The Abundant Womb

Yesterday I wrote about what people do in case of emergency, and most particularly about what I do when my survival seems threatened. I mentioned Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, and also that others, such as Arizona State University psychology professor Douglas Kenrick, have taken issue with Maslow’s pyramid and revised it (or even dismissed it).

Kendrick is an interesting person whose work I respect because it has added a great deal to the psychological literature and is also thought provoking. His bio on the Psychology Today web site illustrates how a person can weave his misbegotten past into a presently successful life. Those of us who have college transcripts (or even rap sheets) to live down can take note, as his humor is self-effacing but artful at the same time. He’s a sharp fellow.

Have a look at Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs pyramid and compare it with Kenrick’s theoretical model below:

The article I referenced notes that many disagree with Kenrick’s assertion that parenting, not self-actualization, is at the pinnacle of human psychological development. One thinker went so far as to suggest that grandparenting might be at the pinnacle–an idea I liked, being a grandmother myself and calling to mind a proverb that says, “a children’s children are a crown to the aged” (Proverbs 17:6).

What interested me about Kenrick’s revised pyramid is the idea that mate acquisition, mate retention, and parenting would supplant self-realization as the pre-eminent evolutionary goals of the human being. Certainly, from an evolutionary standpoint one has to agree that producing offspring is demanded of anyone who hopes in a genetic future. Still, the pyramid stands here like a gate swinging open into a walled garden, beckoning “come in, come in.”

Four Things That Never Say ‘Enough’

During my work in the child welfare and adoption field, I had occasion to work with many couples who found themselves unable to have children. I can’t even estimate how many thousands of women I’ve talked to, corresponded or consulted with, or counseled who were anguished over their inability to produce a child. The abuses I’ve encountered in adoption work almost always stemmed from greed, perhaps equally arising from the agency or attorney greed for money and the adoptive parent greed for a child. Thus it is that another proverb says there are four things that are never satisfied and can never say ‘enough’: the grave, the barren womb, parched earth, and fire (Proverbs 30:16). The only satisfaction for the barren womb, the psalmist says, is a child. I have known many infertile adoptive mothers whose wombs were forever dissatisfied even after they adopted a child, whose wombs continued to wail.

Is Kenrick correct, then? Is parenthood the epitome of human success? I don’t think so. From the perspective of biological evolution, one might argue that he is correct, and the most developed human beings are those who are able to acquire, retain, and reproduce with a mate. I’m not so sure why mate retention is necessary, though, considering that having babies will ensure genetic advancement and therefore the most psychologically advanced among us must be those people who are having more children more quickly and often than anyone else. This puts Niger at the top of the list worldwide as the place to go for evolutionary enlightenment.

The Wandering Waif

What gave me pause yesterday when I looked at Kenrick’s pyramid was the rightness of it from the perspective of a person who has no mate or no children and feels these lacks as a personal failure. There certainly is an undeniable prejudice in most cultures against the single, childless person. The single parent has at least proved that s/he can mate and produce a child; the married but childless couple has at least proved that they can mate. But the single, childless person is often looked upon with pity or even disdain in our culture. Get to age 40 and be childless and without a spouse, and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. Being alone in any culture makes a person feel like a failure, and tends to cause others to judge one as a failure. A childless person without a mate had better be a mystic, priest, poet, artist, or other inspired type to ward off societal judgments.

This state of affairs suggests just how shallow we can be. We put so much store in biological advancement and so little on spiritual that we will applaud a person for marrying and having a child while judging another for doing neither. We will judge the car mechanic for his shoddy work, but not the bad parents for theirs. Every kind of mediocrity and benign neglect are supported as long as one has a spouse or partner and is producing children.

