Archives for category: Parables

I woke to the usual sounds of a rainy morning. No snow. Not here. I’m okay with that, and I get up and begin preparing for a routine sort of day. There’s been so much talk of snow, I sit down with my coffee and check the weather again, for any sign that I should definitely be working from home. No snow. No. Snow. (Not here.) My backpack is set up for inclement weather, the car is AWD. I’m ready for it, if and when it decides to snow. 🙂

Yesterday was similar, with regard to snow. We watched for it. Waited for it. Talked about it. Muttered about inaccurate weather forecasts, and in the next breath gushed over our favorite local meteorologist or some other climatologist of note, and talked about how much more accurate weather forecasts are “these days” – then went back to waiting, and watching, for snow that did not show up. We want it – and we dread it. We don’t want it – but we’re eager to snap snow pictures. lol Silly human primates.

I take a breath, and a sip of coffee, and relax. It may snow. It will or it won’t, or it’ll find something very different to do instead – maybe an ice storm in the middle of the night? It’s happened before, and is within the realm of things that are possible. I let it go. It isn’t significant until it happens, and either way I am prepared. I wonder for a moment if I should stop by the grocery store after work, then remember that my Traveling Partner is handling that. The amount of relief in the moment that I have help with life’s details, and that this journey is shared, is pretty obvious. I sigh, and relax, and smile. I am comforted knowing he’s in the other room, sleeping. Snow storm? Let it come; I’ll be in good company if I end up snowed in. 🙂

Letting myself become attached to an outcome isn’t generally very useful, even with the weather. Being generally prepared requires some awareness of legitimate ordinary possibilities, for sure, but doesn’t benefit from clinging to one or another in advance of the relevant moment. I smile to myself, feeling confident that this is a life lesson I’ve managed to learn well. I’m a big fan of non-attachment, of being “generally well-prepared in life”, and of sufficiency as a means of reducing the amount of stress in my life associated with disappointments. All of those require some practice (at least, they did for me, and still do). Pretty worth it to have so much less turmoil and drama in my life. 😀

Another smile, another sip of my coffee, another opportunity to begin again – whether it snows or not. 😀

I enjoy the thought that my Traveling Partner and I are sharing this journey, walking a shared path. Now and then I am reminded that it is, however pleasant, an illusion. We are each having our own experience. We walk our own path. Survive our own hard mile. We endure our own dark night of the soul. We, each, alone care for our innermost heart, and nurture our tenderest wounds. The reminder was powerful, and I am so grateful I was merely a bystander to two paths that suddenly diverged on a Saturday morning. I don’t know if this is a sad story or not, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – certainly it is a story of change.

I was having coffee with a friend. We get together now and then, on a Saturday morning, and catch up on life and things. A couple, strangers, came in shortly after we sat down, and sat near us, sort of off to the side, definitely within our view, and close enough we could not avoid hearing their conversation, which I’ll share as accurately as memory permits…

He held her chair. This ordinary looking man of apparent middle-class means, allowed his companion to get seated, and they ordered. She thanked him for picking her up from the airport, and for taking her to breakfast. How thoughtful. She smiled. He shifted uncomfortably before speaking.

“So… welcome back..?” He laughed uneasily. His smile was fleeting, and somewhat nervous.

“Are you okay?” she asked, without looking up from her phone. This seemed somehow significant to her companion, and his posture straightened, and the look on his face became resolute, and more sure of himself.

“Yeah. So, about that. I’ve decided to end our relationship.” She laughed with a bit of disbelief, then looked into his eyes and her face sort of… froze. “I wasn’t sure how you’d take this, so… the least I could do was take you to breakfast…”

“You wanted to be in a public place so I couldn’t make a scene!” she hissed, leaning in close. Her face was tight with tears she was fighting. He… was still calm.

He inhaled deeply and sighed. “You’re right of course. I’m sorry. I needed to feel… safe. This is hard. Hard for me, too.”

“Why?” she demanded with a quivering voice, “someone else…?”

“No.” He sounded sad, and lost. “I just… there’s a lot I want to do for myself, to explore on my own. I just… I want to be myself, no compromise, no obstacles, no negotiation, and I haven’t felt able to. I’m sorry.”

