Tag Archives: anger

Lemons

You know that expression, right?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

Or alternatively:

lemons

Well, it struck me just now that there are basically two camps you can fall into when you hit a bump in the road and fall off your bike. It’s probably obvious and it’s sure to be something I’ve written about before, in another guise, some time ago. And I don’t want to get all verbose about it, since it’s really just the simplest equation in the world.

When life throws you a curveball, you have a choice.

You can add it to one of two lists.

You can add it to your victim story list: “And then, poor me, this happened.” You know the one, right? And you know when you’re on that kick because you’re not focused on what actually happened, or how best to deal with it, or how to fix it, but you’re reciting in your head how best to tell it when you next meet someone who’ll listen. And you know that you’re learning to kick that habit the moment it begins to feel less than comfortable reciting the same tired old lines; when, and I know you know this one, you’re actually beginning to bore yourself.

Or you can add it to your survivor list. You can add to the strings on your bow. You can hold your head up and say (to yourself because, come on, who else needs to hear it anyway? Whose opinion of you is more important than your own? Seriously. Whose? The number one person who needs to love and approve of you is… uh-huh… YOU) “I survived that, and this is what I learned.”

Victim consciousness is a honey-trap. You think you’ll feel better telling someone how unhappy you are and how it’s anyone and anything else’s fault other than your own. But you don’t. You never ever do. It just perpetuates the misery.

But when you take responsibility for your own happiness, it can change in a heartbeat.

Last night, watching a film with some of my family, one of my sons was, frankly, bloody miserable. From an objective perspective, I had grasped the storm in the teacup, I could see how simple it would be to forget it, to get over it, to let it go. But it isn’t something you can do for someone else. They have to do it for themselves. And it isn’t always easy. And unless you’re Buddha, you’ll still have times when you struggle with it.

In a lull, I leaned over to him:

“The only person unhappy in here,” I whispered, “is you. And you don’t have to be. You can choose to let whatever the perceived grievance is… go. Just let it go.”

He guffawed, somewhat sarcastically, but I know how it works with him. Plant the seed, walk away and let him think.

Shortly afterwards, during a particularly heavy and gruelling scene, and as though nothing had happened:

“If you close your eyes and listen to Tom Hanks in this film, it’s like Woody’s swearing. I can’t be the only one to think that, right?”

The rest of us fell about laughing and the entire atmosphere was diffused.

Because he chose to let it go.

Small example, simple principle.

Massive life lesson.

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If this… then…

First of all Happy New Year! I love this time of year. I know, I know, it’s only a calendar date, it has nothing to do with the seasons, the equinoxes, it’s all made up… But still, somehow… It’s New, isn’t it? And there’s something almost irrepressibly optimistic about something New.

I disappeared for a while. That’s kind of symbolic, I think. Various technical complications meant that this site was unreachable for a spell, then reappeared in some bizarre form, and today I have found it again. Funnily enough, I rather feel like I’ve found me again recently, too.

Last year, the year behind me, became rather unfocused towards the end. Or perhaps mono-focused is a better way of putting it. Too much was overlooked and fell by the wayside. I say this without guilt or rancour because it was very positive, if exhausting, and because I don’t believe in regrets, but in lessons learned. This Christmas season has brought a fabulous refocusing.

The mot du jour is balance. And it is I this I shall endeavour to hold onto into 2014.

There we have it – my rather over-worded Resolution. Because, you know, I don’t think it does any of us any harm at all to refocus on a fairly regular basis. Stop, take stock, whittle away what doesn’t make your soul sing, nourish what does…

I was listening to Jack Kornfield today. Again, somewhat by accident, I appear to have managed to sign up for Google Play and I haven’t the faintest idea how to unsubscribe, so I’m making the most of it 😉 And I was very pleasantly surprised to find one of my gurus there.

And the part that stopped me mid-mushroom chopping was breathtakingly simple.

It always is, isn’t it?

And then, when you try to explain it to somebody, you’re in danger of being considered a simpleton yourself.

I’ll give it a shot anyway.

He said this:

If this…. then that.

If not this… then not that.

And, he said, that’s life.

It is a simple string of actions and consequences.

But the problems (and I’m no longer paraphrasing Mr Kornfield here) begin the moment we start to personalise those actions – your actions, my actions, his actions – we get into hot water. Forget all that, it mires you in anguish, anger, guilt, the desire for vengeance. And the only thing any of that will do is keep you locked in that time.

