“You Complain Too Much”

From Walks with Yogi “You Complain Too Much…”

Somehow, in feeling our own pain and sorrow, our own ocean of tears, we come to know that ours is a shared pain and that the mystery and beauty and pain of life cannot be separated.  This universal pain, too , is part of our connection with one another, and in the face of it we cannot withhold our love any longer.

–Jack Kornfield,  A Path With Heart

I write imperfectly and may find later that I disagree with myself…but then, if, we say the metaphor for enlightenment is Paris, I’m still in Peoria. On a bicycle. Pedaling  to the Eiffel Tower will take a while, but I’m on my way…

The other day my brother said that, although he liked reading most of my blogs, he enjoyed the more light-hearted ones more, that others can seem like “complaining.” He said the ones that describe the good results of my efforts are more helpful than to read about my past and present struggles. I know there are other readers who would  agree with him and have the same critique of my blogs—be more positive, they say, don’t complain too much.

So, I’m going to complain about that…

My intention isn’t to write my blog, my book or my poetry only for my own benefit–though certainly it has helped me– but also for those who are ashamed of their “flaws” and afraid they will be rejected if they reveal them.

Some people say I am brave to reveal my dark side, the character defects, the struggles. I ask  why should that take courage? How sad that we must be brave to share about our vulnerabilities, our imperfections.  One of the reasons people heal in groups like AA is because they are finally safe to admit they hurt, that they have hurt others, that they are confused, that they feel lost and out of control, and  that the demon of craving and attachment has turned them into what Buddhists call, “hungry ghosts.”  The miracle is that when addicts and enablers finally face and admit those “shameful” things, their shame lessens and even evaporates.

My poor, sick alcoholic parents  did not like it when the kids complained because our unhappiness fueled their guilt, which in turn increased their drinking. In Al Anon I learned that they did the best they could considering how ill-equipped for parenting they were.

The loudly unspoken  rules my siblings and I understood were:   “Kids are not allowed to complain. It upsets the adults. If you upset us, it will make us drink.”  My brother and sister rarely  complained.  They were good kids. I was not good. I was unhappy; and children were not allowed to be unhappy. There was hell to pay when I complained, yet I never wised up. I couldn’t ignore or deny my parents’ fiery, violent rages.

I couldn’t hide that I was upset when I found my father holding back my mother’s knife-wielding hand. I was unhappy about being  thrown  down the stairs because I had been crying too much. I showed alarm when I awoke in the middle of the night to hear plates being thrown onto the kitchen floor, against the walls.

Kids in alcoholic families are supposed to take care of everyone else, do the bidding of others. The Supreme Rule in such families:  Do whatever it takes to keep the alcoholic “happy” because if the addict is unhappy, everybody pays.  I broke the rule. I was the complainer, the problem, the reason mother had migraine sand father was passed out in the basement.

In adulthood, I learned  I needed help and that before I could leave the past behind, I needed to question the old rules. I turned to AlAnon and Buddhism—-which turn out to be the same truths put into different language. 

A definition of Buddhist mindfulness is non-judgmental seeing. Seeing things as they are, not as we think they should or shouldn’t be. AlAnon taught me to see how a thick blanket of shame and fear covered life in an alcoholic family. I write to lift the blanket, shake it out, let light and air in. I write because I don’t think I am the only one-–even at my advanced age–-who has removed the blanket and who doesn’t want to go to sleep under it again. Dare I say this is a type of wokeness. I dare say so. 

I write about my demons because if I face, name, investigate and learn to love them, they will no longer clamor for my attention, demand my self-loathing and cause me to blame others. I don’t think that is complaining too much.

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