Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Roughly two weeks ago I received a call from my father. He had been to the hospital again only this time he did not recover per the usual and they had released him to hospice. I couldn’t even make it through the call. That word. Hospice. My God. I was gripped with pain and grief so immediate and so violent, I felt my ribs pull apart, my heart collapse in on itself and all of the air inside me fled into this sound… I don’t even know what that sound was. Something deeply silent escaping through a mouth stretched open to its limits baring teeth and gums punctuated by small gasps of wailing anguish. Yeah, something like that.
I was at work. That kinda sucked.
I spent the next 24 hours indulging the grief. Descending into a desperately insane neediness, begging for someone to come and fix it. Make it feel better. Now! Anyone. Anyhow. I didn’t care! The rawness of the emotion fiercely intense and completely impossible to ignore. I even considered a chemical solution. A pill, a drink, a joint. Not to get high… but the oblivion of it. The relief that the darkness of blackout brings. Dangerous territory.
Then all of a sudden this thought came. Not even a thought. A word. God. It slowly descended upon my consciousness in a wave of peace gently erasing all that crazed terror in its path. My heart and my mind cleared. Serenity and sanity prevailed. I saw that I was suffering from a severe form of self-centered fear. I was afraid of losing my dad. I simply didn’t know how I would do life without him. He is my rock, my foundation, my everything. Me! Me! Me! Did it matter that he might be in pain? That he might be suffering? That his quality of life may have been so compromised that he was no longer even himself? Selfish!
I am forever the champion of allowing everyone their journey with the universe. Of trusting the universe and It’s Divine Wisdom implicitly. Except it would seem when it came to Dad’s transition. For some reason I seemed to think that I get to have a say in that one. I saw then that this was just like every other moment in my life when I simply had to trust. Trust that my father and God could make this decision without the benefit of my input. In reality this had nothing to do with me. My job was to support him and love him and be present for him in this moment. Nothing more.
It was then that I found myself in a state of merciful grace which upheld me and carried me through this journey. I was now being carried by God and I knew it. For the first time I understood, really understood, what it meant to have God work through me and for me. The pain remained but was accompanied by a state of peace so deep and complete that the pain no longer moved me. Instead, I began to move it. With conscious intention it was acknowledged, valued, breathed into and purposefully breathed right back out.
I got into action. Calls were made, information was gathered, flights were booked. Then another call came. “Rachel, it’s worse than we thought. He wants to die. I’m not sure he will hang on much longer. The doctor says it could be tonight. You better come right away.” Once again I was overtaken. Sobbing.
Will I not even have the opportunity to say goodbye to my most beloved relationship? This man did not just father me. He saved my life. He loved me when no one else would. He never, ever turned his back on me. Not in the depths of my addiction. Not when I stole from him, mistreated him, yelled at him, abused him. Not ever. He only ever welcomed me back home with open arms and a loving heart. He loved me right where I was and never expected anything more or less than I was willing to give. His love was never accompanied by strings, expectations, guilt, or grievances. He is the very definition of unconditional love. And now he is going away forever. Will I make it in time?
A friend reminded me that the God was in charge of that. Big sigh of relief. Oh that’s right. I forgot again. My job is to take the next indicated step and leave the rest of it to God. I’m not in charge here. This is not about me.
Flights were rearranged. It was then that I really began to think of his legacy. What is the gift my father leaves with us? How have we all benefited from knowing him? What can I do to honor him every day? I realized that he treated almost everyone with the same amount of compassion and love that he gave to me. In fact, there was an entire team of people back home in Miami that were running around like mad to do everything possible for him. They were advocating for him, moving him into their home, making his arrangements, watching over him, sitting up with him, feeding him, making sure I was being kept in the loop, wishing and praying every moment, right along with me, that he not be taken from them just yet.
I hopped on the plane and I began to ask God what It would have me be in this situation. What could I bring? What could I give? The prayer of St. Francis came to me. I clearly saw that my purpose was not only to be there for my father but to also be there for the people that love him and are so willing to give every last bit of themselves to care for him. All of their time, all of their resources, all of their energy. I was to be a bringer of love, peace, light and comfort to the very best of my ability. I was to face calamity with serenity and I was to do my best to keep God at the center of this experience.
