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Today has been difficult.
More than three weeks since I last positively knew Jake was safe.
When I eat, I think, “Is Jake hungry?”
When I go to bed, I think, “Where is Jake sleeping?”
When it’s hot outside, I think, “Does Jake have water?”
He can’t borrow a phone. Is he disoriented?
Is he all right?
Is he all right?
I can’t turn it off.
If this had happened during the time he’d kept me at arm’s length, I wouldn’t even know he was missing.
But he texted, called, or visited nearly every day from late February onward.
I am bereft of the son I just got back.
I wonder if this is the beginning of a long, dark summer.
I see that gratitude starts with what you look for–and with the effort you’re willing to expend looking for the good. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have to close my eyes and first refocus mentally before I can see beauty with my eyes open.
I read about the Joy Dare here.
Today’s prompt is to find gifts in something written, something sung, and something painted.
A gift sung:
Listen to this and find peace in your afternoon:
A gift written:
By Henry Vaughan
A gift painted:
I recently decided to connect with other writers because I really need to mix with my kind. I need to be around those people who are obsessed with the craft–talking about it, writing about it, learning about it. And I need to connect with people who want to make a difference in the world in any small way. So I have been posting more regularly on Linkedin and Twitter, and one person made me realize that I was on the right path. She’s made me feel appreciated and valued, which has encouraged me to keep doing my small thing in this tiny corner of the universe.
Kristol, you’re a light in the darkness, and I thank you for nominating me for the Lighthouse Award. You’ve made a difference in my perspective in just the short time I’ve known you. Thank you.
Nominees, here are the sweet and simple rules:
- Display the award certificate on your blog.
- Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
- Share three ways that you like to help other people.
- There is no limit to the number of people you can nominate.
- Don’t forget to have fun!
3 help-y things I like to do:
- I help people find short-cuts. (On the road, I know the route with the fewest stoplights or left-hand turns because I hate circuitous routes. This impatience leads me to find short-cuts in every arena, not just on the road. This, I realize, is also a sign of laziness. And people do not always want to know these amazing short-cuts. lol)
- I help people find their voices in writing. I am able to set myself aside–my opinions, my voice, my knowledge, all of that Stacy-stuff–and I help people express what’s inside them in their own words. I thank God for this gift, and I hope to develop this skill to its fullest potential.
- I help people find THAT book. You know when you’re looking for a book that’s about that one thing, or that book that your sister read to you when you were in 1st grade, or any book that is about [insert your pet subject]? Sometimes I have the book (and give it to you via Bookcrossing) and other times I point you in the right direction, like I did in this post about romance authors’ pseudonyms.
The appearance of things change according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran
Be ugly, see ugliness.
Be merciful, see mercy.
Be deceitful, see deceit.
Be joyful, see joy.
Whatever we see out there is true within us.
My husband taught me something about love today.
We had a heated argument yesterday in which we showed all our dark colors.
You always! You never!
This morning, upon awakening, he mumbled, “Prayer works.”
I thought he was referring to the fact that I had relented and cuddled up to him in the middle of the night, but that wasn’t it.
He said, “I prayed that something would happen to make me let go of my anger because I knew I was the problem.”
Note: He was not the problem. We both were.
What surprised me was that he had not prayed for God to move my heart, or to change my perspective. He hadn’t prayed that I would relent.
He’d only prayed about his own attitude.
That little act was a mirror: I could see my own culpability, my own inflexibility, my own pride.
I don’t know how all this relates, precisely.
My goal is that the humility and mercy that reside in him will be evident in me when he looks at me.
Sometimes I only have a scent. Ivory Soap. Pine sap. Old Spice. It’s faint, like an afterimage, as Atwood writes in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Other times, I catch a memory when I noodle about something peripheral, like the weather of my childhood.
