The Beginning of the End
Part 2 of The Case of the Missing Home
(Watch/listen to the audio version here)
For those of you who have been following The Case of the Missing Home, here’s a quick recap of what has happened so far:
A dancer I’d met a few times socially, wrote me one day. She was looking for a new place to live but every potential housing situation she found seemed to immediately fall apart.
Would I consider being her shaman?
I was flattered. I’d been journeying to the Underworld for a number of years but this was the first time anyone had sought me out, and asked for my help.
As if I were were the real deal shaman. Was I? The universe had delivered to me an opportunity to find out.
I knew what it was like to be in Joyce’s situation, the desperation, the fear and the reality of being on the edge of being homeless.
I longed to be helpful, to make some one else’s life better. This impulse led me to be a teacher. But it has also has gotten me into trouble.
The reasons why Joyce was having such a hard time finding a place to live weren’t hard to figure: Rising rents, shrinking rentals as homeowners turn their extra room into Airbnb for weekend tourists, high paying professional jobs reserved for young and middle class, minimum wage service jobs for everyone else that you can work at for 40 hours or more a week, and still not earn enough to pay market rate rent.
Knowing why the problem exists and solving it are two different things: Joyce came to me to help solve her problem.
I agreed to journey to the underworld to find deeper, under underlying emotional, spiritual and psychological beliefs that, together with outer circumstances, had created Joyce’s reality, it’s patterns and it’s possibilities, something that would help her find a new home.
Shamans believe that to find a cure for what ails a person, you must go to the underworld, a place betwixt and between. Some shamans call it dream time. Carl Jung spoke of the collective unconscious. In popular imagination, the underworld is associated with criminals, shadowy monsters, the unknown which is always imagined as threatening; Hell, for those who believe that heaven is located somewhere above.
There are risks involved in journeying to the Underworld. You can get lost for one thing. If the shaman isn’t careful, you can succumb to the disease they are trying to cure.
It was late fall, with a chill in the air as the days grew shorter, and the season of darkness slowly took over. The right time to take a journey to the underworld.
Here is what I found out: At the heart of Joyce’s wound I discovered that as she unwanted at birth and as a child, had been abused by her brother while her parents looked the other way.
As an adult, she became her elderly father's unpaid caregiver, in exchange for a place to live.
When he died, a friend of hers invited her to live with him rent free, but paid for by cleaning, cooking, doing computer repair, being available to listen and offer emotional support, until one day, he left an envelope on her plate with an eviction notice.
As I investigated the beliefs and experiences that had lead to Joyce’s particular situation at present, I glimpsed the larger collective problem:
Being a girl schooled in feminine expectations, Joyce learned how to be keenly aware of emotional needs of others.
She learned how to do work, traditionally considered “women's work” how to cook to clean, to remember birthdays and write thank you notes. To keep track of missing things, to process other’s anger, pain and frustration. To be a sounding board, to offer comfort, to mediate conflict, to be always available to listen.
Shaman’s believe that we are all avatars for the collective: One person’s disease is an expression of the larger imbalance existing in the collective.
Whether women give birth or not, we are trained and expected to be mothers. Selfless, all powerful, uncomplaining.We are expected to do all this emotional labor without pay or acknowledgment. This is normal.
Like so many women, Joyce had learned to trade emotional labor for a place to live.She wasn’t the only one.
Healing never looks like what we expect. We hope for a steady improvements, a speedy recovery, life returning back to normal
More often though, a true healing requires that everything falls apart.Sometimes, healing is initiated by unforeseen you events that leave you without any of your old coping mechanisms. Nothing you’ve tried before works.
Sometimes, healing takes the form of disaster.
From my place of relative stability, I thought I could offer Joyce a life raft. Instead, I was pulled down into murky waters as my own housing situation, and the stability I had known, began to rapidly fall apart.