I arrived in Miami on Tuesday morning at 7am and left on Friday at noon. The events that transpired over the course of those 3+ days have left me filled with an incredible sense of the Universe always at work… in every breath, moment, experience, person… in every everything. The sheer volume of “God shots” or “Godincidences” cannot even be recounted. I can’t even remember them all! There were so many, one right after the other. I carried with me this persistent sense of being guided and directed in a story the Universe had already written. A story which was brimming with the power of love and the effect of faith.
In fact, it began on the car ride from the airport. Having just come off a red eye, being exhausted and needing to get awake we made coffee a priority. Luckily Miami produces a coffee that is the equivalent of rocket fuel. Cuban coffee (Colada), is so potent it comes with a stack of shot glasses. We made a beeline for the nearest gas station (Yes, that’s right. This delicious nectar can be found at just about any gas station!) More importantly, I walk through the door and the very first person I see is J. Who is J? Well let’s see… long-time family friend and top notch member of the daddy recovery team… that’s who. And what is J doing at this completely random gas station in Miami that is not anywhere near where my father is? Why… he’s there to get me coffee!!
I’m sorry… WHAT?!
It was like this the entire time. It never ended. The constant reminder that God is at work, that everything is being taken care of, there is nothing to worry about, everything is happening exactly as it should.
I finally arrived at the location where my father had been moved to. Even though he almost didn’t survive the move it had to be done. My dad is poor. Like really poor. He lived by himself in the equivalent of a shack that got robbed at least once a month. He just couldn’t be left there anymore. So another friend offered her home and resources to him. A beautiful four bedroom home on the water with plenty of space not just for dad… but for his entourage that came right along with him. Just so happened that daddy got his own room, with his own bathroom and two extra beds in the room for my oldest son and I to sleep on. It all worked perfectly.
Another friend had taken charge of tracking medications, nurses, aides, social workers, agencies, medical equipment and had taken it upon herself to stay up with him all night keeping watch. She had written everything down and had it all ready for me so that I could jump right in.
J had taken charge of errand running, packing up dad’s house, and handling general affairs. Yet another friend brought food, kept dad company and took charge of planning the arrangements for his final transition.
Despite the complete selflessness of his friends I could see right away that they were stressed and exhausted. I could tell the fear was weighing on them just as it had on me. I could feel their worry and the effect that it was having. They were getting worn down by it and some defects of character were coming out to play. Things were getting a little tense. All pretty normal in a situation like this but I knew that I was here to offer relief. I could see that behind the tension was fear and behind the fear was a loyalty of love so fierce they were willing to sacrifice themselves (and put up with each other! LOL) in service to my father. He had loved each and every one of them the exact way he had loved me. I understood how they felt. It didn’t take much to release the tension and restore some balance. A gentle reminder of how my father loved us all and the suggestion that we should all love each other in exactly the same way was all that was required.
Everyone kind of started to chill out. We worked together to care for dad and to facilitate the non-stop stream of visitors that came to see him. I heard “Your father saved my life.” at least fifty times in those three short days. The outpouring of love and service from his community flowed through the home like a torrent carrying with it a healthy dose of good vibes and healing energy.
On Wednesday afternoon I received a message. A good friend and spiritual practitioner from my church was stranded at the airport in Miami and needed a place to stay.
I’m sorry, WHAT?!
I hopped in the car and got him straight away. Upon our arrival to the house I received a slew of calls and felt myself beginning to succumb to my temper. I hung up the phone and practically dragged my friend outside for prayer. There we sat in the warm drizzling rain holding hands, talking and praying. I am so very human and full of all of my own failings and so the Universe aligned to provide me with exactly what I needed, right when I needed it to keep me on the beam.
That evening we were all out in the living room. A motley crew of loved ones coming together from all the parts and pieces of me and dad’s life filling this home with love and holding a space of healing and joy. We were laughing, joking, talking and being loud because we refuse to take anything to seriously, even death. All of a sudden we look up and who’s standing there? Daddy. Hands on his hips, twinkle in his bright blue eyes, looking around and checking out the action. Everyone cheered! He didn’t stay for long. Just a minute then he had to make his way back to bed. But I knew it right then. He was going to be okay. I collapsed against the wall and sobbed. Big, huge, gushing sobs of relief and gratitude.
