else, i can rescue myself ;-)

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