“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot, author
“…except Sekai was slowly going, what she termed, “crazy!”
Sekai was approaching the “Big 40” and raising two teens. Her husband, Seldon operated a dry cleaning business, and did well at it. Their two children, Seneca and Soneog, did well in school and was active in extracurricular school activities including sports and church.
Seldon also took an active role in their church and was well regarded for his volunteerism and especially his activities with the youth of their community. They were “Pillars of the Community”…except Sekai was slowly going, what she termed, “crazy!”
Sekai had been referred by her doctor who suggested she needed to figure out her life more than she needed to try another medication. She kind of agreed and so had called my office to book an appointment.
Sekai was a friendly, joking, blond haired woman with a quick wit. She moved about awkwardly during our first meeting. It was as if still she was trying to adjust to the extra mass, she told me, she had been reluctantly carrying around for the last year.
Her humour was invariably sudden, self-deprecating and sustained. It had the ability to deflect your attention to less serious matters…like what she really thought or felt at that moment. This mask of levity was probably an old survival skill she used habitually and unconsciously many times in her past.
“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” – Aristotle, philosopher
“She is my only real companion.”
As I collected a short history of her current situation, Sekai’s referenced several times how tired and sleepy she was and how napping was how she passed the time since she had been on stress leave from her work as a legal secretary.
So, I asked her,
“Sekai, what is stressing you the most today?”
“My life mostly!” she said, with a half smile.
“Which part of your life is most challenging at this moment?”
“All the parts, Ken!” and another half smile floated on her face briefly.
“Sekai, you have a specific hierarchy of values of what is most important to you, so which part is bugging you the most? Let’s be very serious here…this is important!” I said, to get past her default strategy of humour.
She looked down for a bit then raised her head and replied,
“I’m tired all the time, listless, and sleeping my life away. It’s really just me and our dog, Sasha. She is my only real companion. She listens to me, stays by my side and comforts me.”
“Then, what is number two, Sekai?”
“Comforts you in what way, Sekai?”
“She is just there for me…no strings attached…unlike others in my life.” she said with an edge of anger in her tone.
“Who ‘others’ are not there for you, Sekai?”
“Well my family for one…they are so preoccupied with their stuff…it is like I don’t exist!” she said, her anger more evident now.
“Who else?” I asked, suspecting more.
“You said, ‘for one’…who else…who is number two, Sekai?”
“There is no number two, Ken.” she replied with a touch of temper.
“Then, what is number two, Sekai?” I asked pressing her.
“Ken, I was raised Roman Catholic and switched to the United Church when I got married. My god, or maybe my two gods, have abandoned me in my time of greatest turmoil!” she said, her face erupting with blatant anger and tears.
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein, playwright
“… they just ignore me and even my god is doing that!”
As I passed her a tissue, I said,
“Sekai, it sounds like you are having a spiritual crisis. Do you want to talk about that?” I asked to make sure she was willing to go where she needed to go.
“Ken, I have worked hard at being a good mother and wife…to do my job of caring for my family. But, now as I struggle, they just ignore me and even my god is doing that!”
“How old were you when you learned to believe in your god, Sekai…do you remember?”
“I had catechism classes in school from grade one onward. Every Sunday there was more instruction…it has been continuous since my childhood in one form or another.”
“Do you still have the same ideas about mathematics as you did back in elementary school, Sekai?” I asked.
“I hated math in school. But, in high school I had this cool teacher, Ms. Chittick, who opened my eyes to math being the laws of nature in symbols. She was so helpful I got the math prize in my senior year.”
“So, your ideas about math changed and evolved as you got older. You added new people and experiences. Is that accurate, Sekai?”
“Yes, I guess it is, isn’t it?” she replied, raising her eyebrows in surprise.
“And your body has constantly changed or evolved has it not?”
“Yes, it has!” she replied.
“Have you been thinking your mind and its’ beliefs don’t also constantly change and evolve over time?”
