I arrived frustrated and frazzled at the destination where my niece and I planned to have lunch. Along the way I became hopelessly lost in the maze of the parking lot at the mall. Don’t laugh. If you’ve never been lost in a mall, it’s because you’ve never been to the Galleria in Tyson’s Corner, VA. It’s a nightmare to this Marylander, as are the highways that I must travel just to get there. The mere thought of accidentally getting caught up in the frightening tangle of HOV lanes and not being able to get off until I reach China grips me with the gut-wrenching fear that I may never be seen or heard from again.
I called my niece to tell her that I was hopelessly lost and in her kind and gentle way, she provided me with the directions that I needed to get myself back on track. That said, she told me that she was going to hang up, park, get a table, and wait for me.
“Nooo” I pleaded! Please don’t leave me! Please hang in there with me until I get there! She did, I got there, and we found each other in the parking lot, gave each other a gigantic hug, and headed toward lunch. What a blessed relief! God bless her. God bless cell phones.
“You’re going to turn this into a blog,” she quipped before we had even entered the building. I hadn’t considered the possibility, but since she put the idea into my head, I thought, “Why not?” It seemed like a fairly reasonable challenge—certainly one that was easier than finding the Cheesecake Factory amidst the myriad of storefronts and garage entrances.
It’s bad enough to be lost in the mall, but add to that the fact that it’s not the first time I’ve done it. Oh no, no. It happens every time I dare venture into the mystery maze of the Galleria. Repeating a mistake over and over is enough to send me into a wailing fit of “Why God? Why do I keep doing the same stupid thing again and again? When will I ever learn?“
Well now, isn’t that just the question of the century!? Why God? Why do I keep doing the same stupid thing again and again? When will I ever learn?
Like dear Connie, God is patient. God is kind. God listens to and hears my desperate calls for help. God waits for me and hangs in there with me as I bumble my way through life making wrong turns and bad decisions, and while I blindly stumble along making the same mistakes over and over, mistakes that leave me feeling befuddled, frustrated and stupid.
But it’s all okay, because just like Connie, God will be there to provide gentle guidance along the way, wait for me, and when I arrive, He’ll rejoice because I finally made it to my destination. It’s always reassuring to know that no matter what, I’ll find my way back home. He knows that I will, and I know that I will—it’s just a matter of when. Now would be good.
It is not possible to get to Carnegie Hall without traveling the path of practice, nor is it possible to find joy without the practice of forgiveness. Practice, practice, practice.
In my continuing quest for peace of mind and happy endings, I am more aware than ever of the need to put my money where my mouth is and stop talking and start doing the inner work that is necessary to move forward on the path to enlightenment.
In answer to my impassioned plea for more joy in my life I was rewarded with the opportunity to practice what I preach. This answer comes to me in the form of a person who is so in-your-face angry and contentious that I want nothing more than to see the back of her head when she walks away. The experience of being in her presence is so disturbing that my heart ties itself into a knot just thinking about it. Sometimes I think that God has a very mischievous sense of humor.
Twice I have received guidance and insight into the path to forgiveness of her and twice, it has slipped away. How fleeting these precious thoughts can be, and how quickly I forget! I need to write it down so that I can remember and practice, but it is so elusive that I ask for help to remember and recapture those ephemeral thoughts. Help comes in the form of a poem. Well, sort of. I’m not a poet.
She is not angry with me
She is angry with the world
Those in her path reap her wrath
Rather than respond with anger
I prefer to offer forgiveness
Yet forgiveness is hard to find
She is not angry with me
The world has done her wrong
Her anger lashes out on others
And she drives them away with her fury
She is in great need of forgiveness
Of herself, of others, of the world
If I cannot find forgiveness
Perhaps I can find compassion
Compassion for her suffering
Compassion for the pain that drives her
And understanding of the intense grievances
That clog her heart with the fear of love
Jesus implores us to forgive seventy times seven
I may find it in my heart to forgive today
Yet tomorrow will bring renewed opportunity
When she stands in my face once again
With a glare, a frown and bitterness in her heart
In her current state of mind
She is helpless to help herself
But I can refrain from my judgment of her
And silently acknowledge her suffering
In exchange for her anger and contention
I can offer compassion and forgiveness
And a prayer of peace and love for her
Seventy times seven
There are a few people in the world who make me want to hide myself under the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. They are the peace disturbers, the annoyers, the ones who make me crazy with just a word, a look, a comment, a request—that’s all it takes to send me off into a world of anger, frustration, criticism, or judgment. Try as I might, it seems impossible to avoid some sort of conflict or contact with them. I hear a voice, I turn and do a quick-step in the opposite direction. Then another pops up and blocks my exit route. There’s no escape. While there are only a couple of folks who have that effect on me, it seems more like an army. They’re everywhere. It’s maddening.
