It’s a good place to be, to comfortably acknowledge the countless things I don’t know. While I may have achieved 70 years of time in, experiencing more is a given… because I am in this top-notch school called Life, and I’m still breathing. “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know,” is a statement attributed to Socrates. Having walked the self-realization journey for a while, I’d say, thumb’s up to Socrates.
We call it the path of consciousness, when we slowly uncover and reveal to ourselves who or what we are. I’m within the unique position of consciousness that is Ida. You are within your position, we are not the same, yet we connect, we look at the same things, and we do our best to communicate. To experience communication as a flow of truth, love, and trust… we are born with that capacity, but as we leave childhood, we take on a protective persona.
Years ago I wrote a song called “Feel Loved Again”. I didn’t know what I was talking about with this phrase, but I wrote it anyway: “Love, once it has been made, becomes an open door.” People thought I was talking about always being open to sex with old flames, or they argued about ditching past relationships, basically saying that it was just unrealistic to keep a door open – nobody does that. All I could say was, “I think there’s more to love than what we know.”
Everybody has a story, and some folks say toss your story – it’s not Life, it’s not Now, it is only memory. But actually I think stories can be uplifting and entertaining at the least, and possibly helpful as maps. I’ve been considering what more there is to complete in my own life story: is the best yet to come? The answer may become clear as we go into, walk through, and come back out of my story.
We begin life by absorbing conditioning and aligning with programming and it has to be that way. It’s a framework, holding us like a cocoon, and we don’t enter into it accidentally. I’ve spoken before about my cocoon – a farm on the South Dakota prairie, a preacher daddy, a teacher mama, five brothers and sisters, a red barn, a big cottonwood tree, a creek with minnows and turtles, all kinds of animals, cold winters and amazing summer sunsets.
How long ago was it? Born in the 1940s, I was there before electricity was installed in our house, and a phone was hung on the wall, and a refrigerator replaced the icebox. It would be another ten years before a TV was in the living room. So yes, the world has actually changed that much in one lifetime!
While my little family was pretty honest and safe, the world was not. Atomic bombs were dropped on Japan six months before I came in, Israel was established when I was very young, then the Korean war, the Bay of Pigs crisis, the murder of JFK, the Vietnam war, the murder of Dr. King, and the riots that followed, the democratic convention protests, the killings at Kent State, the occupation of Wounded Knee… all of these things and much more happened before I reached my mid-twenties.
I had been married, had given birth to two babies, and was getting divorced at the time of Wounded Knee. When the marriage ended, it was the women’s movement that was blamed: not true but what can you do. It was a revolutionary time period and something had to be blamed.
Other things that the younger readers might find surprising: there was no ‘pharma’ influence on my young life, nobody taking pills, no vaccinations, no visits to the doctor unless something broke, none of it until my late teens. We also had no GMO, no chemical fertilizers, no pasteurization of milk, no weed or insect killers until the development of DDT. I mention DDT because it was the first entry into the farm, in my recollection, of the poisons to come. I was sent out to the garden to spray DDT. It was new, and touted as something great – progress.
We’re not that far away in time from a more natural way of living, and it’s really beautiful that people are going back there, or better said, returning back around with advancements, aligned, sustainable and natural. Also today’s young parents recognize that a childhood with nature as the playground and imagination as entertainment is pretty darn nice. So we can say, within the time period of my generation, a great deal is being learned about what constitutes progress.
Let’s continue with childhood, and losing innocence. There was one moment of expanded consciousness that seemed to mark the end of trust and the beginning of a search: I was in the basement of the farmhouse, and starting to walk upstairs when I felt a very mature awareness come over me, a heart heaviness, and the thought, “This isn’t going to be an easy life.”
And so began the outer battle with injustice and hypocrisy and the inner battle to change myself. I saw my innocence as weakness. It is natural for a child to want to please people, and to be loved and not judged, and at the same time it is natural to assert who you are. Little did I know that I wasn’t going to make the innocence ‘strong’; I would only create the flip side: distrustful, critical and resentful me. Many years later I would come to cherish the little girl within who longs to be heard, but in the meantime the effort was underway to toughen up and take on the battle.
Injustice goes very deep in South Dakota. Native Americans (referred to as Indians) were mostly living on reservations, being kept out of ‘decent’ towns. I knew they had walked the land I was on, rested in the grass, gazed upon the horizon, seen the beautiful sunsets. Many a summer day I walked out into the field to my favorite spot, and I daydreamed about where the Indians had camped, where they built their fires, where their horses would be watered. So when I heard talk going around that someone had shot a ‘drunk Indian’ for trespassing, it was an awful feeling. I asked my dad, “Why do you let these people in church who say they love Jesus and they hate the Indians?” His answer was that they need God the most. Unfortunately the answer wasn’t a very satisfying one to me.
What Jesus said didn’t jibe with what church people did, and I didn’t want to give them a pass. Unknowingly, in this spirit of resisting hypocrisy I was maturing in accord with millions of my generation who would reach young adulthood in the 1960s. The inner desire to change or ‘self-improve’ was a part of my generation also: information that I would encounter in the new age movement.
At that time, Midwestern farm communities were not well connected to information. As teenagers we got a taste of something happening by tuning in to music from big city radio stations, but we were still pretty naïve, having only one TV channel. Everything the news announcer said was deemed true, everything the government did was good and necessary, every new farm chemical was progress, new drugs are for our good, baby formula is better for the baby than breast milk, and even nasty tasting margarine is better than butter.
