It’s always hard to start when there is so much to say. I have dreamed many dreams that have come true. Today’s dream, too, became a reality.
Yesterday’s gorilla trek was incredible. Fifteen gorillas, only an arms’ length away, were playing, bickering, and holding each other as only families can do. But this was only the warm-up for a much longer trek to ultimately meet the Rusa family, the largest family of gorillas in Africa.
The drive was hours long. The final leg of our journey led us down a road (if you can call it that) which would make even the most seasoned sailor nauseous. As we geared up and received our final instructions, we hopped on a trail that led us through the locals’ farmland and into the rain forest.
The entire forest was made up of bamboo and some basic plants, including ground vegetation. We had a three hour hike ahead of us straight uphill and surprise, surprise, the last half of the hike we had to make our own trail, eventually climbing up 9500 feet to meet our new friends.
In anticipation upon seeing these amazing creatures, I am drawn to thinking of my own family. I immediately have a pit in the bottom of my stomach and am overcome by anger, sadness, but most of all shame. I see my daughters’ faces, who have been so torn up by a divorce that only one of us in the family wanted (not me). I think to myself as I have over and over everyday for the past year how could I have stopped this? I still have no answer. At least not one that would have solved the real problem. For that, I am so sorry for my girls, my friends, family and community that have been torn apart because of this.
I envision the poachers who want to break up the gorilla families, to separate, and destroy them for their own self seeking agendas. I begin to weep as I realize how many poachers prey on the human family.
The family is the most precious system in the universe. A place where we feel whole. A place where we feel safe. Where memories are made, stored and shared forever. The family is our chance to have one group of people witness our life span. A place where we have the opportunity to work through our problems. The family can also be unsafe, unfriendly, and dysfunctional. In fact it can be flat out destructive!
A family is all encompassing just like in the macrocosm. The world is made up of opposites and only exists as such. The same is true of the family in the microcosm.
The biggest threat against the family is the human mind. A place within us that at any moment can switch from partnership to riding solo. To change from long term vision to short sightedness. To move from working things out to getting out. The mind, at its very core, can enter into a marriage for a number of reasons and then leave it for the same, without us even realizing it.
One has to be steadfast to hold a family together. The mind is impulsive. One has to sacrifice his or her little self for the good of the whole. The couple who starts a family no longer has the right to think of themselves first. They do not have the luxury of selfishness. Their only concern should be to focus on what is best for the children.
Over and over again I hear the cry from individuals within a marriage, or from one person in the partnership who claims that “it’s best for the kids that we opt for a divorce because I we are not happy”. That is how cunning the poacher’s mind works, speaking to him as he prepares for the death blow.
There is nothing more cruel and selfish than hurting our children through our childish pursuit of happiness. Modeling for them that sometimes vows have to be broken. Happiness comes through keeping our word. From facing adversity, through raising ourselves to our highest heights. Happiness does not come from saying, “I no longer am in love with you”. That “I don’t have this in me any longer”. Or that “my needs have changed” and “I am no longer attracted to you”. Or maybe that, “we are better off being just friends”.
Whatever the mind produces, it is nothing but a lie in order to procure whatever it is after and the cost/ratio to the payoff is enormous. However, even those that claim to have made the best decision and are happier now, in reality the agitation just shifted.
One may “feel better” but not be better. The prison is the same. The cell may be nicer and the amenities more suitable. But a prison is a prison!
As I keep walking, I realize that during our journey as parents and couples we often forget why we are in it. We become distracted by all the challenges; the aches and pains, the fatigue that comes from managing the entity and trying to get “ours”. Sometimes the trail ends, and we think ” well this is it”. However, just as the trackers forged a new trail extending the path they were on supporting their goal, we, as families, can do the same. We can cut through the dense jungle of the mind. Chop down the branches that impede us. Whack the vines that tangle us and knock down the bushes that cloud our vision, keeping us from seeing where we are going.
The trackers used machetes to accomplish their task in Africa. We must use our Intellect to slash through our mind’s devices that thwart us from holding our family together.
I keep thinking about how much effort the poachers put into destroying these gorillas. I cry thinking about the destruction I have witnessed this year. The brutal murder of an incredible family, devastates me.
I realize that my children and I are suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But we are not alone. There are millions of families that have experienced what we are experiencing.
But unlike the gorillas that are defenseless in a shrinking jungle with growing brutality, we, as humans, can rise above the vicissitudes of the world and forge out a safe haven. where not even poachers of the worse kind can touch us. For the children who have been hurt by divorce, they can have the same opportunity, if we as parents show them the way.
In the end there is much that separate us from the gorillas. The most important one is our ability to go through trauma, and to out-maneuver our greatest predator, the human mind.