I try. I mean, I really, really try hard to not allow myself to be negatively impacted by the words and deeds of others, no matter how underhanded, manipulative, or controlling I perceive them to be. Once in a blue moon, I succeed for a minute, but a minute is about all I can manage to muster up before the next offense rises up and challenges me to get over myself and behave like an adult.
Maybe it’s karma. Maybe it’s lifetimes of unhealed junk that I’ve carried around in my backpack for as long as the world has been spinning. Maybe these blessed souls are there for the sole purpose of teaching me some sort of a gigantic life lesson. Maybe I’m not getting out of here alive before first realizing that avoidance is not the best or healthiest way to deal with a troubling situation. The most troubling of all is the wee perception that what I perceive as “wrong with them” may be something within myself that needs to be healed, else I would not be able to recognize it outside of myself. Yikes.
Sometimes it helps to focus on the benefit of letting go. Sometimes it’s a matter of asking myself my least favorite question, “What’s in it for me?” What’s in it for me to forgive a husband who had a brief fling with a friend? My knee jerk reaction was to distance myself from the co-respondent, along with the entire group of friends of which we were all a part. My unwillingness to associate with the betrayer fueled my departure from a group of friends that I enjoyed and robbed me of a large piece of my social life. Oh, the things I do to myself!
The forgive-and-forget plan fell short of its goal, and neither avoidance nor denial provided solution or solace. I was the one left suffering the effect of my own anger with the loss of peace, trust, and friendship. The infraction of one person (well, maybe two if you count my philandering husband) who had crossed a line had rocked my world.
Two years after the discovery, as I was riding down Connecticut Avenue on my way to work, I had an epiphany. I suddenly saw that I was the one denying myself the joy of love and friendship by virtue of my blame, criticism, and judgment of one person. I was the one stuck on my righteous attitude of anger and blame. I was the only one suffering while the others went merrily on their way without me, utterly clueless about my pain. I was the one refusing to forgive because clearly, I was right and they were wrong. Right? Wrong!
With that epiphany came another—the instant realization that since I was the only one suffering by my own hand (or head is more like it) in this scenario, I was the only one who could change the situation that I had created for myself. I was my own peace thief.
Simultaneously, another amazing thing happened. An actual desire to let it go and forgive and forget washed over me and a spontaneous prayer arose within me. Oh God I truly do want to forgive this situation, but I don’t know how. Please help! And I sat back, let go, and relaxed.
Day by day, little by little, inch by inch, I began to feel better until one day soon after, I awoke and discovered that it was gone—all of the blame, criticism, anger, judgment—gone. In the midst of the quiet miracle that had occurred within me, it dawned on me that forgiveness requires true willingness. Only the sincere desire and heartfelt commitment to forgive will open the floodgates to the miracle of forgiveness. It doesn’t work if there’s even the tiniest bit of anger or resentment. Sometimes one has to be willing to be willing to be willing to let go and forgive.
As I ponder my attitude toward my current peace disturbers, I must sit myself down and ask a soul-searching question. Am I truly willing? Do I really, really mean it when I ask for forgiveness such that I can stand to be in the same room with one of my peace thieves and not wish to commit dishonorable hara-kiri? Do I have it within myself to pull it off? Do I? Can I? Will I?
Yes, I do, yes I can, and yes I will.
To my unwitting teachers of peace, I pray that with each thought of you, my heart opens spontaneously so that I may clearly see that purity and radiating love are a force in your life. I pray that I look beyond any and all behavior that causes me to think less of you, or that distorts my image of you as anything other than the Truth of your being, which is Love.
With my backpack fully loaded with willingness, desire, and a prayer for forgiveness, all I need do now is sit back, relax, and be amazed and grateful for the miracle that restores me to peace and floods my life and the lives of others with love and grace.
So what’s in it for me? Only peace of mind. Oh–and maybe a bit of happiness too. That’s all.