In that past.

In that last year.

Why not try:

If I let it go, then I can move on.

See, I said it was simple. And I’m not convinced I’ve conveyed it the way it makes sense in my head. I mean, I hope it’s obvious that if your actions were detrimental to another, you make amends, you make your peace, you take your lesson and you move on a better person. Or that if you were the person ‘wronged’, you can forgive, whether it is desired by the other person or not, take your lesson and move on a stronger person… Those parts, I hope, don’t need saying.

After all, as wonderful Jack says:

“In the end, just three things matter:

How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go”

 


My Two Wolves

I’m sure this story isn’t new to many of those reading this. But it bears repeating since, like so many things in this adventure called life, it is just a strand of the tapestry that has recently taken a more discernible form in my consciousness.

So here it is:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“My child, there is a battle raging inside us all. It is between two wolves.

“One is Evil – It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thinks about this for a minute or two.

“Which wolf wins?”

“The one you feed.”

It’s simple, isn’t it?

But, like so many things of such apparent simplicity, although 1) it’s true, 2) it’s much more easily said than done. Partly because the battle isn’t confined to an arena within ourselves. And ye gods, it’s a tough enough battle when it is confined to that arena.

Before I go any further, I’m not talking here about good and evil. There is no evaluation or judgement in what I am trying to say. What has become abundantly clear to me is that so much human relationship goes wrong when the relating is fear-based, and love is forgotten.

There is of course, the moment you start talking about love, a very real danger of sounding like a blissed-out hippie (which is no bad thing in itself, incidentally 😉 ) I mean, the Beatles, man. They said it, right? “All you need is love”? And YES! I want to shout. It’s TRUE! And if everyone is operating from the same field, removing ego from the game, without becoming a doormat (another fine balance) then there’s nothing to fear. You’re safe to love, and to be loved.

Trouble is, as I see it, if one person is operating from love, and the other from fear, the wolf driven by fear will keep on, teeth bared, until one of you backs down. Usually Love, because Fear will just continue attacking, for fear of being attacked. At which point, after repeated attempts to stop the fight, a few bite-marks and battle-scars acquired, Love shrugs his shoulders, patches up his wounds, and whispers (inaudibly, to Fear) “When you’ve lost your snarl, retracted your teeth and claws, I’ll be here. Until then…”

It seems to be another truth that people will suspect you of operating as they do. Their prediction of your response is based upon the way they would respond in the same circumstances. And if you are driven by fear, then attack is your predominant modus operandi – kill or be killed – and you will expect attack from everyone else, regardless of the wolf they feed. You feed fear, so you expect everyone else to.

It is a very difficult thing, eschewing fear and embracing love. (It is actually also proving rather difficult to talk about without sounding… oh, I don’t know, trite, or naive, or as though you have all the answers – hah!) Maybe it’s something you can achieve once and for all. Eventually. When you attain enlightenment. 🙂

But for most of us, it is a battle we are invited to on a daily basis. And the most important thing I have learned about this fightevery single time it comes around, is:

The more you feed love, the stronger it becomes.

And fear? Well, it just kind of ceases to matter….

 


Beware the Honey Trap…

I am disappointed in myself.

I know that’s not the Practice. I know that if you fall off the horse, you get back on, and don’t berate yourself for falling. Instead, you learn the lesson about the fall, and sit a little tighter, or to a slightly different angle, or readjust the saddle, or… You get the point.

Nonetheless, I am disappointed in myself.

I allowed myself to be dragged into a powerplay, from which I know there is never a happy extraction.

I believe the kind of situation in which I was, once again, embroiled is called a ‘Honey Trap’. The sort of thing where, whilst repeatedly punching you in the face (metaphorically, you understand), you are told “But I love you!”

You can explain a situation from a thousand different angles, from a thousand different perspectives. The problem is not that you don’t understand that you are being punched in the face. You can wax positively lyrical about the ways in which you are being punched in the face, and indeed therein lies the problem: if I explain it this way, they will surely understand… There is great temptation to keep trying. But the problem  lies in the fact that the person punching has absolutely no awareness whatsoever that they are bloodying your face. I choose face-punching as a metaphor quite deliberately, because it is that obvious to you. It is so obvious to you that you are almost entirely unable to understand how the person punching cannot see what they are doing.

