Several weeks ago, I had a dream that I was walking up a wooden plank walkway that was flooded with ankle-deep water. I entered a house that was also ankle deep in water, and as I turned my head to look up, there was no ceiling, only roof open to the giant sky. I expected to see stars, but instead I saw what appeared to be a flock of flying fish. Before I knew it, one of the fish flew down to me, looked me straight in the eye, and then flew away with the rest of the fish. In the background I heard what sounded like a plug being pulled out and water swirling down a drain. Then, I woke up.
At the time, I had no idea what this dream meant, but it seemed significant. Later in that week, I had lunch with a friend, and when I described the dream to her, she exclaimed, “Ah! Fish out of water!” So, now you know how the title for this blog article came to be.
My entire life I have felt like a fish out of water, not having the skills or understanding to navigate my earthly existence successfully. As I think back on my earliest childhood memories, the sense I have is one of being covered by mesh that keeps me separated from others. I can see through this mesh, I can hear, I can touch and feel the outside world, yet I don’t seem to understand how things on Earth work. Specifically, I am puzzled by how people relate to each other and how they relate to me. I also face challenges with communicating my needs, gaining others’ attention, and most essentially, being understood.
Imagine for a moment that life here on earth is a circular, fast-moving current of air. This current represents the stream of life within which all things happen. I have always found it difficult to slip into the stream of life, as if I were blocked. I see others in this stream and sense they can see me, yet they don’t look up or notice that I am having difficulty. They all appear to be engaged and quite familiar with the way this current works, having no trouble moving about. But for me, it’s as if I simply don’t have the capacity to engage.
In this month’s blog article and for the next several months, I will be sharing portions of the chapters of a memoir I started writing about five years ago tentatively titled, My Unconventional Journey Home: A Story of Transcendence. I was recently shown that it was time for me to share this writing in the hope that my readers will feel more inclined to share their experiences in relation to what I have written about, to find their stories and experiences within mine and realize they are not alone in feeling like a fish out of water.
I know there are many others like me who are flailing about, not really getting what Earth and those on Earth are all about.
In reading about my background, you may come to the same conclusion I did, and that is that we don’t all come from the same places (meaning planets, galaxies, worlds), but we are all on planet Earth together to learn to accept ourselves exactly as we are so that we can let this love and acceptance flow out of ourselves to others in this giant soup of mixed cultures, beliefs, looks, likes, and differences we call humankind.
Just maybe someday (and soon I hope), we can all come to understand that we were all created from ONE and that we are all unique and different. This is what makes life here more interesting and diverse and is what brings varied perspectives, abilities, talents and gifts to the collective.
In the first chapter of that memoir I’m writing, also tentatively titled, “A fish out of water”, I share a series of vignettes involving me and my mother. I included my mother in my memoir because I felt it was important to lay the foundation of what was happening in her inner and outer world and her marriage as she brought me into this world and as we lived our early life together. In writing about my early life, I needed to see the parallels between what was going on with her as I was experiencing life’s milestones – in a way that I could not see those parallels when I was younger. (And who really can understand, when they are children, what the adults in their lives are going through?)
So, here is one of those vignettes from my memoir:
***The beginning of my sense of alienation and separation***
As I talked to my mother about my evolving understanding of how my life here on earth began, she and I had many lengthy conversations. We both came to the realization that I was confused, angry and despondent from the moment I came into this world. In talking with her, I found my infantile beliefs about why I had come to earth turned on their heads. Thus, I began to head out into my new existence.
I had a very strong knowing – even as an infant with no language skills and no full understanding of my immediate circumstances – that I was in a place I did not want to be. Nothing was familiar to me…except my mother.
It’s a good thing I didn’t know what lay ahead, or I would have headed straight back to where I had come from (as soon as I had the opportunity). I didn’t understand what was happening to me or where I was. I was also constantly seeking something familiar, someone I recognized who would comfort me. There didn’t seem to be any warmth or satisfaction in my tiny being except when I was with my mother, but she had so little time for me.
I clung to my connection with my mother because my emotional well-being depended on it. Then, as I entered my teenage years, I disconnected myself from my mother. She was going through some disturbing changes and I could not, would not allow her to be a part of my life. This was a very painful period for both of us.
Many years later…
…in 2013, I experienced a slow and gradual opening of my awareness, a Spiritual Awakening, you might say. After a few months, it seemed as though a layer of fog had cleared, and I experienced a shift in my perspective of what my life here on earth was all about. I finally understood why I had struggled so much, why I never felt as though I fit in, why I saw myself as different from everyone else and why I had never really “gotten” this whole earthly existence thing down.