It is quite clear to anyone who has been married and raised children to adulthood that neither marriage nor childrearing will save you. Spouses and children do not satisfy the need for spiritual and psychological advancement, and often times we realize later that all the love we lavished upon our children was as much about us as it was about them. I know few enlightened parents, but many selfish ones, and the reason why counseling continues to be a booming profession is because people who have no business becoming parents have children anyway, and these children grow up and need fixing. Such fixing is very hard to come by.

Spouses and children are millstones around the necks of those who seek enlightenment, and so it is that the world’s greatest religious leaders, teachers, gurus, and saints were, by and large, single and childless. Saint Paul said that it is better to remain unmarried, because the married have the cares of the world on their mind–how to please the spouse, how to provide, how to raise the children. The person who chooses to remain single and childless can devote him- or herself to God.

We all know people who should never have become parents but did, and whose only gift to the world was to send a neurotic, unhappy child out into it. This adult child wanders the world, forever searching for a new mother and father in every other person or community, only to be rejected and disappointed and to therefore repeat the psychological wound. Our world is full of such people, raised by wolves, unparented, unwanted, and unloved, inflicting themselves on others and producing babies who are well dressed and perhaps even well-educated, but merely higher functioning facsimiles of their own orphan-hearted parents. This is exactly why the middle- and upper-middle class families who look so good on the outside inevitably produce an addict or disordered person of some kind, for there is always a truth bearer who testifies of the truth through intransigent symptoms.

The Abundant Womb

The abundant womb is the spirit producing love and light. It nurtures, contains, and sustains life. A person who can stand in the face of cultural judgments and choose a simple, single, childless life, or consciously choose childlessness in favor of an evolution of the self, or even selfless service, is a great person. Every person among us is destined for death and each of us dies alone. Our two possessions are our own births and deaths, and no matter what we tell ourelves or how we are received on either side of life, we go it alone. One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to begin with the end in mind. If each of us began every day with the idea of our own deaths in the front of our minds, I wonder how different the world would be? Just as medieval nuns attached carved skulls to their rosaries and meditated hourly on death, so too we ought to consider reality.

I spoke a few weeks ago with a long-time friend who is a fine mother and grandmother. Her mothering and grandmothering are so fine, in fact, that none of her children know that sometimes her mothering and grandmothering wear her to the bone. We talked at length about how the ‘Good Mother’ is an icon we sacrifice to but loathe at times, for she demands everything and gives nothing in return. Every conscious grandmother I know has expressed a similar feeling to me, namely that we do our duties with love and often joy, but that we all long to be alone and quiet and still and rarely get to be these, because we are always serving and caretaking someone. We can never escape from being wives and mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters. We caretake the world and often have gone into professions as caretakers, too, in service to the Good Mother. Many women never get to be alone until they are on their death beds, and the lack of aloneness all their previous lives has made them ill equipped to grow old and die.

Men, too, serve an idol. In my household, we call this archetypal figure “Mr. Fix-It.” He is the handyman, the honeydew, who does everything. He gets up and goes to work every day and comes home and mows the lawn. He changes the oil and drives the kids to the park. He pleases his boss and tries to please his wife and then has to put up with hearing about what a failure he is in spite of his efforts. He is like a pack mule at times, and other times like the handyman one hires for ten bucks an hour. When he was young, he longed for adventure and had a daring gleam in his eye, but the fire has given way to duty and before he knows it he’s old and his life is over. “I never really even lived my life!” he says with bewilderment.

For all these reasons and more, I think that those of us who have mates and children and grandchildren ought to be as honest about the difficulties and demands of these relationships as we are eager to update our Facebook pages with brags and photos about this so-called great life we lead. The fact is, this great life is exhausting, but we can throw ourselves into carpooling, school programs, volunteerism, and back-to-school shopping with abandon because these do not demand real selves or enlightenment or any kind of personal development of us. We can be the succubi and incubi of the universe, or we can be life-givers like Eve, but we can’t be both. When people confuse life-giving with childbirth, they are sorely misguided and in danger of doing the rest of us a terrible disservice by producing more unfit children in a world already teeming with unfit human beings and all too few enlightened communities.

