Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Labyrinth

For a very long time, my efforts to understand myself and what life was doing to me and I to it, seemed to be going nowhere.  I went for counseling.  That helped somewhat – sort of like taking an aspirin when you have a full-blown migraine. 

Then I went for neuro-feedback.  I can’t really say whether that helped or not.  The theory was that my mind could learn to think in different ways that could make me happier and more content, as though my mind has a mind of its own.  I don’t know, maybe it does.  Intuitively, though, I sort of think it doesn’t; I kind of think it’s connected, at least tangentially, to the rest of “me.” So, all in all, I don’t really think that helped.

I tried prayer.  I think that helped, at least at some really important times when the stars must have been aligned just right and I was blessed with some really profound insights into myself.  I don’t know; maybe they were just moments of “higher consciousness” or something like that.  But I looked at life a little differently after these experiences, which didn’t happen very often.

I tried meditation – for a couple of weeks or so after I went with my wife to see Eat, Pray, Love.  I also read the book.  I thought the book was pretty good; there were some really cool, insightful things Elizabeth Gilbert had written in there.  I thought about looking for my own guru, thinking that might help, but it didn’t take me long to give that up as being a little “out there” and not really very practical. I still like the movie as a chronicle of another pilgrim, but I felt that I was on a different sort of journey than was Liz.  (Do I hear laughing out there?)

I then read a book about the psychological concept of transference, written by a Roman Catholic who is also steeped in Buddhist tradition and principles. Many of the concepts in the book were revelatory for me in the context of dealing with the after-affects of child abuse.  I thought that perhaps Buddhist principles might hold a lot of promise in my quest for self-knowledge.

In all these efforts – which have been going on in one form or another for years – I felt like I was following pathways through a labyrinth (or what we typically call a maze), searching for the pathway that would ultimately lead me all the way to my center.  The problem was, I kept running into dead ends.  Some of the pathways went on for quite awhile, but the result was inevitably the same:  dead end.  I would then have to back-track, looking for yet another path to try, hoping that it would lead to the center.

This situation abruptly changed in early October.  Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, I was handed Ariadne’s thread, and that has made all the difference.

To explain, I must go back to a mythological character I have previously referred to:  Daedalus.  Besides constructing wings for his son, Icarus, he was a legendary artificer who built an elaborate labyrinth at Knossos for King Minos of Crete.  The purpose of the labyrinth was to hold the Minotaur, a creature that was half man and half bull.  Daedalus made the Labyrinth so cunningly that he himself could barely escape it after building it. 

King Minos had a daughter named Ariadne.  She fell in love with an Athenian named Theseus after he had come to Crete to slay the Minotaur.  Before he entered in the labyrinth, Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of thread so that he could string it along as he went through the labyrinth and use it to find his way out after (hopefully) killing the Minotaur.

In early October, I stood deep inside the labyrinth of my own persona, wondering which path would take me to my center.  Suddenly, as if by magic, a scarlet thread lying on the ground was unexpectedly revealed to me.  I picked it up and started to follow it, but instead of leading out of the labyrinth, I soon realized it was leading directly to the center of the maze.

After following false paths for years, hoping to make sense of my life and find happiness, I finally realized that my “Ariadne’s thread” was – you guessed it – my gayness.  Accepting this reality about myself is leading me directly to my “center.” 

As I sift through my past and view it through the lens of my gayness, I am able to better understand myself.  I can feel old wounds healing.  I feel doors to hidden memories opening.  I feel a sense of wholeness coming into my life, whereas before I had felt a maddening fragmentation. 

I also feel fear.  And challenges.  And looming struggles.  Perhaps when I reach the center, I will have to do battle with a metaphorical Minotaur.  But I know that I am finally on the right path, and this nourishes me with strength and courage.

All of this is still very much a work in progress, but I know that someday I will come out of the labyrinth, a changed person.

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