Archives for posts with tag: for a friend

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. 😀

I woke this morning, too early, because biology said so; I had to pee. I wanted very much to go back to sleep, even though I knew the alarm would go off in less than an hour. It mattered less that I might not sleep more, than it did to honor my desire to do so. I snuggled up in the warmth of the blankets, and let myself drift off, favoring meditation if sleep didn’t come. Sleep didn’t come. Anxiety did, though. Like a blast through my relaxed near-dream consciousness, like a bucket of ice water on a challenge I didn’t volunteer for, like a pit in a pitted cherry in a particular good bite of pie, my anxiety surged very suddenly, and without obvious cause. Amusingly, I ‘heard’ a distant imagined voice, calm and professional, my own, in the background “please do not panic…” and smiled as I comfortably shifted my body to a more open position, and focused on my breathing. The anxiety quickly dissipated, lacking anything to feed on, and I continued to meditate until the alarm went off, and then for a couple of moments afterward; reacting to the alarm often starts my day badly, for some reason, perhaps some association with the word ‘alarm’, itself, and I often take a couple of minutes to breath and relax before I rise.

Like any muscle, my will becomes stronger (and healthier) the more I exercise it. Practicing good emotional and physical self-care pays off over time, although initially I wasn’t really  certain that such small changes would ‘matter’. Isn’t that the thing though? If I had insisted for myself that small changes, better practices, and that really committing to the practices that feel good to me were of no value – or no lasting value – or that I ‘won’t be able to make that work’, I most assuredly would have achieved what I was certain of – they wouldn’t have been of much value. Don’t get me wrong on this one, I am not decrying the value of empirical evidence, or sneezing on the standards of proof in science. I am suggesting that it is rather obvious, regardless what can be proven effective, that we have the power to render the most effective treatment worthless by undercutting our will, or by defining our successes as failure, or simply by choosing to identify the outcome as ‘not working’. This is not a matter of ‘faith’ – because the things I am practicing are not ‘faith-based’ practices. Like any practices, if I don’t actually practice them, they will not be effective – it is my choice to apply myself, to enact my will, to see change manifest because I choose it. There are verbs involved…but there is also acceptance, and awareness involved.

Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge... or just a tree? You choose.

Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge… or just a tree? You choose.

Why am I on about this today? For a friend, actually. It seems he has lost his will, and is surviving life on his ‘won’t’ instead. It sucks to see him suffer – worse still, it sucks to see him not only choose suffering, but to invest heavily in the continuation of suffering as though the suffering itself has great value, or is the desired outcome. Hell, maybe it is. He does get to choose. I feel both sympathy and compassion for his struggle; I have my own such moments. Maybe we all do, now and then. We each make our choices. There are verbs involved. Our results vary. We are each having our own experience. The map is not the world. The journey is the destination.

My friend has been exposed to all these ideas, himself. He has a lot of people who support and encourage him (although he often doesn’t recognize or acknowledge it). He very specifically enacts his ‘won’t’ at many decision-making points, and defines many moments as failures, accepting that there is no possible good outcome available to him. He often makes a point of limiting his perceived options, and holds onto life-goals that appear specifically chosen to be as far out of reach as possible, while firmly refusing himself any opportunity to see more of life’s potential. It makes my heart ache to see him suffer…and it confuses me to see that it is willful, and so carefully crafted. I am powerless to help – because these are his choices to make, and he makes them. Another lesson on attachment, perhaps, and a reminder that some of my own self-inflicted suffering is a matter of choosing (poorly) to find myself responsible for someone else’s self-inflicted suffering by assigning myself some portion of the task of alleviating that suffering. It doesn’t work that way with self-inflicted suffering; only the self can choose to let that one go.

The loveliness of life is not visible so easily if my eyes are closed; knowing this may not be enough to decide to open my eyes. That's how choice works.

The loveliness of life is not visible so easily if my eyes are closed; knowing this may not be enough to decide to open my eyes. That’s how choice works.

Today is a good day for good self-care, and for loving the being of light that inhabits this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to be compassionate. Today is a good day to consider more than the obvious options, and choices that didn’t make the first list. Today is a good day to be open to success, and to accept failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Today is a good day to love, and to put myself at the top of my own agenda. Today is a good day to change the world within.