He improved just a bit each day that I was there and by the time I left we had gone from making plans for his final arrangements to making plans for his long term care. I had thought that I would return home with a broken heart but instead returned with a heart full to bursting with love, hope, awe and gratitude. I find myself cemented in the knowledge that the Divine Plan is so much smarter than my own. I know in the very depth of my soul, in that secret place where Truth makes its home, that my father’s recovery is entirely the result of the outpouring of love and support from his family and community. My father has given so much love to others and his efforts came back to serve him. This is the way the Universe is always at work. If we pay attention we can always see it. We can find the Divine Plan at work in every nook and cranny of our experience. It is always there waiting to be noticed.
It should be said that my father is an atheist. He does not believe in God and if he ever reads this post it will be accompanied by quite a bit of eye rolling, I can assure you. He too is so very, very human and that is my favorite thing about him.
Before he fell ill my father had a daily practice of sending “good morning” messages out to a whole slew of people. It was a thing. We all talked about it and joked about it and when they stopped coming I felt a sense of loss at their absence. Before I left I reminded him not to forget his “good morning” service work. I let him know I fully expected to see one soon.
This morning I got it. The first one.
“Morning. Think I’m getting better.”
“I am the miracle.” – Buddha
On March 23rd I celebrated 14 years free from alcohol and drugs. Each year when this landmark date passes I take the time to consider the journey. And it has been a journey. I wish I could say that all I had to do was put the substances down and get on with life. That was not the case for me.
There has been a lot of work to do over the past 14 years and for the most part I have been up to the task. What really struck me when I took the time to think about this 14th year was just how big my God truly is. I hold God entirely responsible for my sobriety. I know that I would not be sober without this Power. But to be perfectly honest putting the booze down was not the hardest part for me; living without it has been the hardest part. When I got sober it was never my intention to become a better person, a person of faith or even happy and successful. I just wanted to quit drinking! But in my efforts to stay sober what I have gotten in return is the opportunity to overcome all of my demons. Not just substance abuse but anger, fear, guilt, selfishness, dishonesty, and every other human failing you can think of.
I look back and I can honestly say that I have embraced that opportunity. I have faced my demons as squarely as possible and with all the courage I could muster. However, some very deep things have continued to linger on. In another post: Intersections I describe in detail one of those things. And in yet another: Found Here I also describe another of those long struggles. What I realized is that this year… BOTH of those things have FINALLY been relieved!!
I wish I could express to you how many times I have just wanted to throw in the towel. I have thought on so many occasions “I will NEVER really get over this. I will NEVER be truly free of it.” I have had many professionals and laymen fully support that notion. I have been told “No, you probably never will be 100% free from this hurt.” And yet, here I am. Totally free. And not just free… GRATEFUL!! Grateful for the opportunity that all of my life experiences have given me.
This year I have experienced levels of forgiveness and peace that I have never thought possible. I have had deep realizations of Wholeness which have completely shifted the way I see myself and the world. My understanding of God’s universe and my place in it has been revolutionized. Again! I continue to be in awe of how spiritual progress is always at hand; it is never done so long as I continue to work for it. The miracles never seem to stop coming. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve this ridiculously blessed life.
I am not a rich person. I don’t have an “easy” life. I struggle with life on life’s terms just as much as anyone: I get short on cash, my kids get sick, my car breaks down. But what I do have is FREEDOM. Despite everything that has been done to me and everything that I have done to others, each night I get to lay my head on my pillow with peace of mind and a quiet heart. I get to look my children right in the eye and when I look in the mirror I can look myself in the eye. My heart is filled with love and all I ever want to do these days is help others and bring love as much as I can to the people around me.
I have no idea when this angry, hateful girl consumed with selfishness turned into the woman I have just described but I know it has happened. Others have told me that they see it too. We have a saying in our fellowship: Don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens! I have thought many, many times “It’s never going to happen for me. I’m just too damaged.” I’m so grateful that I never gave into that thought. I have been healed. I have been restored to the knowledge of Wholeness that was my Reality all along.
If you are struggling with your own demons I hope my story can give you hope. Never give up on yourself. Keep the faith! Hold the line! Miracles happen. Every. Single. Day. They have happened for me. DON’T LEAVE BEFORE THE MIRACLE HAPPENS FOR YOU!!!
When I was 18, I was pretty much a loser. I won’t bore you with all the details but in a nutshell I was a strung out drug addict, in an abusive relationship, barely graduated from high school, living in a less than desirable situation and I was pregnant. I had little hope and no ambition. I was resigned to a life in the gutter. Perfectly content to mete out whatever kind of awful life I could until finally, I died of an overdose or was killed in some unfortunate circumstance. Not really the kind of girl anyone was looking to bring home to mom or really bring anywhere for that matter.