And, of course, the problem lies also in the hope that if you can just get them to see, then they might stop.

I could go on, but there is little point in going into detail. After all, this is not a lesson about victim consciousness. I no longer feel a victim of this behaviour. I no longer feel the need to ‘tell my story’, or to have people feel sorry for me. I am not interested in pity, or victimhood. What I am interested in is steering a course through adversity that causes the least emotional and spiritual damage to me (and my family, and indeed my aggressor), whilst maintaining my own integrity and equilibrium.

And, you see, that is where this kind of situation drags you off kilter. My equilibrium was not kept intact. I took my eye off the ball. I allowed myself to be bent out of shape. I lost my cool, half-burned the children’s tea, gave them a fraction of the attention they deserve, spent almost 48 hours being sucked back in. It leeches your life. And, in the simplest of terms:

It is not worth it.

Because, at some great cost – of time, energy, emotional stability and presence – I have learned over many years that there can be no other outcome than an escalation of frustration and a very unsatisfactory parting of the ways, that leaves you feeling less than, and a little poisoned.

The way it works is this:

1) The hook.
Maybe a little message, perhaps of ‘love’, perhaps of guilt, something designed to draw you in.

2) The conversation.
During which you can plainly see that nothing has changed since the last time you communicated.
By now, your warning alarm is going off like crazy in the back of your mind. It is, most likely, shouting “Run away!”

3) The position.
Which usually means ‘I want to keep punching you in the face whilst telling you I love you’.

4) The argument.
In which, in the gentlest terms possible, you try to explain that being punched in the face doesn’t work for you.
This escalates, as the aggressor continues to insist on their right to keep punching. But they love you.
And your frustration grows, as you try to explain that love is not punching in the face.
And they fail to see it.
And you become angry.
And ask repeatedly for it to stop, and to be left in peace.

5) The kicker.
The tables are turned, and suddenly the aggressor is the victim. “I see I have made you furious, when I just wanted to tell you I love you”.
Followed, even after your repeated requests to be left in peace, by “Let’s just leave it there.”

And you sit, stunned and dazed, flummoxed and furious, with nowhere to go with it all, having to process the poison and try to regain your equilibrium.

So, you see, I am disappointed in myself. This pattern is not new to me. It is dyed in the wool, tried and tested, and has worked for years. But, until this last experience, I had begun to master sticking to the solution.

Because there is a solution:

Don’t engage.

It is enormously difficult at first. It feels rude, cold, uncaring. But it isn’t. It is a healthy boundary, and self-protection. When you have experienced the same situation, more times than you can count, and the outcome has never been different, in spite of the many different approaches and angles you have brought to it, then it is sheer madness to expect it ever to change.

Walk away.

Register the sadness that arises in you out of the situation. Recognise that your wishing it could be different is simply a denial of reality.

And then, with a few deep breaths, focus on being here now: cook the supper properly, cuddle your children and hear about their day, tuck them up with a kiss and focus on what you do have, what you can do, the person you can control.

And let the rest go.


A few more thoughts on forgiveness.

Today, I have been listening to the dulcet tones of Jack Kornfield. He has the most soothing and calming voice, which helps a lot, but it is the content of his talks that is the most enlightening. For anyone who hasn’t heard of him, he is the author of such excellent books as “A Path with Heart” and runs the Spirit Rock Meditation Centre in California.

I was pottering about my kitchen, everyone else in the family occupied, listening to his guided meditations. Possibly not the best way of meditating, but better than not at all, to my mind anyway 🙂

And, in his inimitable fashion, he fed me some gentle food for thought.

The way it works for me is this:
I’m washing up, listening, drifting away, my mind snags on something. I stop what I’m doing and focus better. This is what snagged me:

“Stand up for yourself.
Tell the Truth.
It will be okay”

Which was just what I needed to hear at that moment. (Another fabulous way this universe works).

But he went on to do a lovingkindness meditation, which led me down the forgiveness route again.

I often write about the same theme many times. Sometimes I worry about that. About repeating myself. But here’s the thing:
These themes are things that we, as human beings, can struggle with our entire lives. I can’t write about it once and just ‘get it’, like flicking a light switch. It is tidal. The tide comes in and you have it. It ebbs away again and you struggle to hold onto it . But the difference here is that it never goes out quite as far as it did the first time, and eventually, instead of a turbulent and stormy ocean, you find the water has stopped at the shoreline, and you have a still, peaceful lake.

