Someone might say “that’s normal” what with hurricanes, earthquakes, mass killings, threats of nuclear war, global warming, Donald Trump, Brexit and terrorist attacks going on all over. And, if the general goings on were not enough, there is personal stuff too that could make me sad.
For example, I have worked with a girl who suffers from something similar to schizophrenia for over 14 years now; I am very fond of her and have been gifted to have her trust. For a while it seemed as if she was getting better with The Work, but suddenly she began having crises and having to be interned. She had gone through all her family and acquaintances with violent paranoia, but somehow I had been spared. I felt her trust was a gift even though I no longer felt I was helping her. Then suddenly it was my turn. She had been obsessing over a man called David for some time and was desperate because he wouldn’t pay attention to her. Then one day, she accused me of having had sex with him. I told her I didn’t even know him, but she was absolutely convinced I was lying. From there, it progressed as mental illness does and the last time we spoke, she was screaming at me to get out from inside her and stop controlling her life. Her language and rage was such that I had to block her from calling me again. This certainly might have made me sad but, although I felt for her, I understood perfectly how her mind had finally taken over completely and attacked the last person she trusted. If there was a lesson for me in that, it was to contemplate the power of the mind, in case I had ever doubted it.
But that wasn’t what made me sad. The other thing happening in my life was with a friend here in France who had begun leaving negative comments on Facebook on everything I published, and sometimes on my friends’ comments on what I had published. After erasing her comments day after day, I finally got tired and decided to save her the bother of even reading me. The first time ever I de-friended someone on Facebook. She obviously realized this the next time she tried to go into my page, and sent me an unpleasant message on my cell phone, so she got blocked there too. If I don’t like what someone writes, I stop reading them but I don’t send them sly remarks suggesting that they are mentally deficient or, at the very least, absolutely wrong. I have no hard feelings about this friend, I just wanted to save her the pain of reading what I write and also I prefer not to be perusing her comments.
So none of this was causing my sadness and sad is not normal for me. The only thing I could identify as niggling at my heart was the Cataluña-Spain situation, but that puzzled me too. Yes, I was reading both my Catalan-Spanish and my non-Catalan Spanish friends on Facebook publishing comments that every time got more angry and violent, but the Catalan situation is not something new to me. About 35 years ago, I met a girl in Mexico and when I asked where she was from she said “Barcelona”. “Oh, you’re Spanish!” I exclaimed, to which she replied dryly: “No, I am Catalan.” Later I would find out that, although my friend was very well read in French Literature, she had no idea whatsoever of Spanish Literature and was very surprised to discover how outstanding they were, especially those of the so-called “Siglos de Oro” (Golden Centuries). When I, myself, moved to Spain I realized how regionalist the country was, and how people tended to identify with their region more than with Spain as a whole. Cataluña was just the most. So, it could come as no surprise to me that what had been just under the surface for so long should suddenly and violently come to light. However, it seemed that this was the cause of my sadness.
Every time I thought of the conflict or read something on Facebook, I could feel the pressure in my chest and the desire to cry out: “Please, please stop it! Be sensible, negotiate, find a solution amenable to all.” I actually felt depressed, and the more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. It wasn’t logical. The conflict has nothing to do with me and doesn’t actually affect me in any way. There was no logical reason why it should be affecting me at all. Why couldn’t I find it (on both sides) as absurd or amusing as the Donald’s goings on? But as incomprehensible as it was, I couldn’t let it go. Even if I stopped reading FB or watching the news, the thought of the conflict was constantly in my head, and the more it was, the sadder I got. Not only was I sad, but also the feeling of powerlessness was overwhelming: there was nothing I could do.
Last night I took Salomé (my little schnauzer) out for her evening walk. It was dark and the moon was full; the night was warm. Yet, I couldn’t get enthusiastic or let myself enjoy the walk. The truth was I felt like crying, so finally I let it come out. Tears came to my eyes and rolled down my cheeks and… suddenly the memory arose: I was about 7 years old or maybe more and my parents were fighting –something they did very often. They were yelling at each other, I have no idea what they were saying, but I felt every bit of fear, powerlessness and deep sorrow of that little girl. I knew in that instant what it was that Cataluña-vs-Spain was awakening in me, and the painful belief came to the surface: There is no solution and it will never end. I walked the rest of the way home hugging myself and letting that little girl cry her heart out. By the time I got home, the sadness had gone and I felt light and tired.
I didn’t have to question the belief: time had taken care of that for me. There was a solution, and it did end. I smile today as I remember sooo clearly the last two fights that threatened to frighten me. The next to last was one night when my parents were fighting in the kitchen. I was in the living room but I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard my father yell: “Then I want a divorce.” I snapped to attention. The terrible words I had always feared had been spoken. I waited for my mother to yell back but, suddenly, she answered in the calmest and most determined voice I had ever heard her use: “Don’t be ridiculous,” was all she said, and the fight was over. I think we had dinner together later.
The last fight I remember, I was 13 and was in my room in bed. The light was out and I was going to sleep. My parents were in their bedroom fighting as usual and I wasn’t really paying attention. By that time I had understood that their fights never came to anything worse than my father having to sleep on the couch. Then suddenly I heard a smack! and my mother yelled something and my father laughed; and then again: smack! mother yelling and father laughing. When it happened a third time I was convinced that my father was not only hitting my mother but laughing about it. I leapt out of bed, yanked open the door and ran out into the hall. There, I stopped dead in my tracks. My mother was taking every bit of my father’s clothing out of the closet and throwing it into the hallway (that was the smack!) and yelling that he should get out of her bedroom and my father, standing to one side of the bedroom door so as to be out of the line of fire, was cracking up with laughter. At that moment, I joined in his laughter until my mother calmed down and we both set about helping her put all the clothes back in the closet.
I was never again awakened by a fight between my parents and I am sure they had many, but somehow the frightened seven-year-old has always been inside. The last time she awoke was during my daughter’s divorce when her soon to be ex would make angry threats against her. I remember lying curled on the bed sick with nausea the night before she was to move out, when suddenly the little seven year old girl shared another belief with me: My father is going to kill my mother and then kill himself, was what I heard in my head. In that moment, the nausea disappeared and I realized that there was nothing to fear in the present; it had all been a childhood fear that had lain in the pit of my stomach for all those years.
Now, somehow, the apparent impossibility of a peaceful solution in the Catalan-Spain struggle had awoken yet one more time that frightened, powerless little girl. But as I can now see her and be with her, she got so many hugs last night that this morning she was as happy as could be. All the sadness gone, and just astonished once more in the realization of the extremes produced when everyone is believing what they are thinking.