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If you’ve been reading my blog as of late, you’ve noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching (see my previous posts: A Reluctant Fraud and Coming Out from the Darkness of Denial). It has revealed much of the inner war between my heart and my head. I’ve been depended on my rational brain to give me accurate information about my life, but it has failed me. Instead my head has tended to make up elaborate stories that incite negative emotions within me such as judgment, fear, resentment, and sorrow.
The joy is that I’ve discovered that I silenced my heart long ago. I muffled my heart’s attempts at helping me understand myself. Even though my heart had wished on many occasions to ignore my brain, it often lost the battle. I now realize that I can no longer live without first listening to my heart. It has got to have the primary and louder voice over against what my head tries to say.
With the help of James Dickson, I’ve been seeking a radical heart-healing. He’s offered me twelve words to live by and I will share them here. Dickson calls them the Twelve Powerful Words Needed for Spiritual Fulfillment. These words are gleaned from Alan Cohen’s many books, the most famous of which is Chicken Soup for the Soul.
The first word is CHOICE. How many times I’ve said to myself: I don’t have a choice. Over time these words became like heavy anvils of cast iron tied around my neck.
As a child I must have absorbed subconsciously the scarcity perspective my parents lived by. They came into this perspective honestly. They grew up without parents, sufficient food and clothing, and quit school at 14 in order to work at menial jobs. I was often privy to their conversations about what they couldn’t afford and I believed we were just days or dollars away from the deprivation they had endured during the Great Depression. They would remind us of the “starving children in Italy” whenever we complained about a meal we didn’t particularly enjoy. When I visited Italy in 1970 I discovered that most Italians had been living very well indeed, better than we did!
Our job as second-generation Americans children was to move forward a step or two in attaining the American dream. I also came to believe that I had to do this by myself. I was myself afraid to ask for what I wanted for fear it would cost them too much money. It got to the point where I convinced myself that I didn’t really have wants. My mantra was to “make do” and thus be the good boy my parents would love. I now know this whole world-view was my choice in the end, a great excuse for feeling like a victim and for any failures I might experience along the way.
I made a lot of decisions based on scarcity of choice and justified myself by twisting the truth. For example I believed that commuted to college for four years to save my parents money, but actually I wanted to avoid possible bullying in dorms. Lack of money was my excuse for not dating but it was really because I feared my lack of attraction to females. I attended a lot of church activities in college but it was really because I didn’t have the hope of a normal social life. I thought I willingly went into a life of celibacy but it was really because I feared coming out of the closet. I became a priest because I had a vision for Catholic ministry but it was really because I also thought I could change the church.
The more I lied to myself about the choices I felt forced into, the more I believed the lies and the less responsibility I took for my actions. Any unhappiness I experienced was almost always “their fault” or because I wasn’t perfect, and therefore “my shame”. I especially blamed God and church authorities because I embraced the illusion that they could change my situation in order to make me happy. I always had excuses. The world I created for four decades was a small, dark box with no escape where I had either to be right and perfect for the moment or wrong and defective.
Now I realize that I had choices and I chose to believe that I didn’t. I do not castigate myself for lying about this but rather am redeeming myself by choosing to live a different way. I now check in to determine if I’m blaming anyone or anything for the way I feel and take responsibility for every small and large decision I make. It’s the only way going forward.
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