It’s been an amazing few weeks for me; a bit of a crisis that resolved itself (as they always seem to) Not sure where it came from but it certainly turned things upside down. I wouldn’t be surprised if my 49 birthday last week wasn’t the precipitating cause, but then who knows? What I do know is I spent the last two weeks examining a lot about my life – relationships, the meaning of love, purpose, goals, and being.
I feel like a lot has fallen away through the process: a lot of old ways of looking at things, a lot of old baggage. I even had a concrete metaphor of this –the other day i was undoing my belt buckle and something fell with a clatter into the toilet. For a horrified moment I thought it was my new ipod, but it turned out to be the pewter belt buckle I bought around 15 years ago. This is a pretty massive thing: a little silly and stereotypical wolf’s head with a guy riding a Harley and the caption “Born to be Free”. The casting was titled “Untamed Spirit”.
When I first saw this thing I was in the process of throwing off a lot of old and stale ideas, going through my very own mid-life crisis. I had spent decades living according to “shoulds” instead of needs, and suffered accordingly. As I was making several changes in my life I saw this buckle, and knew I had to have it.
It is very worn, the edges rubbed smooth on successive pairs of Levi’s. This was the second time the buckled had fallen off as the wire that holds it to the leather has worn right through the pewter casting. That buckle has been a badge of both honour and purpose for me for a long time, reflecting my core value of freedom.
It is falling off because I don’t need it anymore, and because I no longer have the same core values. As soon as possible I will respectfully consign it to the depths.
It’s hard to know what I will get as a replacement. A buddy has given me a new one that shows a crescent moon winking at the form of a nude woman. It’s quite the pretty thing, but so overtly sexist that I can’t see myself wearing it. Not really any different from those trucker’s mudflaps that I find so offensive.
The first thing I’ve noticed that has changed is my attachment to Tracy. I’ve never felt more deeply in love and devoted to her. The fence sitting that has been part of my craving for freedom is over. You would think after 31 years of knowing her that my mind had been made up, but in my defence, my relationship with her has been the longest that I’ve stuck to anything in my life, and there were many times I felt the urge to seek distant shores.
But now we’ve started on a new and deeper approach to intimacy in our relationship, which only goes to show that no matter how long you have loved someone, there are still deeper and more terrifying levels to go.
Somehow I’ve become aware that “freedom” is really an internal phenomenon, and that keeping distant from others is not the way to go.
As well as surrendering an antiquated ideal of masculine independence, I’ve also surrendered a persistent fear of death. All my adult life I’ve been disturbed by the notion of the obliteration of self. It seemed to me that nothing could be worse and that life was in some ways a hideous joke, in that it must end in catastrophe for the same self that one spends a life trying to cultivate. It’s like dedicating your life to one fine, delicate blossom, knowing that in a few weeks frost will erase all evidence that it ever was.
But a new image of death came to me one day. It probably means nothing to others as my image came to me as an aspect of all that I have been –my beliefs, history, ways of thinking – but the image I get is that of a scaffolding holding together my ego, my consciousness. Upon my death the scaffolding will collapse and the ego will disperse. Whether I have a form of consciousness after that I have no idea but it doesn’t matter, as it’s only the ego that cares, and it will be dismantled.
I know my ego is not me. I have no concept or perception of what I truly am, but the question no longer disturbs me. I do know that all that I think and fear and love and doubt and believe is cultural, historical and biological, and so is contingent on time. When time ends for me, so does that scaffolding. I’m curious to imagine what if anything will be left.
I must say it is very freeing to dispense with the belief that what goes on in my consciousness is me. Frankly, most of that is just silly crap, and it won’t be a great loss when it’s all gone.
Tomorrow we move back to the boat. I’m very excited to see where my future takes me from here.
As a quick aside, I recently acquired an iphone and am posting this aboard a BC ferry in the middle of the Strait of Georgia. I found that it wouldn’t cost anymore to do all my internet and phoning through this device than when we had an ip phone, roger’s portable, and a cell, but would actually simplify things a lot. I get 500 minutes of daytime calling, unlimited eves and weekends, unlimited text, voice mail and call waiting and call display, and 3 gigs of data. an iphone for $100.00 bucks.