I hope that we will honor and cherish those among us who are single by choice and childless by choice. I hope we’ll thank them for being conscious human beings and for having the courage to say, “I will not have children.” I admire Oprah Winfrey because she knew she could only be excellent at her career or at mothering, but not both. She was called to be who she is and she fulfilled her calling, and in my book that makes for a great woman. Few of us are called to entertain or improve the world on the Oprah scale, but each of us is called to do what Maslow suggested, which is to be the best we can be at who we are–with or without spouses or children, and many times in spite of them.

Lost

fledgling by you.

We’d had heavy thunderstorms for several days, but the temperature had not dropped. When I took the dogs out first thing that morning, the air felt heavy, warm, and wet. Low-lying clouds hung over the woods in the distance, teats full of rain. Another storm was coming.

As I waited on the dogs, a small movement caught my eye to the left. With surprise, I noticed a fledgling bird on our back porch, peering up at me and seeming as surprised to see me as I was to see him. “Why, hello there,” I said, bending down to get a better look. “What are you doing here?”

The little bird looked at me soberly, craning his neck. Not the least bit afraid, he stared me full in the face as if to say, “What do you think I’m doing here? I’m lost!”

He didn’t appear to be wounded or hurt in any way, but was so still he looked carved of wood. Only his eyes blinked. As I ushered the oblivious dogs back into our house, I speculated about how he might have become lost. I knew of no nests near that part of the house, but scanned the trees for them anyway.

I went back inside and watched the little bird through the window, mulling over what to do. I could capture the bird, cage him, and feed him until he was old enough to fly and care for himself. Our youngest girls would be thrilled. I could leave him alone and see if he worked out his destiny on his own. I could wait and see whether his mother might find him. Surely by now she had noticed him missing.

“What are you looking at?” my daughter Juniper asked as she entered the room. “This fledgling,” I pointed. He’s fallen from his nest somewhere and is lost on our porch.” Juniper observed the little fellow with interest. “What are you gonna do about him?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I was just wondering about that,” I said as I fixed my second cup of tea for the day.

After a few minutes, Juniper exclaimed, “Mom! Look! I think his mother’s out there!”

Sure enough, a larger bird with his same coloring and markings was perched on the plant hook above the little fellow, chirping. “Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!” she’d say, and “Peep! Peep! Peep!” he’d reply. Once a hearty litany of chirping and peeping had been established, the mother began to move a foot away from her baby with each series of chirps. The fledgling followed, flapping his stubby little wings with excited salutes and standing tall on tippy-toes as if to say, “I’m with you, Mum! Aye-aye, Mum!”

Attracted by all the chirping and peeping, three or four birds of other varieties joined in the chorus and began to flutter around the mother-child pair with some excitement, one settling in our Redbud tree, another perching on the edge of a flower pot, one hopping between the roof and the top of a deck chair.

The mother and baby appeared to be Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, our state bird. With tails four times longer than their bodies, they can do air stunts and acrobatics like nobody’s business. But the fledgling had still the stubby wings and short tail of a child; without his mother’s help he was unlikely to find his way to safety.

I followed the pair past our pool house and to the mature pear tree near the fence dividing our yard from our pasture. In spite of the other bird calls surrounding him, the fledgling steadfastly followed his mother’s voice. The mother appeared to be leading her baby toward our barn. I worried about his ability to survive in the open as he crossed the field, and about what would happen when he couldn’t be returned to the nest due to his inability to fly. Still, his mother continued to chirp with confidence, insisting, “Follow me! Come this way!”

The last time I observed the pair, he had taken shelter under a lawnmower and she was perched on a branch above him, urging him forward. My husband had driven past us with a load of lumber and it was as if the mother had called, “Hide under that thing, junior, until Danger has passed!” Once my husband drove away, their journey commenced. Though a part of me fretted about what prey this baby might become in the open field, I had confidence in the mother’s ability to direct her offspring. She had gotten him this far; what she did with her baby was her business. She had not, after all, ever tried to interfere with my childrearing.

ico1 by you.

