How did I get on this carpet?

Life is such an amazing and beautiful thing. Ceaselessly astonishing and surprising to me. The mystery of it all continues to amaze me each and every day. Experiencing and interacting with the Divine and the Divine’s sense of humor has, often simultaneously, brought me to my knees in gut-wrenching sobs while feeling the embrace of Love and Compassion as I sit there crumpled up in a ball of snotting, overwhelming emotion and awareness of Truth and how far from and close to it I am, sometimes all at once.

Every time I experience an opportunity for some significant jump in growth and dedicate myself to pursuing that jump, to embracing it before and around me, to unfold and become more of my True Self Momma and Papa inevitably call me to the carpet about it – usually within a 24 hr period. That call typically manifests in the form of some challenge. The Divine is ALWAYS listening, and while I imagine They hoot and holler and cheer for us when we make such declarations of dedication to change and healing and are ready and willing to coach us and walk through the whole sticky, messy, and some times painful process of it with us, They are compassionate enough to test us first, to provide us an ‘out’, to make sure we really mean it. My challenge after taking up the mantle of Love and Gratitude on my crusade of anti-negativity showed up in the form of our almost 21 year old son behaving like a complete douche and, well, a typical 21 yr old male with a history of trauma who has only just begun the healing process.

The incident itself is less important than was my response to it. Now, perhaps it’s my Irish ancestry at work, but I am a temperamental being who also happens to be, among other things, relentless, willful and headstrong. It’s a delicious combination of traits (I’m not being sarcastic – really, it is marvelous), and one of the mysteries is that just those four traits can comingle in myriad different measures to produce an astounding number of different reactions and responses. Some healing and creative, some…well, not so much. On this particular occasion, they coalesced and manufactured a river of lava, a veritable flow of fury that simmered below the surface and threatened to geiser at the slightest misstep or lack of adequate contrition on our son’s part. I spent the whole of yesterday walking around in restless agitation, justifying my emotional state by reminding myself of our son’s inappropriate demanding, ungrateful, disrespectful, and bitchy behavior. Replaying the scene of our argument on a movie reel in my mind with extra attention and encore performances of the part where he called my wife (his mother) a “crazy lady.” Like a school yard bully, I aimed a steely eyeball at him (when I deigned to look upon his face) throughout the day, my ears on high alert like a cat’s ready to pounce at the smallest nuance of attitude. I didn’t try to move past the mad. I reveled in it, keeping it barely managed.

By 11pm last night, I was exhausted.  I’d already taken an hour and a half nap earlier in the day, confused as to why I was so tired. It wasn’t until just before bef time that I remembered how tiring being angry was. My wife and I were sitting on the back patio, and she asked me what was up because I seemed not okay. I replied saying I was still angry. She then inquired as to why I hadn’t been able to let go of my mad. The conversation that ensued entailed my wife, as ambassador for the Goddess and God, calling me to the carpet and reminding me of my crusade as well as poignantly asking how I was doing with that right now? Oh, a Divine touche! Well, hell. I was gloriously sucking at it. Hahaha!  How marvelous!  What a wonderful opportunity to grow! Throughout our conversation, I reaffirmed several important tenets I have promised to uphold: 1) I will always love our kids more than I will be mad at them, 2) I will ensure they are firm in this knowledge, and 3) the goal is to heal the person, not to simply change the behavior. I was still a little grumpy even at the end of the conversation, but it was a different kind of mad. It was the, ‘well, damn, I fucked that up and my emotions are not yet in perfect congruence with my goals and doesn’t that suck’ kind of grumpy. Yup, I fell off the Love and Gratitude wagon before I was even settled on to it. Good thing I’m relentless 😉

Today, as I think about yesterday, I simply find myself chuckling to and at myself. Oh, Jess, did you really think it was going to be easy? Of course I have to instill Love and Gratitude in myself before I can begin trying to create it around me. So today, I am dusting myself off from that little wagon stumbling incident yesterday and damned if I’m not going to get back on that wagon again!

