"universal shift" mixed media on paper. copyright, D. Ellis Phelps 2013
backlash: in metaphysics, a contrasting experience to joy, the psyche's way of reminding the mind of it's habitual way of being
A queasy sense of impending doom terrorizes me. Again and again I return-rest in meditation, telling my mind, This is it. No more. Nothing else.
I practice mortality, sinking in as if death has come, waiting at tether's end for my Guide to sever the sliver chord, release me from all earthly attachment.
Otherwise, when I engage, watching events go by on this plane, I am like the mud hen ducks flying back and forth across the backyard sky looking for water, a place to land, to float, to be at home. I feel a sense of urgency to do, to become, to work, to accomplish. A tyrrant voice speaks demanding:
"More! More! More! I wake at 1 at 3 AM, wander the catacombs, stretch and sigh, tell myself Not now. My husband sleeps, snoring in his room. I am safe. He is not dead.
I fear financial ruin, a life without him of lonely isolation, emotional annihilation. Then, some sanity speaks: Perhaps there is Grace. If I were to have to endure such pain, maybe Angels of Mercy would fly to me, sprinkle me with living water until somehow I am re-membered by a thousand helping hands and some tide turning.
This is the fear, the reason I push myself out from under this tree at all: these words are not enough.
Of course not! My practical mind agrees. Look. William Carlos Williams was an M.D. with a full practice. Li-Young Lee, a warehouse worker because he did not want to teach. You have not published your book. You do not have "followers" on your blog. You have debilitating self-doubt because of all this rejection. And you would still, even if you did publish a book or ten.
So, the One Who Craves Safety, the One Who Fears the Unknown, the One Who Shrinks from Standing Boldfaced at the Edge says, Give up all this striving. Come with me to the hiding place. I will keep you safe. We'll work at Home Depot. We'll have regular hours and regular pay and we'll do a good job and get easy back pats. No more of this craving recognition and applause. Simple contentment will satisfy. Quit.
Maybe, I really think failure would be a relief, much easier than all this humiliation. To say blithely, Oh! I gave all that up. Like it was my healthy choice, a burden I no longer choose to carry. I work at Home Depot now in the home decor department. And I'd never have to explain that. People would get it.
I'd never have to write another clever query with a hook or an artist's statement fluffed with profundity. I'd never have to be the only one on the block who can feel this ubiquitous, undulating, massive wave of human sorrow rising within me.
And there it is: "the queasy sense of impending doom" does not belong to me alone. It is cultural, planetary, originating from the race-mind.
It is the Mississippi bleeding out. It is a Japanese woman's wail. It is a soldier commanding his hands to kill. It is a road-rage shooting on I-35. It is the senseless assassination of an officer by someone blinded with fear. It is the last breath of the fawn born yesterday at dawn ceaselessly bleating, unable to stand and nurse. It is the doe hoofing the earth where her fawn lay until last night when Earth Man's breaking heart had to bag the creature in the dark and carry it away because he could not bear to see the vultures come.