You have it.

So, forgiveness.

Forgiveness is vital to the healing process.

But it isn’t a sticking plaster. You can’t paper over the hurt with it. You can’t force it, even. And this is important.

You cannot force yourself to forgive.

It is a process.

And there are many stages to this process, not dissimilar to the stages of grief. For those unfamiliar with the five stages of grief, the Kubler-Ross model is this:
1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

And anybody who has been badly hurt will experience most if not all of these stages. My understanding of it, though, is that it is not until you get to the Acceptance stage of the process that you are able to forgive; it is not until you have worked through it all, and truly understood and assimilated, that you are able to let go.

I have said before that we have this perception that forgiveness lets your aggressor ‘off the hook’. In fact, the person being let off the hook is you. You no longer have to dwell in that world of holding on with hate, of clinging desperately to your injustices., of being locked into a cycle of vicim consciousness, which is disempowering to say the least. You are free to move on, unshackled from the ball and chain you’ve been dragging behind you for too long, empowered and in charge of your own life, responsible for your own happiness, no longer at the mercy of someone else’s responsibility for your unhappiness. From victim to conqueror!

Many victims of abuse become angry at the suggestion that they must forgive in order to move on. It has often taken such an enormous effort of will to stand up for themselves in the first place, that they fear that forgiving will set them back into a vulnerable position, that they will have to go through this all over again. And at that stage you are not ready. Your anger fortifies you, stiffens your resolve not to allow such things to happen to you again. It is natural, healthy and in the order of things that you feel it. But it is not a place you can live healthily in forever. The time has to come when you have strengthened yourself enough there to shed the anger and move on with your life, the lesson learned, the boundary strengthened, your happiness lying ahead, and not behind.

Anger, hatred, all those negative emotions are a chain around your heart. They may be protecting it from past (or present) abuse, but they are also preventing you from letting love in, from future happiness, from freedom.

So, when the time is right – and only when the time is right – cut the chain and let your heart fly free.

You cannot lose.

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Merrily, merrily, merrily…

There have been a couple of things pootling around my head lately, on this bumpy old Path.

I was having a conversation the other day about forgiveness. This is not an unusual occurrence just now. In my experience, when there’s something you need to assimilate, it throws itself at you with such insistence and regularity that resistence proves  futile…

So, the concept of forgiveness is one that I have been grappling with for some considerable time.

My first observation is that we need to detach from the story. And by story I mean ‘Victim Story’. The concept that anyone else has any control over the life we are living now is, frankly, skewed. The only person with any control over your happiness is you. Nonetheless, people are successful at self-control to greater and lesser extents, and it is a sad fact that if we are unable to relinquish blame and attack, we are likely to be very negatively motivated. And who needs that in their life? Happiness is dependent upon your thoughts, on which of them you believe, and on how positive (or otherwise) they are.

So, while it is not only possible but vital to learn to forgive, it will not always lead to a healing in your relationship. That part is very much dependent upon the relationship between you and the person you are forgiving. After all, if you are forgiving a past hurt, and there is a genuine change of heart, or behaviour, then your relationship has great hope of being healed. If, however, there is no change of heart or in behaviour, you may need to give it up. This I have mentioned many times before: if you can’t say ‘no’ within a relationship, you may have to say ‘no’ to the relationship. None of which is easy. Until you understand, that is.

Until you understand. It isn’t about looking backwards and becoming mired in the past. That’s already been and gone. It is about moving forward, the lessons assimilated, your heart and mind open to new experiences. Which will surely come.

In short, then, it is not difficult – once you have taken the decision – to forgive. It will set you free. Sounds trite, doesn’t it? But it’s true. All the while you have been holding a grudge against your ‘violator’, you have been keeping yourself locked up. That is the biggest and saddest irony of all.

So forgive.

As far as forgetting is concerned, I’d argue that it is important to forget the hurt, but I would argue that it is just as important not to forget the lesson. “Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me”. It’s rather a blunt way of putting it, and leaves out the possibility of any wriggle room in between the hurts, doesn’t it? But it holds merit all the same. There’s a message in it. You don’t need to keep going back for more. But you don’t need to hold onto the hurt or the resentment or the blame. You can let that go, too.

