I've been wanting to write a post for a very long time about a concept I dubbed "the two I's". Inasmuch as we have two eyes through which we see the world, there are two "I's" through which we see the world: our divine self and our human self.
You can try to dodge them, but no matter how hard you try, you will experience the agony and ecstasy of both "selves" in your lifetime. I've talked about our Shadow self before. How the Coward and the Pretender protect ourselves from the world, and the world from us. How they are all part and parcel to our being. But I thought an incredibly personal example from my own upbringing might drive the point a little deeper.
It's probably a good thing my family doesn't read my writing much. Especially this week. I've written about my Dad before, but I don't usually talk about my Mom. That's because ours wasn't the greatest of relationships. While my Dad and I weren't exactly buddies, he wasn't around much as a kid, so he and I didn't develop the strong animosities that Mom and I did.
Dad was a Vet from WWII. He fought in the Asia Pacific Campaign on the island of Hawaii. I never knew much about what he did or who he was, since that was 30+ years before I was even born.
This past week, his replacement Army medals arrived. He earned a bronze star for his campaign medal, and I'm still not entirely sure what that means. In addition to the victory medal, also earned a Good Conduct Medal and a marksman badge for rifle (which explains the gun he kept in the closet when I was growing up). He also earned an honorable service pin. To look at all that regalia, you'd think Dad was some kind of war hero deserving of a halo and a front row seat in Heaven.
This was the same man who, in his 60's no less, took my mom to abandoned houses to pull out and strip the copper wiring to sell at the junkyard for cash. Granted, that cash was used to feed his family and keep a roof over our heads, but breaking the law is breaking the law, no matter what the intention.
Lest you think Mom was some kind of victim in all this, she is the prostitute in the subheading above. Did you ever wonder what happens to prostitutes after they clean up their act and get off the street? I did, until I learned about Mom's "torrid past".
Back in the early 1970's, Dad was a cab driver. He was in his early 50's, married to a drug addict with two kids - one whom he'd sired and she another she brought to the marriage. To hear Dad tell it, he loved her, but she couldn't kick her habit, so he was looking for another "option". That's when he met my mom. She was this 20-something vixen - one of the few white chicks that hung out at an all-black bar in town where he liked to go between calls.
I never knew mom or dad to be much in the way of drinkers, so that story took me by surprise.
He knew she was earning money the "old fashioned" way, and decided he wanted to get her off the streets and clean her up. So he moved her into his house - with his wife and kids - under the guise of being a live-in nanny and part-time cabbie.
My mom, the undercover live-in lover of my dad, a married man with kids. The wife was too high to care, I presume. Then one day Dad was in the kitchen making wifey a sandwich. She OD'd right in front of the kids and died.
There was nothing to stop them from getting married, so they did. Mom & Dad eventually adopted both boys and went on to have both me and my sister - all before the end of Gerald Ford's presidency.
By the 1980's we were one big family - the kind that put the "fun" in dysfunctional (this picture is from one of the few family camping trips we all took together). My oldest brother (on the right) started stealing from the family. My heroic war vet dad would bind his hands and hang him from the wrists in the garage and whip him with a belt to get him to 'fess up. That put fear into the rest of us to not steal.
My other brother (on the left) decided that it was okay to force himself upon his much younger sister (me) instead. I didn't understand then why my Mother defended him. For years it was easy for me to see the darkness of Mom and the light in my Dad. Dad, the Angel, had left my mom because, well, she was the Devil. Nothing was ever good enough for her demanding ways. It was stressful, painful, and downright horrible.
After Dad and mom split up the first time, Mom took to the belt like a natural. It was an abusive, yet loving home - something you'd only expect to hear from a child of an abusive home. I'm pretty sure my extended family was somewhat aware, but nothing was ever done to my knowledge; no visits from child protective services as far as I know.
Then, in an effort to "make it work for the kids' sake" they got back together. That didn't last long. It was a painful mess of a relationship that colored so much of what my view on men, marriage, and family became for many many years.
It wasn't until I was an adult, with a child of my own, that I could really own that they were both a tangled web of shadows and light - like we all are.
As I approach my fortieth birthday, I look back and do my best to temper both the light and dark in my family. Fitting, since I'm biracial, right?
Amid all that darkness, I remember how my Dad would sit with me every week when my oldest son was still a toddler, and instruct and encourage me to be a better parent. How Mom attended and supported my sister's softball team in high school. The vacations and road trips we took to various parts of Michigan and the Eastern U.S. How they were both compassionate grandparents for as long as they were alive.
Those were good, glorious times: when Mom and Dad were letting their Divine selves shine through.
No one is perfect, in the zone, or "on" all the time. We see it played out when celebrities get caught doing something stupid, or a politician admits to some "corrupt" act. When I yell at my kids, swear at the driver that cut me off, or give credence to the "not enough" voices in my head.
On the other hand, our Divine nature calls us to live beyond our humanity. Wallowing in the "bad" things we do and resigning ourselves to our imperfection is a cop out. Saying "I told you I was trouble. You know that I'm no good." - with apologies to Amy Winehouse - is a cop out. We owe it to ourselves - to our highest good and to the people who need us to share our divine gifts - to keep showing up, warts and all.
When I meet someone for the first time that's previously watched my videos or read my blog, invariably, they say something about how inspiring I am because I have the courage to just show up as I am. That me "being vulnerable" is some kind of salve for them that gives them hope and courage to show up for themselves, too.
I used to think it was a back-handed way of saying "you could at least put on some makeup in those videos!" See how I couldn't even receive the compliment that was being handed to me? I was stealing from myself and robbing them of the gift of true gratitude.
Recently, though, I've noticed more and more people saying the same thing - as if my vulnerability is a gift I get to shine into the world for those who need it.
I'll be the first person to tell you I'm not perfect (my kids would probably be the second). It's part of why I don't show up with flashy videos and perfectly coiffed hair. My dishes are regularly undone, my house it quite often in disarray, and don't even think about looking at my desk right now - I'm not sure you could find it.
I've lied. I cheated. I've been "the other woman" - on more than one occasion. I've been mean, cruel, and just a downright "bad" person. And, as my favorite poet likes to remind us, still I rise.
Because my Divinity refuses to let my Humanity own me. Each day is another chance to stand up to the shadows of all my yesterdays, shine a light and say "screw you yesterday, I'm going to show up and keep trying to do better."
Not "do perfect." Do better.
My Humanity also refuses to let my Divinity own me. Because each day is another day for me to experience joy, emotion, respect, fear, lightness, darkness, faith, courage, happiness, anger, rage, and all the other emotions that are part of the human experience.
It's difficult to see the world through one eye. You're constantly craning your neck to see what you're missing. If you have two eyes, it seems senseless to cover one of them and pretend it doesn't exist. Why not put it to good use and see the rest of the world around you?
Why indeed. It's much harder to live life pretending you're perfect (or evil). You're constantly shift around to keep people from seeing the side you wish to ignore. If you have two sides, it seems senseless to cover one of them up and pretend it doesn't exist. Why not put it to good use and let us (and yourself) experience you showing up fully in the world around you?