“I never considered it like that before, Ken!”
“Newborns only believe in themselves, not in a god.”
“Have you been thinking it should have been different for your perception of your deity?”
She paused before saying,
“Jeez, I never thought about it like that, either. Do you mean our spirituality grows and changes with time?”
“You’ve heard the old cliche, ‘The only guarantees in life are death, taxes and change!’
The last one, ‘change’ is just another word for learning, growth or evolution…one of the natural laws.”
“Would you tell me about your current view of your God, Sekai?” I asked.
“Well, he is loving and powerful, mostly. And, he rewards us for doing good! That’s about it, really!”
“Newborns only believe in themselves, not in a god. They learn this new belief from the adults around them. Would you like to understand why humans decided to believe in a god?”
“Yes, I would!”
“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” –
Steve Maraboli, author
“… I have to wonder why my beliefs about god didn’t…”
“Our ancestors called anything that could endanger them a god, so they could develop ways to stay safe in the dangerous environment in which they lived. So, the early gods were the sun, lightning, thunder, floods, famine and so on. Later they personified people who protected them like kings, queens, princes, princesses, etc.”
“So, it’s really about survival and safety…is that what you mean?” she asked, her curiosity activated.
“Yes, Sekai…it is a safety issue for us humans. But, as we learned more about how the laws of nature, …what we call science today, we developed more effective ways to protect ourselves from the elements.”
“Does that mean I have an outdated belief system about how to protect myself?”
“What do you think, Sekai?”
“If my beliefs about mathematics evolved in my past, I guess I have to wonder why my beliefs about god didn’t, eh?”
“Perhaps, with the passage of time, you have been collecting new experiences which haven’t been incorporated into your spirituality…yet?”
“How do I do that, Ken? How do I update my spirituality?”
“Integrating the mind is the essence of life. Decide you will always say and do only what you feel is right. Then, you will come to tremendous clarity and conviction in the inner and outer worlds.” – Paramahamsa Nithyananda, philosopher
“…I know I need to do something right away…”
“There are lots of ways. One, I could suggest, would be to apply one of nature’s most basic laws to your experiences…the law of symmetry, synchronicity or balance. Do you want to consider that, Sekai?”
“Ken, I know I need to do something right away, because what I’ve been doing sure isn’t working for me.”
“Ok! Let’s go to a specific moment in the past when you perceived your god or gods abandoned you. When and where did that occur? Please, be very specific, Sekai!”
“It happens regularly…probably, daily! I am feeling tired, alone, discouraged, fed up or angry…or, all of the above…like last Friday night, right after supper.”
“Where were you and who was with you at that moment?” I asked.
“Ken, I was in the kitchen…by myself. We had just finished supper and my husband and the kids went downstairs to watch a movie on television. They abandoned me to clean up after our meal which I had spent two hours preparing and serving.”
“What upset you the most about that situation at that very moment, Sekai?”
“Ken, I know I’m the mother and wife…but, I think they could, and should, help me!” she said testily.
“… it would dictate you had as much pleasure as pain at that moment.”
Then she added,
“But, then I kind of start second guessing myself by thinking about my job being a Christian mother, spouse…etc. Then, I just feel selfish and guilty! I get so confused and…just tired of it all! So, I went upstairs to rest and have a nap before tackling that mess in the kitchen.”
“If you apply the law of symmetry, synchronicity or balance to that moment, it would dictate you had as much pleasure as pain at that moment. Can you see it, Sekai?” I asked.
“There is no chance of pleasure when I was in pain at that moment, Ken! I mean…come on!” she replied, her skepticism clear and strong.
“Skepticism is a wise strategy, it can accelerate your awareness, Sekai. Let’s look at that moment carefully. Let’s uncover what you did and thought to cope with it.”
“Sure! But, I‘m skeptical, Ken!”