And other times, I am knocked into a pit by something that happens, like my son telling me he will not be seeing me again. As of this writing, I am 18 hours and 40 minutes from that revelation, and all I can think is, ‘if I’d known it was the last time I’d see him, I’d’ve lingered over dinner. I’d’ve drawn out the conversation, which would have been easy because our conversations have always been interesting. I’d’ve found some way not to be the mother who drives him crazy.’ Okay, nix that last one. I actually don’t know how to do that.
(He is not suicidal.) (And he doesn’t read my blog.)
There’s more to it. There always is. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about how present events harken back to old wounds.
I often identify old hurts by rooting around in the new ones (when I have the clarity to do so.) Today, in this fresh hell, I can identify the pain of many old things, but I will name only two:
1) giving my son up for adoption almost three decades ago, and
2) my mother washing her hands of me when I was 11, and again when I was 19.
So my next question for myself is, which pain am I feeling?
Here’s the thing: I have seen enough of life to understand its cycles. The grownup in me knows that nothing stays the same. So the enormous pain I feel is not just about my son walking away.
So what does this mean? How does the current issue illuminate the past hurt?
I see that by linking them I am telling myself the old story of abandonment, and that’s a story I’m done with. Being abandoned means I have no power. I’m not an abandoned waif, I’m a grownup, and I will not be undone by grief. I do leave my arms open for him should he return. But I also accept that it could be years, even decades, before that happens, if at all. My mother was dead ten years before I understood some things in our relationship, things about her.
I’m writing this because I am devastated and I have to work through this or go crazy. I have to be back at work on Monday and I can’t be dissolving every time something reminds me of my son. I have to see some meaning.
Still working on that.
What I do know is that I can model the grace I now recognize for myself. I can be thankful that he has new-found faith and that he is seeking his own right path. And I can trust that everything will be okay. Mostly. Still working on that, too.
I wrote a little about Shenpa in 2012, but I didn’t have a lot to say because, while I recognized it, I didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ll share the same quotes:
Shenpa is what Pema Chodron calls the hook. We each have different hooks but we all get hooked by attachment to outcomes, expectations, or regrets. It is emotionally painful and we suffer. Whatever the hook is, I have to let it go. I must remember that 100 years from now when I am dead and gone, it truly won’t matter. It won’t be important because all my actions will be in the past. Just as they are now while I am living, from moment to moment. Why hold on to the negativity? What matters now is being kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others. ~ Loran Hills ♥
I was just telling myself this yesterday: next year, it will not matter, these hurt feelings. I will be over them because my perspective will have changed. So why not fast-forward through the struggle and forgive NOW? Trust that my perspective will eventually have more understanding, that even if I don’t have it now, it will come, and I will not have caused more damage with resentment and hurt? Why hold on to it? Why am I attached to the hurt?
I don’t know why I’m attached to hurt feelings. I’m less so now than ever, but still. I recognize that staying in that space is a choice, and all I have to do to get out of it is to ask myself how much I want to be happy.
Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place— that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising.
Trying to root out shenpa is like trying to force a paradigm shift. You know you’re in a box, but you can’t find a seam to force your hand through.
It’s an irresistible itch. You get that your partner didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and you get that in the grand scheme of things it’s insignificant, but those hurt feelings…they’re more comfortable than happiness and peace because they’re familiar. You know what to expect, and the hurt fits the paradigm of abandonment and neglect and disillusionment.
Never mind that it’s been YEARS since you were abandoned.
I think shenpa is like the old rusted bike that got leaned against a sapling and was left there for the tree to grow around.
The only way to dislodge that bike is with an axe and chainsaw, and then you destroy the tree.
In dislodging that hooking point, it’s necessary that some part of ourselves is destroyed, but it’s only the part that doesn’t serve for the good.
I became aware of the tightening during my various attempts to quit smoking. I was trying to figure out why I smoked, and I discovered that I did it to shut my mouth. Better to inhale poison than to say what I thought. I was afraid that if I quit smoking, I would offend everyone around me when I said what I thought.
I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’ve offended people and I frequently wish I was more skilled in diplomacy, but I’ve also learned that not speaking is my choice,not something I have to force myself to do.
I’ve given myself the same permission to speak that I gave my children.