Wherever you are in the beautiful process and journey that is your life, I hope for you the ability to chuckle at yourself when you fall – to not take it all so seriously as to discourage you from continuing on when you get those scrapes and bruises on your knees and shins from falling off whatever wagon you were trying to get or stay on. I hope for you a touch of relentlessness to urge you to keep trying in those times because truly, nothing ever gets better if you just give up.

Expansions in the name of Love and Gratitude

At some point during the other day, I had a moment of clarity the likes of which I have only experienced a handful of times in my life. I had been listening to the short people in my house and L throughout the day and something was building up within me without my awareness. Like the sky parting after a long and tumultuous storm to reveal blueness so vivid that one swears the sky had never donned this vibrant shade before, it coalesced in my mind in words: negativity. Everywhere around me, the people I love and whose lives I am so honored to share and witness were a teaming bundle of complaints, whining, sniping, and irritability. I noticed it not only in them, but also in myself – either right before I would utter something or immediately after I thought or said it. As pervasive and present as noxious gas, it was everywhere I turned, in everything I heard. Knowing that complaining and negativity is the opposite of gratitude, and only serves to attract more of the same, I became angry; of course, only to realize minutes later that my anger only fed the negativity around me and wouldn’t help to heal these amazing people in asshole’s clothing or the situation so that wasn’t an option. The next part of the revelation occured when I began to pay closer attention to their behavior, to what they said and how they said it. And I found one common underlying theme to all of it: Fear.

I have learned that there are two (I guess technically three, but two are partners and on the “same side”) primary sources whose roots we can trace all of our decisions, thoughts, emotions and behaviors back to: 1) Fear, or its opposite 2) Love and Gratitude. Everything  (and I do mean everything) – from what you decide to wear each day to why you chose the career track you did to how you function and interact in relationship – comes back to one of these two concepts. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying all fear is “bad.” Fear, in its true form and not the hyped up anxiety we often mistake it for today, is a survival mechanism. It is one of the managers of the limbic system and the driver behind the flight/fight/or freeze response. But most stress management experts will tell you that our physiology hasn’t caught up with our modern environment. Rarely, unless one works in a dangerous and high-risk profession, is the fear that drives us today based on our immediate survival. It’s leftover from the days when it served that purpose but except in those rare occasions, its roots aren’t planted in survival. They’re planted in selfishness. AA brilliantly acknowledges this root of self- and other destruction in the famous Big Book and its 12-step program. It’s one of the main reasons why there is such a focus on service in the program and why, after one has reached a somewhat stable level of sobriety, one’s next step is to be a sponsor to someone else struggling. As a side note, the Big Book is brilliant in and of itself and I think everyone on the planet would benefit from reading it and walking through the 12 steps as well as learning the 12 traditions. For those of us without substance issues, there are any number of addictions we can substitute, if not the addiction to selfishness as a whole.

For the past several days, when I’m not herding children or cats or trying to figure out some way to not let the people I love make me crazy I’ve been reading a biography about a Franciscan priest who was a chaplain for the FDNY and died during the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I’m less than halfway through the book, and I can affirm to you that this man whom I never met in person has already dramatically changed my life in ways I am sure will continue to unfold for years to come. It’s called The Book of Mychal if you’re interested. Perhaps it’s the Christians I knew growing up or the one my parents attempted to groom me into becoming or my lack of experience with Christians who seem to truly LIVE their faith that makes the story of Father Mychal’s life that much more moving and awe-inspiring. But more than the type of Christian he was, the book (and he) is incredible because it describes the person he was. (A witchy parenthesis – it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this man actually was Saint Francis reincarnated. That was a damn cool dude that particular time around to begin with.) He was a man of unfathomable love, devotion, compassion, and service.

So it is Father Mychal I think about when I look around my home and see the state of the people I love embroiled in negativity, weighted down in fear. And again, like a few other times so far in this life, I feel an expansion within myself. If I have the capacity to recognize the state of things, then I wholeheartedly believe that I have the capacity to heal them and make them better for us all. And perhaps that might mean expanding even more, but I fully believe I’m capable of that as well and that the opportunity would not be presented to me if it were otherwise.