Begrudgingly, I turn to face my next challenge. I’m emotionally exhausted. Of all the challenges I have encountered during my past vision quests, none have been as difficult as the last few hours. I have not had time to think of the cold or the insects or even of human interference. The first few moments were the only moments I even thought of anyone else being on this mountain. This battle has been one that has ripped at my very soul. The mundane concerns I experienced in the past pale in comparison.
The next Grandfather I face is very close to me. He stands just beyond the edge of my circle and is about seven feet tall. He is not dense and round but tall and narrow. I study his physical aspects for some time. I do not want to move into the process of releasing or even observing my lesson yet. I am angry, and the anger feels good. I feel confident and capable of managing any potential danger, and I like this feeling. After spending a lifetime in fear, this strength feels safe.
The ancestors allow me my rage. Nothing presses against me. I relish in the indignation, but it too becomes tedious eventually. While anger is powerful, it is also exhausting. I feel my strength drained as it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain. Like the morning after a drunken stupor, I feel let down by the emptiness of my emotions. I return to feeling guilty and alone and pointless.
Long ago, I learned to use my rage to stand my ground and end abuse, but anger eventually becomes a burden and saps me of my will to be present. It is only an illusion of strength. It is not genuine strength. It is time I turn to the Grandfather and ask him to teach me forgiveness. I ask him to show me the kind of patience which forgives real sinners of the most atrocious sins. How do I find forgiveness for this evil, and even more, how do I find forgiveness for those who know it is wrong and still allow it? How do I forgive their convenient acts?
I hear the Grandfather speak. He tells me to remember my lessons. I think back to each of the Grandfathers and their guidance. The first Grandfather gave me the promise of protection. I hear his words, though they do not move to my heart the way they did before. I am still too angry to accept the word protection.
Turning to the second Grandfather, I think of my sponsor. I think of his Heyokha medicine and wonder what is real and accurate and what has been flipped upside down and turned backward. As my eyes fall upon the second Grandfather, I remember my vulnerability. The realization of my rage crashed down upon me. My whole life, I have seemed unapproachable and intimidating because of the hard shell I hold against the world. I cannot even remember how it is to feel vulnerable while I am so angry. Vulnerability in this place is impossible. I see now how my anger interferes with my ability to be vulnerable. I want to open myself. My past pain is not worth this sacrifice.
I think now to the third Grandfather, and I remember my arrogance. I have often said that arrogance being the ultimate form of insecurity. I cannot get past the ugliness of an arrogant soul. I know its stem. I understand the fear and doubt generating it, but it seems impossible to overcome. The competitive nature and desire to always be superior is so off-putting. It is difficult to love or even trust the people in this position, yet I find myself here. While I am incredibly wounded and vulnerable, I am also very selfish. Everything is a manipulation to receive validation because I do not feel deserving of the love I request. I’ve lived blinded by a self-indulgent need for validation and need for love. I ignorantly convinced myself that I was generous, but I was not. The desire for fulfillment overwhelmed any ability to be genuinely conscious of others and their needs.
I sit here now, looking from the third Grandfather to the fourth, and I realize the ultimate expression of my selfishness. I think of my son and how I failed to protect him. The message settles upon me slowly, like snow gently covering green grass. I am not here to forgive my abusers, or even God, for failing me. I am here to forgive myself for failing to protect my own child. Given opportunity after opportunity to show him a better life, I stumbled. Through my own selfish desires to find anyone to love me, I didn’t see him. Choice after selfish choice denied him the childhood he deserved, and I am expected to forgive myself for this. It seems far less possible than forgiving my abusers.
I have tried to think of the good I gave him. Friends remind me of how much better a parent I am to him than mine were to me, but this is not enough. This will never be enough. I think now of the parent I am to my daughter, and I am proud. I have made mistakes, and I have accepted my imperfections because though I have them, my focus has always been making sure she knows she is loved. While I worked to overcome limitations in my parenting skills, she is a confident, well-balanced child, and she has lived protected from the kind of abuse I suffered.
I cannot say I gave this same opportunity to my son. I did not protect him. I did not do the best I could. I faltered, and no one can negate the simple truth of this statement. I played a significant part in robbing him of the childhood he deserved. Knowing how it feels, knowing how it stays, and scars, how can I even ask for forgiveness? I have earned my shame. Honestly, I do not think I deserve to be free of it. I don’t want to be free. Freedom feels like a betrayal.
I work my way around circles of shame and rage and loss and fear. I come full circle, again and again, looking for any way around this request. I cry again until the tears run out, and I scream until my voice is gone. In the end, I am no more than a crumpled heap of emptiness on the desert floor and still no closer to their desire for me. I doubt I can ever truly forgive myself for failing my son. I don’t know how a mother can.
As time passes and the circle becomes smaller, I find a way to release the rage. I let go of the judgment, and I admit I cannot change the past. This will be good enough for now. The moments I wish I could take back are beyond me, and I know as I move forward, I do better. I promise to protect and provide, and this is the best I can do. This must be my forgiveness. It must be my promise to never make these mistakes again. Though it is not true forgiveness, it does bring me peace. This is the best I can hope for today, a calmer mind and my undying commitment to be better in the future.
I am exhausted. I know I have fallen short of what the Grandfather is asking, and I know what they bring is what I deserve. I would give the same to any other person, but I cannot accept this gift. I cannot admit myself worthy. Maybe another day, I will hear or see something I have not seen today. Perhaps I can claim my worth tomorrow.
Turning to the next teaching, I let this be what it is for now and abandon myself to my depression. It is a unique experience that only those who have lived it can understand. I do not want any more lessons. I do not want any more gifts. I do not want to expand my mind or become a better person today. I want to sleep. I want to escape my thoughts and forget my arrogance. I don’t want to do this anymore.
The temptation to lay on the ground and wait for the arrival of my sponsor is nearly overwhelming. I could pretend I’ve had all of the visions I am meant to have this night, but I fear his promise to abandon me in this place. I also fear the life I might have on the other side of failing my commitment to the Creator. I want to quit. I’ve spent my entire life wanting to quit, but I know I will stay in this circle. I will look up to the next teacher, and it won’t even be for the fears. It will be for my innate sense of responsibility. I will stay because I said I would stay; to ‘not stay’ is never a real option for me. It is only a wish.