For many of us, the feeling of inferiority is a given when leaving childhood and adapting to society. We look at other people and it appears that they have it together, and we don’t. For country and farm folks, the bigger and faster city world seems much more sophisticated and knowing. Like so many teens, I hid feelings of inferiority behind a smart attitude, competitiveness and efforts to be popular. Did I notice how I was changing? Not too often. Sometimes I noticed that I wasn’t happy, sometimes I saw myself pretending, sometimes I didn’t like people very much.
The thing to do in school was activities, so I focused on music. Then came liking boys and dating. When we heard the word Love talked about in conversation, it was God’s love. Conversation about boy-girl feelings and romance didn’t happen with parents or adults… more likely we’d get our relationship information through music. We had crushes and ‘likes’ and whispered rules about not letting a boy get to third base. In essence, sex just wasn’t discussed.
Looking back it seems I was the definition of sexually repressed. I actually did not know what happened during sex; only that women give in to it, men want it, and babies come from it. I gave in to it, found out what happened, but to enjoy or not enjoy was insignificant. My first son was a year or two old before I saw a drawing of the female reproductive system, and read that feminine sexuality is a beautiful thing; not just something you let happen because he wants to. That information came from the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves”, which was considered a women’s movement book.
Those who complain about ‘women’s lib’ having ruined women’s femininity, really don’t know the necessity that spawned it. Respect for the female body, respect for the feminine soul, the thought that you don’t have to live in an unhappy marriage in order to survive and care for your babies, the very notion that you are a full and equal person. This vital information, at its origin, was revolutionary.
Still, it would be a very long time before I would let go of resistance and embrace a man in complete trust, actually feeling the courage and strength of ‘feminine’ in relation to ‘masculine’. When it did happen, my open, soft, receptive response was surprising to me – “What is this I feel?” I had let down the wall that was my protection, and discovered an exquisite beauty not in need of protection: there was balance. The feminine and masculine energy balanced and intermingling showed me the possibilities; that relationships can be the ultimate spiritual practice.
Returning to the story, I had given birth to two little boys who were my happiness, was married to a man who made more than enough money, was living in a nice suburban home in Minneapolis… this was what my mother wished for me: an easier life than she had on the farm. So why did we divorce? Was it really the women’s movement? It was that I grew, my awareness expanded, and there was a longing within, a yearning to be.
At that time I couldn’t articulate it, so women’s movement got the blame. Today we might call it the core of longing in the human being, spoken of by Rumi. What do we long for? His answer is: the return message.
After the divorce took place I raised our boys, worked, and handled the bills. A few comparisons: they did get vaccinations but far fewer than are given to children today, they never wore seatbelts or helmets, they played with water pistols and toy weapons, I never worried about a pedophile lurking somewhere, there were no video games, we did fun things and went places, and we didn’t watch much television… which may be the reason there was so much less fear.
Nowadays that kind of living is called “free range parenting.” I’m not sure when the verb ‘parenting’ came into existence, but it was probably around the time when fearful became a way of being a ‘good mother’.
I didn’t socialize much, wasn’t looking for a husband, but I was still into music. We know music doesn’t just reflect, but actually can inform and consciously uplift a generation… or bring it down if such is the intention. Just like the music informed me, as a naïve farm girl, about the bigger world in the sixties, the music in the seventies was incredibly alive and aware, nourishing the yearning. I listened to every type of music and traveled from Minneapolis to Chicago a few times to hear the live music in the clubs.
As I look back, I could point to hundreds of songs with a living message. The music really was the fuel of the generation, and I identified closely, trying to fit the song to myself. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” spoke directly to my spiritual longing, and the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” spoke to the dream of finding a soul mate.
I worked in a hospital psych unit during that time, so I read psychology books and also started reading about astral travel and going out of body. I was searching, but definitely in the dark. The out of body experiments turned out to be not such a great idea, as I started having realistic frightening dreams. Also, the housecat began to see things – reacting in fear, watching movements of something I couldn’t see.
One of the lucid dream experiences played into my next life-changing decision. I saw two females approach the house from a distance. They wore long black capes with hoods, and between them was a huge black dog on a chain. As they walked across the street toward my yard I recognized them as the “Mapes”. Very great fear arose in me as they entered my yard and tied their dog to a big elm tree. I could see their faces, and I knew they came with a warning that impressed me not as “I’m going to get you,” but more as… “Stay away or else.”
I came out of that state very shook up, saying “Mapes”. In searching for a definition for that word I’ve never found the characters in mythology, but it was clearly their name in my experience. A few days later a man from a tree removal service knocked on my door and told me that the elm tree was diseased and needed to be removed. While the truth is that he was probably just hustling up some work, I associated it with the dream. So, that experience, plus an accumulation of other stresses and my own yearnings, led me to make a change.
I asked the boys’ father if he would take over and raise them through their teenage years as I wanted to sell the house and go, and try to ‘make something’ of myself. As I look back on some of the decisions I’ve made, it seems that the longing to find out who or what you are has a steep price. My heart ached for the boys, continuously. And yet years later we would see the good in it… their father got the blessing of knowing, loving and growing with his sons.
To be Continued in Part Two