Hold on! Hold on! I already know what you’re going to say. You were not a loser. You were sick. You suffered from a disease. If that’s true then it follows that there is no such thing as a loser. Arguments could certainly be made in that direction. But let’s just say, for the sake of this article, that losers exist. And if losers exist then at the tender age of 18 I met every qualification available for that designation.
Fast forward nineteen years. I have battled my demons, raised my kid, went to school and became fully employed. I pay my own bills and take full responsibility for myself and my kids. I am not looking for anyone to save me because I have already saved myself. I am a smart, funny, happy, resourceful and empowered woman. I am even fairly emotionally balanced. In other words-NOT A LOSER. I am about as far from a loser as it gets. I am a winner! And I have been for quite some time now. In fact, the one and only area that I might not consider myself a winner in is my romantic relationships.
You see, I’m what you might call a serial monogamist. I switch relationships about every 2-3 years without much of a break in between. Each time I inevitably choose a man who is completely inappropriate for me in some way. For example not one of my last four relationships was a fully self-supporting dude. They were all living off of someone in some way. For a single mom, this should be a red flag. But not for me. Paint it green I say!! Full steam ahead!
My father has been telling me since I had my first child that any guy I date should have a job, a car and his own place to live. “Bare minimum requirements.” he says. And it always sounds like good, reasonable advice to me. I mean, it IS reasonable advice. Uh. Until that cute guy with the winning smile and a sad story to tell comes along. Then it suddenly seems to me that a car, a job and a place to live might be too much to ask. Do you not see how vulnerable he is?!
There are always all kinds of red flags. They are there staring me down right from the beginning. Things like: He’s 50 years old, been married three times and lives with his mom. (I married that one! HA!) I ignore them. I rationalize them away, make excuses or use “compassion” as a tool to make these things ok. I think to myself “I’m a crazy druggie with a kid. Who the hell is gonna date me anyway? Not those awesome guys over there with their shit together. Guys like that don’t date girls like me.” In all sincerity, I married that one guy because I was turning thirty and I was sure that no one else would ever want to marry me anyway. And besides, he seemed nice enough!
And he was. He wasn’t a bad guy. Only a couple of them have been truly awful. Most are perfectly nice guys that were simply not a good match from me right from the start but that I insisted on dating because I somehow missed the part of my life where I became a winner. A clear and present lack of knowing my own worth.
Over the holidays I was laying on the couch with my new baby. I was cuddling him and looking at what a precious and perfect little thing he is and for some reason I had a very deep realization of my worthiness. I realized that I deserve, as much as anybody, to be happy. I am worthy of every desire of my heart and that includes a partner that is a good match for me. I am no longer that 18 year old girl. I haven’t been for a really long time.
I have been operating all these years from the consciousness of that 18 year old girl instead of from the consciousness of my current 37 year old self. Get current. That’s exactly what I needed to do. Current with who I am today instead of living from who I used to be. It was time to stop making choices based upon this idea that I was not worth anything more than what I had been settling for all these years. It was time for me to catch up!
I also realized that I had been causing all of these men a great harm by not operating from my current self. Doesn’t the worthiness of each of these men also demand that they be partnered with someone who is choosing them from a place of worthiness? Why should they be stuck with someone who is settling for less than what is perfect for her? They too get to be with their perfect partner and I am sitting here taking them up and keeping them from their potential happiness.
My dad has another piece of advice he likes to give me. Don’t be with the wrong one when the right one comes along. I am their wrong one and they are mine. It is up to me to release the relationship the moment I see that this is the case and not a minute later. Or else I may be robbing us both of our ultimate happiness.
“In life, we each walk our unique path, and yet, our paths intersect; through time, circumstance, tragedy, accomplishment, and spiritual evolution.” – Rev. Joshua Reeves
At church this month Rev. Josh has been focusing on intersecting paths, those places in our journey where some person or event comes along and forever changes us. As I think back through my life I can easily identify all of those intersecting lines. I can see all of the people, situations and events which have crossed paths with my own and left me different in some significant way.
It is easy enough to celebrate the good stuff. Things like the birth of my children, being released from the bondage of addiction, and meeting each of my spiritual mentors are all things that spring to mind as life changers and are immediately met with a great surge of joy and gratitude.