As I went about my morning chores, I thought about the small drama I’d witnessed over the past 45 minutes and a parable of Jesus came to mind. St. John the Apostle records that after Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth, the religious leaders of the day confronted the healed man, accusing him of being a blasphemer and follower of Jesus rather than a true Jew and follower of Moses. Jesus had healed the blind man on the Sabbath, an act prohibited by law according to the religious leaders, who began to bicker over whether Jesus could truly be from God and be a Sabbath-breaker at the same time.

In response to all the bickering, Jesus told his followers,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

Jesus therefore said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:1-18)

“A stranger they simply will not follow.” Like the fledgling who knew his mother’s voice and followed it, beloved children hear the voice of the Good Mother, the Good Father, the Good Shepherd, and follow. It is the simplest thing in the world to follow the good shepherd of our souls when we know his voice, when we know from long experience that this voice can be trusted.

ico1 by you.

Children who have not been loved, but who have been abused and neglected and grown up unprotected do not know the voice of the good shepherd. Having been trained by parents who act like thieves, hirelings, and robbers, they became habituated to the voices of thieves, hirelings, and robbers. Their childhoods were lived in emotional war zones rather than sunny, verdant pastures fit for lambs. Never knowing from which direction danger might come, they lost the ability to hear the good voice and became accustomed to the survival mentality necessary for those raised in war zones. They cannot live in true community, do not understand or manifest loyalty, and deeply mistrust everyone, including themselves. Without a spiritual rebirth, they are doomed; this is why Jesus said, “You must be born again.”

Where is the hope for the lost lamb, the lamb who has been raised by hirelings, thieves and robbers, by shepherds who flee when danger approaches and teach their sheep that they’re on their own? It is in being born again, in somehow being taken to a place where they are once again protected in womb-like safety, nurtured and protected until the time comes when they are ready to come out of the womb (the tomb) and live.

Father’s Day Redux

At our Father’s Day cookout yesterday, with four generations of our clan milling about, all our temperamental differences and likenesses were on parade. As adoptive parents, my husband and I never assumed that we’d be like our children temperamentally or vice-versa. In fact, the emotional distance we experienced with our own mothers prepared us to become better parents because it drove us to do for our children what our mothers did not do for us, which was to love us with a hands-on, present, be-there, I-see-you sort of love.

The tree frogs bawled as my husband and I lingered over our beers on the porch long after everyone had left. We talked into the night about how we had learned how to love every child of ours as he or she was and is, how precious and valuable each one is in this peculiar family system. As we lingered with the fireflies, we shared our sadness about how disconnected our oldest children are from the rest of us, from all that the rest of us share, and from us as parents. They are the few children we didn’t raise, who came to us at age 17 or 18 or as adults. They’re disconnected from the psychic and spiritual energy of the family, and from us as parents, even though they’re in the middle of everything, chatting, laughing, letting the energy bounce around them. They show up physically, eating and drinking with pleasure, but usually only on the holidays. They don’t participate in day-to-day life with us.

We talked about how sad we feel about this, especially as intuitve types for whom communication, meaning, and connection are essential. We revisited how we had come to a place of acceptance with our own parents as well as with our few irreparably damaged children, understanding their needs and giving according to their needs, not just demanding what we want, what we need. When we finally gave our parents what they ought to have first given us, we discovered we were repairing not only our own hearts, but tears in the fabric of the universe, too.

