Lifting fog at sunrise over our farm on my 47th birthday: October 29, 2009.
Brother stand the pain; Escape the poison of your impulses. The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do. Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun. Turn away from the cave of your sleeping. That way a thorn expands to a rose. A particular glows with the universal.
I have an unusual request: it is for your help and good energy. I have a hard time asking for it, believe me, just as I have a hard time delegating or letting go of anything, really: physical or emotional. I do believe in the power of positive thinking and of prayer and you know what? Rather than think negative thoughts of my enemies I've been trying to pray for them. It turns everything upside down, doesn't it? It no longer empowers our enemies but frees us, instead. This can be a difficult realization but even more difficult to practice. Oh boy, is it ever.
You see I try to live by the Golden Rule, a universal quality of most religious belief systems. But when I am wronged, or those I love are wronged, it is a harder philosophy to put into practice. So I try to analyze the person or the situation: what grievance do they have with me and why? What can I do to change the situation or my behaviors to make it better?
Yesterday I was tapped on Facebook to join a group called Charter For Compassion. I usually balk at joining anything but the simple message in this group has the power to transform the world, just as forgiveness can do. Here is the beginning of their mission and purpose:
"The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect."In this divisive era of name-calling and hatred in our national landscape, of religious righteousness thrown at political or societal difference, I find this cause refreshing. We do not have to tolerate hate but we can throw love back at it.
Sometimes you just end up barking up the wrong tree all the time: darned if you do, darned if you don't. Sometimes it's not you at all. Like with certain friendships that have cooled for no reason or people whom you feel you want to keep trying to reach again, no matter how brusque their demeanor. You start to feel like a dog who wants unconditional love while trying to please a difficult taskmaster who is always raising the bar. If you persist you are doing so at your own peril: more cold shoulders or a decided chill in the air. You either retreat or rebel. I have had a short-term situation like this in my new life here that requires me to let go, move on. So I pray for this person and wish them well, even though I want to tell them that their actions and behaviors have been observed by, and with, others. That they need to get over themselves! I want to have the last word or I want to fix them–either way, it's not my place or problem.
Several much older friendships have gone through a transformation in the past few years: one person is more distant from lifestyle and circumstance and the other is renewed because of a better understanding and appreciation of our differences. We forgave each other and have moved on. I hope to rectify the other. In yet another we have just gone our separate ways because I was completely misunderstood about such a minor thing and refused to apologize for something I did not do–and I had had it with their bullying. Part of the reason for all of this kerfuffle in my life is that I am not so willing to squelch who I am anymore. In most of my formative years, I was a pleaser and a smoother and a fixer. Not any more. Now I want to accept people for their humanity while I hope they will appreciate mine.
But a much more grave situation has festered and lay dormant on occasion for eight years in my life–and has always been out of my hands. But this is with a pseudo-relation, someone I will call a "pot-stirrer," someone with whom I do not spend any time (I have only actually been in their presence a handful of times) but who persists in causing harm to someone I love and to those around them. I am powerless in this situation and have been for some time. The dysfunction is overwhelming and the lies and deceit rendered by this individual are staggering, as is the pit-bull protection rendered by their enabler, no matter what the cost. I try to understand where they are coming from, what makes them tick–apt cliches for a daunting reality. I realize substance abuse is at the core of it but in my mind should not excuse any of it. I realize there are some major codependent issues that have a trickle-down effect, including with other relationships that have been troubled during the same period. I realize this could probably describe the scenario in so many families today and it is sad. I can not speak for those, even though I know of some quite close to me, but I can empathize. I know now what a toxic, unaccountable person can do and what the price of denial and avoidance can be. But I can choose not to live my life that way.
I realize even half a country away, there are going to be occasional flare-ups. And I realize, at last, that whenever I try to help or to intercede, the aim is to kill the messenger–me–and the tale is retold in such a way that there is nothing but victimization when help and understanding is all that has been offered. So I retreat out of self-protection.
But when this person lies about someone even closer to me, I lose perspective. I become enraged and want to get in my car and drive all night and darken their door with my anger and I want to slap their enabler and "victim" silly, even though that is the one person I want to protect.
I have never considered myself a "victim" of anything so after the initial rage quelled the other day, I have tried to look at their life and their actions: there have been many lies in the past that have been uncovered so why does it surprise me that this is just yet another one? Then there are the lies spread around that are manipulative and untrue that have caused irreparable damage. This person has had the quiet agenda of dividing and conquering for some time and they have succeeded. Instead of defending myself or my family, I have chosen to be silent as anything I do or say has been, and will be, used against me. It is sad, it is toxic but it is the reality of the situation. And the only thing I can do is to retreat from it and to pray about it. This has been my method of coping with all of the "pot stirrers" in my adult life.
So why do I allow these bullies to occasionally rule my life? Let's no longer empower those in our lives who wish us harm or treat us or those we love badly. Let's love them instead, as best we can, while not tolerating their behaviors. So that is what I ask of you: could you please think positive thoughts during these first few days of Advent that I am able to let these situations go while I try to pray for those who probably need it the most? And, if you have a similar example in your life, I will think of you, too.
The Word made flesh for us gives us the greatest hope that the murky night of darkness will not overwhelm us, but we shall see the daylight of eternity.
Lord, let us receive your clear light; be for us such a mirror of light that we may be given grace to see you unendingly.
If we are overcome, you have the power to forgive us; Therefore, in my sin I call on you, my Lord, my Light, for help.
For you were sent into the world to enlighten my heart, to nurture true repentance and to make the Holy Spirit’s work grow more powerfully in me.
With the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign for ever!
–Hildegard of Bingen (German mystic and abbess: 1098-1179)
PAINTING: The Visitation, by Jacopo Pontormo, c. 1528
NOTE ~ I have also ordered a double-book from Amazon: Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency, written by Melody Beattie. I am hoping it will help me understand this sad situation and help me cope with the fall-out in my own life. Here are some helpful quotes in these situations and some wise advice from the Mayo Clinic about forgiveness and how it helps our health:
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."~ Matthew 5: 44
"Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"~Abraham Lincoln
"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man's life enough sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility."~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you."
~ Lewis Smedes