But what about the not-so-great stuff? That stuff leaves you changed too. How do I honor or even feel gratitude for the so-called “bad” stuff? Truthfully there has been so much of that on my journey. These things are just as much a part of who I am today and my experience of this lifetime. So I think it is equally important to pay attention to these intersecting lines as well. They are admittedly more painful to recall and can certainly be harder to appreciate, but I love who I am today and the fact is… these experiences count as a part of that. They count for a lot! In fact, one of the most altering events of my life was a pretty awful one.
When I was 11 years old I went to live with my father and his girlfriend K. Let’s just say that K was not a nice lady. I spent the next year enduring levels of physical, sexual and psychological abuse that no child should ever hear about much less experience first-hand. In the spring of the following year the authorities finally stepped in and forcibly removed me from the home. At that time all the hair had been cut off my head, I was severely malnourished, covered in welts and bruises, my nose was broken and pus was leaking freely from the wounds to my eardrums. I would need three surgeries to repair some of the more grievous damage. The doctors proclaimed that they had no idea how I had survived the roadmap of abuse they saw on my body. But as anybody who has been through something like this could tell you, it is the psychological scars, the ones you can’t readily see that affected me the most.
After I was finally freed from K, the following months were spent in and out of examinations, evaluations, depositions, court hearings and interviews. It was a whirlwind of appointments and activities which led to absolutely nothing. K was never prosecuted. Eventually my mother was able to earn custody again and I was sent home from foster care. By the time I was 13, life had gotten back to “normal.” My hair was already down to my shoulders.
But of course, I was changed. Forever. My path intersected with K’s and I would never be the same. All that was left was a big black hole. Nothingness. A bleak fog of hopeless apathy descended and was followed by 10 good years of drunken, rage-filled self destructive behavior. I often say that during this time drugs and alcohol saved my life. They were the only thing that made life worth living.
Eventually I got sober. I learned to take responsibility for who I am today and to stop blaming the past for the present. I found God. I was able to take my experiences and use them to help others. I crawled out of that pit of hopelessness and despair and found Life. With a capital L!! Healing from my intersection with K has been a long, hard road. There has been a whole lot of trudging with small leaps of progress where a ray of light beams itself straight into my soul and I can actually feel a shift towards forgiveness. But those are kind of rare. Really, it’s just been trudge, trudge, trudge!
A few years ago the ear infections started up again and I once again had to face up to my past. I went to a series of doctors and finally a few months ago I found one that seemed to have a real answer. It looked like I would be facing surgery again. 25 years later and I am still dealing with the consequences of this woman’s path crossing mine. The anger welled up in me in a way that it hadn’t since I was young in sobriety. I knew I had to move through this resentment because it would poison me if I didn’t. But man was I pissed!! I was so SICK of this woman being in my heart, in my head and in my soul. These black patches of emptiness that I kept having to battle through over and over and over. UGH! When would I ever be rid of her?!
I was stuck. Big time. I could not seem to pull myself out of the quicksand the way I usually do and it was eating me alive. Finally, a friend suggested that I write K a good-bye letter. I balked for a good three weeks. If I were being real I would tell you I was kind of enjoying my justifiable rage. It was providing a sense of power over a situation which had once again left me feeling completely powerless. But I knew that this power was a false one. Like fool’s gold it draws me in with the glimmering promise of salvation only to leave me bankrupt and empty.
So I sat down to write the letter. I assumed it would be full of hate and rage and cussing. Lots and lots of cussing! But it wasn’t. Instead I found myself speculating about what motivated her to do such awful things to a little girl. I started thinking about all of the horrible things that this woman must have endured herself in order to become the monster I knew. I started to see her as a human being, once a little girl full of innocence that somewhere was lost. I saw her as a child of God, as a sister. I experienced a sense of Oneness with her. I thought about all the pain she too must battle with every single day and I felt compassion. I realized that she was just like me. That she felt all of the things that I felt. That she had been through everything that I had been through.
Then I started thinking about the people who did these things to her. Suddenly I could see the whole line of pain reaching back through the generations beginning with some long ago forgotten hurt. I saw how that pain was transmitted from person to person. Passed on along from him to her to him to her to me. I knew then that K was simply the unwitting vehicle of dark energy that had been given to her and being spiritually blind as she was, she had no choice but to transmit that darkness to me.