They both sat quietly for some time, just drinking their coffee. My friend and I sat drinking ours. Occasionally looking at each other in a soft, sad, “what the fuck?” sort of way, each in our own thoughts, about our own partners, our own paths, our own lives.

Eventually, the man at the nearby table busy quietly breaking up with his partner spoke again. “So… I’ll need the keys to the apartment before I go. I … um… I had your stuff packed up and put in storage while you were out of town, and… um… yeah. I don’t want you to come back to my place, at all. I packed your clothes and things and they’re in your car… I’ll… I’ll just pay the check and take a car service home… is… what I planned.”

She sat looking astonished, helpless… I sensed that it might turn to frustrated fury at some point, and hoped that everyone would keep their heads, and find that calm center in their storms. “Is this happening?” she said quietly, in a child-like voice, as if disbelieving. “Five years, and then… this?”

“Yeah.” he said, “It’s happening. I’m going to go now. Please don’t call, I’d like this to just be… over.” He hands her an envelope, and her numb hands accept it.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s an inventory of your things. Please email me if I missed anything. Also… I, uh, paid off your car. I mean… I bought it, but, um… it’s yours.”

“You’re not taking it?” she accused, almost snarling the question.

“No. Why would I?” he asked patiently, “I don’t hate you. I’m just… done. Okay? I mean… I hope we’ve over this really fast, and we both move on with better… other things. …I’ve got to go.” He put his jacket on, and looked around as if he did not expect to see the place again, ever, and left.

The woman sat quietly, staring into her coffee. The other customers seemed also uneasy. Conversations seemed quiet, muted, as with a respectful silence. I know I was, myself, uneasy. I sat with my friend, each of us taking a turn at small talk, both of us thinking about two people – any two people – at any airport, seeing each other again, after some time apart, and suddenly, one path takes a sharp turn for a very different destination. Now and then I glanced her way, although I don’t know what I was trying to see.

My friend and I finished our coffee. We hug and agree to “do this again soon”. We both know we don’t really want it quite as it was, this time… I walk away feeling introspective, and a little bit blue. What if it had happened to me? What about you? What would that be like…? What would you do? I sigh, as I unlock the door of my car, ready – so ready – to return home to see my Traveling Partner, again…

…My “Traveling Partner”… nonetheless, we each walk our own path. We’re fortunate, any of us, to share the journey for a while, aren’t we? It’s not likely we’ll share the journey “forever” (that’s a child’s fantasy, I suspect). I spend the drive home contemplating love, thinking about what it takes to build, maintain, sustain, and nurture love. Thinking about what I’m good at love-wise, and what I still need so much work on. I think about all the things in the world I would like to see and do and be and experience along the way… and I think about sharing it with my Traveling Partner. I think about not sharing it with him. Would I love life any less if our paths diverged? I like to think not…but it would be so painful to find out. I put myself in her shoes, imagine myself sitting with my coffee, alone unexpectedly, no plan, no place,… I breathe, exhale, and relax, grateful that my path, for now, is different. No assumptions. No expectations. Aware that change is a thing that can happen unexpectedly, to anyone, at any time. Firmly, studiously, I am not taking love – this love – for granted. There are verbs involved. Choices. No map.

I took comfort in arriving home to welcoming arms, and a chance to begin again.

You know that experience where disappointment, frustration, and anger, collide, and the result is a bit of a tantrum, a lashing out, maybe saying “too much”, with too much ferocity? You know the one; the burning of bridges, the severing of connections? That moment when disappointment hits so hard it feels necessary to hit back (metaphorically, I mean)? Yeah… don’t do that. (Also, don’t do violence. Just… yeah, don’t. Not okay.)

I know, it sound super easy to say. Emotions get to the party ahead of our rational minds, generally. Once we’ve lashed out, said a thing, made a messy bit of drama that will need clean up later, it can seem to have been necessary, “reasonable” (it’s definitely not that) – even “paybacks” may sound satisfying. “Fuck them!”

Here’s the thing, though. We’re all human. Most of us perceive ourselves to be “the good guy” in our own narrative, at least. If asked, people seem generally willing to stake a claim to being in a state of “doing their best”, moment-to-moment. It’s very subjective. If, though, everyone around us is as well-intentioned as we believe ourselves to be, is lashing out when disappointed actually an appropriate reaction to that person or circumstance? (If you are not “well-intentioned”, that’s a very different concern, for another day.)