On a much lighter note, I was listening to Wayne Dyer the other day (just how many times have I written that?!) and he was talking about singing a song with his little daughter many moons ago. The song, and we all know it, is Row, Row, Row Your Boat

And this is what he said (I’m paraphrasing):

Row, row, row your boat.

Not my boat. Not someone else’s boat. Not a boat someone else has told you to row. And don’t let anyone else row it, either. Row your boat.

Gently.

Not angrily. Don’t force it. But go gently. With compassion. And… gentleness.

Down the stream.

Don’t row your boat up the stream. That will just bring you difficulty. Row your boat down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.

Keep cheerful. Row with joy. Not sadness or unhappiness. But with a merry disposition.

Life is but a dream.

It’s fleeting, isn’t it? And here Dr Dyer quotes Henry David Thoreau. I cannot remember the exact quote, but here’s another of his that fits the bill perfectly:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

So here we are again, eh?

Row your boat.

Yourself.

And enjoy the journey.

With love.


Day 12: Shoulder-Shaking

Forgiveness seems to be the order of the day.

I can’t escape it.

Everywhere I turn, everything I listen to, every book I pick up, every unbidden thought: all keep coming back to the same thing…

It’s Sunday. I have five boys enjoying a day of rest, of watching movies, eating home-cooked food, playing with their toys, and together, and on their computers. It’s a chilling-at-home kind of day.

So it’s not very quiet either.

And I resorted to listening to Jack again.

Guess what?

Yup.

Forgiveness meditation.

Two prisoners of war, talking.

Prisoner 1: “Have you forgiven your captors yet?”
Prisoner 2: “No! Never!”
Prisoner 1: “Then they still have you in prison, don’t they?”

This is what I was trying to get at the other day. This is the problem with the idea of forgiveness.

Do you suppose that either of those prisoners will be seeking out their captors? Will they be looking to find them, to tell them they forgive them, to try to be ‘friends’? I mean, I am aware that Nelson Mandela did, but… he’s kind of an exceptional case, isn’t he?

This is it! This is where I have, in the past, so very often come unstuck. If I have been hurt by somebody, baffled by their actions, and I want to move on… the first port of call is: “I must forgive them”. Because forgiveness means letting go of the pain, the anger, the resentment, the hurt, that keep you tied to the past. But what has always kept me teetering on the brink of this idea, of achieving this forgiveness, is the assumption that forgiveness means allowing those people back into my life in some way.

But today I learned something different.

As Mr Kornfield says:

Forgiveness does not in any way justify or condone harmful actions…
Forgiveness does not mean you have to seek out or speak to those who’ve caused you harm. You may choose never to see them again…
You can do whatever is necessary to prevent further harm.

And suddenly, the whole idea of forgiveness becomes a release, doesn’t it? I can let go of the hurt, the resentment, the grief. I can move forward. But, crucially, I can learn from it, too. I can choose not to put myself back in the firing line. I can remove myself from the situation without anger or judgement. I can replace those negative feelings with a universal love for my fellow human beings. And I can move on.

Hatred, he says, never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

Put simply, and as implausible as it may at first appear, I can love my aggressors from a safe distance. Because when the realisation is fully absorbed that we all make mistakes, that we are all flawed human beings, that we all hurt, that we can learn from both the hurting and the being hurt, that from all these experiences we can grow… where is there room for hatred? How are we different? Simply through our choices. Through how we choose to act or react. Whether we choose to remain locked into the negative and growth-inhibiting cycle of blame, recrimination, victimhood and hurt, or to face it head on, feel it in its awful, amazing, painful, essential entirety; learn

… and grow.

;


Day 6: Apple Crumble and LovingKindness

Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d rather see you in better living conditions.

~ Hafiz

Oooh, but Day 6 started with an uphill battle…

It was a little after 5am when my bedroom door was pushed open. I have a suspicion that mothers are born with in-built springs that contract, even in sleep, at the slightest sound from their offspring. I was up and out of the door before I realised I’d been woken up.

Fortunately, it wasn’t an emergency. Just a bleary-eyed five-year old who thought it was ‘too dark’ to go to the bathroom alone. I mumbled an “Off we go, then” and kept him company till he was safely tucked up again.

