There is a noticeable lack of Christmas spirit in my family this year. It’s been a long year as my dad battled cancer and passed away on the first of December. The anticipation of Christmas coming has been replaced with a feeling of; “Is it over yet?” I don’t think it’s Christmas per se’ but we’re anticipating the end of 2017 and 2018 to begin.
Anticipation can be a dangerous state of mind, emotion, and spirit. For all we know, 2018 will be as rough, perhaps more so, than 2017. It’s not a pleasant thought but it is a possibility. This is why wisdom teachers discourage anticipation. Life rarely lives up to what we think, or wish would happen. It’s almost always different and this can be good or bad, negative or positive. When life fails to fill our desires suffering, pain, confusion can occur.
So, my family and many others wait in this no man’s land hoping Christmas will not be too difficult and 2018 will be a better, certainly different, year.
Turning on the porch light yesterday I spotted a basket with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and fruit. This was one example of the flowers and plants that have been delivered, brought to the memorial service, delivered by courier to our family over the last several days. Each one comes with heartfelt condolences, sweet words, kind thoughts, and prayers. We have appreciated and placed every one of them in a prominent place in the house. I told my wife and mom today the living room looked like a botanical garden.
What’s interesting is many of these plants and flowers are in the process of dying. They are eye-catching, smell wonderful, and fill the house with color, but make no mistake, they are dying. From the time the designer cut the stems on the roses, carnations, lilies, sunflowers, and many more, they began to die. They were placed in water and other sponge-like materials to make them last as long as possible but eventually, they will wilt and be thrown away.
This happens to all living things. There is the moment of birth, growth, blossoming and adorning the world with beauty and life. However, as soon as each living thing is born it begins to die. It can be from lack of care and pass sooner or it can receive lots of attention and adoration and hopefully live a long fruitful life. However, either way, its time will come when it will be no more.
This last week has been a reminder of how soon things pass. On the way home from the memorial service for my dad yesterday I remarked to my mom; “No matter who you are or what you are going through, you always think you have more time than you do.”
One of the first questions I have, when teaching a new class or working with a father, is “Tell me how you express your feelings. Can you show you are angry, disappointed, frustrated in a healthy way or does it all come out as toxic anger?” Toxic anger is dangerous and greatly inhibits a child’s growth, impedes communication with others, and can lead to abuse and neglect. Understanding how a father deals with his feelings is key to understanding his relationship with his family, friends, and community.
One of the most common responses on how men deal with the feeling of anger is; “I want to hurt someone else. I want another to feel pain. I don’t want to be alone in my suffering.” This can surface in many ways, a bruising hand, a mouth filled with hurtful and caustic words. Other men leave and don’t come back, others come back but never talk about the emotion that erupted like a volcano. A lot of men simply get mad and stop talking, letting their silence oppress everyone who is near them.
Most men have never learned to deal, and healthfully express, their feelings. This is why for most men anger is their default emotion. The saddest part is they pass these traits along to children and the unhealthy cycle starts all over again.
An old Zen proverb says; “To hold on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”
Whether its something we would rather not do, thoughts and feelings regarding a difficult relationship or a host of other things, the refusal to replace one emotion, thought, habit, activity or version of reality with another is important.
I was asked to do something today I didn’t want to do. My objection was not ethical or moral but resulted from a difficult past I have with the person who asked. I have a hard time saying “no” and …well, you know.
Before, during and after I was monitoring my emotions, thoughts and spirit. Centering and breath-meditation are wonderful ways to be in the present, finding meaning in places/moments that aren’t pleasant. Mindfully I observed people who were enjoying themselves, others ambivalent and some who’d like to be someplace else.
Wisdom teaches us the importance of letting go, one of the keys being to resist the compulsion to then grab hold of something else. We don’t have to let go of resistance to an event and grab hold to an engendered excitement about participating, let go of hard feelings and then sign on to be someone’s fan club president.
Whether its something we would rather not do, thoughts and feelings regarding a difficult relationship or a host of other things, the refusal to replace one emotion, thought, habit, activity or version of reality with another is important. We simply have to let go of that which keeps us from being mindful, at peace in every moment with everyone.
peace and grace,