I recognize that life “isn’t fair”, and that most of the time there’s no “save” at the last minute, no “we brought you back as our wild card performer!” moment to salvage our experience if we’ve been disappointed. (Sometimes there is, though, so… maybe don’t talk yourself out of that potential with a lot of cranky bullshit.) I’m thinking about it this morning, not because it’s properly relevant to this moment, but it may be to some other, in the future, so… sipping coffee, thinking thoughts. Certainly, after the fact, it’s usually pretty clear that throwing a fucking fit over some small disappointment is less than ideal for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that the most obvious result is that we look like a reactive, emotionally immature, jackass (at least until we’ve finished whatever rationalization we’re prone to working so hard at, at that point we’re likely to be blinded by our own fiction). lol Not a great look.

Giftmas is coming. Gifts under trees… dinners out with friends or family… holiday events… it’s easy to forget to cherish these rare moments, to make them the best moments of our lives (and yes, even in spite of conflict, and stress). It’s super easy to lose our shit in a moment of holiday stress. We’re making memories every moment, though; what do we want to remember of our life? To be remembered for? The stress? The conflict? We become what we practice. Being a petty jerk about an imperfect gift creates a memory, becomes a practice. How much better to give generously, and receive graciously? To be kind? To show compassion? To laugh with a joyous heart? There are verbs involved, and choices, and yes – your actual will. It is actually possible to choose – and build – joy. I recommend it as a practice. 😀

Let go of the stress. Lead with gratitude. Be merry by choice when you can. Appreciate each moment; the joyous ones are as lovely as butterflies, the ones that are less joyous are extraordinary opportunities to grow, to learn, and to become that person you most want to be. Sure, walk away from drama, definitely do that, and also connect with others more deeply, more authentically. It is a powerful season for change. It’s a real shot at life-changing forward momentum. Your call. Your choice. Your practices.

Give yourself an amazing gift this year; better practices. 🙂 It’s not always “easy”, and “practice” certainly implies effort, and likely an occasional actual failure. The journey is so worth all that. Are you the person you most want to be, standing where you are, right now? What will you do about that, today, right now?

It’s already time to begin again. I finish my coffee, and smile. No headache this morning; it’s a good beginning. 😀

 

I’m sipping my coffee on a Monday and turning over a metaphor in my head. I’ve been giving it thought all weekend, actually, well – if by “all weekend” I mean “since I started putting up the holiday tree”. 🙂

It began simply with the necessary (for me) task of untangling ornament hooks…

Like my thoughts, some things need to be untangled before they are really useful.

It’s really that simple metaphor that has me feeling thoughtful. I’ve had this same tangle of ornament hooks since… oh… for about 20 years. Here’s the thing, though; one year, I couldn’t find them. The only ones I could locate to purchase as a replacement that year were long hooks. (I use, generally, by preference, the short ones.) I turned up the others while decorating the tree – they were at the bottom of a fairly ordinary brown box. I combined the short hooks and long hooks, and put them all “conveniently” into a single small plastic container. Now, each year, I have to untangle ornament hooks before I can get started hanging ornaments. (If you suggest I simply toss these and buy new ones that are less tangled, I’ll point out , first, that some of my oldest ornaments have original hooks on them that are older than I am, which I have not discarded in spite of discoloration due to age, and also, this is a metaphor, so… perhaps the point was missed? 😉 )

Each year I carefully untangle and set free enough of the short hooks from the grasp of the long ones to decorate the tree. Each year I carefully put them all back into the container they share – even the long ones it was necessary to free from the tangled mass, in order to get to the short ones. Each year, I put them back in a more orderly state than I retrieved them in. Each year I open the container to find they are entirely tangled all together once more.

…There really is a metaphor here…

“What’s your point?”

It’s a good question, glad you asked. The point is, I think, that the content of my own thoughts can sometimes be fairly tangled up, with “long hooks” of ancient hurts, old baggage, new baggage, and a variety of expectations and assumptions, all sort of hooked into the “short hooks” of useful observations, clarity, real understanding, valuable perspective, and the present “here and now” sorts of things that create a well-lived life. The tangled mass can impede good communication, mess with my clarity of mind, and undermine my feeling of emotional well-being. It’s pretty important to sort things out, and untangle those long hooks to get to the useful short hooks, and really get on with living life.

