Double Back –
Last night, after dinner, Beth wanted a popsicle. I was getting up anyway and told her I’d get her one. I opened the top freezer door on the refrigerator and grabbed two by mistake. One fell to the floor and using the three-second rule I quickly stooped down and picked it up. Unbeknownst to me, the freezer door was swinging back and when I was two-thirds up I whacked the top back of my head on the corner of the freezer door. “OUCH!” It hurt so much I crumpled to the floor rubbing the wounded area. Beth heard me, came and looked at it and thought there would be bruising and soreness. She was right. It never occurred to me until it “hit me” that the door was doubling back. My mind was elsewhere and the freezer door brought me back to reality.
I was listening to someone describe addiction this week and they said; “It gets inside of you. You think you have a handle on it and then you begin to crave it. It comes back again and again and again.” I thought about other things which come around over and over. Grieving the loss of a loved one who has passed on, anger at being taken advantage of, bitterness at being betrayed, the pain of past memories and experiences that hurt us emotionally and physically, drug, alcohol and other addictions, friends who have negative influences on us, wounds which seem to never heal. All of these can cause us to crumple to the floor when they double back into our lives.
There is a needed balance of awareness and acceptance. Awareness is needed because perhaps we can see it coming and side-step the toll it would take on our minds and spirits. Acceptance is important because we are human, are not all-powerful, and difficult and challenging experiences are part of what makes us unique.
It is in this balance we may find wisdom and peace.
Last night I stuck a bag of trash on the porch. Living in the country and not placing garbage in a receptacle is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes a varmint gets into it and other times they just pass it by. Unfortunately, last night something got into the trash and scattered it all over the driveway. It was the first thing I saw when letting the dog out this morning. I went inside, grabbed a new bag and began recollecting the trash. There’s nothing quite like picking up frost-covered garbage at dawn.
As I was gathering it and stuffing it into the bag I began to recall a Jewish wisdom tale;
A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days, everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was very sad. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage. After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi. “Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do. After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.” “That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.” “Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”
It was a great reminder that not only every word but every action has consequences that we cannot foresee. Our lives should be lived mindfully aware that our scattered thoughts, words, and actions will impact the world for evil or for good.
a Visit –
Last night, before letting the dog outside for its last chance to do some business my wife asked me if I could bring two Christmas Cactuses in the house. The temperatures were supposed to be dropping into the 30’s and she wanted to make sure they weren’t harmed. I grabbed the flashlight and opened the door. The dog ran out quickly and grabbing the first of the Christmas cactuses to bring inside I was handing it to my wife when a small bird flew out of the pot and into the house. My wife surmised this wasn’t a situation she was comfortable with feeling certain the bird wanted to nest in her hair and bolted for the living room. I picked up two mesh hats and tried to corral and capture the scared and fast-moving critter. It wasn’t easy but after a few moments, I noticed it kept heading back to the door where it came in. I propped open the door and was able to guide it to the opening and away it flew. “Whew!” Way too much excitement for that late at night.
As I chased the bird around the kitchen, mud room, and laundry room I wondered how ridiculous I looked trying to catch a bird, without harming it, with two mesh caps and my obvious lack of speed and agility. I also reflected on the unpredictability of life and how we can find ourselves so quickly in a situation we wouldn’t have dreamed of before it happens to us. Then, without warning, the unexpected comes swooping into our lives, and we are forced to deal with it.
Life is many things but none of them are boring. Thankfully, the troubles and challenges also, sooner or later, take flight and we’re left to ponder; “What’s next?”
Lack of Information –
The last few weeks I have been dealing with a situation of which I have a limited amount of information. In fact, I’ve had enough information to make one decision or another without knowing how it’s going to work out in the end. It’s a difficult place to be and an even harder place to stay and find peace. It’s nothing life threatening though it could have life-altering consequences.
Situations such as this one can be the source of stress, ruminations and endless supplies of; “What ifs…?” However, I have found myself embracing the moment and repeating a wisdom quote; “If this happens you’re still breathing, still alive, still on the journey of your life. If that happens…same.”
It reminds me of the proverb;
“When confused; chop wood, eat your dinner, sleep.
When enlightened; chop wood, eat your dinner, sleep.”
It’s hard to be in those places of uncertainty as we walk along the path but sometimes it cannot be avoided. So, I place one foot in front of the other and know sooner or later the way will become clear.
The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.