Notes on the Journey

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Gift of Loving Relationship

I'm exceptionally patient and understanding with people...until I snap.  And, once I snap, it's like a switch gets flipped, and I'm done.  I don't blow up or get confrontational, I'm just done.

Throughout my life, I've allowed those around me to get away with some very unacceptable behavior.  My tendency has been, and still is somewhat, to react to someone's potential.  I'm able to perceive who they're capable of being, even if they're not actually achieving that potential.  I'm also able to perceive the issues and limitations that keep them from that potential, which, in the past, has often meant that I've excused certain behavior because I'm able to see where it comes from.  But, no more.  I no longer feel a need to excuse anyone's behavior for any reason.  They can do whatever and be whomever they want, but I can choose to not be around them.

Age is an amazing thing.  As one gets older, one loses patience in a lot of ways with things that previously would have been accepted or overlooked.  I've stayed in relationships way longer than was necessary because I've made excuses for people and thought they would change.  But, it was me who needed to change.  Why did I want to be around unkind, mean-spirited and disrespectful behavior?  Why was I disrespecting myself by allowing such behavior to be okay?  Why was I concerned about hurting someone's feelings who'd just hurt mine?  Why was it so hard for me to speak up or walk away?

Someone I considered to be a friend said something inappropriate and unkind to me today.  It was said in an off-hand and casual manner.  When I spoke up about it, the person said they were joking, but they weren't.  And, even if they were, an unkind and inappropriate joke, at the expense of someone else's feelings, is still unkind and inappropriate.  No excuses.  Zero tolerance.  If they'd apologized and owned the unkind and inappropriate nature of what had been said, then we could have moved forward.  But, because it was side-stepped and the excuse was made of it being a joke, then we had no where to go.  It first made me angry and then, after the anger had passed, I felt sad.

It's not always easy to accept people for who they are.  It often means we have to move on when moving on wasn't what we had in mind.  But, being kind and respectful to myself is more important to me now than feeling I need to be patient with someone else, hoping they will change.  I've never been the most confident and secure person to start with.  I've worked very hard to achieve the confidence in myself that I have at this point in my life.  And, I now realize that it's too personally destructive to remain in relationship with anyone who would chip away at me due to their own issues.

It's important to treat each other with care.  We're all fragile in certain ways.  We all have triggers that can be set off by unthinking, unkind, and disrespectful remarks.  Our words have the ability to cut very deeply and, once said, are impossible to take back.  Once damage is done, it's done.  An apology helps if it's forthcoming, but we're wary after someone has hurt us.  Our walls start to go up and we step back.

Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.  But, kindness and respect often go by the wayside in familiar and comfortable relationships.  We're at our most vulnerable when we love someone and are in close friendship with them because we let down our guard around them, which opens us up to be hurt if the other person isn't careful.  We're especially vulnerable in close relationship because the other person knows our weak points, and if they choose to exploit them at our expense, it leaves us feeling hurt and betrayed.  Relationships are sacred and need to be valued and protected.  We must hold each others feelings and vulnerabilities very gently, and honor the trust it takes to reveal ourselves in the first place.

Loving relationships are supportive and nurturing.  They strengthen and increase us.  They help us see our own value, because we are valued within them.  They honor the sacred trust of personal revelation as the precious thing that it is.  May we all realize the gift of loving relationship and treasure it when we're blessed to have it.  May we all treat each other with kindness and respect.  May we lift each other up at every opportunity.  May we build bridges between each other instead of tearing them down.  And, may we take responsibility for our mistakes and transgressions, learn from them and strive to treat each other better.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Blessing of a Day

I sit in the quiet of the afternoon.  I can hear someone practicing the piano a few apartments away.  Hands striking the same few stanzas over and over.  Fingers and muscles memorizing the movements that make the desired sounds.  Ears tuning themselves to the slightest variations of tone.  I enjoy it.  I enjoy listening to someone trying over and over and over to get it right.  And, so much is electronic these days that the authentic, organic sounds of the piano keys hitting the strings is pleasing, no matter what is being played.

There is also the sound of a large truck's engine grumbling away on the street.  Who knows why the engine must continue to run for such a long period of time.  There is construction only a block away.  Every once in a while I hear the brakes let up and release in a loud puff of air, but the truck doesn't seem to move or leave.  Because I'm focused on the piano notes, the truck sounds fade into the background.

