Coming of Age Drama Contemporary

Now, Zen, and a Little Bit of Then

Incense of white sage intertwined with the ambient vibrations of Tibetan singing bowls. Stillness bathed the room in soft blue light. Here, now, thoughts were as clear and crisp as a crystal bell. A Dengze bowl sang three times, drawing Daphne gently out of her deep meditation. She opened her eyes softly and took a deep breath. Today was yet another new and beautiful day full of opportunities and wonder to be cherished mindfully and with gratitude.

Things were so different now than they use to be. It was like she was a totally different human being now. The pull of who we were never completely leaves, but, if we learn well, it can sometimes become just an echo of what it was. For Daphne, this was definitely so.

Daphne was born deep in south Texas to a southern Baptist heritage. She had believed the pastor when he said that God was Love, that God loved us all equally, but that there were consequences for not believing in him in the right way. She believed him when he said respect your father and mother. She believed in and tried to follow all the commandments. She even believed all the belittling unspoken demands about a women’s role in this belief system, although, at the time, she didn’t know what she didn’t know.

How many times have we all been there in that place? That Not-Knowing place? I gather the vast majority of us have been there multiple times and may still be there today in some areas of our lives, whether we know it or not. But that’s the thing about life: it never lets us forget how much we don’t know… unless… unless… unless we are one of those special persons that thinks they can never do wrong. Oh, those charmers! How can we forget them? But life, like nature, has a way of wracking up the things we ignore, the things we deny, the things we avoid, the things we stuff down inside in that dark corner of our souls, the things we project onto others who remind our unconscious mind of the ugliness within us, no matter how special we are. Life. She’s quite amazing that way.

Oh! One more thing! Not only does Life keep a tally for the most opportune time to bring back all those lovely things we don’t want to see, admit, face, etc., etc., but she also has quite an interest formula for how long and for what reasons those things are held in the bank of misfortune! It’s quite astounding! Her formula has left absolutely no room for confounding factors, believe it or not! But that’s a story for another day. Today, let’s examine the returns on Daphne’s lucrative investments which started out, pretty much, in the ditch, you might say.

A good math book was her safe space. When you’re lost in a nice long calculus problem, you don’t hear the yelling and screaming in the kitchen. When you’re learning the difference between integrals and derivatives, along with the many fun logic rules for transforming and solving these kinds of problems, you don’t have time to think about how there’s someone called “dad” who seems to live in the garage or at a trashy friend’s house or a bar subsisting on beer and cigarettes when he’s not home beating his wife, throwing shit, or screaming red-faced at anyone who crosses his line of sight.

Learning to work with imaginary numbers can be an intriguing distraction from thinking about how mom seems to always be locked up in her room because she feels sick, only coming out for another 1.5 liter bottle of cheap wine feebly attempting to hide her bruised, bleeding body and shattered soul. Even the challenges of trigonometry and real analysis were cake compared to being held down by your father who is on top of you slapping you in the face as hard as he can non-stop because you tried to escape when you were a young adult, or him hitting you so hard your body jettisoned to the other side of the road as you landed on your knee because he hit you so hard. Thank God for adrenaline masking some of the physical pain, though Daphne would still have preferred writing an air-tight proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra while being forced to watch Requiem for a Dream repeatedly in stereo after a week without sleep having nothing but mint liqueur to drink. Algebra was gravy comparatively.

But there were some things from which math could not save her. Math could not save her from the enmeshment with which her mother lorded over her from a very young age. Being the favorite was not always nice. This unhealthy entanglement required that Daphne submit to highly unreasonable, inappropriate, and sick demands for exclusive friendship with her mother. It also inevitably led to rage-filled jealousy when Daphne started to find friends at school, and god forbid if they weren’t white. The devil as she knew him at that time instilled exquisite torture for those particular kinds of transgressions. And hell hath no fury like her mother’s when Daphne found her first boyfriend. Her mother yelled in a drunken rage, her breath the odor of pickled pig’s feet, “Is he really more important than me?!”. Pinned to the wall, ensnared by her mother’s drunken staggering grip, putrid fumes bellowed out of the dark, dank screaming cave of her mother’s mouth. As her mother’s arresting stare perfectly infused with abject pain, fear and ferocity, pierced her psyche, she eeked out, “Yes, he is, mother.” With her breath paralyzed in her chest, she expected to get the beating of a lifetime. Instead, her mother dropped her grip, waddled backward, and seemed to disappear into herself. Silently, she retreated to her bedroom, precious drink in hand.

