Integration

The big kids had another snow day today. They called off school last night following inclement weather forecasts. This morning when we woke up there was nothing on the ground or falling from the sky. The freezing rain scheduled to begin shortly after sunrise did not appear until the early mid-morning. Since then the snow has fallen swiftly without mercy.

This neuroscience thing is still in my head, but not as much. I decided not to take the class. I still have to tell the teacher, but at least my mind is made up and can thus return to a state of peace. From the very hour the thought first entered my mind several weeks ago, I didn’t know whether or not the presentation to add more classes to my schedule was a temptation to resist or an opportunity to embrace. There’s another one I could take on Tuesdays.

The thing is, I like my schedule now. I like being able to focus without rushing. I like being able to absorb more of the material. I like that I still have time to read other things of interest. Going back to the reality therapy, I ask the question, “What do you want?” The answer is easy: I want to take the class. But even if I could end up managing the paper, I don’t want this class enough to believe it’s realistically beneficial or wise to think I can get through all those quizzes before class starts in two and half weeks, which the teacher has been encouraging students get started on since fall semester. I opened my student portal to take a look at them. They’re not the kind of answers you can know without studying.

When it comes down to it, there are other things in life that I want far more. I recently finished a book called The Sexually Healthy Man by licensed counselor Andrew Bauman (weird jump, I know, but I’ll try to connect this.) One of the things he talks about is facing the arousal that comes from encountering beauty. In his chapter Face to Face With a Dying God, he tells the story of a time he was participating in a group training session. The attendees were asked to pair up with a partner for an exercise to quickly bring them into their shadow. This exercise required the partners to hold uninterrupted eye contact, with their faces approximately 12-inches apart. After holding eye-contact for several minutes, he says they were asked to complete the following sentences “without thinking, from our gut”.

I love and I have never loved

“I see in your eyes…”

the one I cannot ever love

I feel shame when I…”

remember the ways I didn’t love you

“My fear is that you will see in me…”

that I wasn’t as good as you thought I was

to fall in love with you
was to fall in love with me
a grace that I might see
again
for if you could love me
so could I
old love so true
we never die
quiet
hell
Love breaks the spell
all falsehood slain
the Lamb will reign
my sun, my star
falls down before him

Andrew writes about being paired with a woman who he also found to be incredibly attractive. His heart started to pound as he looked into her eyes. Shame overwhelmed him as he remembered his past years of objectifying and devouring beauty rather than honoring it. Thoughts and fantasies bombarded his mind to be pushed away as soon as they entered. In the past he’d have used her to seek pleasure for himself and numb unhealed wounds. The dying god was an illusion that women were the answer to his life’s deepest pains, that a beautiful woman could save him from his heartache and traumas. Andrew writes, “I no longer wanted to engage with her in a degrading way, but I also didn’t want to ignore what was going on inside me. In my experience, the more I try to push uncomfortable emotions away without properly acknowledging them, the more power they have to control me.”

Several paragraphs later, he continues on, “When facing my deepest shame and terror, I had to answer my deepest question and greatest fear: Am I a good man, despite the evils I have perpetrated? These complex questions are typically the ones we most want to escape, but what if we decide to no longer judge them? What if we pay attention to these uncomfortable emotions and arousals? What if we could practice being with them, instead of attempting to annihilate them? What if we could stop naming them “good” or “bad”, and simply see them as an opportunity? What if we were curious about their unexpected arrival? Is it possible that they are here to help cleanse us, teach us, and foster redemption and wholeness? What if we could bless, rather than curse, these emotions? Within this posture, no matter what comes up in us, we can give ourselves permission to work with, instead of against, our pain, moving through it and into healing. Nothing is so vile that Love cannot redeem it.”

Somehow by reading his story, I was healed by it. Not completely, not everywhere, but somewhere in the fabric of a quiet heart, a part was mended. I cried when it happened, but I didn’t cry too much. The pain was different, less severe than before. I wouldn’t even say I completely related to what Andrew said, but in other ways his words were like the ray to shine a light. The sexual side of my humanity would not have been the first thing I could’ve told you was broken, not that you can so neatly divide the human being up into sides.

Which is why this still somehow is all connected to the class. The vice of the enneagram 7 is gluttony, which means the corresponding virtue of mine is sobriety. They say happiness isn’t everything, and I get what they’re saying. I can even accept it without the urge to fight back. Two days ago I knew and believed that I wanted this class to be more fully happy, which is the same thing I wanted for the stranded man on the moon. Today it’s beautiful to see the earth is turning again.

2 thoughts on “Integration

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