Within our large family are members of every single different psychological type. We’ve been able to be emotionally close to every single person who made him- or herself available for loving relationship. We’ve also learned the painful truth that not every person has the capacity or willingness to communicate an authentic self or is willing to give it. Sometimes people develop only enough ego to relieve their suffering, and then they stop developing. They don’t learn to truly love; they come to the place where they might have something to give, and then they withhold it. They refuse to die to themselves, to put it in Biblical terms. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, by itself; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Nobody bears fruit until he first goes down, down, down into the dark, cold, lonely earth and germinates. That’s what Jesus taught. Buddha, too, sat under the bodhi tree with good reason. He was dying to himself.

Each and every person, no matter what his personality type, can love with all he has. We can learn to step outside our comfort zones and give what’s needed, once we’re full up. We can even give before we’re full up, if we’re brave enough. We can give what we have. That’s the sacrifice, the laying down of one’s own life for the sake of the beloved. I don’t think we’ve really loved until we’ve done that, until we are more than just recipients of constant blood transfusions.

Note: This article was originally Part 2 of True Blood.

Post Game

Though it’s taken a good two months to do it, I’m finished with Patricia’s case study; this post may be considered a sort of post-game wrap-up, a terminal staffing of Patricia’s case. Although Patricia is a composite, she is a reliable composite of real clients. I never worked with a birth mother who surrendered her child who wasn’t devastated afterward, who didn’t drawing03 by you.regret it, and who didn’t long for her lost baby every day thereafter. Though some turned to addictions to numb their pain and thus mask it, the pain was always there. Though Patricia runs, she can never run far enough away from what she has done.

I had several clients like Patricia, clients who would never have given their children up for adoption had they been healthy people, for when they gave up their babies they sealed themselves in a special kind of purgatory reserved for birth mothers. They made sure that they would be punished for the rest of their lives for being who they were, for the choices they had made.

By this, I don’t mean to say that no mother should ever outsource her parenting to another couple or that a birth mother’s pain must be eternal and unending. I am all in favor of adoption when parents won’t get their acts together. Babies and small children get one childhood, and that childhood is short. If they don’t have healthy parents, children will be psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally maimed. All of us will pay the price. This is why, I think, the Old Testament states that the father’s sins are revisited by the third and fourth generations. In family therapy, when we do a genogram, we can see how patterns are, in fact, continued through three or four generations. Absent a healing, wounds are transmitted as surely as DNA. And I know for certain that every person alive is able to receive healing, able to be saved, eminently redeemable. I don’t mean to say that adoption is bad, that it causes an incurable wound.

What I do mean to say is that adoption and having one’s children removed to foster care occur as the result of a terrible fracture in the bones of a family. Breaks in relationship are symptoms. What caused the adoption or state intervention cannot possibly be a good thing. After having children themselves, even adult adoptees raised by the best possible adoptive parents will say that they can’t imagine giving their own child away. They say they would do whatever it takes to keep their children, and they do.

it’s not about adoption

But Patricia’s story is not merely about adoption. It would be easy to dismiss her study because adoption isn’t part of our lives. We’re not so wounded that we’ve cast away our own drawing05 by you.flesh and blood, we’ll say. We’re better off than that.

I think we should not be so hasty to pat ourselves on the back, because to whatever extent you or I were wounded, complexed, tied up in knots (as  Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh would put it), to that extent we too need healing and we too have passed on our wounds to our children. You will always see it when your children grow up, find partners, marry, have children and careers. You’ll see it in their friendships or lack of them, their mishaps, the conflicts they have with others, in what they do with their success.

One of the best examples of applied case history I’ve written was in “Talisman,” where I showed how Amanda’s wound, “Trailer Trash,” manifested itself in her life despite her extensive efforts to do other than what her parents had done. In middle age, she is very much like her parents were. The addictions have been cleaned up and are socially acceptable, and the chaos she creates in her life is chaos in the name of Good (work, helping others, etc.), but the effects are the same. There is no peace, no place of security or safety in her household, no order, very little nurture, no time to slow down, no insight or wisdom, no true spirituality.