As you were reading this section of my memoir, I bet you realized that this heightened self-awareness did not happen for 52 of my years on Earth. In my February blog article, “Know thyself and love will follow”, I mention that, as I looked back over my life, I became aware of my soul’s purpose. All those years before, I had been living in an “Extreme Angelic Boot Camp”, an intense, continuous learning experience and overcoming of difficult things, things that could have constituted several lifetimes. Any kind of awareness of a spiritual connection had been blocked from me, as if my consciousness were in a locked safe until I was ready…all of the events leading up to that moment lining up in a string of synchronicities, as if they had been written in a book.
Here are two more vignettes from my memoir, this time only from my mom’s point of view:
***My mother sharing a bit of her side***
It’s March 1st, 1962. I have just discovered that I am pregnant (again) with my fourth child. I am only 26 and horrified, and I have no one to confide in and share my feelings with. I am not able to share these emotions with my husband. I sense he would go into a tirade, declaring, “Joseph Fielding Smith (who was the tenth president of the Mormon church) said that we were to have as many children as we could because there are so many spirits waiting to come into this world before the Second Coming of Christ.”
I had heard this often. In fact, it had been engrained in me my whole life, almost like a mantra.
***Mom’s reflection about this in present day***
I have three thoughts on this subject now:
First, I feel it is wrong to bring children into the world when you don’t have time to give each one individually the love and guidance that he or she needs and deserves.
Second, the mental and physical health of the mother and child must be carefully considered – not overlooked as unimportant. Looking back, I realize I was not taking care of my own health or my spiritual and emotional well-being.
Thirdly, my church was using guilt to pressure their members (my husband and me) into breeding children as fast as we could. Why this expectation of the church leaders that we must make little Mormons? What was that all about? In my husband’s priesthood meetings, he and the other males were strongly encouraged to keep their wives pregnant. In my Relief Society meetings, I and the rest of the females were instructed on how to keep our families fed, clothed and expanding in numbers.
I am now in my eighties, recollecting my helplessness and the absurdity of my husband’s and the Church’s control and use of my vagina and uterus. I had seven children and a total of 11 pregnancies in 16 years, and that disturbs me now.
In my dotage, I remember beautiful strong spiritual women who were gifted, who brought beautiful children into the world. These women lost their identities in the drudgery of caring for these huge families and also their sense of self and their capacity to feel joy. These losses were not because of the children but because of the enormous work involved.
Okay. Lynzie here. The three memoir snippets that follow are me talking:
***My very first impressions of this place***
With an intense rhythmic pressure, I am being squeezed through a dark cramped tunnel, advancing toward an opening that feels strange and is full of movement, smells, lights and voices. Suddenly, I feel an abrupt pinching of my head as I am pulled out into the cold, a blast hitting me in the face and causing me to take in a breath of air – my lungs expanding for the first time. I feel pain as I cry out, not understanding why this hurts so. I am so cold and wet! I want to retreat into the safety and warmth of my mother’s womb. I want to go home.
“Where am I? This doesn’t feel familiar or even safe!” As I am extracted from the safety of my warm cocoon, hands are reaching toward me, and unfamiliar faces are speaking gibberish. Oh, and the noise, the smells, the frenetic energy of this place is too much to take in all at once! I don’t know where I am. I sense that this is not what I had expected it to be, but something deep within me knows – there is no going back.
***Holy crap! And second thoughts***
I am sure I had conversations back at the center (or heaven, as some might call it) involving the Elders and Spirit Guides about my soul’s willingness to take on this mission that was being shown to me before I came to Earth. I believe I understood that my experience would be challenging, but I agreed to go.
It was at the moment of my birth that I found I was not so sure about my decision. After all, the gentle serenity of my previous existence was being wiped out! As I lay on my mother’s warm chest taking in all of what was going on around me, I was suddenly whisked away from the only thing that felt familiar and comforting.
From my mother’s recollection, it was customary to be knocked out during childbirth, and she was pretty sure that’s what happened when I was born. Therefore, she did not see or hold me until many hours later.
I was placed onto a hard surface brightly lit, so much so that the light stung my eyes. I felt my body being rubbed firmly by something rough that burned my delicate infant skin. A warm covering was being wrapped tightly around me, and this started to calm me. I was carried away to another unfamiliar place, set down into a small enclosed space, and left alone. I sensed there were others like me here, too. I didn’t know what to make of this foreign place. I was afraid, agitated, fitful – not understanding how to “be” in this new existence. I lay quiet as I took in all the peculiarities of my new world. Crying filled the room…much of it coming from me, all of us exploring the use of our voices for the first time.
