A while ago a friend of mine was on a silent meditation retreat and nearly starved herself to death. When they came to take her away they had to physically drag her out of her little hell hole because she could not believe that she was sick. Someone had to rip the visor of their car off to show her a mirrored reflection of her gaunt features before she would leave. They put her in the hospital. They told her she had been possessed by a demon. They fed her and they put her back into the stream of life. She found out a Buddhist nun had died in the same cabin she was stationed in, and other women had had similar experiences there. The Order who owned the land destroyed the cabin so that it will never be used again.
I hadn't seen my friend in 8 years, and my memory of a very feminine woman who exalted in peacefulness and effortlessness, was profoundly shaken when she spent the past weekend with me. She came to me crushed and struggling to stay awake on herself. It's been a while since she was in hell, but hell seems to have followed her out. Some would call it depression, just plain and simple clinical depression, but had you known this woman prior to this event you would not have thought it possible. My feeling was that a residue of grayness hangs on her hips and keeps her from walking.
The struggle is not just about finding a job or a boyfriend, for God's sake. It is a struggle, a life struggle, to find herself at peace with the world. Her faith has been shaken to the core. The practice which garnered such insight and depth betrayed her, made her vulnerable somehow (or of course, it may have indeed saved her life).
It made me think once again of Elisabeth Fritzl, the girls of FLDS and dear, dear Jaycee Dugard. For, of course, these feminine souls were possessed by demons, and in some cases have been returned to the stream of life. We cannot even begin to have a normal conversation about these women without acknowledging that they may have been damaged beyond our understanding and may never be the same. It doesn't mean their story is over. In fact, their healing is of dire importance to all of us.
As anyone who has read my posts may know, I am particularly obsessed with these stories and I believe it is because after 20 years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the man I loved, and who said he loved me, I feel akin to them though I walked "freely" through the world all of that time. There are things that happen to us in life that change us profoundly. Healing is not straightforward. It's a meandering course that leads nowhere sometimes, and sometimes leads to most unexpected gates that we stand before wondering if we have the right to begin again.
The fires raging in LA will also be thus for those who have lost their homes. Here in Colorado we are breathing the smoke from fires all over the west. The sky is orange and gray with it. What does it really mean?
Can we say a fire, a man, a situation is evil? Things happen to remove the foundation of a life. In different gradations change occurs. Perspectives fail. What do we do? What can we do?
It is relatively impossible once the damage is revealed to move back into a burnt out hull of a life, and yet somehow we expect to do just that. Beginning at the beginning when you feel you're supposed to be at the middle is a real challenge. Life is often, often a page one re-write. The structures we built turn out to be fragile and combustible. We are left with very little beyond what matters most - people who remember our joys, who can offer nothing but a hug, a home-cooked meal, a pat on the back. In the heat of life, this is what it all boils down to - human connection and acceptance. I hope Jaycee gets a lot of acceptance. She lived a life without a good foundation, but it was a life, and now it is gone. I hope the folks back in LA can build again at some point down the line, but in the meantime receive home cooked meals and pats on the back. I hope my friend can sit at the hearth of her burned out body and rebuild the flame that keeps us warm on cold nights.
I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by folks who patted me on the back, let me sleep in their spare room, and by the unconditional love of a man who can see the burned out hull of my life and wait for me to figure out how to build the foundation of my next life with him. He says luck has nothing to do with it, but I have to say I feel very lucky.