There was also no calculus for best answering her mother when she asked Daphne if she would be willing to shoot her dead if “things got really bad”. At 20 years old and with such a rough history, Daphne’s confused mind blew a fuse inside. With her brain and soul on generator power, with the full loud obnoxious generator experience going on in the background of her thoughts, she said “No, I can’t do that.” In shock, Daphne sat with a blank stare as her system desperately tried to process this on the fly. In the meantime, her mother had gone into rage mode which was one of the last cards manipulative people use to get what they want. She told Daphne to get out, right now. Daphne’s circuits were further fried by this. How could she leave now when her mother had just asked her to pick up a gun and shoot her in the head?? There was no calculus to solve this problem. The solution did not, and does not, exist. Dumbfounded, Daphne walked out the door like a zombie inebriated on the brains of long term alcoholics as the door slammed behind her.

Eternal Lies

There are many things we all unconsciously assume to be eternally true in life. The sun will shine every morning if there aren’t any clouds. Birds will always sing a cheerful song at the break of day. Bees will always buzz around the English lavender in the garden. Exotic mushrooms will bless the grounds of our favorite park in fall. There will always be enough toilet paper at the store. You will always have enough breath in your lungs. Your favorite coffee shop will never run out of coffee or milk or mint chocolate chip cake pops with green and brown sprinkles on top. Your parents, your family, will always love you, accept you, be there for you.

These things we hold to be irrevocably true for all time. Permanence. We are so attached to the concept of permanence and all the comforts that come with it. So attached are we that some of us will go to unbelievable lengths to retain the boundaries of comfy delusions, delusions unconsciously believed to protect them, but delusions that are instead the lair of the vicious monsters imagined to be far away in the land of “them”. It was this kind of lair Daphne had escaped, but the claws and teeth embedded in her back as she limped away would take a while to heal as they were shed one by one.

Math had come to Daphne’s rescue again. Math was hard, cold logic, irrefutable, provable, and in many ways, more tangible and less abstract than any sense of love from most of her blood relatives, save a precious few. Math, unlike these blood relatives, was there for her. There was no shortage of problems in which to bury oneself with math! She dove into various levels of calculus, differential equations, partial differential equations, real analysis, graph theory, statistical modeling. She also discovered the joys of programming in C, C++, java, and her all-time favorite, perl. She even touched into the land of Fortran, Cobalt and the obscure RPG at one time or another.

With math and programming came work with many wonderful people, smart people, people that understood her, but most that did not. She was very different from them. To say she was rough around the edges was a bit of an understatement. But Daphne persevered, no matter what. She was accustomed to people not respecting her, not believing in her, not giving her a chance. It was the norm. This wasn’t any different. Just different people. The faces were different. The attitudes were similar, but actually a bit more tolerable. There were a few amazing souls along Daphne’s path that saw through her ill-finished exterior to the person she could be, the person she already was deep inside, albeit a bit damaged… but not irreparably. These people, she later would say, will be the ones that save our country in times of division, in times of crisis, in times when radical compassion would be the answer. These were the ones, she would say, that could see past themselves and into the darkness of broken souls. They could see that these broken souls are but versions of good people that had been broken one too many times.

But this time, math’s final rescue for Daphne came with a sting. Math, in its beautiful precision, had opened a chasm between Daphne and the little sense of family that existed between her and her blood relatives. It was a chasm they would never surpass, not because they were not capable, but because they were not willing. They were not willing to stand on the firmer ground of logic because it meant they would need to leave the frozen lake upon which they had lived their entire lives, even though things were heating up fast. They were not willing to get into the lifeboats she had brought them over and over because it meant they would have to leave this amazing ship they were on which had hit a huge iceberg and had already split in two. She even ran into their home which was burning down all around them, but they wouldn’t leave because they had convinced themselves that they were comfortable even though they were in the midst of life-threatening circumstances.