It’s not that the long hooks are worthless; they’re hooks. They serve a function. I have some few ornaments that are most easily hung from those long hooks. Some of those are even quite beautiful – it’s just that nearly all the ornaments on my tree hang most pleasingly, easily, and conveniently from the short hooks. So, why the hell do I keep the long ones at all, though? I guess… as with the bullshit and baggage tangled in my thinking, and in my poorly processed lingering bits of baggage, I get started on that, and along the way I free up enough short hooks to meet my needs in the moment, and then just sort of … pack all the hooks back into their container… for… convenience.

Yeah. So. Giving that some thought has kept my mind occupied this weekend (a generally splendid holiday weekend). 🙂 There’s something to learn from this container of hooks. 😀

When I think over some of the repetitive things I say, (personal slogans, self-directed motivational battle-cries of various sorts, succinct aphorisms, that sort of thing) I’m aware that many have come and gone over the years – some healthy, some unhealthy, some… more than a bit misguided. One stands out for me, steadfast and true, like the sort of old and trusted friend that will tell hard truths; “begin again”. It’s not really about “do-overs”, you know; it’s about gathering the strength to just start something anew. It’s about first steps following hard falls, and taking an approach that skills require practice, and that there is value in an attempt, and yes, even in the failures. It’s about resolve. It’s about exerting a worthy effort, in the face of ennui, or a deep depression, or a lot of pain. It’s about insisting with myself that I live life, not just wait around to die.

…It’s definitely not about “easy”. There are so many verbs involved, so much will, and real (and repeated) effort. Isn’t that characteristic of living, generally?

It’s a Tuesday. An ordinary enough beginning to a new work day ahead. Meetings. Calls. Emails. Spreadsheets. Slide decks. Drafts of new processes. Improvements on old processes. The usual office-sorts of work things to do. I’ve done other jobs. Had other sorts of Tuesdays. I’ve been invested in a different quality of life than what I work for now, with varying degrees of success (this particular experience of life in these past handful of years has been by far most satisfying and emotionally healthy). I’ve been fortunate to explore other lives, other experiences of being human. New beginnings have long been required following the end of something else. 🙂

These days I don’t worry too much about failures; they are part of a learning and growth mindset. I embrace a new beginning and get after it. No, it’s not really that easy sometimes. I may get excited about shiny new boots, even eager to maintain that shine, and keep them lovely, but when the time comes, on a rainy Sunday evening, to set aside the next episode of some favored show, or put down my book, in order to shine those boots… that’s the hard bit. Taking the step. Doing the verbs. It’s not enough to “commit”, and – omg, I am so sorry to say these words – you can “manifest” shit 100% of all your days, and it’s still waaaay more likely that you will find yourself achieving whatever it is if you do the fucking verbs required for it. Yep. “Manifesting” your future is about as effective as daydreaming. 😉 Do the verbs. Make the effort. Or, an alternative, accept that your will isn’t up for the task at hand and let it go. Seriously. What do you really want, that you want enough to work for it?

I’m not saying it’s easy. Seriously not saying that at all. I sat around not shining those fucking boots all week, and then all day that Sunday, even in the face of my partner’s tender reminders that I said I wanted to shine my boots, and gently suggesting it as an activity when I may have seemed bored, and then again shortly before the evening ended; I wanted to wear them, shined, on Monday. lol Omg. I just… couldn’t didn’t. You know what else? Those fucking boots were not shining themselves. LOL My partner offered to do it for me… well, damn, that’s just kind of sad and a bit embarrassing for me. (He’s so sweet. He knew I wanted them to look great, and just cares that much.)

…So… I finally shined my boots. I was happy I did; they looked great. They even got noticed. Nice. 🙂 (Okay, okay, also a little vain. Small pleasure, though; I enjoyed the satisfaction of caring for something I like.)

There’s a lesson here somewhere. Not quite a parable, I guess… but maybe. No time for overthinking it, this morning, it’s already time to begin again. 😀