I wandered into Sur La Table for a lemon zester and stood at the check-out counter while the transaction was being completed. As I waited, a hulking figure emerged from the back room carrying a bag full of money. He was wearing a dark blue uniform and the brightest smile I have seen since my soon-to-be son-in-law caught his first glimpse of his bride walking down the aisle a couple of decades ago.
As he passed by, he looked me straight in the eye with a grin the size of Texas and wished me a cheery “Good morning.” How is it, I wonder, that just one beaming smile coupled with an enthusiastic, heartfelt “good morning” can leave me feeling so over-the-top-happy? What a zesty guy!
I had only one word for the encounter. “Wow,” I said. My gaze followed him out the door as he walked toward his armored truck. Reading my mind, the cashier glanced at me with a faraway look in her eye and a soft smile on her face. “I know,” she said. “I really look forward to Friday mornings when he comes in because I always feel so good when he’s here, and all day even after he leaves.”
The man had a palpable, larger-than-life presence that lit up the room and left me in a state of awe. In that one brief instant, I was reminded that we all carry a presence, and that what we carry within ourselves reaches out and touches those around us, for better or for worse. It made me stop for a moment and ask myself what it is that I am sending out to those around me, to the ones I love, and to strangers.
What about the people who zoom down the shoulder of the road and cut in the front of the line, or those who leave their dog’s droppings for other people to step in, or the folks whose empty Budweiser cans I pick up on my daily walks? What about the myriad of other small irritations that are available to confront my peace of mind every single day of my life? Are my thoughts and judgments polluting the air around me, and negatively impacting those unfortunate unsuspecting souls who happen to stand within close range? Worse, are they polluting my own inner space? Do I allow these small little annoyances to become volcanic in my mind? Or do I embrace them as part of a plan to grow up and get over it?
I’m not sure that I can possibly begin to imagine what it must be like to live within that man’s big heart. I can’t think of any cause greater than to spread kindness and goodwill just simply by being. But just for an instant, I’d sure like to be able to pop inside his skin and check it out for myself, to experience how it feels to reside within such an amazing presence. No, I can’t imagine it. But this much I do know. I want to be a zester just like him when I grow up. After all, I am the only one who can do something about how they will feel when I walk away, right?
I’m not a Catholic girl, but recently I’ve noticed a tendency to want to start new blogs with, “Forgive me Father, it has been 13 days since my last blog.” I’m not quite sure what I need to be forgiven for, but I have concluded that clearly, it must have something to do with myself. Whatever. Maybe the answer to that will become clear as this blog—or this day—or this lifetime moves on. We’ll see. Or not.
I’ve done a lot of blog stop-starts in the past few days but they are just that. Starts and stops. Life is like that sometimes—a series of starting stuff that I don’t finish. Maybe that’swhat I need to forgive myself for, especially those days when I just can’t seem to get out of my own way. Heaven help me—I’m in a blog fog!
A few days ago when lethargy was the order of the day, I blamed it on post Royal Wedding Blues. All of that glorious anticipation and activity leading up to The Great Moment when Harry and Meghan finally tied the knot and we all had our curious little questions answered. Will Harry wear a uniform and keep his beard? Will he wear a wedding ring? Who will walk Meghan down the aisle? What will her dress be like and who was the designer? You know—all of those intriguing questions that tickled the world’s fancy for weeks on end.
Well it was either that, or a week of grey gloomy weather that added to the post wedding blues that got me, or maybe a combination platter. Whatever it was, voila! Instant depression. How depressing!
Okay so today is a whole new day and I’m over it. I’ve allowed myself the luxury of a full do-nothing, guilt-free, three-day wallow and now it’s time to move on. There is something really therapeutic about giving oneself the gift of a good wallow, provided it is not allowed to go on for too long lest it become self-defeating hence unhealthy. Three days max.
Now here I am, fresh as a daisy, bright as a star with a whole day (albeit another gloomy one) in front of me with nothing on my calendar and nothing pressing to do. So many options, so many choices! In her recent blog, Natalietalksabout.com inspired me to declutter a jewelry drawer. I could do that, I suppose. Or write a blog about decluttering (and with any luck it might even make it to the finish line). Or I could stop procrastinating and plant some flowers and herbs in the pots on my balcony. Well maybe—I never like to rush into anything. Whoa–were those the Blue Angels that just streaked overhead past my balcony? If I had been out there tending to pots, perhaps I wouldn’t have missed seeing them. Oh well–maybe later–
Meanwhile, lest I fritter away the entire day in indecision mode, best I pick one and just DO it. So here I am DOING it, and as it turns out, the IT is a blog. Well, whatdya know—I think maybe it might even be finished. Today there is hope about making it as far as the jewelry drawer. I’m not too sure about those empty pots however but God willing, tomorrow is another day.
