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Living in Exile

Warning: this is a long one, but a good one. Think of this less as a blog post and more of a magazine article without all the annoying ads, or really just go away if you don't like it. Why do I think I need to sell you anything?

Okay, sorry, just needed to release the possible hostility of readers. It'll make more sense when you get to know me and my pet Exile, and how I create unreal scenarios of punishment and pain in my head.

Whew, this seems like an important post for me.

If you know me off this blog, you are used to hearing me connect the dots--almost in a manic way, as the most blatantly obvious parts of the scenery begin to poke out in my existence, revealing the stage upon which we are all precariously perched in this drama.

I rattle off play by plays, extracting the deepest meaning possible. Musically there is a lot of fanfare, a lot of returning from battle, wounded but having survived--a sense of pride in having given my all in the crusade, having braved the darkness, seen through the black and white, and found color. You know, sense of purpose, clarity, yada, yada.

However, there is one maze that when I fall into it, I become particularly clouded. I lose all ground.

I think I came in with this one.

Living in exile. *gut wrenching and terrifying horror music*

I often identify with Victor Hugo's story of being exiled to the Island of Jersey, away from his beloved France, by Napoleon II. It is a righteous indignation I feel for him, that a national treasure like him is taken and dumped onto another shore. He gets back at the crown by smuggling in an underground political pamphlet entitled Napoleon Le Petit, expressing essentially raw sentiments about his beloved France going to the dogs, and the blatant denial of truth by authority.

Yup, sounds like me!--except my righteous indignation includes the whole big blue and green ball of wax. And my sense of exile is with me wherever I may be. Gotta do the victim thing big in the 21st century.

Let me take you on a tour of my budding exile.

*black and white grainy film footage rolling, and crackling audio*

As a child it was the exile I felt having three brothers and being five minutes oldest-- often left in charge, often encountering much resistance from my brothers to their being bossed around.

In my adolescence, it was puppy love. I may have single-handedly contributed to global warming with the sheer amount of victim energy I funneled into the turbines, from the jaded love stories I held onto.

Then there was a thirteen year stint, where valiant and sanctified by moral superiortude (I like this new word) I set out to hammer a square peg into a round hole, which, grace be to God, finally ended in divorce.

I should interject my kids about here, as they became another force not wanting to be bossed around.

Then my personal favorite, another jaded love story with the worst exile that I may have experienced to date. Because you see, the stakes had been raised!! (Many of you got to experience a cryptic and not so cryptic weepy version of it on this blog! Hey I was dealing with exile, my voice had been stripped, prostrate on the ground crying out, I've fallen and I can't get up! Cut me some slack!).

Yes, exiled and possibly condemned (I'll never know for certain!) by The One who you feel to be the Love of your life--wondering how you'll ever get up and out from under this one. It is one thing to feel exiled by people whom you accept are from a different planet. Kind of like its their loss! you think as you wash your hands of them and make a run for your moral high ground. But to be exiled from One-Who-Represents-Home for the first time in your life for you-- who holds a sense of savioratude (liking this word too)--From One of your own kind!! A Being from your planet. You get the gist. Well, that rips you in half.

And so this brings me to now. Perhaps there is a waking up of sorts, because I have all these wonderful friends, who bring nothing but love and support and clarity. And I found myself just last night with one of my sweetests, in a state of feeling exiled by her. Poor her. Poor us. She had to watch me just break down into tears. And I think a part of me knew all along that there was no exile, that none of it was true.

I like big grand love stories. I like big grand victim stories too. I'm like both of these rolled up into one! What I'm not so acquainted with is a gentle, soft love that endures, that has no conditions, that is just safely there, as a given, as a golden undercurrent of every moment.

Perhaps it is as simple as breaking down over and over, to begin to recognize this unfamiliar love as having always been streaming through, to unearth the liquid gold.

Maybe part of breaking down the walls is building them up over and over again, until you don't need them anymore.

Maybe it is charging through, until your river is strong enough to break through the dam and create a grand canyon, finally honored for its magnificence, relished for its weathering the wear, crowning majesty under a big blue yonder. Oops, there I go, chasing glory again.

However, it would make sense that I would choose the most labor intensive ways to become free--after all, when exile and the struggle to come back home is the template of my being...don't have a whole lot of wiggle room.

Living life like a football game. Living like that guy they let out of prison, who just keeps ending up back there.

So, the question begs, which is worse, actually being physically exiled, or feeling as though you are exiled right on your own soil, right in your own backyard, with the loves of your life, having to fight your way through, perhaps even wishing for exile?

What I try to smuggle onto this blog is my own righteous indignation, of living in a world that has always been so clearly upside down. Right? Sure about that? Yes, of course. Wait, umm, well--okay-- not feeling so sure anymore.

See here is the thing. I'm starting to think that the upside down is all in me--not like in a critical, self-loathing way, but in a this-might-be-the-key-to-opening-my-prison-door-and-actually-stepping-out kind of way.

