It’s been five months since my last post.
I don’t know what all has happened in that time. If you want to figure it out you can go check my insty. Insty. Insty. Insty.
We’ve been on the road. Trying to work it out- trying to live a life of freedom and adventure and meaning and exploration and connection. And being successful at it to a larger or smaller degree. There have been moments of pure bliss. Moments of rage and despair. Just like life in that way.
But I must say that living on the road is different than stationary life. Different in a lot of ways, but other than the going many places and seeing new things aspect, there’s a deeper qualitative difference that seems to be a consequence of all of the letting go we did in order to make this new life on the road happen. We let go of our house, I let go of my job and identity as a police, we let go of the little town we’d lived in for twenty plus years, we let go of security and routine and predictability. We let go of family. Not really let go of family, but let go of our ability to be right there for them- we had to accept that distance would mean that our role became more distant. And this, for me, I think for both of us, was quite a nugget to crack. We have been through the ringer for the past ten years with our daughter and her struggles with addiction, no need to go into all of that ugly (I was going to say past, but it is still present, so….). So a big part of this move was that we were hoping for more distance- hoping that we could extricate ourselves from the exquisite entanglements of our parental love and unskillful attempts at rescuing her from the consequences she sought out with such relentless fervor.
And we’ve done that. It was a multi-part process that only began with selling the house we’d been living in with her and her boys and her husband. Only began with making them move out. Only began with hooking up the airstream and pulling off down the road. Since then it’s been a recurring theme- we get a ways down the road, and her life blows up and we’re asked to come to the rescue again. Which we did, over and over. Kept trying, kept trying, kept trying. Saying it was for the boys. Saying they were innocent and shouldn’t suffer, and if it helped our daughter at the same time, well, that couldn’t be helped.
It all came to a head a few months ago. Our kid had been on a long, painful downhill slide- it looked like she was scraping by, but mostly that was just our beleaguered hope. Eventually she was arrested and the boys were taken by the court because she’d really endangered them. Child protective services asked if we would take the boys. We said yes. We’d come back, we’d take the boys, they could live with us in the airstream until she got clean, did her time, got back on her feet.
We jumped back on the merry-go-round. It seemed like the only thing to do.
But CPS wouldn’t place the boys with us. We were homeless. We didn’t have a place to live, we couldn’t give the boys a separate bedroom and bathroom and twin beds.
It seemed like the decision had been made for us, and finally, finally, we were not going to get sucked back into a life of giving up our lives to deal with our daughter’s mess. But we were not done yet. Because family.
My mom. She couldn’t accept the horror of her great-grandchildren going into foster care. I mean, who could? Who could face that? So she agreed to take them. And the court gave them to her. And then she called us for help. And we went.
Just when I think I’m out, they suck me back in!
we went back.
And for a while, we sucked it up. My Mom had a hell of a time with those boys. They were in rough shape- very upset, acting out, freaked out, hard to handle. By the time we got there she was way past the end of her rope. So was my step-dad. It was a shit-storm.
So then this whole other dynamic blew up for me- this strange entanglement with my mom. She had this compulsive drive to save the boys, to provide for them, to protect them from the specter of foster care- but she was so overwhelmed that she couldn’t do it, even with our help. It got really ugly and difficult and she was in tears every time I spoke to her. It wasn’t working.
I was in agony. I wanted to help. I wanted to help her, I wanted to help the boys. I didn’t want my child to lose her children forever. I didn’t want them to go into the system. And I didn’t want to enable my kid. I didn’t want to be her pawn. I didn’t want to be my mom’s pawn. I didn’t want to give my life up to clean up yet another of my kid’s messes. I was a mess.
I used my practice to try to navigate these waters. I stayed with what I felt, I examined my egoic clinging, my lack of peace, my confusion and error. I probed every last episode of this pattern, looking for my errors. I stayed with it and stayed with it and stayed with it. It took weeks of really deep awareness. I couldn’t see the answer but I just kept looking. Opening. Probing. Going ever deeper. Looking for some spot of clarity, some wisdom, some awareness to arise. What I eventually saw was that everyone was suffering. Every one of us. Without exception. And I saw that helping, that act of jumping in and trying to fix things, never really helped. Before the action, suffering. After the action, suffering. And not just the suffering that was there before the action, but extra suffering. Suffering piled on top of suffering as a result of the action taken to avoid the suffering.
