Gratitude

I was reading an emailed interview of one of my friend/colleagues had done by a magazine. (He was gracious enough to send me the transcript.) It was early morning (for me) and I was still laying in bed.

The subject was his recent trip with his jazz band to Iran. The interview dealt with logistics, some politics and mostly the cultural exchanges. The feelings I got while reading his words came to me gradually. First, I was curious, knowing somewhat of his trip already but wanting to know more thanks to this thorough article. Gradually, I felt my body become more and more relaxed, and a general feeling of contentment washed over me as I reflected on his words of compassion, openness, generosity and honesty (along with some acute social criticism). I also felt warm feelings of hope, hope that something real had occurred, a definite sharing between worlds that made “sense,” emotionally as well as in other ways.

What his words did for me was to not only inspire me about what people can do to help promote understanding and peace between different cultures, but it also not surprisingly deepened our friendship. I chose to return the energy, completing a circle by letting him know in a followup email how his trip and the story he told in the interview had such a positive impact on me, the beauty of what he and his band did–and all the people from Iran he/they worked with and came in contact with–reaching me in waves of gratitude (not exact words, but to that effect) as the morning continued.

I learned that I too can respond to the excellence in others, and that praise is so easy to give when you come into contact with such wonderful and amazing stories of real people with real experiences to share. My friend knows I love him, because I have told him so. Here is one more “reason” why.

As cynical as we both can be about living in 21st century America, this experience helps to melt away some of that icy wall I maintain between me and everything and everyone else, that destructive, ill-fated illusion of duality.

Tenderness, Grief, Excitement

It was a first meeting with a jr high aged client referred to me by the parish religious ed teacher of the hispanic ministry.  The young man was reported to the school for cutting himself.  I waited for him at the front doors of the church.  We met in the sacristy while his father, sister, and 4 yr old brother waited in the pews of the peaceful, dimly lit sanctuary on a cold winter night.

I felt happy that he made it to the appointment, and tender at the sight of this sweet young man accompanied by his gentle family who clearly cared for him.  I felt waves of grief over the situation of his life as shock, denial, anger, and bargaining, all swirled inside my being.  Through the hour together he remained open to my presence and I felt the hunger of his soul to connect, to be heard, to be nurtured, to matter to someone loving and kind, mature and accepting.  My heart both ached and rejoiced at the gift of his sharing, so full of hope and need.  Somersaults of the soul rolled around as fireworks of potential lit up the dark starry skies of my mind.

I had let go a 17 year career in the corporate world with fear and trembling but I knew during this hour that I had come home, and that everything that happened in my life had lead me to, and prepared me for, this moment of love and a knowing that transcended what ego thoughts could grasp.  Peace like a river attendeth my way.

When I asked him if he would like to meet again next week his eyes twinkled and grew wide.  Yes, he replied with a smile.  I told him we would figure out the payment knowing full well that I would be more in debt to him than he to me when all was said and done. He…for having an accepting person to talk to; and me…for being ushered into my vocation.

As I walked to my car the crisp, cold air hit my face wet with hot tears streaming down.  My heart is still trembling at the awe of the human spirit, the resilience of our souls and the part of us that cannot be touched by finite hands but only by the infinite orchestrations of its creator.

I open myself again and say yes to unconditional love that will not let me go.  Whatever trials may befall, I am open, and I say yes to a life of faith.

Joy

1.  What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

My grandson (1 year old) and I are at opposite ends of a coffee table. We’re shuffling plastic donuts back and forth. Each time a donut comes to him he raises his hands with the donut and says “Ahhh!” I mirror his movements and sound. We do it again and again, and again and again. Laughing and beaming.

 

2.  How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing).

Joy bubbling up from inside and bursting forth in laughter. I feel like dancing, like taking him and twirling till we’re both dizzy. (I don’t do that!) I feel such a warm, loving connection with him. There is energy flowing between our eyes.

 

 3.  What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

I treasure the growing bond between us. These moments are so precious. The love feels so uncomplicated, free, trustworthy. I miss him as soon as we part. I think about him and look forward to the next time we get to play.

 

4.  What did I choose to do with the energy? … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

I chose to completely give myself to the energy flowing between us. I became completely unconcerned with the others present, what they might be thinking, how they might be judging, how silly I might look. I allowed myself to be completely entranced with what was happening between us. I love myself this way, and I love my grandson for the gift of opening such free flowing energy inside me. We are becoming special to each other. I can only marvel at it.

 

 5.  Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

I love to play! I want to do it more. I am playful with students, and colleagues, family, and friends. I worked hard years ago to regenerate this freedom. And, I would love to do it more!

