The Critic

old-man-with-hatHe grew up under the critical and unforgiving eye of his father, his boyhood magic extinguished by the chill of unyielding expectation. The tender qualities of wonder, joy and spontaneity went into hiding. They dug little foxholes to survive. The good soldier dutifully learned the qualities modeled as he stepped without choice on to the battlefield of his father’s world. He learned the art of finding fault, furrowing his forehead, and inverting the corners of his mouth. In fact, he became so good at being like his father that he forgot about his own essence. He forgot that he had hidden his magic in places so remote, that they had become lost.

Eventually he came to understand and even appreciate his father’s legacy, as he too found power in diminishing others. It made his lost parts feel bigger and better than those around him. He built a life of self-importance, accepted his loneliness as normal, and learned to function above his fragmented inner-life.

The boy in the man took him toward a career in theater, not so secretly hoping that his qualities of joy, laughter and wonder could be released, allowing him to integrate his spirit. It didn’t work. The cold water splashed on his young heart had solidified. He could not expel his father’s words, You are not good enough, and never will be.  There is no room for errors, mistakes or forgiveness.  Be perfect going in or don’t go at all.

As an adult, the boy who learned to judge himself without mercy, turned his razor-sharp vision toward others. Well-educated, lonely and brittle, he made a career of being a critic, and was paid handsomely to inform the public of flaws and weaknesses in those with freer spirits than his own.  He remains a man who is terrified of engaging the fullness of his heart, while demeaning the risk-taking of those with more courage.


Falling apart under the trees.

I was searching for my former vision, my old way of seeing that got lost. I know it hides beneath a tangle of flowers against a damp richness of soil. I imagine it abandoned there, lying at an angle, surprised at the unexpected release. Dropped, lost, gone.

I searched for it today, that old way of seeing and being. It was important to find it because it took so much with it. It took the way I looked in the mirror after hours of receiving you into every cell of my body. It took my sexuality and the way I could never be in the same room with you without wanting to lie you down in our bed.

These days our bed frightens me. It has become a place of illness, of sleepless tossing against you and away. It has become a place for stories of fear and the confession of foolish past mistakes.

I couldn’t find that old way of seeing today. The will that dams my reservoir of sorrows broke open. I had to stand in the flood. Sweet that you searched me out. The trail of your journey etched in green across your white shirt. How comforted I am by the sight of you. You house a lifetime of integrity in your style, your choices, your countenance and wisdom.

I was the child who hid to mask the depth of her feelings. Today I become what I feared; another in a long line of demanding females expressing excessive emotion. My wonderings and confusion seem small next to your kindness. I am embarrassed to speak them.

The Buddha became enlightened under the bohdi tree. I sat on prickers and hard earth staring into a parking lot. My tree was cedar. Nature and your loving words cradled and enlightened me.  Thank you for accepting and loving and listening. I’m such a handful for myself, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you.

I didn’t find my old vision and I miss it, but at least I can still see. Now I must be patient to see what I will be shown through these new lenses.

written 9-23-05