Yup! Still haven’t seen the bottoms of anyone’s feet ascending yet.
I used to believe that good people were perfectly good. Or at the very least, they were headed to it, gathering speed as they aged.
Now, I know a whole lot of nice dead people who never got anywhere near perfect.
Even worse, now that I’m old, I seem to be getting less good each year, or maybe just more obviously not so great.
I’m beginning to think it’s a little like the Velveteen Rabbit story. Our pretty and soft coverings wear thin from the lessons about loving that we get from bumping up against other people.
We begin to look a lot less good or at least a more spotty good, than when we had the energy to fake it,
Freedom has its price and becoming free to be real is expensive.
But when we realize that we can see the door from here, we finally get it:
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From Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Living
“We all have wounds…….It is a feeling of loneliness that lurks behind our successes, a feeling of uselessness that hides under all the praise we receive…….that makes us grab onto people and expect from them an affection and love they cannot give. If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we become a heavy burden.”
Nouwen goes on to say: “I love Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The father holds his child, touches his child, and says, ‘You are my beloved. I’m not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you’re my beloved. You can come home to me whose name is Compassion, whose name is Love.’
Nouwen says, “ If we keep that in mind, we can deal with an enormous amount of success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing our identity, because our identity is that we are the beloved. Long before our father and mother, our brothers and sisters, our teachers, our church or anyone else touched us in a loving or wounding way —— long before we were rejected by some person or praised by someone else-that voice was there. ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’
That love was there before we were born and will be there after we die. A life of fifty, sixty, seventy, or a hundred years is just a little moment in which we have been given time to say, ‘Yes, I love you too.’ ”
Henri Nouwen was a priest theologian/author who toward his later years went to live and minister in a settlement for the mentally challenged.
This quote is from a tiny gem of a book put together from insights from his other books, called A Spirituality of Living.
Can so relate to this. I love the sentence: I know you are not behind (at school), you’re right where you should be on your own little adventure through life! ….you make me proud and teach me to be a better Mother every single day.
You’re NOT an underachiever because academically you’re not hitting all your milestones, you’re not an underachiever because your abilities aren’t in that of maths and writing. You are an achiever, you’re my achiever! And don’t you ever let anyone tell you otherwise!
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Being a victim is not a choice, but remaining a victim emotionally and mentally is.
Some people seem to get addicted to a victim self-image. It becomes their identity. But a victim mentality not only excuses us from taking responsibility for ourselves, it gives all our power away.
If you listen to someone who has fallen into this trap, you can hear the suppressed anger. Women particularly, but to some extent most of us, are convinced that anger is bad, even sinful.
But anger recognized and claimed can be ours to control, to express, and to turn into something creative and empowering.
To cling to a victim mentality is to remain a helpless child. While reasonable anger channeled in practical ways can change injustice for ourselves and others. Anger’s power and the responsibility and accountability that go with it can be our doorway to maturity and effectiveness. The change starts with recognizing and claiming our anger. Then, we can begin to work toward finding our own process to not only deal with our anger, but to turn it into a power for good.
I’m hoping that some of you reading this will comment and share things that can help others experience this transition and even impact others.
There’s an artist that always left one small spot unpainted. The idea was that nothing is perfect. There was a time in the total silence of a new fallen snow that I stood alone on a hill at night looking at millions of stars. I felt incredibly tiny and insignificant in the face of such grandeur and enormity. I could literally feel myself shrinking. But suddenly I felt at one with all of it. Like a tiny anonymous dot that fills in an empty space in a painting, I not only had a right to be here, but was needed for completion, to make the universe whole. We are all tiny, but crucial parts of the whole. But the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Death and resurrection, sorrow and joy, mourning and dancing, loss and hope, the reality that all of these seeming opposites are inseparable is the paradox at the heart of life. The cross as the symbol of Christianity symbolizes this truth. Buddhism says the same thing in slightly different language. There is truth and wisdom in Buddhism, but with Christ there is also the dimension of relationship. And relationship takes you where you are and walks hand in hand with you to where you are being called. I experience the beauty and power and truth of God in the universe. But God is way bigger and more complex than I can comprehend. I sense the presence of God within me some of the time, but other times I need that human expression of the love and power of God, Jesus, to relate to, to show me how to love, and to hold my hand when I crumble under pressure
There are goodies and baddies to everything in life. If you are a mom with another career, you are beset by guilt over whether you have not been a good enough mother, particularly when your children as adults turn out to be human with all that goes with that. If you are a stay at home mom focused predominantly on your children, when inevitably they turn out to be human as adults, if you have not let go of them as your reason for being, their human problems and mistakes become about your ego, not their or anyone else’s pain. Though not true for everyone, it took me until midlife to recognize how very flawed I was and how silly it was to expect my progeny, no matter how bright, funny, talented and kind, to be perfect. None of us gets or passes down all the good genes. None of us, even with what we consider our best traits, gets it perfectly right for raising another human being with a different mix of genes and traits. That is one of the less appealing realities of life. Luckily, none of us is finished yet. And I actually think the younger generations are facing some of these unpleasant realities earlier in their lives than we did in ours. So, in spite of the discouraging state of humanity, there are signs that we are still able to evolve once we realize we need to.
I used to get my feelings hurt not only easily, but deeply enough that I cut people out of my life. It came from an unrecognized need to be perfect and anything said that implied to me that I wasn’t, devastated me. Being able to see the door because of being 79 helps a lot. I figure at this point the only one I have to worry about is God and He knew I was a difficult person before I did. It also helps, when people who tend to be insensitive hurt me, to look for something redeeming about them. I’ve found this way I can care and even make sacrifices for people I find difficult to like (including myself).
Henri Nouwen in his A Spirituality of Living writes that possibly the main human suffering comes from loneliness. So, it is important to develop our capacity for solitude where we can experience the love of God. Other wise we are going to expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot. Often this means a painfully temporary quality in our relationships. Instead of long lasting involvements that grow stronger over time, we may experience separations and growing despair about finding someone who can meet our deepest desires for intimacy. Developing the capacity for solitude is the groundwork for creating community and becoming capable of commitment in our relationships.
This is a beautiful true story that takes us into a life of rich community and kindness.
“Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.” – Loretta Young
“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” – Audrey Hepburn
When I left my ex-husband, I took my children and moved away from a very toxic family of origin. For the first time in my life, I had some support. A young man who taught a class the previous summer provided a link that had been missing all my life. (Yes, Michael, it has been 26 years this Friday.) Michael and his partner, Cliff, became the ‘brothers’ that I had wished for as a child. Michael had lived in Sacramento before and since his ex was moving there with Michael’s son he was going to be there for him. They kept telling me…
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by Lisel Mueller, from Second Language
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
Quoted on ifemmanuel-ifeOluwa’s Rambles
Very timely though known, because I’m being challenged on a whole different level now. Need all the reminders I can get.
Before you send the heartbreak away – before you process it, dissolve it into space, convert it to joy, and spin away from it in shame and blame – turn toward it and see. Go slow. Breathe into it. Provide safe passage for the heartbroken one that has been looking for you for so long.
Perhaps at a much earlier time, with a star or a tree or the water as your witness, you made a prayer of wholeness. The response to that prayer has come, but not in the way you expected. It has arrived by way of the shattering of an old dream, the dream of how you thought it would all turn out. While this dream is painful, it is alive, sacred, and holy.
No, heartbreak and disappointment are not easy. As two of the fierce emanations of integration, they will throw you off at times…
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