I was listening to an incarcerated man speak about his children last week; “This is my life. It is what I’ve always wanted. Not jail but respect. To get the respect I had to do things which would take me to jail. When my boy grows up if this is the life he lives I will respect him and we’ll rule the jail together.” To hear him hurt my heart. He had decided there was a certain path he, and his family, had no choice to follow to achieve his goal; respect. He didn’t realize it but he was talking about fate.
The dictionary defines fate; “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.” For this man, the family he was born into, the house he grew up in, the neighborhood he roamed as an adolescent, the laws and societal norms he broke to fit in, powers beyond his control, all came together to put him on the path of being incarcerated. It was his fate and the presumably the fate of his children as well.
Wisdom tells us there are two circles; a large one and a small one. The large one is the things we cannot control; events, tragedies, positive occurrences and negative influences, most of life fits in this circle. The smaller circle are things we can control; choices, habits, reactions, responses to the negative influences and the positive occurrences. There is much out of control and life can seem overwhelming and chaotic. How do we find the right path in a world full of greed, hate, and evil? How do we know what’s right when a lot of things seem headed in the wrong direction? Or, are we fated to walk a certain path because of where we were born and to whom, grew up, genetics, role models?
The power to choose, to react, respond to the life that is given to us is great. It cannot stop tragedies, events, life from happening but it can decide how these things which are out of our control impact us. Life seems easier for some than others. Privilege is real. However, it doesn’t define us unless we allow it to set our course.
Post Storm –
This morning I had to pick up and drag to the burn pile all of the debris left over from yesterday’s storms. It was a lot of broken limbs and several large branches. It took a while to get all of it collected and deposited. I had a good sweat going after finishing. Then I mowed and trimmed. It was a lot of work, picking up the junk, cleaning up, what’s left over from the storms that blew into our lives.
As I sat on the riding lawn mower today I was reminded that we cannot control the storms and most of the damage they do. We aren’t in charge. We don’t have the power. We can, however, pick up the junk, dispose of the debris and clean up as best we can. Tragic events, unwanted surprises, ordinary life has a way of blowing into our every day and leaving a mess. We can’t stop it but we can react in positive or negative ways.
Be Still and Wait –
This morning our Siberian Husky Trooper was ready to go outside. Getting to the door to open it he was dancing in circles! I opened the door to the house and the screened in porch and he darted out. Almost immediately I noticed a big rabbit in the field adjacent to our home. My eyes grew big wondering if Trooper was going to see it. The rabbit was still. I thought to myself; “Can you stay that still with danger lurking that close to you?” I watched intently as Trooper began sniffing the area and the bunny watched and didn’t move. After what seemed like a lifetime for me and the rabbit Trooper lumbered back to the porch and the rabbit was safe.
Many times in life we face trials and temptations, difficulties and decisions, choices and complications. Our instinct might be to take immediate action, react in the ways which seem best, hurry up and solve the problem. However, wisdom teaches us that when the way is clouded and we can’t see or crowded with chaos and hard to move the best we can do mentally, emotionally and spiritually is to be still and wait. To breathe, close our eyes and find our center. With a hectic mindset, we can focus on the immediate and “fix it” at the expense of the future. We can also become reckless running around trying everything at once and creating more hardships for ourselves and those we love.
A great master was asked one time by his student to help him solve a problem for which he could not find the solution. “I’ve gone over it a million times, looked at every angle, and can’t seem to see the way. The master told him; “When you step into a stream your feet muddy the waters. Only when you are still will the waters clear.”
Stillness, the quietude of the mind, is underrated. Pause, rest, be still, and the way will reveal itself.
Spoiler Free –
I spoiled a television show for someone. I didn’t mean to. We were listing what shows we liked and followed and she mentioned one in particular. I told her it was a good show and the way she talked about the episodes and the people and certain situations I thought she was on season two when in fact she was still working her way through the first season. I said; “Can you believe he killed that guy?” and all I received in return was a blank stare. My stomach dropped and I knew what I had done and there was no way out of it. “I am so sorry. I thought, from the way you were talking, you knew this! Again, I am so sorry!” She said it was; “okay” but I know from having television or streaming shows and movies spoiled for me it just isn’t the same when something shocking happens and you know its coming.
I was talking with another parent a couple of weeks ago about children. We agreed that life is anything but a spoiler. Twins, raised in the same way, can turn out completely different. Situations, events happen to one group of people and they all react differently. We are in every way a unique creation never to be repeated. Yet, at times, we give out advice like we know what’s going to happen. A person comes to us with a problem and instead of listening and simply being present we say; “Oh! That’s happened to me. Here’s what you should do.” We think, speak and act as if we have the answers to a problem we’ve never encountered before.
Wisdom teaches us to be careful with advice and to respect the one of a kind journey we all travel together.
Yesterday I wrote about hearing the sound of a kitten but not being able to find it (“Listen” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/09/08/listen/). Today, I saw it for the first time. However, it wasn’t the way I wanted to be introduced. I was weeding near outdoor shelves and the weed whacker was on full throttle. Grass and dirt flying everywhere and when I was right next to the outdoor shelf all of a sudden the gray kitten (I now know what color it is) shot out from under the shelf running for dear life. I immediately turned off and put down the weed eater and went looking for it. Using my best “meow” and “here kitty kitty” I tried locating it to introduce myself and assure it wasn’t in any danger but no luck. It was in too much distress to come out of whatever hiding place it discovered. After I finished with the weeding I put out a little food and some water in hopes it will show up again. We’ll just have to wait and see.
A friend, who is a teacher, posted on Facebook that it can be difficult to reach students because of the trauma and distress they face in other parts of their lives. He lamented the impact a teacher can have because of the other challenges and difficulties his students are facing on a daily basis. I find this true in my work with men as well. Whether they are incarcerated, in a rehabilitation clinic, non-residential, divorced or living with mom and the children, most of these men have a painful story. They are impacted by their past experiences of neglect, abuse, heartbreaking home lives, and lack of positive male and female role models. These not only affect their current behavior but also wire their brains and condition their bodies to react in mostly negative ways.
What I’ve learned is that I can’t fix these men. It’s not in my power. What I can do is show them respect and kindness. I try to connect with each one personally. If I can establish a relationship built on kindness and respect amazing things can happen. I’m unable to help them all but I try and trust this is enough.
Some people drive us crazy! Others makes us want to put our fists, or heads, through a wall. For whatever reason there are folks who rub us the wrong way, frustrate, anger and cause us to react in ways we don’t want to or would normally do. However, we find our words and actions harsh, brash, careless, harmful and detrimental to connection and harmony.
It is especially important, as we deal with people with whom we struggle finding common ground, to remember the discipline of the “space in between”. This practice centers on the realization that there can be, should be, a pause between what happens to us and our response. This gap is used to measure our words, evaluate our actions and choose those which do not harm ourselves or the other.
A lesson wisdom tries to teach us that, if learned, will save us a great deal of regret and heartache.