“Go back to that moment in your mind. Be there, and then tell me what you said to yourself at that very moment…how you managed to cope with that moment!”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, politician
“…you empowered yourself to take care of yourself…”
“Ok! I was sitting at the table…alone…everyone had gone downstairs. I said to myself, ‘This is not fair, I shouldn’t have to do the clean up in the kitchen myself, I made the meal!’”
“Sekai, what did you say to yourself about you being in that situation?”
She paused, closing her eyes briefly, before saying,
“I remember saying, ‘I don’t deserve this! I deserve to be loved and appreciated! I’m tired of this! I’m going to take care of me for a change! I’m going to have a nap!’ And, Ken, that’s what I did!”
“Sekai, sounds like you empowered yourself to take care of yourself… that’s another law of nature in action!”
“What law of nature is that?” she asked, her curiosity peaked again.
“Another basic law of nature…the will to survive…every living organism, including humans, are genetically wired, first, to survive. So, every person acts out of self interest, a survival interest…it is the only way our species has been so successful.”
“I guess I am pleased with myself…it is important to me!”
“Are you telling me there is no charity, no giving without a taking, in nature?”
“Yes, it is nature’s way! Go to the last time you gave something to someone out of a spirit of charity. When was that, Sekai?” I asked.
“I do that every day with my family. I make the three of them daily lunches to take to school and work and usually don’t even get a thank you.” she replied.
“Sekai, go to the last time you did that and tell me how you were paid in full for making those lunches.”
“It was last week…I think on Tuesday…I made them tuna sandwiches.” she said.
“At the very moment you were preparing those sandwiches, how were you paid, Sekai?”
“I was just doing my job, Ken!”
“And, what does it do for you to do your job?”
“I’m being a mother and spouse…I guess?” she said, hesitantly.
“And, when you are doing the job of a mother and spouse, how are you rewarded, Sekai?”
“I guess I am pleased with myself…it is important to me!” she said, a hint of pride in her voice.
“The surest way to lose your self-worth is by trying to find it through the eyes of others.”
– Becca Lee, author
“It was you unconsciously practicing being an empowered person…for your survival…”
“Can you see how it raises your self esteem and self worth…it empowers you!” I asked.
“Yes it does, doesn’t it? Is that why I put up with their lack of gratitude, Ken?”
“It makes sense to me given the pain it also costs you…eh? Kind of balanced isn’t it?” I suggested to her.
“Why would I keep doing that to myself, Ken? I should know better, shouldn’t I?”
“Sekai, my best guess, you have significant memories in your past where you perceived you were powerless…so you have been unconsciously finding ways to prove to yourself you have power!”
Sekai’s eyes flooded and tears started rolling down each cheek. She looked directly at me while saying,
“Ken, my childhood was being powerless with a father who was a drunk and abused us all. And, I was the oldest and could do nothing to protect my mom or my three siblings. It was shear hell!”
“So, going back to your kitchen, can you see that by going upstairs to rest was a way to empower yourself…take care of yourself, at that very moment? It was you unconsciously practicing being an empowered person…an essential skill for your survival, Sekai.”
“…what will be the result if I do that…”
“Are you telling me I have been putting up with my ungrateful family because it gives me practice at feeling powerful because I felt powerless as a child growing up?”
“What do you think about that idea, Sekai? Does it have a ring of truth to it or not?” I asked.
“I’m not sure yet. Should there be other examples of this going on in my life?”
“In my experience, I would suspect there are many others. Do you want to find out Sekai?”
“I certainly do! As I say that, I can think of where it has happened at my work as well with one of the lawyers. And, also with my sister as well.”
“I would suggest it would be wise to clear out every memory from your past of perceiving you were abandoned. Do you want to come back next week and start that work?”
“I do! But, what will be the result if I do that, Ken?”
“Sekai, it will raise your self esteem and self confidence so you can build more balance in yourself and your relationships. Are you game for that?”
“I am. Do you have any availability next Tuesday?”
“Do we not realize that self respect comes with self reliance?” – Abdul Kalam, politician