“Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose.”–Janis Joplin

It doesn’t matter what you call it; just noticed what bodily sensation is elicited from hearing those adjectives. Personally, it makes my skin crawl to hear all three descriptions. Somebody referred to me the other day as bedridden, despite her meaning well. I felt like I had been punched in the solar plexus. Are those terms a physical description or a state of mind? Are they legal terms or something that determines one’s disability status? All I know is that neither I, nor any of my friends, can relate to those terms at all in relation to me.

I sit in my comfortable reclining chair twenty-two hours a day, seven days a week. Every few months I leave the house to go to an appointment. Does this relieve me of the description of being housebound? All of these questions, of course, are rhetorical. It seems to me that the usage of that terminology is reductive for my humanity. If someone didn’t know me personally, these adjectives might elicit pity or perhaps fear, which is always underneath pity, in my opinion. No one who truly knows me would ever consider describing me in any of those terms.

Last Christmas I had a traumatic experience that really made this whole discussion personal. I received a request on Facebook to have a visit from a group of carolers from Crestone. Christmas carols have been a part of my history despite being raised Jewish. For nearly six years during my time in New Orleans, I was an active participant in an interracial, interfaith, gospel choir. During Christmas we frequently sang at the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Singing music during the holidays was familiar to me for connecting with the holiday spirit. At least that is what I thought would happen when I agreed to the request.

An hour after the carolers were scheduled to arrive and just before my next appointment, they made their appearance. It has been said that Crestone is made up of meditators, mystics, and misfits. I am sure that I could have received all three labels by different people at different times in my life. As thirty people straggled in, an hour late, my enthusiasm began to wane abruptly. On one level, I knew they were well-meaning, but the setup was disturbing. I should have been alerted to this possibility when the organizer mentioned, “we are a group of people who go caroling to the housebound.” I didn’t catch it at the moment, but later as I reflected, I noticed myself wondering who the housebound person was we were going to sing to. They filed into my round living room en masse and began singing the common, ordinary Christmas songs my choir never sang. I began to feel the depth of my disillusionment. As I looked around, the energy in the room felt “charitable,” to be generous. I could feel that the singers were singing to the “poor, disabled shut-in.” I had never seen myself from that perspective before, so I know it was not projection on my part . I started to compulsively make jokes to at least let them know that I was clever and that my mind was clear. The message I desperately wanted to convey was, “it’s okay! Really, I’m okay. It isn’t as dire as you think. It’s all going to be okay. This is just a temporary costume,” they looked so pained.

When they finally left, I felt diminished, marginalized, maybe even objectify. It took a few hours to clear the energy of their projections, both individual and collective. I shudder when I remember those feelings and I now know that it is essential that the people I surround myself with be responsible for their own projections and that they know who I am and that this illness is NOT ME. The visitors that Christmas day were in their role**of being charitable, magnanimous. They only saw my body; they were not seeing me, the brave soul undertaking this courageous curriculum to work through my deepest challenge of powerlessness to increase my love of Self.

I learned in an important lesson that day about projections. I learned that I am more vulnerable to other people’s unconscious projections than I realized. I learned that the terms shut-ins, housebound, and bedridden are merely states of mind and they can be dangerously reductive. I learned that one needs to be responsible for one’s own projections, the feelings beneath their benevolence. Many are not capable of this level of awareness so I need to be more vigilant, more protective of my vulnerability. I learned a lot that Christmas day.

I’m fortunate to say that everybody in my life on a daily basis sees me, beyond my costume for this particular role. I will use this as a teaching moment. Some of the most evolved souls enter the human body of seemingly vulnerable individuals, the homeless, alcoholics, the mentally and/or physically disabled, in order to grow and especially to serve humanity. When I was a small child, a religious woman who was close to me once told me that Karen, a mentally disabled child in the neighborhood, was an angel from God and that Karen would report back to God and let him know how she was being treated. Of course, there was the authoritative, punitive attitude placed on to a male God, but I received the message, both on a literal level and a metaphysical level.

Of course, these descriptions can be superficial and innocent, but they have power. We need to be responsible for our projections which I believe are mostly fear-based, fear of the unknown or fear that it might happen to me or one of my loved ones. Are we merely seeing the costume for this lifetime or are we seeing the Soul? If you would like to come to my home for a visit and you are able to see me beyond the level of the body, you are very welcome. Come, share, and be in Holy Communion.