Trouble is, it’s tricky getting back to sleep at that time of the morning, isn’t it? I’m guessing that this is one of those times that learning to meditate is its own reward. Because before you’ve mastered it (and I surely haven’t yet), this is the time of the night when your mind decides to take the driving seat. Everything you are worrying about; worrying about happening, worrying about forgetting, worrying about not happening; jostles for position at the forefront of your mind, even while your mind itself is, to no avail, shouting at them all to STOP! I need to SLEEP!

So it’s a tired day. But, to put it in context, not nearly as tired as, say, the weeks (or months) it takes until your newborn decides to sleep through the night. You know… perspective!

But tired days are often days filled with mini-frustrations, too. You know, you slave over a hot stove and produce a delicious homemade risotto and your little one refuses point blank to eat it, even though porridge is his favourite food, and it’s not so very different, right? And then he completely wolfs the apple crumble his daddy made. Harumph! 😉

Fortunately, though, the threatening rumbles of distant thunder stayed distant, and after the children’s tea (which seems to be the ideal time) and before their bedtime, while they were winding down (or winding each other up, in some cases), I carried myself off for today’s meditation.

I leaned on Jack again. And today he was talking me through Lovingkindness Meditation. It’s hard to explain this, but although really all I did was listen to the theory of lovingkindness meditation, there is just something about the way he talks that opens your heart in preparation, calms you, steadies you. I came away as though I had had half an hour of complete, uninterrupted, focused meditative peace.

Truly, it was more food for thought, too. He explained that lovingkindness meditation is taught as an ‘antidote to fear, and anger, and confusion. And a closed heart.’

And that makes sense to me. Fear, anger and confusion… they constrict your heart, don’t they? If you close your eyes and think about the physical reactions brought about by those emotions, doesn’t it actually feel as though your heart is being squeezed, just a little? If you live your life in fear – which could just as easily be called anxiety – then you won’t allow love in. And people are afraid of so much, from the smallest things that appear utterly insignificant to their fellow human beings, to the biggest which, I suppose, is death. And that’s pretty significant too. You worry till you die? Doesn’t that seem to you a crazy way to ‘endure’ this life we’ve been gifted?

So, if the antidote to that kind of fear-laden doom is love, what do we have to lose? Which is pretty much verbatim what I said to a doom-laden son this afternoon. He had a list as long as your arm of perceived injustices. It’s so hard, at that tender age, to understand how easy it would be just to let them go. So I settled for
“Just try to be kind… I mean, what have you got to lose?”

In the meantime, my head and heart are full of Jack Kornfield’s words. In his soft, gentle, loving voice, he said:

The evocation of lovingkindness is what matters..
…and in the end of our life, when we look back, what matters is very simple:
“Did I love well?”


Mining for the Truth Diamond

Teatime.

It is so often mealtimes in our house that the big-gun conversations materialise apparently out of nowhere.

We were talking about anger. About how anger, met with anger, can only produce more anger… ad infinitum. Until what you are left with is the wasteland discarded by the volcano.

But if you meet anger with calm. If you register your dismay at the situation, without evaluation, without distress, and walk away, then it is over. It’s a heckuva lesson to learn. And it takes serious practice.

“But then they’ll think you’re a coward!” my son exclaimed.

“And does that make you a coward?” I asked.

“Well… no… but…”

If you do something because of what someone else might think of you if you didn’t… then they are controlling you. Your strings are no longer your own to pull. Your mind is no longer your own to make up. You are being led by the nose.

The problem arises the moment it matters to you what someone else thinks of you, what their perception of you might be if you act in a certain way, or if you don’t (though  you, in fact, know that way to be authentic). As soon as appearances are more important than truth, honesty and integrity, there comes into existence a major problem. The truth is not always comfortable, can often require a climb-down, loss of ‘face’ and some humbling, but it is vitally important for a relationship to thrive. Any relationship. From the one you have with the person who delivers your post, to your most intimate, primary relationship. Actually, and perhaps most importantly, to the relationship you have with yourself. If there is something that stops you meeting your own eyes in the mirror when you contemplate or recall it, you have a problem. It isn’t only that these things have a way of coming out, it is deeper, more intrinsic and more crucial to your inner peace. It prevents your being at peace with yourself. In the same way that a Catholic will go to Confession and lay his or her sins before the priest, you must learn to be your own confessor.