I could give you a hundred examples, for I’ve seen it in every life of every walking wounded I know, including in my own life. We do it until we’re free, as I wrote in “Talisman.” It can be as obvious as the adult child of the alcoholic marrying an alcoholic. It can be as subtle as the survivor of sexual abuse growing up and appearing to be the picture of mental health, yet choosing to raise her own children in a neighborhood where the highest number of registered sex offenders live within a square mile of her home. It can be as subtle as the social worker who rationalizes her inhuman work schedule by saying she’s doing necessary work, helping the needy, while ignoring the fact that her own children see her no more often than she saw her own parents, and are no more known by her as a mother than she was by her own largely emotionally (if not physically) absent mother.

the good enough family

Sometimes people whose families looked good enough from the outside, and who had average or above-average opportunities but impoverished relationships fare the worst. Stan and Anita grew up in such families. Each had a high-functioning addict or personality-disordered parent; each parent divorced and remarried one or more times, using all the energy that drawing04 by you.should have been given to the children for the new romance. Each went to summer camp, lived in nice homes. They attended private schools and good universities, were members of fraternal societies and religious clubs. They were the pictures of success and ripe potential until they married. Then, though each continued to exhibit outward success–good careers, nice home, good cars–they and their marriage fell apart.

Like many upwardly mobile, intelligent young people, they sought good help and received it, spending thousands of hours and dollars on therapy. They improved and became better. But as soon as they decided to have children, they each compulsively began to re-create the very picture of disonnectedness and relational poverty with which they were raised. Like the sexual abuse survivor who moved to the nice town house in the midst of an area rife with sex offenders, they moved to a neighborhood surrounded by ghetto. In their one square mile radius were three halfway houses for addicts, nine bars, and numerous prostitutes and drug dealers. Their historic neighborhood was beautiful, but it was surrounded by a virtual war zone. They had chosen for their children a picture that was, in effect, exactly what had been given them by their own parents: the appearance of plenty surrounded by constant threats, impoverishment, and disconnectedness from intimate, supportive, and nurturing family relationships. They scorned the typical suburban neighborhoods their peers and family members chose because “normal” and “typical” had no appeal for their deepest, still impoverished selves. That part of themselves had not yet been called from the tomb; its stink was inevitable.

unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies

This is what we do. We get enough health to feel better, look better, and function better. But we do not heal the wound, because the wound is never healed until we die. We can die metaphorically, as Jesus and Buddha said we must, or we can die physically after living an entire lifetime unhealed and unwhole. But die we must. We know we’re not dead when we fight for our lives over things, when we cannot yield, when we just know we’re right and the other person is wrong, when we must have our own way.

drawing02 by you.I don’t believe in trying to stop people who are in the throes of a compulsion. Just as Liz tried to help Patricia become conscious to what she was doing to herself, and to how she was re-creating patterns, we can warn people. In fact, I believe that when we see others endangering themselves we’re spiritually obliged to try to warn them off. This is not easy to do in friendships or family relationships, and it’s not easy to do even when you’re a healer being paid to help others heal. But warn we must, with fear and trembling, looking to ourselves first lest we throw our own garbage onto our neighbor’s lawn. We must stop short of complusion in our insistence.

“If the unbelieving one wants to leave, let him leave,” Saint Paul wrote. If others must give in to their compulsions, then we must let them do it wholeheartedly until they are finished living their wounds. This is what Patricia did, and it’s what nearly every client does, at first. They do it at major milestones in the most reliable ways. Only a fortunate and stubborn few come back for more healing and eventually make it through to wholeness. This may be what Jesus meant when He said that the road to life was narrow, and few, very few, are those who are on it. The way to destruction is broad, and very, very many are on it. That’s what He said. He said we are statistically unlikely to avoid the wrong road.

love yields

I believe that one reason why Christians–and indeed all who live in religious communities–are taught to live in community and to avoid schisms is because it’s impossible to avoid schisms without dying to oneself. We all want our own way. We must have it. We cannot yield when under compulsion, when controlled by forces bigger to us than God. Even God yields. So it was that Saint Paul said, “All things are lawful to me, but I will not be controlled by anything.” When we see our children, our friends, ourselves compulsively enter marriages that others warn against, compulsively move away, compulsively insist that they will do this, do that, buy this, take that risk, and have their way, this is when we know that it is no longer love at work, but law. Love yields, suffers long, is patient and kind. Love can give the other person his turn first. There is no substitute for real love. Once you know it, you can never be fooled by a forgery.