You know how in movies when a mother is hiding from the enemy and she has her child tucked tightly against her, and her hand is on his mouth to keep him from crying out? I think that when Mama silenced me when I was little, in some ways it was for my protection. This is how we do things in this family. We do not say what we think because it endangers us because the adults react. The tightening is both taught and embedded in us at an early age.
I will have to come back to this again.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this shenpa….
The bracelet works. It’s reminded me every day that my goal is to pray for those who annoy the crap out of me, who hurt my feelings, who –well, you get it.
I’ve had a week of challenges, and it’s been, what, 4 days? All I can do every day is shout at the bracelet that I am trying to pray, dammit, but I don’t want to….
…and every evening I read an update on Facebook from a couple whose daughter’s been in a terrible accident, and they’re working with her to regain basic abilities, and they end each post with 5 things they’re thankful for. Last night the Mom’s flight got delayed, so she has to work with very little sleep, and Dad is rejoicing because through some [unmentioned] grace he’s able to be with his daughter. Each step of their journey is grueling, yet each parent finds time to get on Facebook and share where the family’s at. And I was complaining about what…?
Today I’m thankful because:
- It’s Monday. A new day. A new week. Today I get to chart the week ahead.
- I got a beautiful night’s sleep last night.
- Yesterday my good friend, Lawna, gave me geranium essential oil (the scent makes me ridiculously happy.)
- Lawna is also going to make a special essential oil blend (an aphrodisiac!) for my wedding to share as favors.
- My fiance is collecting Veggie Tales videos for me. Those stories and characters delight the little kid in me, and this in turn delights Tom. I think that’s sweet and wonderful.
Last week I wore a bracelet to remind me to look for the good.
It was not easy. I found myself dwelling on worst-case scenarios every day, but the bracelet served its purpose: it did remind me to take my eyes off the negative for even a short time to consider what was good in the situation.
So now I have a new one. This one is also blue and gold, and it has tiny charms on it.
The area I’m focusing on this week is Acceptance. Right now, this means:
- Accepting people exactly where they’re at.
- Accepting the things I cannot change.
- Accepting change.
- Accepting responsibility.
(It may mean more by the end of the week. )
I was complaining to my fiance last night about some people I don’t want to deal with, and he said, “Honey, why don’t you pray for them?”
(my honest response)
But the suggestion is kinda like rhubarb.
Bitter at first, but really okay after you get used to it.
No, maybe it’s like chewing on aspirin.
Whatever. I got over my initial response, and have decided that the tiny charms on my bracelet will represent people who get under my skin or take up space in my head. Heck, I’m thinking of them anyway, right? Might as well pray for them.
I have since discovered that I don’t know how to pray for people I don’t like.
I am begrudgingly accepting that I don’t like them, and likewise accepting that I honestly do not want to pray for them.
So I’m starting with small steps: first I will look for change in myself that has resulted from rubbing against that sandpaper. What have I done as a result of my encounters with them?
A few months ago, I shined light on a problem of bullying in a public place. (I can’t get more specific than this, sorry.) This was not fully well-received. People really don’t want you upsetting the status- quo. (Actually, it might have been better-received than I know. I was very busy focusing on the negative. This was pre-bracelet, ok.
I had no horse in the race–I was not personally bullied by this person, but I have been told many stories since 2003 by people who HAVE been or who have dealt with the effects. I finally spoke up when I witnessed it first-hand at a major meeting. What I really wanted to do was to open a dialogue about bullying so that it could be openly discussed. This didn’t happen, and it discouraged me.
So I decided to find a way to incorporate anti-bullying into my composition class, at the very least so that I could build awareness, and again, open up the conversation. I have done this, and although I cannot know the full scope of influence this class will have had on my students, I know that I made a difference. And I did it because of that sandpaper. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
So I must be thankful for the sandpaper.
Ah. This is going to take some time.
Want to change your life?
Watch this video:
Remember: if you’re in your head, you’re behind enemy lines.
And remember the 5-second rule.