I woke up sometime in February with the phrase “lover of leaving” in my mind. I knew those words were from a line in a poem I had read in the past, but I didn’t remember who wrote it. I searched under Kabir and Hafiz to no avail but soon discovered the phrase was part of a Rumi poem I had read, and loved, many years ago.
“Come, come, whoever you are,
wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving,
it doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.
Come, come again, come.”
Later, I thought about something I once learned from Jean Illsley Clarke, a mentor of mine. She taught me that there are four ways of leaving: come and go, eject, grow up and leave, and stay. None of those ways of leaving are inherently bad or good, and we more than likely do them all. However, the way we leave our family of origin often becomes a life template.
My father was in the Army, so I grew up in a situation where I was surrounded by leaving. Either my family left, or other families left. I believe in third grade we moved three times. And there were only two times where we lived anywhere longer than three years: my first five years, we lived in Sandia Base in New Mexico and we lived in Pirmasens, Germany for four years. Other than those times, I think we moved every year or two.
While my “Army brat” upbringing gave me plenty of experiences with leaving and being left, the style of leaving that became my template was to eject. I was not a happy child or teenager. As a teenager, I counted the days before I could leave home and I unconsciously picked a college that was as far away as I could go and still be in the continental United States. (My family was living in Florida at the time, and I moved to Seattle.) I went home a few times when I was in college, but it was rare. Soon after I graduated, I told my father I was thinking of marrying Al, an African American friend. He made it clear that, by even considering doing that, I was no longer welcome in the house. So, I had not only ejected myself but was also ejected.
The protective mechanisms I developed were to be overly independent and to not bond with people. I tend to separate easily and rarely look back. Over the years, I became much better at bonding, but am still reluctant to give up my independence.
Several years ago, a friend pointed out that I leave events without letting anyone know; people have no idea where I’ve gone. In reflecting on her observation, I realized she was right. But the impulse to leave when I want to leave has been stronger than a desire to do something different so I have continued to do that. I can see that leaving without telling anyone I’m going is a form of ejection.
That doesn’t mean I always choose to eject , sometimes I stay until it is time to leave; sometimes I even stay longer than is in my best interest. I rarely, if ever, come and go.
Al and I married in 1971. I worked at the University of Washington for five years (1974-1979) after I finished my Master of Nursing degree, followed by ten years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Swedish Hospital Medical Center (1979-1988). During part of that time I worked in the Maternal-Newborn units. I also helped to organize and run a Satellite Baccalaureate program for the nurses that worked there. Then I became a Psychiatric and Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist and, along with co-therapists, led psychotherapy groups for the next thirty years (1987- 2017). Even though Al and I divorced when our children were young, he and I raised two wonderful children. I still live in the house he and I bought in 1973. I did not eject in any of those parts of my life. That doesn’t mean I never had the urge to eject, but rather I didn’t do it.
The Rumi poem I talked about at the beginning of this post referred to leaving as part of a spiritual process. At first I was going to say that is not an area where I eject, but as I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t true. I picked a very conservative Christian college in Seattle. I was there during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. I became very angry, judging the students and faculty as having their heads buried in their Bibles. By the time I left there, I had labeled myself as being somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist.
I had definitely ejected from the Christian Church. I maintained that position for the next 20 years. I felt nauseous if I even heard someone say the word God. That changed soon after I met Amma in 1989. When the music started that first night, I felt as if I was Home.
Even though she has been my spiritual teacher for 31 years, I occasionally feel the urge to eject. When I get triggered by something she says or does, there are times I think: “I’m not going to do this anymore” …. “I’m leaving.” However, now I don’t take those automatic thoughts seriously. I may go to the back of the room and pout and/or indulge in self-pity, but I know it usually will pass in a day or two. And even if it takes longer, I know I’m unlikely to ever leave. Amma is still Home to me.
(Note: Even though Amma has been the central part of my spiritual journey ever since I met her, I have also been involved with Christian organizations from time to time. I guess that is my example of the coming and going type of leaving!)
So even though my original style of leaving is to eject, it is only something for me to stay conscious of. I can use my discrimination and embrace coming and going, growing up and leaving or staying; saving ejecting as a form of leaving only for when it is necessary for my mental or physical health or survival.
Writing this contemplation post has been helpful to me. Perhaps once the pandemic is over and we are able to meet in groups again, I will begin to let people know when I am leaving. Leaving without saying goodbye is certainly not necessary for my mental or physical health or survival! I do not need to eject.