 

6.  What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

I will look for opportunities to be playful with others. And I will make time regularly to play with my grandson.

Sadness

I was heavily involved in working on a school project in my graduate studies when my cellphone rang. I had already made a commitment to myself that nothing was going to interfere with my goal of sticking to my school project until it was finished. So I turned my cellphone off.

Five hours later I finished the school project and submitted it, feeling my body release a huge amount of tension that had been stored in my muscles, and I started to relax taking deep breaths and enjoying the feeling of a task that was finally done.

It was then that the remembrance of turning off my cellphone came back to me, and I immediately turned it on. I was surprised to see that I had missed five calls from my dearest friend of sixty years who was obviously anxious to reach me. My heart leapt up in my throat as I saw my friend’s attempts to reach me listed in front of me, and I knew I had missed something extremely important that my friend needed to share with me.

I called my friend’s number with great apprehension I could feel in my gut and I was imagining the worst as her phone kept ringing. I took a deep breath to calm the anxiety I could feel building within me at the expectation of what my friend’s news would be.

The familiar voice that I have known so well, for most of my life, finally answered the phone and said, “Are you available to listen to my heart’s concerns?” I was so overwhelmed by hearing the intimacy and seriousness of her question that I remember tearing up, and replying, “I am always available for anything that concerns your heart.”

My friend simply replied, “I was counting on that very reply and you are the only one I want to or can share this with. I have been diagnosed with lupus that has been steadily progressing throughout my body and is causing me to become unsteady and drop things and unable to focus my vision for any length of time. Therefore, I am retiring from work and I was wondering if you would do my funeral?”

I was emotionally stunned at hearing the news and felt like I had been slammed with a sledgehammer, the emotions were so overwhelming. I cried and my friend cried and neither of us said anything for at least five minutes, just sharing our mutual tears and sadness.

Finally, after our tears had stopped, there was a silence during which I realized my friend was saying goodbye and wanted to share that sacred moment with me. I then realized how blessed and privileged I had been to share the many years of love and friendship with my friend, who had always made herself available to me without any hesitation or reservation when I needed her. I just never wanted to think there might be an ending to this amazing love and friendship we have shared.

I then told my friend how much I loved and appreciated her friendship, and that it would be the highest honor to officiate at her funeral Mass and celebrate her entrance into the loving embrace of God, and where eventually I hoped to join her. I thanked her for the mutual journey we have shared, and she said with a smile in her voice, It’s been REAL!” and she hung up.

I cried very mixed tears of sadness, of expectant loss, of gratitude for what has been, and of hope for what is to come. My friend has shown me that the love we share never dies and is, in fact, a glimpse of the love we will continue to share in the life to come.

The Gospel writer John states that love is of Divine origin, and this writer has experienced it first-hand through the love of his friend. He desires to be that same love and presence through ministry to those who have suffered loss and have been overwhelmed by pain, misery, and loss, as a result of battling addictions in their personal lives.

My friend has been teaching me and showing me through her life that the Divine is truly present to any of us when we love. The highest gift I can give back to her and to God is to be that same love to the broken and wounded I am committed to working with the rest of my days. (eg. 745 words.)

 

 

Fear

1.  What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

I’m in my car, parking near home, end of the evening commute, tired, not feeling well (stomach flu), and reverse gear does not function. I can’t back up to parallel park.

2.  How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

I am aware of a heavy, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, heaviness in my eyes and jaw, and the impulse to curl into a ball. I want to hide myself away. Not deal with this. I am so afraid.

3.  What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

I’m afraid of a huge expense, unexpected, slamming into us as we’re aging, approaching retirement, as my dreams for passive income in retirement are in slow motion. Is it safe to drive the car? Can I find a place to park? Will I make it to the dealership tomorrow? How bad is this going to get? What else is about to go wrong?

4.  What did I choose to do with the energy?       … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.I chose to problem solve.

I found a parking spot I could just drive into. I sat and breathed deeply, reassuring myself that all would be well. Later, I talked with my wife about what the options may be tomorrow, and how to make the decision. Once we had settled what we could I felt a low energy combination of sadness and humility, acceptance of my limits. Somewhere inside that was a quiet confidence that we would handle whatever came to be. We always have.

5.  Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

Fear is always such a challenge. And I have learned to stay in the present, not to feed thoughts about the future and all that could go wrong, to problem solve and make plans. And then to surrender, to just let go of any pretense of or need for control of outcomes, to trust and be ready and hopeful for whatever comes.

6.  What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

I’ve taken myself back to the mantra that came to me many months ago: Let it come. Let it all come to you. Let it be given. The more I settle into that, the more welcoming the future seems.