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Gratitude and Longing
(Ketamine journey # 4)
To get the beneficial results out of each Ketamine therapy session they recommend getting into your optimum headspace before your journey. At the beginning of each music/binaural brainwave soundtrack on the Mindbloom app they feature different speakers talking about a positive or life-changing subject, feeding you a few nuggets of food for thought before launching into the hour-long journey into the deep spaces of your mind. Each talk is eight minutes long, the amount of time they recommend keeping the tablets of Ketamine under your tongue before spitting them out (they’re absorbed sublingually and can cause nausea if ingested.) The conversations are like if you walked into the middle of a self-improvement TED talk on how we humans are messed up and how we can be a more conscientious and mindful species. This particular talk was on Gratitude— a buzz word I see everywhere emblazoned on yoga pants, hashtags, coffee cups and bumper stickers. Like Namaste, it seems to have lost its deeper meaning. As I listen, I contemplate the meaning: looking at the glass that was handed to you as half full instead of half empty. It’s making lemonade to fill that glass when life gives you bitter lemons. It’s a reminder that others may have it much worse than you and having the knowledge they would give anything to have all the riches you have. But sometimes it’s hard to see how much you already have because you’re longing for more, or wanting the situation to be different than simply what is.
You ungrateful, self centered bitch, spoiled only-child I hear inside my head when I feel sadness and longing for what I didn’t get. Trying to force “gratitude” is like muffling the loss for what we wish we had. I’ve secretly struggled with that word gratitude when I feel like I’m forced to put on a smile, be happy and satisfied with a few crumbs when I’m secretly starving for more. Why is life is unfair?
Ketamine Journey number #4: Dreamlike, lots vivid scenes that feel like memories and I’m feeling a lot of emotional rollercoasters.
It’s a bright and sunny spring day, blue skies and big fluffy clouds in the sky. I’m a kid, maybe five years old walking down the street with my mom and dad on each side holding my hand. I have a sense of both halves of my DNA forming a chain with me and it almost feels electrifying. I’m walking slightly ahead of them as I pull them along to keep up with me, smiling at strangers and exuberant to experience the world. I have no trauma or fear, I am pure with curiosity and feel whole for the first time and not broken into two. I feel totally loved and literally supported by two parents that swing me by my little arms and say wheeee! in unison as I squeal and laugh in delight. They let me experience the world but also protect and keep me safe. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt. I feel so grateful.
Yet that memory doesn’t exist.
I pull back from that vision of the happy nuclear family walking together and feel sadness and anger, a few tears run down my face. I never got to have that experience that may have changed the course of my life. I don’t even have a memory of my parents being together before they split up when I was two. That memory that felt real was a fantasy, it was my longing. The flip side of gratitude.
When I was a kid my mother had legal custody of me until I was eleven and in those years my dad came to my rescue a few times— those real memories came flooding back in vivid detail. My dad would pick me up every other Friday night from Manhattan for the two hour traffic-logged journey eastbound on the Long Island Expressway to spend the weekend with him. My mother was the strict parent compared to him so I felt free to let down my hair and express myself without fear or shaming. He would let me turn on the radio to 66 WNBC that played my favorite disco hits and we would sing along together and play car games like Twenty Questions. He would usually offer me a granola bar and a can of V-8 juice he kept in the glove compartment (my dad was sort of a pre-Boomer hippy who probably saved me from getting rickets from the Twinkies and Captain Crunch I subsided on when I was living with my mother.) Towards the end of the trip I would usually fall asleep and wake up to blinding florescent lights as we pulled into the parking lot of the local 7-Eleven to buy a few groceries for the weekend. I knew we were a few minutes from my dad’s house and I would relax knowing I was safe and taken care of for a few days.
The feeling of gratitude during the Ketamine journey washed over me, it was very real and profound. I’ve heard so many stories of fathers just disappearing out of their kid’s lives. I thought about all those long trips in traffic he made to pick me up and drop me off just to spend a little time with me. He brought me to the Long Island Game Farm to feed the goats, wasting $20 in quarters trying to win stuffed animals I begged for in the claw machine game, letting me order a hot fudge Sundae for breakfast at Friendly’s (I argued I would get it with strawberry ice cream topped with walnuts, thereby getting my vitamin C, fruit group and protein from the nuts so it was healthy.) He let me win silly arguments and give into demands because he loved me and wanted to see me happy. And there were the other times he was there for me, like when my mother made me go live with him as a weird punishment for a month when I was nine. Then when I was eleven, I called him from a pay phone asking him to kidnap and rescue me from the stress of living mostly unsupervised on the (often sketchy) streets of the Lower East side with an absentee alcoholic mother who had legal custody of me. My mother had been falling apart more and more over time. Sure, I’ve told him I love him over the years but I’ve mostly criticized him for everything he did wrong and we’ve had a lot of clashes. But there it was in my face, not written in a cheesy Father’s Day card or on yoga pants— Gratitude, which made my heart swell up and tears pour from my eyes as it repeated itself in my head like a mantra.
If I didn’t have a father that cared so much I might not be the deeply empathetic, sensitive and resilient person I am today. Even when I was so cruel to him for his kindness— I protested that I wanted to go back to live with my mother after I begged him to take me in. My mother wanted me to hate my father the way she hated him (she taught me being kind like my dad was too “soft” for a man and vulnerability was a weakness) and I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I took it out on him. I regret that I pushed him away for many years.
With all that appreciation for what I did have, I still long for that family I never had— two stable parents who stayed happily married ’til death do they part and gave me all the support and love as a team. When I practice mindful gratitude in mediation, I see my father who helped me stand up for the first time and later stood up to my mother for me, held my hand through the turbulent times and is still part of my life to this day. Maybe because my mother disappeared and wounded me deeply it’s made me more grateful and appreciative to have him. I accept the wabi-sabi cracks that have made my stories more beautiful, funny and full of life.
Thank you dad. This journey was a wake-up call to let you know how I feel you while you’re still with me on this plane. Know that I love and appreciate you.