“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
My mind is trying to do me in. Notice, I do not say it is trying to kill me, but it wants me just at the edge of the abyss. We have been dancing to the edge and back all of my life.
Allow me to introduce you. My mind’s name is Vito the Enforcer, or Vito for short. He goes by a stereotyped mafia persona because he is both a bully but also has that weird, false sentimental side—he showers me with approval when I am a success in his eyes, but then could break my metaphoric legs in the next moment just because he can. Since I am a female, I sometimes wonder why my mind takes this masculine form, but I now understand. It’s all about who dominates. Vito is that part of me that is tough and unforgiving. He also has dominated my thinking all my life, ridiculing my instinctual/heart-centered tendencies.
Now, you might assume that the other “part” of me is feminine, supportive and gentle. There you would be wrong. This other part– the one Vito can’t stand– is genderless, though it resembles the feminine due to its compassion and love. Vito would like it better if she was indeed clearly “feminine,” more of what he can deal with, a womanly woman, all soft, docile, quiet, her only power sexual. This aspect of my self has a name as well,not Darshan, an entity with a Sanskrit name meaning something like “looking into the divine.”
Darshan is hard to pin down, which drives Vito crazy. It’s neither male nor female, good or bad, not this or that. You see, Darshan has no sense of the duality Vito holds to so tightly. For Vito there is us and them. And plenty of reasons for lingering disputes and resentments. For Darshan there is only us. You might say this entity is a spirit of some sort or an energy of some type, but no definition is adequate. This is intolerable for Vito, who has defined every living thing he sees. When he is not ridiculing Darshan, he simply ignores it, pretends it does not exist. That is kind of funny since Vito himself, as the mind full of thoughts that he is, resembles a cloud than a person. He can seem solid, even dark and scary when all clumped together with drama or angst, but like the cloud, he has no real substance. Whereas Darshan is quite real and lives in atoms and molecules, protons, neutrons, blood and oxygen. Darshan even has a face and a body, unlike Vito, that you can see when you look at a tree or a weed or a bug.
Unfortunately, I have been in cahoots with Vito and belittled Darshan as well; he and I diminished its power over the years so much that I barely knew she still existed until a few years ago. Alas, I still too often have more Vito than Darshan in my life.
Here’s some irony; you’d think it was my father who brought Vito into my life, but it was my mother. Turns out he was the motivating force for generations on that side of the family. He had abused her as well. My father, who favored the weaker spirit self, was no match since he cowered before Vito and his emotionally and physically violent relatives.
Vito ignores Darshan entirely and after many years of following Vito’s loudly proclaimed beliefs, I have developed the same habit. Most of the time I do not hear or heed her. This leaves plenty of room for Vito to stomp around in his snakeskin boots and spew thoughts of regret and self-recrimination into my mind. He blows these dark thoughts like smoke in my face from his big cigar. Then, he settles back in his barcalounger and tells me tales of my past humiliations and failures. Those are the stories he favors as he has no use for the present. The present is heart territory, the place where Darshan lives. When he goes there he gets nervous and paces a lot because he doesn’t need to do or be anything special, which of course makes him feel utterly lost. The present, Darshan’s reality, can be painful sometimes too and Vito, though he loves to create painful thoughts, also knows that he doesn’t know what to do with them if has to spend time with them. Vito’s modus operandi is to keep the misery moving but don’t look at it or its source.
So Vito drags me to the past all the time. The past is where Vito feels most alive. He feels secure on that terrain because the past is full of facts and certainty and he loves certainty. In contrast, the present is not static, so there is nowhere he can plant a flag that will stay planted. In the present things move and shift like sand. Now light coming in the window, next clouds cover the sun. Now a sweet moment, next someone is crying…but not forever, not for long. Darshan is like the wind: constantly changing, ever present.
Vito’s role in this life is to defeat me. He has honed my perspective with his sharp and deadly blade: I wrote a book and got an agent, but I didn’t stick with it and get it published. A victory for Vito; I succumbed to self-doubt, never thought I was worth a mentor who might have championed me, and never pursued it further. I published in small presses instead, and Vito told me that wasn’t good enough. He continues to laugh at my attempts to publish and tells me I will never be as good as “they” are. This is the same “they” who are better than me in every other way also. I chose loveless men as my partners and Vito was pleased. Vito belittles the passion I put into working with working class kids who were on their way to jail or suicide when I was in my twenties. He dismisses as naïve how I wanted to do work that served others in some way, and reminds me of how I wasn’t savvy about making money.
Sometimes, even now, Vito likes to put on old Sinatra albums (that I love too!) and force the issue of my single, unmarried state. Of course his view of “love” is like a hit-man’s: you do for me or else. He only implies that of course, with Frank singing about not being able to live without love. Vito never sees the contradiction of “love “ that makes you so desperately dependent that you want to kill yourself when it’s gone.
I wrote a book exposing Vito, but he is confident it won’t see the light of day. These days it’s aging he uses to pummel me with. He tells me there is no place for someone my age since I don’t have grandchildren. After sex appeal goes, the grandchildren become the focus, he tells me. That is the natural way, he says. Then he calls me names like spinster and old crone. He tells me I am every young woman’s nightmare.
Vito is loud, muscular, wrong and only in my mind.
Darshan’s role in this life is to make me laugh. Darshan sometimes dresses up in lederhosen and does a polka at a hipster’s cool gathering where everyone else is in understated black. Darshan comes to boogey at a staid awards ceremony.
Darshan is not like Don Rickles, the joke is never mean, but more like Robin Williams when he was full of life and compassion for our absurdity. Darshan sings and writes and paints. It knows that I am, as the song says, “like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.” It knows how I long for that freedom, that for me it’s often been true that “I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me.” It knows all this and more.
Darshan is kind, right, and everywhere. Even within Vito the Enforcer.