And something opened up inside of me.
Awareness dawned. Wisdom dawned. The path became clear.
I would no longer add to the suffering by trying to keep the suffering from happening. My suffering, my child’s suffering, the suffering of those totally innocent boys, my wife’s suffering, my mother’s suffering- this suffering that expanded in rings and touched every one in our family.
I really would not do this any more.
I would still love. I would still suffer. I would give all the moral and emotional support in my soul to everyone involved- but I would no longer act to try to prevent a terrible outcome. Ten years of acting to try to prevent a terrible outcome had never- not one time- worked to prevent that outcome. I was going to do something different now. I wanted a different outcome, so I realized I had to take a different approach.
So I told my mom I wasn’t going to help her with the boys any more. And she couldn’t do it without our help- she couldn’t do it with our help. She had to call CPS and tell them that they had to come get them. If she felt like that was too much for her, I would call them and tell them.
This was a terrible moment. I felt utterly cruel, and I guess that I was. That I am. But I was determined to do this thing. And I did.
This act was like setting off a bomb in our family. It devastated my mother. It profoundly broke something in our relationship and I doubt it will recover. A whole avalanche of changes followed.
The boys went into foster care. It was as terrible as you might imagine. Or maybe it wasn’t. I mean, maybe they were safer, better off. Maybe not. I think that’s the thing- you just can’t be sure. There are terrible aspects and good aspects- it’s very mixed. I think one of the problems with my thinking in the past was that there was such thing as a solution. But there just isn’t. There’s no fix. There’s nothing that stays done. It’s just one event after another- each with good and bad aspects. The shit storm just keeps coming, but there are blazes of light that break through, too. In trying to force a solution I had always been refusing to be with what simply was. What was really happening. But what was happening in the moment was always the result of the whole universe coming together to bring that moment into fruition. My puny efforts to make it some other way were always, and will always be, doomed to failure.
Eventually our daughter’s mother in law stepped in and now she has the boys. She quit her job and moved down to stay with her mother in law and take care of the boys there. Our kid is still in jail, waiting for a space in a sober living home to open up. She has a window of time to earn the right to have the boys back, but the clock is ticking.
We are still being asked to come back and help.
So. I changed course, I took a different path, I followed my own inner wisdom and awareness. What’s the outcome?
Well, objectively it looks terrible. My grandkids went into foster care. My relationship with my mom is on the rocks. My kid is still in jail. She can’t believe that we would let her boys go like that. Someone else is carrying what should be our burden. The boys have been through a lot of terrible experiences and are suffering because of it.
I guess what’s awful is that I know I did the right thing. It looks cruel and selfish, and maybe it is- I think I’m coming from a place of compassion- real compassion, not idiot compassion. I think by doing this I’m allowing things to unfold without adding to the pain with my own confused acts. I think this is cleaner. I think this is wise.
But I might be wrong.
Maybe I’m using my path as an excuse to act badly. Maybe family comes first, always, and I have shirked my responsibility in the most awful way. I carry that now. I don’t get to know if I’m right or wrong.
But what I’m learning is that right and wrong aren’t exactly the point. If you look closely enough at what really is, then how can you say right? How can you say wrong?
For me, I won’t resist what is any more. Whatever good there is can only be found in the present moment. In the richness and shit of what is exactly, totally happening right now. I don’t get to choose how things are, no matter how badly I might want to. I do get to choose how I live with how things are, though, so I’m going to accept them. Accept them wholly, without bias. Without accepting and rejecting, picking and choosing. I will be with what is and love it fully.
It is a radical stance.
So that’s my update. I may be back here again soon. I hope so. But it might be another long time before I post. I don’t know.
I hope you are well and happy. I hope you are at peace. I hope you can feel the love that this world has for you. I hope you can feel the love that I have for you.