The problem is that all too many people have never seen real love. They don’t know it, so they are fooled by forgeries. I’ve heard that when law enforcement agents are taught how to lautrec2 by you.recognize counterfeit bills, they are given real bills to handle and smell first. Sadly, though, to the person who was raised with counterfeits, the counterfeit always feels right. Counterfeits feel more comfortable after you’ve lived with them for over 20 years. If even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, we can be pretty sure that lesser compulsions will disguise themselves in pretty packages, too. They may seem and feel right; we may be able to get others to agree with us that what’s wrong is, in fact, right.

Before going ahead, though, we should ask what our healers, our shamans, our priests and confessors advise. Are peace and joy leading us forth, as the Prophet Isaiah said they would?  Or are we like Patricia, determined to do what we must?

Patricia: Part 7

Several weeks passed, but Liz didn’t hear from Patricia again. Troubled by the lack of contact, Liz tried calling Patricia. Her number had been disconnected. Finally, Liz called Jeanette Sizemore, the social worker who had first referred Patricia’s case to her.

“Oh, yes,” Jeanette said, “Patricia had the baby and placed him with a wonderful young couple from out of state. Everything is fine with the adoption.”

“I’m more concerned about how Patricia is doing,” Liz replied, “Do you have a current contact number?”

“I’m afraid I don’t,” Jeanette replied. “But I need to do a follow up visit myself. If you like, I’ll get her new number and call you later.” The two professionals agreed on this plan. Even so, Liz felt troubled as she slowly replaced the phone.

Patricia had never really wavered from her plan to give her baby up. Though at times she expressed typical motherly feelings toward her unborn son, more often she appeared indifferent or closed to the possibility of bonding with the baby. It was as if she was already carrying someone else’s child. Patricia had often said that she didn’t ever want to see her father again; Liz suspected that she harbored similar feelings for her baby. Liz had worried that Patricia would give birth and never even hold her son, so eager was she to distance herself from the child.

Was Patricia symbolically distancing herself from her weak mother as she separated her weak and dependent baby from herself? Or did she identify the little boy with her own father somehow? Babies could be awfully unpredictable and chaotic—maybe on some level the little boy would dredge up archaic feelings of helplessness in Patricia.

“In any case,” Liz murmured to herself, “it’s done now. Now all you can do is wait.”

A few days later, Liz received a call from Jeanette. “Liz, I have surprising news about Patricia,” she began. “When I got out to the trailer, it was empty. Her neighbor said that as soon as Patricia felt better, she packed her things, withdrew the girls from school, and moved to Kansas to be near her mom and sister.”

Liz leaned back in her chair, dumbfounded. “Are you sure?” she asked.

“As sure as I can be,” Jeanette replied. “I was just as surprised as you, because she had a follow-up appointment with us, too. I’m going to have to try to contact her by mail, but I don’t even have a forwarding address that’s current. She put an old address for her mother on her original paperwork, so we’re pretty much up a creek without a paddle on this one.”

Liz thanked Jeanette and disconnected the call, sighing deeply. The clock ticked.

Patricia’s file was open before her on the desk. Liz charted her call with Jeanette Sizemore, then closed the file and locked it in her file cabinet. A few minutes later, she heard a soft knock at the door; time for her next client.

Tucking her hair behind her ear, Liz took a cleansing breath and opened the door, smiling as she ushered him into the room.

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