Integrity is, after all, doing the right thing even though no one is looking. But it is arguably harder to do it when someone is looking, someone whose opinion of you you value, someone who does not think or feel the same way as you, whose integrity is perhaps a little more questionable than your own. If you perform an act, even though a little voice is whispering in your ear “Don’t do it. It isn’t right…” or a big voice is hollering through the core of your being “Stop! This is lunacy! It ISN’T RIGHT!”, just because someone else might think badly of you if you don’t, then the sanest and most integrous course of action is not to perform the act, but to distance yourself from the person who wants you to.

The minute you do something because it’s more important to you what another person thinks of you if you don’t, even though you know it to be the right thing, you are lost. And you will have to find your way back.

And the more wrong turns you take in this fashion, the harder it gets to come back. The more rotten you feel in yourself, the less peace you have, the more the facade needs bolstering, the more balls of disingenuousness and deceit you have in the air. And the more likely it is that dropping one will signal a major breakdown in your life.

All of which can only highlight the importance of acting now, today. Every difficult situation you find yourself in, count to 10. There is no need for instant or defensive response. Take a few deep breaths and centre yourself. However tired, fed up or grumpy you feel, try to find the true, the kind, the loving response. It simply cannot harm you.  A few words of wisdom from people much wiser than me:

However many holy words you read, However many you speak, What good will they do you If you do not act on upon them?

~ Buddha

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

But don’t be disheartened when you fail. You’re human. And it’s all part of the practice.

x


“Redecorating Hell”

I’d never heard this expression  before. Until yesterday. Isn’t it a doozy?

What does it mean?

You know those arguments you have, and you really only have them with your nearest and dearest so usually your ‘significant other’, when you have both taken opposing positions on a situation? You are both so convinced you were right, that you have become utterly entrenched.

“No…” you say. “You didn’t say it like that. You’ve just rephrased it in such a way that it paints me in a wholly ungenerous light!”

“Actually,” your ‘other’ replies, “That is exactly how I said it. You’re just too sensitive!”

Whew! In Communication Miracles For Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict, which I have mentioned before – a deceptively insignificant and apparently ‘lite’ book which is actually far from it – this is the point at which your ears drop off. Yup. You heard me. Your ears. They drop off. You have been accused of being over-sensitive, so your defences have shot up, your brain has slammed on the brakes, and your ears wish to hear not a word more. Your partner has been accused of being ungenerous so his/her barriers have sky-rocketed, and not another word is going to help. But do you stop? Do you hell! You become über-defensive and try any means you can to convince the other of their wrongness, your rightness, your woundedness, their mistaken hurtfulness. You hurl yourselves at the point from every angle you can conceive; angry, pleading, frustrated, desperate, cold. Nothing works. For either of you.

This is ‘redecorating hell’. Raking over the same coals again and again, in the hope of making the other ‘see’ the error of their ways, that they have wronged you. This, my sister once told me, is one of the definitions of madness: repeating the same pattern again and again in the hope of achieving a different result.

Yet how often is it actually that serious? How often is it more important that you are right, than that a peaceful, loving relationship is restored? I can already hear the cries of “downtrodden!” or “doormat!” but I am not suggesting for a moment that you sacrifice your principles or moral code. How much easier would it be for everybody, though, if one of you could just reach out, let it go, let love win? If it is not a fundamental life/death situation, what’s the point?

And what message does it give your children, to witness a conflict threatening on the horizon, and to see one or other (or even better, both) of you release it, remember, and believe that love is more important than ego, or anger, or… anything really.

It was reading Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson’s You Can Create an Exceptional Life: Candid Conversations with Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson that I first heard this expression, but it was reinforced listening to Wayne Dyer this morning: in whatever situation you find yourself, it is the work  of moments to stop, release it, let love in and let love out.

“The solution for a life of unrest,” he informs, “is to choose stillness.”

It is deceptively simple, isn’t it? And yet, with an ironic smile playing on my lips, the following situation unfolded: I was alone in the kitchen. I stood at the sink washing up, trying to listen to his words as chaos burst in and unfurled around me in the form of at least three small, restless boys competing to be heard. The frustration of wanting to hear the message welled in my breast. I felt the familiar thwarted anguish rise, and then I realised…

…I’d already heard the message.

I stopped the recording, stilled my inner turbulence and turned, calmly, to deal with the many small demands; some important, others really not 😉 I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it really was that simple, to the extent that I am now attempting not to kick myself for being unable to manage it before now…

The next challenge is to achieve it mid-argument!

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