There are sirens blaring nearby.  I live in a neighborhood where there is a fire house a half block away and two hospitals within two blocks of me.  Sirens are a regular part of life.  I bless them when I hear them going off to help someone.  Who are they saving today?  Who are the angels who drive the ambulances and tend to the those who need help?  I was rushed to the hospital once by such angels.  I don't remember their faces, but I remember their hearts.  They were kind and efficient and so reassuring.  My asthma had gotten the best of me and I could barely breathe much less talk, but I struggled to thank them over and over.  I wanted them to know how grateful I was that they were there for me.  I hoped my eyes could tell them what my voice couldn't.

My cat, Sophie, is asleep on the bed in the next room.  Her quiet presence always there with me.  She's an extremely independent soul, who enjoys being alone most of the time, which is more of a reflection of myself than I care to admit.  Every once in a while, she comes to me, slinking silently by, rubbing my legs very gently, usually because she's hungry.  I bend to pet her as she passes and then dutifully get up to fetch her the food she's wanting.  She might then gift me with a visitation for a while, although more often, having gotten what she wanted, goes back to her nest on the bed.  She is my only remaining cat.  It's just the two of us now.  And, I'm grateful for her every day.

The piano player has changed his tune and another sequence of notes is repeatedly being attempted.  This time the effort is better rewarded and there is more continuous melody before it stops and starts again.  I admire the person's perseverance.  I can tell it's not a child, but an adult who plays.  Someone learning to play later in life.  Such learning is more difficult, but more rewarding.  I remember trying to learn to play the piano when I was a child and having no appreciation for it whatsoever.  I had no patience with the process and, after much complaining, my mother gave up on me and stopped the piano lessons.  I was happy about it at the time, but wish I'd continued as I look back.  How lovely it would be to have the ability to play the piano at this point in time, which is why I so admire the one who practices a few apartments away from me.  They are working toward a desire they've probably carried for a long time.

The sounds of hammering from the construction site have filtered their way into the mix my ears are enjoying.  I can hear lumber being placed.  And then, not the quick jolting pops that a nail gun makes, but the rhythmic sounds of a hammer being wielded by someone's hand.  It starts and stops, then helps a board into place, then secures it to its position with more nail pounding.  I wonder if those working on the construction project appreciate their progress on a daily basis.  There would be satisfaction in creating a building where people could live and work in comfort and safety.

Some days I'm more focused on things less immediately near me.  I might be more caught up in the past or in planning for the future or in thinking of all the things I'd like to get done.  But today is a slow, quiet day of being present in a way that I'm not always capable.  A day of noticing and appreciating the Life all around me.  A day when the Life around me feeds me instead of annoying me.  A day of gratitude for small and basic things.  A day when fear and concern have slipped away, all on their own.  The blessing of a day of peace and grace.  And, one of my constant, go-to prayers repeats within me the way the notes of the piano repeat...thank you, thank you, thank you.       

Friday, August 7, 2015

Creator Gods

I think we're all incredibly brave.  We choose to come here to this tiny blue planet on the edge of the Milky Way and live lives of extremes of joy and pain, of beauty and horror, of love and wonder.  We get up every day and go at it again, never knowing what the day holds, just trusting, putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward in spite of everything.

We're creator gods, even though most of us have lost our way and forgotten who we really are.  We get caught up in the small things that tend to make up a life, and forget that we're so much more.  I amaze myself at how focused I can become on the small things that are so insignificant in the scope of Life; not just the lives we've chosen to come here to live, but in the bigger arena of all Life.  And yet, it is often the small things that are so precious...the touch of a hand, the kindness of a stranger, the laughter of a child, the look of love from the eyes of one who shines their light upon us.

Even though I've squandered many of them, I do realize that each day is a gift.  These bodies are gifts, and the full experience of being human is a gift, even in the times when it seems to break us, even when we're confused and don't know how we can go on, even when we think we can't bear what we've been given to bear.  And yet, bear it we do.  Humans are ultimately such a resilient bunch.

I think some of us choose lives of ease and rest, and some of us choose lives of great difficulty.  And, it's not easy to understand the differences and the choices in our lives, and how things play out for each of us.  But, we've been given free reign of the full gamut of human experience, and what makes sense for any one of us does not necessarily make sense for anyone else.  We didn't come here to be the same, or to fit in, or to please anyone other than ourselves.  We came here to experience Life through the limitations and filters that this planet affords.  There are certain parameters to this hologram, this matrix, and we've chosen them for what they're able to teach us.

As creator gods, we're always responsible for our creations, we're never victims, things don't happen to us, they happen because of us.  This is a hard one for most of us.  Taking full responsibility and never blaming anyone or anything else for our experience is both a burden and a blessing.  But, it is also the ultimate freedom and the ultimate power.