***My sense now of my beginnings on Earth***
I believe that I came into this world resistant to what surrounded me. Everything felt foreign to me – contentment did not come easy. I fought against my mother’s attempts to show me her love and to comfort me. She did her best to help me be happy. Once I was outside her womb, I found it difficult to connect with her again – and she with me. Deep within me was a sense of displeasure and uneasiness I was unable to express in a way she could understand. I wanted to be attended to in a way that I felt familiar with.
I rejected my mother’s attempts at breastfeeding me, and this was quite confusing to her. I could not tolerate her milk nor soy or cow’s milk. After much trial and error, she was finally able to get me to take goat’s milk. But the continual crying and fussing created a wedge between us. I was not like the other three children. Feeding time was not bonding time.
In my adult life, a creative writing exercise took me through a guided meditation to my first memory of being held by my mother. That writing exercise gave me a much clearer picture of the disconnectedness I had experienced – with my mom and the world around me.
My memory of being held in my mother’s arms was filled with curiosity, as well as frustration at her not being able to soothe me. My mother was only 26 years old and patient despite her youth. I knew she wanted to comfort me and love me, but she, too, was confused. My three older siblings were easy; I posed a challenge.
I struggled with the strangeness that surrounded me from the moment I arrived. I experienced apprehension that I could not express, so she did not pick up on it. I wanted so very much for her to “see me” to “understand me”, but no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t happening – not for many years to come.
The next four portions of my memoir are, again, from my mom’s viewpoint and, to my mind, are among the most poignant in the book:
***More reflections from my mother***
A young woman I knew, a mother with eight children well known for her delicious pies and beautiful singing voice, lost herself when she was pregnant with number nine.
It was a school day. She bathed, dressed, and fed her children and sent them off to school. She drove to a friend’s house, and the two sat down at the kitchen table. Her friend was cleaning woodwork with a very strong chemical, and the phone rang. She excused herself to answer the phone in the other room.
Her visitor, this beautiful woman, this pie maker and mother of eight, almost nine, this wife of a busy life insurance executive, took the bottle of cleaning solution and went out the back door. She got into her car, drank the solution and drove down the road to her children’s school. She was found in her car on the front lawn, dead. Eight children now had no mother.
This was not a lone event. So many other women like my beautiful pie maker friend got lost in the process of birthing children they felt ill-equipped to handle. They must have been thinking, just before they died, what I secretly thought, “How can I treat each child individually and uniquely? There are too many of them, and I am only one person.”
Now that my children are much older, my greatest regret is not having had the wisdom to realize that each of them was a lifetime commitment. I had the desire to love them, each in his or her own way, but there was never enough time, never enough me to go around.
***More of my mother’s side of my story***
My husband doesn’t share my anxiety about the work involved in caring for the three small children. He doesn’t get it that each baby represents enormous commitment. What good is it to have ten children if eight of them feel neglected and insignificant or if none of them gets the attention he or she needs? I sense my husband thinks of our children as arrows in his quiver. But I know that they are feeling, deserving beings. I am okay with balancing the needs of our three little tow heads, but adding a fourth was going to be a stretch.
My husband is a technical writer, putting in many hours playing Oboe in the Utah Symphony and spending the rest of his time working on his French Citroens (cars). This leaves me with 99 percent of the responsibility for the children and household chores.
On this March morning, I am at the church recreation hall for volleyball practice. It feels so good to swing my serving arm and punch the ball over the net. I move into position next to the net and see the ball coming to me. I jump as high as I can, slam the ball over the net and bam! As I come down, a severe pain stabs me in my abdomen, doubling me over. I land hard on my ankle and in a heap on the floor. I limp over to the sidelines and sit on the bench, clutching my stomach as waves of nausea come over me. My ankle is throbbing, but I scarcely notice the sprain. I am terrified of the cramp deep in my gut.
Later that afternoon, I am spotting blood and wondering what could be happening to me. A few hours later I am alarmed to notice streams of dark, bright red blood. Luckily, the spotting finally starts to slow, and eventually it stops around 3:00 a.m.
The next day, I see my gynecologist and good friend. He tells me I am about to miscarry. He says: “Go easy! And you need to eliminate volleyball until after your baby is born. This is number 4, right? Looks like an early November baby. Moderate exercise; nah, make that mild exercise and get some help with your housekeeping. No heavy lifting or bending.”