And that is when I saw the tremendous impact of that intersection. You see, everything I really love about myself I discovered as a result of that meeting. I discovered my true strength, my tenacity, my courage, my insistence that I enjoy every bit of my life, my honesty, my compassion and empathy for others, my relationship with God and most importantly my ability to help others just like me. K had given me her darkness and with the help of many friends and God’s power I transformed it into Light. Now that energy is transmitted from person to person as a healing and it multiplies exponentially throughout the world.
I told K in the letter, that she didn’t need to worry anymore. That it stopped with me. That a miracle had been performed within me and all of her darkness is now nothing but Light. What else could such a transformation be if not a miracle? I felt grateful that I had been chosen for this transformation. I set her free and by doing so I set myself free.
Today I live in Love and Light. The darkness is gone. Whenever I think of K these days I only think of the miracle. I meet this intersection with all of the same joy and gratitude that I do the “good” ones. This intersection changed me. Forever. It helped me realize who I truly am: A vehicle for miracles, a transmission line for the Power of Good.
I am admittedly a socially awkward person. I’m not great at picking up on social cues, I have a tendency to say whatever inappropriate thing is on my mind at any given time and I seemingly lack that social genius of intuitively knowing how to navigate new people/situations. Where I really excel is in making entire groups of people very uncomfortable. At the same time, I find myself to be the most entertaining, awesome and intelligent person I know. As a result, I am astonished that anyone speaks to me more than once and equally confounded that I am not EVERYONE’S best friend for life! HA!
Truth is, I would ditch this whole friendship thing if not for the fact that I guess I get lonely. As it turns out I am no Paul Simon. I am neither a rock, nor an island. In reality, I crave human connection. Also, I really like to laugh and as entertaining as I find myself, it gets kind of boring to sit around laughing at yourself all day, every day. Plus, some people might misunderstand and try to lock you up for stuff like that! I’ve already been to the hooskow. After the first few days it’s not all that great.
I moved out here five years ago and when I landed I set out to make friends. From scratch. I felt that I had really grown into myself over the previous few years and got this whole friend thing figured out. That I should be able to bag all the friends I could ever want. After all as I have already stated, I am awesome.
And I do have friends. I do. Sometimes I get really dramatic and try to act like I am utterly friendless. But it’s not really true. More true is that not one single friend in my life seems to have come with operating instructions. Or a label. Or something. I get really confused and mislabel these unsuspecting women all the time. I constantly find myself not giving one friend enough credit while at the same time demanding that another friend be something they simply are not. The problems likely begin from the get-go.
You see what I like to do is target a female from across the room and decide they are my new BFF! When she refuses to cooperate because … well let’s be honest that approach is just a tad bit creepy… but also, perhaps she already has enough close friends. Or maybe she is a very busy person and has no space in her life for a new friend. Whatever the reason, I become really, really insulted and decide that she must hate me! Thus setting off a long and tedious internal monologue about why she hates me and why I should just hate her right back. This pretend judge-fest can go on for years.
Once I manage to snare a friend she is now my hostage for life. She is never permitted to grow, change, be friends with others or *gasp* decide that she likes someone better than me. She is my forever friend!! Whether she likes it or not!! This attitude eventually leads to horribly one sided friendships where I am chasing the poor girl around acting the martyr while she is simply moving on with her life. Thus setting off a long and tedious external monologue repeated to anyone who will listen which details all of the reasons why this person is a horrible friend.
I keep finding myself caught between these two types of relationships and in the meantime some other perfectly lovely woman is attempting to invite me to coffee. But I am so distracted by the internal chaos I have created with these other relationships that I seem to miss that entirely. After all, it’s so light and effortless. That can’t mean much. Real relationships are dramatic and intense. I mean, I think we have all seen Thelma & Louise. If you are unwilling to commit murder and drive off a cliff for me then you are clearly not a very good friend!
Anyway, I find myself full of all this resentment with these fabricated friendships while missing all the joy of the blossoming friendships that are all around me. And what I realized the other day is that I am suffering from a mislabeling problem.
Many years ago a wise friend gave me this analogy:
When you place your cup of tea on a saucer, what you find is that the saucer is absolutely perfect for the function it is performing. It is the perfect piece of china to hold a cup of tea. You appreciate the saucer for exactly what it is. You are grateful for how perfectly it fulfills its purpose. What you do not do is attempt to place a rack of ribs on the saucer and then get angry with it because it breaks or the ribs fall off. After all, it’s a saucer and not a platter. It is not made to hold a rack of ribs. And in fact, it would be extremely dishonest and inconsiderate of you to insist that this saucer perform the duty of a platter.
