I receive this email from Mark in response to an admission that I do tend to worry a bit reflexively where he and Raley are concerned:
You are so good to us while it seems we often remain little more than confusion and epiphanies to you. It continues to amaze me how you can be so brilliant yet still have such lenses over us. Yet we just are…
I am dumbfounded as I read this: is he really telling me I don’t understand him and his son at all? It’s a train of thought that I’m familiar with from many men vs. women discussions, and my hackles go up. First of all, I want to point out to him, epiphanies are sudden moments of brilliant clarity and understanding, which is pretty much the opposite of what he is trying to say. And as regards “lenses”…how could he? When I had already volunteered an apology for being a worrywart…he needed to say, “No, dear, it wasn’t a mistake – you are just stupid and blind.” At least that’s how I feel as I read it. And then, “Yet we just are…”. A bit of philosophical vagueness to finish off. God, it sounds like he’s been drinking.
I feel defensive because above all things I am trying to see those around me truly and was just told I am blind.
I feel excluded – like he somehow needs to prove that I don’t understand him.
I feel diminished by what Mark wrote to me.
I feel defensive because I see something that is not there.
I feel excluded because I see something that is not there.
I feel diminished because I see something that is not there.
I realize that I am responding to his words as if I believe his saying these things can make them true. As if his opinion somehow lessens me. Something similar happened last night: when he asked me to make sure I put the laundry away tonight, there was a thinly veiled tone of demand that just got under my skin. I guess I’m in a contentious time now as Mark starts back to work. Rather than responding in kind, I must remember…
Perceive in sickness but another call for love and offer your brother what he believe he cannot offer himself. Whatever the sickness, there is but one remedy. You will be made whole as you make whole, for to perceive in sickness the appeal for health is to recognize in hatred the call for love. And to give a brother what he really wants is to offer it unto yourself, for your father wills you to know your brother as yourself. Answer his call for love and yours will be answered. Healing is the love of Christ for His Father and for Himself. (A Course in Miracles 11:3:16)
Later that same day…
So finally I got the story behind the story: Coming off of a 14 hour shift and commute, and with less than 8 hours before the start of his next shift, Mark realized there was a chance he wouldn’t make it in to work that night. When he called in tentative to work, however, his new manager was insulting. He was in a rage when I spoke to him the first time, and the situation had only worsened later in the day, as he got some frustratingly contradictory directions on a legal matter he’s currently trying to resolve. And though he avoided answering my question about drinking for as long as he could…he did down the better part of a flask of 150 proof rum. Probably not roadworthy, even if he did want to go into work.
I am sick with anxiety over what is happening to Mark today.
I am sick with anxiety because I see something that is not there.
What does healing even begin to look like on a day like this? I know it starts with peace inside me, and the recognition that Mark is trapped in a dark place today, and that I need to somehow bring him some light. Except fear is obscuring my own light. That is because I am reliving fears (from my past) as worries (about the future) and not existing in this moment. I need to ground myself in this moment, find my light in this NOW and carry it with me.
I did this and passed a peaceful evening; as to Mark’s path, I cannot say, but I was present with him and also present for myself last night, and perhaps even some healing did take place.
Thoughts & Applications
I see only the past in this computer tablet.
I see only the past in this bed.
I see only the past in my little paper prayer flags, etc.
I have tried to keep this principle in mind today, both at work and at home. To see what is NOW, rather than what is no more. At work it seemed both simple and impossible. For example, I did some online training:
I see only the past in my online training.
How true this was: many times as I worked through the lessons and tests, I found myself judging the content as poorly written, predictable and banal. With people, I was more successful.
I see only the past in my colleagues.
I didn’t feel as though I made any special connections, apart from some smiles and New Year’s well-wishes, but at least I didn’t feel myself slipping into judgment very much. And overall, I did stay very focused in the present throughout the day.
At home, also, I tried to take each interaction with my family as it came, not allowing myself to be jaundiced by past memories:
I see only the past in Mark. I see only the past in Raley.
Seeing them in the NOW was harder than at work, but at least I was able to catch myself when I was drifting into that mode. And with Raley in particular, I was able during one moment of contention to refocus on the present, avoiding judgmental comments that would otherwise undoubtedly have undone any good out of the interaction.
Where I felt truly NOW, though, was on my commute. In the early morning light, the skim of ice on the bog was magical. The silhouettes of naked trees against the brightening sky seemed brand new. I recalled Jesus words that to inherit the kingdom of god we must become like little children, and it was with a child’s eyes that I wondered at the beauty of this dawn and felt myself in holy space and time. Similarly on the way home, and again with the fading light of day – somehow it is always the light in the sky that gets me.
Perhaps light is the key to people, too: if I can find the light in their eyes – or even bring a light to their eyes – then I will see them as they truly are. To see them as they are NOW.
I notice my shirt while I put it on and think about how it will provide an extra layer of warmth and give me comfort.
I think about Andrew and Aras, how they are on vacation in California and will be home soon.
I think about Joseph: how he was angry with me when I brought up the subject of child support again last week.
I think about getting ready for breakfast with the Pratts.
I seem to be thinking about my shirt, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
I seem to be thinking about my sons, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
I seem to be thinking about Joseph, but my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
I seem to be thinking about breakfast, but my mind is projecting my future from thoughts about the past.
I am bypassing the present moment with all these thoughts of past and future. But by staying present in the moment we can witness opportunity where otherwise we might get caught up in remembered emotions and fears that derive from projecting those past experiences into the future.
Mark engaged Raley today for a long, serious talk (lecture) about his responsibilities ; by reminding myself to keep coming back to the present, I was able to help minimize harping on old grievances, and refocus on the present objective of the conversation: how to help Raley get himself unstuck. I opened space for him to be heard, and honor Raley’s need to be heard. And several times was able to reinterpret some of the things that were bothering Raley most and causing him to shut down, and restart the two way flow of conversation.
For example, Mark made a comment about Raley’s extreme sleeping patterns; I acknowledged Raley’s point (we’ve both said he can set his own schedule, so why was Mark bringing that up?) and diverted the discussion to the reasons it matters (because his night-owl hours are not productively used, and because the pattern puts him out of sync with the largest bundle of work and social opportunity, that is to say, the normal business day).
At the end of all this, Mark was kissing me and telling me how awesome I am, and Raley walked me down to the local convenience store for a cup of hot chocolate after cycling the dishwasher for another load. Whether we helped Raley I can’t say. But everyone felt pretty good at the end of the conversation, and if happiness is my purpose, then the happiness I felt at keeping the discussion loving and mutual says I was fulfilling my purpose in that moment.