I get to my car and cry! This means I would have to let go of my blossoming sports career and downsize my plans for a major yard modification. I have just started to feel good after the birth of my last child fourteen months earlier, and now I must curtail many of my activities so that I don’t cause harm to my baby. I had not wanted to be pregnant again so soon, and I feel deep disappointment that I am…again. I am being forced to set aside things that are very important to me and integral to who I am.
I want to be strong again. Three babies in five years has left me physically weak. I feel as though I have to ration my energy to make sure I can take care of my babies. Briefly, I feel disappointment and anger. I even have a thought creep into my mind, “I can’t do this pregnancy!” It doesn’t last long because I immediately slam the door on those emotions. I can’t allow myself to be angry with my God and Maker.
I feel such a letdown, and that isn’t allowed either. I must be happy! I have to be glad! I am bringing another child into the world for my husband’s Celestial Estate. And, no one can know about my negative feelings. I must bury them deep inside. Those feelings are unacceptable in the eyes of God and the General Authorities of the Church.
A question began to form in the back of my mind that I could not stop. “What is it about my feelings that is unacceptable?” I wondered what it would be like if I continued to play volleyball, possibly forcing a miscarriage. Why should I not allow myself to think about this pregnancy and how it will affect me and my family? This thought began to crowd out all other thoughts.
I begin to pray that I will understand why these thoughts are unacceptable. Is it because I am a woman? Well, I am a woman, and I can’t change that! And, why am I being treated like a child and told that I am not allowed to decide what is best for my own health and the health of my children, the unborn child included? These thoughts just will not go away, and they begin to rupture the relationship between me and my husband.
***To be or not to be***
My little Lynn’s due date was near Thanksgiving, but she was not destined to be a Thanksgiving baby. On October 21st our country was poised on the edge of World War III, with Soviet ships surging toward Cuba, and American Marines at the ready in Guantanamo Bay. Russian missiles had been detected in Cuba, and a world crisis was at hand. I remember saying to my husband, “Why are we bringing a baby into a world that might not be here much longer?” But, low and behold! The world was still there the next day as the crisis dissipated.
On October 22nd, 1962, my little Lynnie was born – tiny, just a little over five pounds, with curly, reddish blond hair and huge blue eyes.
I quickly discovered that Lynnie was allergic to my breast milk because every time she nursed, she screamed. I learned to lay her across my lap and firmly tap her on the back to help her clear out the mucous in her nose and throat. I finally discovered after some time that she had an ear infection, which she had brought home from the hospital’s nursery. Poor baby! She was in such pain from her ears! I made an urgent trip to our pediatrician, who suggested I put her on soymilk. He also prescribed an antibiotic, which seemed to work like magic.
After all of this, she finally began to thrive, coo and giggle, but I yearned for the closeness of being able to nurse her. Instead, her closeness was to glass and rubber from a bottle. I felt that every time I picked little Lynnie up, she stiffened. As much as I wanted it, I didn’t feel we had the closeness I experienced at the birth of my other three.
When Lynnie was one, I sang to her, and she would sing back to me. She had a sweet little voice and remembered all the words for “Once there was a snowman” and “Three blind mice”. She learned many songs from Primary (church for little kids), and some she learned from her brothers and sister.
As I read through these pieces of my story taken from my memoir, I felt a deep sadness that I, this infant, was in pain. The pain in my ears reflected the pain of what I was hearing (or not hearing) around me, the unfamiliar noises and voices that did not match in tone the ones I had left behind me in the world from which I came. The little amount of time I had with my mom was never enough to overcome the disconnectedness I felt when I was away from her, and that even began to invade my time with her once I was outside the womb.
Would I ever find my way back to contentment and peacefulness again?
As I have edited and re-written parts of my memoir and had long conversations with my mother, we have come to the same conclusion. We (all or most of us on earth) have a longing for a love that is deep and powerful, pure and unexplainable because it’s what we experienced during our time in heaven.
So far, I have not found this kind of love coming from another human being, and perhaps this is what all of us long for and unconsciously expect from our life partner. We long for a love that never denies, never disappears, and that fills our hearts, bodies and spirits with a vibration that makes us feel as though we are floating on air.
The way back to this love is through building an internal bridge and by going within and developing a strong and consistent connection with the Divine Creator – the medium being meditation. And as I write this, I realize that, when I began meditating was when my whole world changed, and my life truly began.
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