Lately I've been creating a lot of illusions of walking into the fire, coming out a hero--and giving hero talks on a rampage of appreciation of how I escaped with my life, and what I found in the burning house.

But here is the truth: the reality is that these fires are all in my head.

So, here I am dancing through the flames, and if you were watching me, you'd see that there is no fire, but the fire is real to me.

Let me give you another example.

I visit an online class on my computer, amply titled, Let Go, Let Love. hee hee. One day I accidentally unmuted the microphone so that my class was subject to me corralling my kids and yelling at them as my kids were being largely uncooperative at giving me the space to let go and let love. Oh, the irony.

I was mortified when I understood that I had aired my shit. It was big, like really big. I felt it coursing through me like hot lava, burning me in places I had no idea would hurt like that.

I dropped into the deepest reaches of hell. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to cease to exist.

But I didn't run, and I didn't hide. I just stayed there with the ancient pain. I thought I was going to die.

All I could do was surrender. I couldn't hide anything.

But what happened, was that instead of being burned at the stake, I was extended grace by this group. I think you can also call it compassion. They didn't put me in a noose. Not only that, but on some level, there was a sense of oneness I hadn't been open to before. Like I'd been holding this protective stance all my life, to be strong and courageous, but that I was keeping out what would most nourish me. And what is more, I feel as though I might have spoken to their own sense of exile, just by airing mine.

And I finally became free for the first time in my life, to tell it like it is about my parenting. IT IS HARD! I THINK I MIGHT SUCK AT IT!

I realize, tenderly, that I've been forever existing in a state of exile around my parenting, feeling like I'd gotten this horrific job of taming lions, a job I couldn't quit. And shooting the lions if they attack? not an option. But the true lions were the judge and jury outside of me that threatened to eat me alive.

Because after all, I know how to judge. I was once without children, and I was merciless in my judgement of parents. I felt I knew the way, and felt pretty certain parents, including my own, were mostly a bunch of incompetent fools. I still judge parents while having my own kids, because there is something that pierces compassion when you hear a child in pain and suffering. Little shits and their power.

Now the funny part of this, is though I swore I'd never listen to the class which is recorded to see what my classmates had actually heard, I came upon it by accident when I let my mp3 stream continuously. I had fallen asleep with it one night and woke up just before I heard my daughter screaming on the recording. But the crazy thing is that it was no big deal. In fact, they only heard my daughter screaming, and I sounded remarkably calm.

So, there was the irrefutable evidence of the exile existing in my head. The fire burning around me that was never there--

but the power of walking through the flames was as clarifying for me as if they had been real.

So, now, I begin to look at all the other ways I am living in an illusion of exile, made real in my head, with the power to take me into the darkest deepest reaches of hell, where nobody could rescue me. Where even if I heard you crying out for me, I wouldn't hear you. Even if you screamed in my face for me to wake up, I couldn't see you.

All this time I thought my righteous indignation for this planet was about bringing you back home with me, but I am starting to see how it might just be a big fat I who has never seen that the door to my cage is open.

Oh, this feeling of exile is palpable, even as I write this. So dangerously looming as my final frontier. It has the power to bring me to my knees.

All I can let myself do is feel how real this is in my body. All I can do is let myself chalk up all the proof of it in my external circumstances. But I also cannot deny that there is something clarifying breaking through the fog, exposing the monsters as shadow, and the fire and brimstone as most curious works of art.

I think I will be terming this point of suffering--my self-imposed exile-- my God problem, because it just might be the last separating layer between us. That which has the power to blind me, to drop me into the depths of despair and darkest suffering, and no matter what form it takes, I am learning that it always boils down to the belief that I am severed from the whole, and that there is no way back.

And yet this God problem might also have the built in power to open my eyes.

The evidence mounting around this might just have the power to not only tip the balance in favor of blind faith, but to pull back the curtain and reveal the way home.

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.


  1. This is us - every_single_one of us. The world is full of exiles that are only known to the person who hosts it inside. Your clear words cut through the hedge of the beauty sleeping in her exile like a machete.

    And that priceless online-class faux pas of yours? Can't tell you how much I checked if now one was able to hear what I just yelled at my husband or my kids (love them, but I admit I'm no Caroline Ingalls, living in a little house in the prairie). Thanks for your honesty! Nothing makes the world smaller and helps me more to accept myself than finding out again and again that this inner exile I thought was a unique experience of mine is known by everyone else as well. It vanishes more and more.


  2. Ditto to everything Katharina said. Love your honesty, Brooke. Posts like this one are so bracing, like stepping outdoors from the still indoor air to find a world full of wind and birds and big sky. (Guess my ruling metaphor/illusion is about being trapped.)

    I also appreciate the new words your created. Such exactitude, such freedom. Right on, write on!

  3. High fives all around, dear Brooke--magician of words.

    You rock, my friend.

    <3 Julia


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