Some people are saucers and some people are platters. If I am able to correctly identify the purpose and role of the various people in my life I can then place appropriate boundaries and expectations on those relationships. I will find the relationships much easier to navigate. I can enjoy the friendships for what they are without the incessant hurt feelings and resentment. There is a whole set of china available to us in our lives. Each person has a role to play, a purpose to fulfill. The role can change or the purpose can become fulfilled and that piece of china can be removed from the set.
Sometimes I think that life would be so much simpler if each person, upon meeting, would simply state their function. “Hi, my name is _________ and I am interested in the role of saucer in this relationship.” That would sure clear a few things up right away. And then later, if things change, they could always say “I’ve decided that I no longer want to be a platter. I am changing my status to saucer.”
But of course relationships don’t work like that. People don’t work like that. The fact is that no one really knows what any meeting will evolve to. No one knows what their journey will look like tomorrow, much less a year, or ten from now. Most people step into each new experience with the best of intentions. The trick for me is to remain open. Open to change and experience. To remain in a state of allowing where I can experience each interaction and each moment to be exactly what it is at that given moment. When I simply honor the beauty of each relationship precisely as it is at that given moment, whether it be saucer or platter, I am always blessed with the sense of oneness and unity which what I have been truly seeking all along.
I know that I live under the government of good and am guided by Spirit. Therefore, I lay all trouble aside, seeking to look through it, beyond it, above it; to detach it from the realm of Reality, to separate it from any consciousness that belongs to me or to anyone else, regardless of what any problem of the moment seems to be.–Ernest Holmes
I’ve been off the beam for about a year and a half now. It definitely started during pregnancy. It was definitely hormonal. I figured once the baby came all would be well. Then the baby came and that veil of hormonal sourness left. In its place came a baby with medical issues, the holidays, what seemed like a non-stop stream of out of town visitors and then two excruciating months of the most intense loneliness that I’ve felt since childhood. So much for maternity leave. Thank God for work! At least I get to leave my house and talk to other humans.
The extreme loneliness left and its place came extreme exhaustion, an unrelenting schedule, unrealistic expectations, massive guilt trips from serving two masters, the complete inability to lose the baby weight and really ridiculous amounts of financial stress. We are so broke!
So here I am walking around in tattered clothing that only sort of fits, I only get to shower once every 3 or 4 days, I have no energy to keep my house clean, I sleep in my car on my lunch break and I fight a multiple-times-per-day battle to keep myself from breaking out into tears. That’s what my life looks like right now and the other day I stopped, I took a look around at my disheveled self and my disheveled life and I thought “Ya know what? I might be a little depressed!”
If you knew me then you would know that I don’t get depressed. Ever. So this was quite the revelation.
But I’ll tell ya what. I know that this depression is a spiritual one. I’ll tell you how I know. The situation has consistently changed throughout this time. I have rearranged, re-prioritized shifted around, outright abandoned and completely ignored entire pieces of the situation and the feeling has not changed. The situation has changed and changed and changed. But I have not. I keep saying “If only I could get this weight off. If only I could get a little more sleep in the morning. If only I could buy new clothes. If only… If only… If only.” Yet the feeling does not leave.
Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?—Alcoholics Anonymous
Yup. That’s me. For the past 19 months.
The good news is that I now know what the problem is and it’s a snap to identify the solution. Spiritual problem equals spiritual solution!
My steps to freedom are clear.
- Practice the precious present in my personal relationships. My children, my friends, my family and my relationship with God are the bright spots of my life. More quality time with them and less going through the motions. Make my minutes count.
- Less Facebook, more meditation. More chanting, praying, journaling and reading. Yesterday was Yom Kippur. A day of fasting, atonement and review. A fast from negativity. A fast from all things which do not nourish the spirit. A commitment to a daily period of time spent with Spirit is the best prescription. Atonement for allowing me to drift so deeply into the false notion of separation from Spirit and from my fellows will do wonders.
- Practice selfless service as often as possible. Nothing lifts the spirit like forgetting yourself while in service to others. I am not able to do service the way I have traditionally done so. Time to get creative! A smile, holding the door open, carrying a bag. There are a million little ways to bring a spot of joy into the lives of my brothers and sisters every day.
All my other troubles-the money, the schedule, the weight, the clothes, the house, the car, all the STUFF! That stuff I lay aside. I look through it, above it, beyond it. I leave it to dissipate in the Light.