Hot dog. Today there is nothing to feel guilty about or forgive myself for. Not today, not any day, no matter how naughty I think that I may have been. God bless God for giving us do-over’s—the chance to fix what isn’t really broken in the first place. I’ll drink to that. Except that I don’t drink anymore. Drat. Maybe I’ll just celebrate with a push of the post button and dance a little happy dance instead.
Ye haw. Thank you God!
In keeping with my usual “get-up-early-so-I-can-loaf-longer” mode, it is o’dark-thirty and I have been up for over an hour and a half. So far, I have picked up my pen instead of my computer (a major start-of-the-day accomplishment), meditated, walked and fed the dog, and just settled down to enjoy my second cup of coffee. Somewhere between the twenty steps that separate the kitchen from my Lazygirl, a small kamikaze fly took a suicide dive into my coveted second cup. Bummer.
My normal modus operandi would be to immediately ask myself, “What is the meaning of this?” Today I have admitted to myself that perhaps there is no meaning in this. But hey—it wouldn’t be like me not to wonder just a little bit—and to use the incident as a springboard to the discovery some sort of magical, mystical, amazing hidden Truth that suddenly reveals itself as a reward for my continual forward march on the obstacle-strewn path to Nirvana. What is my life after all, if nothing but a search for meaning?
The fly-in-the-coffee routine is reminiscent of the wasp-in-the-purse number that occurred a number of years ago. It makes me wonder—why bother to search for meaning when I have already found it long ago (and apparently forgotten it again)? That would be a little like reinventing the wheel. On the other hand, what with my forgetful ways, I always do appreciate a good reminder because Heaven knows, I can use all of them I can get!
Just so you know—the little story that you are about to read was lifted right out of my book, Amusings—Looking at Life Through a Stained Glass Window. Is it blog- cheating to plagiarize myself? I don’t know, but I’m going to do it anyway, so here goes. The following little vignette is titled The Wasp.
Have you ever popped into your car, reached your hand into your purse to find your keys and discovered that there was a wasp wandering around somewhere between your checkbook and wallet? It is probably a moment you would prefer reading about when it happened to someone else than actually experiencing for yourself.
Well, we had quite a time, the wasp and I. We had a little conversation—seems I did most of the talking—while the nosy little itinerant inspected the contents of my handbag. Hitching a ride to somewhere, and looking for a bite of free lunch, I supposed. I wasn’t much looking forward to being his mid-day meal.
Apparently, I managed to talk some sense into the tiny critter’s head, because before too very long, s/he flew out the open car window, rather than risk being bludgeoned to death by the contents of a closed purse being pounded in panic against a hot asphalt parking lot. Thank goodness.
Once my heart rate returned to normal, I immediately launched into my usual what-does-this-mean mode, and concluded that the wasp had given me a very great gift. I drove away thanking the clever powers that be for the experience, because now—ta dah—I had a juicy little tidbit of insight for the subject of my next writing session.
There was a time when I thought that daily bread was a tangible, like money, or food. (Naturally, I’d be thinking in terms of food). But that day, thanks to my friend the wasp, I came to an entirely new understanding about the meaning of daily bread. Daily bread became transformed in my mind from the tangibles of food and money into food for thought. I moved from the tangible to intangible, then back to tangible again, by bringing ideas, creativity, wisdom and inspiration into physical manifestation through words as a personal expression of individual creativity.
Some folks can take their ideas and build buildings, or paint masterpieces, or write great American novels, or take embryonic ideas and turn them into enormous business empires. Well I had an unfortunate relationship with geometry, never got past kindergarten art, and my grandiose, highfalutin entrepreneurial ideas have long since gone up in smoke, along with the dream of making it onto Oprah’s book list.
But I’m not dead yet! Thanks to that unexpected, uninvited visitor in my purse, I was given an idea and a story to tell, along with a healthy dose of insight, inspiration, and willingness to use it creatively. So the idea is to write the idea. And who knows? Maybe one day the idea will be published somewhere and I’ll even get paid fir it. Now wouldn’t that be something!
Either way, published or not, when I fail to write for myself as a personal expression of my own inner creativity, I’m starving myself to death.
Oh Lord, give me this day my daily bread. I’m too young to die.