When she tried to point out, in a respectful manner, how she was concerned for their safety because their lifestyles and thinking styles were not beneficial to them and in fact quite harmful, they did the normal manipulative thing that people in denial do when they are running low on cards for a good hand: they fly into a rage and try to make you feel like the bad guy even though all you’re doing is mentioning provable facts because you care about their well-being. Fuck you for caring about us, Daphne. Why was Daphne to blame if they interpreted her caring as her thinking she was better than them? If she really thought she was better than them, if she really didn't care, then why would she bother if they slowly poisoned themselves to death? But they don’t think this far. They can’t think any deeper than the bruises on their ego.

Daphne was seen as a threat by her own blood relatives because she threated to tell them the hard code truth…. And still love them! How dare she!? After many times of trying to reach them, and subsequently being scarred because of it, they excommunicated her. She was told she didn’t belong at family gatherings even though other family members did not feel the same way. At the same time, they wouldn’t stand up for her. Each of their agnostic approaches to the situation were the nails in the coffin of any sense of family she had left. It was over. The shifting platelets upon which she had stood were now completely gone.

Charnel Ground

The next several years for Daphne were her life’s version of charnel ground. The most horrifying thoughts and gruesome feelings raced through her mind. She thought no one cared. She thought she didn’t matter. She thought no one would blink if she lived or died. But with the help of many wonderful souls as well as through the help of many amazing books, Daphne came to understand one thing very well: as much as you love someone, you can’t help those who don’t want to be helped or don’t see that they need to be helped. No amount of logic will reach them. No amount of begging or pandering will bring light to their eyes because often, they’ve already decided what they want to believe. Their minds are closed for business. Sometimes, you have to let them learn in their own way, in their own time, no matter how scary that may sound. Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do is to not be present in someone’s life. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be there if they called you or needed you. It just means the best way you can love them is to let them be happy in their life, even if that means you are not part of it. Love, but don’t hold your love hostage. Find joy in their joy.

Despite all this rapid growth and learning, there were still lingering challenges for many years afterwards for Daphne. She was like a western horse in a British Equestrian Event. But her essence, her suchness, remained. It is this thusness which helped her survive, to surmount all challenges, to keep going on, somehow, someway. The further she drifted into this unknown space, the harder and lonelier it became. There were times she thought there was no one like her anywhere. She came to believe that because of her beginnings and because of her chosen journey, she didn’t belong anywhere. She questioned if this was the right path a few times even, only to conclude that, yes, even with how incredibly painful it was, even with the incredible loss experienced, it was worth it to live a life true to self, an authentic life, a life based on truth, no matter how ugly. Over and over again, she came to this conclusion. She had come too far. There was no going back. The path back had washed away forever.

True Family

Daphne had believed the preacher about god until she realized that she, as a mere human, was more capable of love than God as he had been described. After all, if the ones she loved did not love her, she could leave them in peace and still love them and wish them well. She felt no desire for them to burn in hell for all eternity because of unrequited love. That’s just juvenile.

She had believed the preacher about respecting your parents, but what about parents being respectable and loving and caring?

She believed everyone that told her that her family would always be there for her, until they weren’t.

And she believed herself when she concluded that she just didn’t belong… anywhere.

In the distance, Daphne saw a tall figure. And then another few figures. And then more, some even on four furry paws. They appeared at many points ahead of her. They wore many colors and spoke in many different tones and accents. Many spoke only through their eyes and their bodies, a language that circumvents all boundaries, like math! She ran toward them with tears in her eyes. She wasn’t alone anymore. She feels their hearts from a distance. She knows their souls with a glance because they are kindred spirits. She feels them. They are her true family. She has found her true home.

Daphne is still learning, as we all are, but the ones she has met on her journey home are such amazing people with full lives, good intentions and most of all, the ability and will to truly love, and the courage to be authentically themselves. Blessed are these jewels of life!

We are all but falling leaves in the end. We start out green and vibrant, perky and responsive to the sun and the rain. The storms of life weather us, and sometimes break us from the tree. Many of us who are lucky will have the honor of showcasing the beautiful colors of our autumn years. Then, we can shine a bit more in our gleaming wisdom if we have chosen that path. Eventually, we will all fall from the tree at some point, and that’s ok. From there, we will return to the earth to bring the miracle of life yet again. Daphne wants you to enjoy your time in the sun, enjoy the glory of your autumn, and even enjoy your drift to the ground. We are all part of the cycle, somewhere, somehow, some now. We all belong here.

August 17, 2021 09:14

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