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Moving Past Yourself

Self absorption is a character trait we don't like to acknowledge but unfortunately, in a society where individualism reigns supreme it presents a universal pitfall that's hard to avoid. I remember how much of my life was compressed into an insular capsule simply because I responded to the external world the way a sexually abused child/girl/woman naturally does and without any apology: How will this affect me? Not how, but WHEN will this hurt me? (because surely it will, as everything and everyone does). I always envied people who actually had a visible life outside themselves,who didn't turn the hostile mirror of the world inward.

Then something happened. Call it crisis, emotional breakdown, dark night of the soul, five of pentacles, psychological raku, crack-up. Call it shamanic breakdown. Call it healing. This is when the wise women showed me that hyphenating the word emergenc - y adds a higher dimension. It is when we heal in this frightening and painful way, like the cracking of an egg, that our authentic selves can emerge. So I emerged.

I have no children, but women tell me that the moment they give birth, their lives transform, and they are no longer the center of their own universe, that they live to love, shelter, and nurture this other being who is now of greater import they. My only reference point has been my dogs. These are the other beings to whom I am responsible and whose welfare I place before my own.

Twleve years ago, out of the blue, I watched my dog Seamus suffer his first grand mal seizure. I had never seen one before. We were watching t.v. and I noticed him looking up in the air at nothing, his right paw involuntarily scratching something imaginary. Long strings of spittle began growing on either side of his mouth. I said to my then s.o. "Oh my God,he's having a seizure," to which he said, "No he's not; he's fine" (I should have known then that this man was not marriage material). I said, "Yes, he's having a seizure," to which Mr. I Me Mine responded,"No he isn't; leave him alone, he's fine." At that moment I leaped off the couch, which was the instant Seamus started jerking his head back and moaning a painful cry from some unholy place I'd never seen. If this were another me, the old me, I'd have panicked and rUn into the kitchen, covering my eyes and praying for it to be over, but I ran to him, sat before him, and probably did the wrong thing medically but acted out of spiritual spontanaeity. I embraced him as the seizure continued, talking to him, just talking and talking and talking and calling his name. It lasted five minutes. Afterward, he was petrified, walking backwards as he tried to regain composure, and for the rest of the night, he sat planted at my hip.

As a child and as a young woman, I ran from such terrifying situations. Here I ran into it. I pushed myself aside and have continued to do this since.

Yesterday in my college cafeteria, a tall, healthy looking student collapsed into a grand mal seizure. I walked in just as the jerking began. There he was, flat on his back on this cold, hard floor, his arms and legs flailing. It lasted quite a long time. The cafeteria staff, two security guards, a few students, and I stood around trying to block students from entering and leaving. Some students actually stepped over this struggling epileptic because quickly paying for their soda was more important than respecting his condition. Once the jerking stopped, bubbles of white foam poured -- and I mean poured -- from his lips. He did not regain consciousness for a good 20 minutes.

I stood there, called the paramedics a second time, and looked at how fragile and alone he could feel, how humiliated he might feel if he knew he was the center of such attention, how uncomfortable that a very unpleasant and private ailment would morph into public event. I stood there, almost praying, really wanting to hold his hand and repeat, "it's O.K., it's O.K." until he returned to us, but did so in visualization only. As the paramedics took him away on the stretcher, he kept asking, "Why am I going to the hospital? What happened?"

I used to ask my therapist how it was possible for her to listen to her clients' deep grief and remain so still in the face of their torment, so unmaimed. I couldn't quite get it, especially considering what a basket case I was at the time. How could she remain composed and detached yet loving at the same time?

I'm learning how. I think I can do it. I get it.

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