One of the qualities that you can develop, particularly in your older years, is a sense of great compassion for yourself. When you visit the wounds within the temple of memory, you should not blame yourself for making bad mistakes that you greatly regret. Sometimes you have grown unexpectedly through these mistakes. Frequently, in a journey of the soul, the most precious moments are the mistakes. They have brought you to a place that you would otherwise have always avoided. You should bring a compassionate mindfulness to your mistakes and wounds. Endeavor to inhabit the rhythm you were in at that time. If you visit this configuration of your soul with forgiveness in your heart, it will fall into place itself. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. You come in out of the exile of hurt into the joy of inner belonging.
Excerpt from ANAM CARA
I am now, and have always been, in love with the written word. As a young student of literature I was enthralled with Early American Literature and most specifically with my professor. She was small, but she was fierce. In the classroom and beyond, she represented a picture of something I aspired to as a twenty something in the late 80s. Her passion for teaching, for inspiring and challenging her students drove my studies and I longed to write in such a way as to have her approval. She taught my Early American Lit class and, not surprisingly, my favorites were The Scarlet Letter and, what many call the greatest novel of all, Moby Dick. Little did I know how the themes of the great white whale would weave their way through my life. At the beginning of my fifth decade on this spinning ball I was brought back to Moby Dick again and again. The corruption of power, the misuse of religion, greed, vengeance, and pride rolled through it like stampeding elephants, but there were also redemptive pieces that resonated with me in an altogether odd and delightful way. There are myriad quotes that have connections to my life, but one that resonates now as much as decades ago, "It is not down in any map, true places never are," in reference to the home of Queequeg, Ishmael's unlikely soul mate. I have found this simple truth throughout my life, truth, which humanity longs for in every facet of life, is only partially knowable, and definitely not certain. The mystery of life, humanity, God, faith and connection is as Rokovoko, not down in any map. Each of us can only know our own truth and it is my life's work to know my own and help others on their journey toward their own.
It is a profound truth in its purest form. Every human is a reflection of the divine whether we, through our warped lenses, can readily make out that image. It is the baseline of how we treat one another regardless of the clutter and chaos between us. I have what a friend once called a “dark gift,” that is, a bullshit meter, and coupled with my uneven maturation it can blind me in relationships. I look out, and I see people, and in doing so, I can hold up a shield when their knowing glance comes back toward me. Call it projection or deflection; it thwarts connection. The protection is not flimsy; its strength is from years of the melding of sorrow, fear, vigilance mixed with strength, resilience, and courage. It has served me well, especially in my youth, a beautiful and necessary role, but in my mid-life, it often cuts off the light of others leaving only the dark shadow of their edges as it diffuses my light, leaving others only able to see shades of who I might be. I read the dark edges as tea leaves like a half-blind diviner and conjure tales of rejection and disdain, even disgust at times. All while refusing vulnerability to the other. There are times it feels like a superpower, and in truth, it can be just that, but only when I let the light through in the present moment allowing theirs to pierce and melt and mine to shine freely without fear of its effect. To look for the light and be the light. To breath the freedom of that light. To read the darkness in the clarity of truth from their light and mine, seeing and being seen.
I have been paying for this website for over a year now. I have known what I wanted to call it for roughly seven years. I have struggled to decide how or when to move forward, and I think I know enough of myself to understand why. I have spent far too much emotional energy, precious mental capacity and even deep spiritual excavating trying to name 'the dream.' I see my life experience, my relationships, my past failures and successes and know in every part there is good, yet I keep looking to name a purpose for my life. Someone said some things to me a couple of weeks ago. Honestly, the person does not know me at all, few interactions, a few emails, but because they have explored the wide-open world of social media, they feel an imagined intimacy that gives them a voice. Based on their feeling of knowing, they very deftly told me who I was and who I was not. I, like a deer in headlights, faced with their seeming certainty, said little and allowed my silence and lack of rebuttal to confirm their confident statements. I was caught off guard that someone who knows so little of my life, of me, would make such deliberate statements, but then again, I spent the good part of my life discounting my inner voice. Old patterns still playing out in my life, but there is something different now. I see the patterns, I've worked diligently to develop my inner observer and countless hours, days, weeks working towards a better understanding of my ego and how it rules the day when I am negligent in paying attention, being mindful. After a three-hour car ride, right after my conversation with this person, I was keenly aware of what was truth and what was projection. Not entirely, but in the big spaces in my soul, I recognize truth and have learned to walk my way back to it. The conversation has proven itself an excellent prompt for larger self-evaluation, and that is why I am writing here today.
I have used the criticisms to remind me of edges that need attention in my inner world that can often injure those in my outer world. I have also used them to remind myself of who I am, who I am not and what I know. I watched a friend win a prize, which for reference, would be the Grammy of the music world or the Oscar of the film world. It was well-deserved, and words from her acceptance hung in the air and followed me around the last couple of days. She voiced what we all feel throughout our lives, to varying degrees, and from varying sources, self-doubt. Then she bravely said, "I know exactly who I'm not and who I am and knowing what I know, I am all the more honored to be here." The clarity of knowing our truth and being able to hold tight to that thread even in the middle of the tangle of both well-meaning and toxic perspectives from others is liberation. Then, yesterday, Brené Brown shared a quote from Viola Davis bringing it all to a divine point for me. When speaking about criticism and whether or not to brace yourself by developing thick skin, Davis says, "I don't want that. Thick skin doesn't work anymore. I want to be transparent and translucent. For that to work, I won't own other people's shortcomings and criticisms." Amen.
In celebrating my amen to this truth, I am writing today. I am choosing transparency over the thick skin, not because I am not flawed, but because I am. Mother's Day moves me for many reasons, both joyful and sorrowful. But this year, I am reminding myself when I begin to let the insidious self-critique loose in my mind, I will pause and walk my way back to the truth. Part of this truth is - I am a life-giver. I have given life to my three biological children, and I have given life in myriad ways to those who have come and gone and come and stayed in my life. This reminding is not to puff up, but to create rest as I consider moving forward into this second half of life. Resting in having lived my purpose, my dream, over and over and over again, day after day, life after life, whether there be a book, a business, or a livelihood to show for it. Instead of reminding myself of the degrees I did not get, pursue or finish, I will rest in pain I have shared, or as Frederick Buechner writes, the pain I have traded. Rest in knowing that all along the way, from childhood to midlife, through foolishness and struggle, through hilarity and sublime content, I have given life.
That is what I want to do for the rest of my days. I would like to write about it here, but do not know if I will. That sticky wicket of having a paycheck still weighs on me daily, but when I can, when I have life to give, I hope to share it here with whoever stumbles upon it.
What I'm Thinking
“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.”