Where I Am This Week (5-20-21)

(This post was written early May)

* I struggle a bit in this post to take how my feeling side of the mind envisions things and write it in simple terms. Emotionally everything I share in this post is true. I am only able to express this truth, right now, in a more poetic form. I hope it still has clarity.*

A Heartbreaking and Heartmending Realization

“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself, accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have it’s own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.”

When I first saw The Tree Of Life I found the movie incredibly beautiful. It’s message struck close to my heart, I knew that, but I couldn’t understand it. Though beautiful and good, I couldn’t see how the movie’s message connected to real life.

Near the start of this journey, my mind pulled me back to things I found beautiful, and I searched for clips from this beautiful movie. When I found this clip, I understood it more clearly than I had before. A link to this clip was one of the first things I shared here on my blog. And last week this clip found it’s way back to me. I guess there was another message in it I was finally ready to hear. And it shattered me. It opened my eyes, to my deep failure.

A few days after this realization I wrote this poem. I feel it captures the experience.

Before mortality,
full of faith
in my love 
and strength.
I made a promise.
I remember that now
and my heart breaks.
I have failed you
forgotten you
at the first cutting word
or cold touch 

This shattering humbles me
and somehow
weeping and ashamed
I find a final victory
I find your arms again 

and hear your promise 
"I will be true to you. Whatever comes."

It’s hazy to me, but I do have a sense that there is a truth in this poem. I believe those final words in the Tree of Life scene hit me as a promise I made to God. A promise that I would remember Him and His love and follow His way of Grace and love in this life. A promise I quickly failed, when the “whatever comes” arrived.

After the “Whatever Comes” Arrived

I became distracted by how other’s treated me, judged me, loved me, and I lost touch with God’s love of me. I began trying to assert my will to get other’s to give me the love I believed I deserved. I didn’t consider where they were in life. I blamed them for corrupting me, for making it so I “couldn’t love”.

I walked in the world completely of my own will, seeking to be seen and loved, and hurt and outraged when I felt I didn’t receive it. In that hurt and outrage I would lash out, judge others harshly, give the cold shoulder, or criticize. I didn’t spend much time actively showing love to others, I was too busy trying to figure out whether others were being loving to me or not. And then, when I determined they weren’t being loving (which was the final verdict on pretty much everyone since I struggled to receive love), I spent the rest of my time trying to figure out what to do or say to get them to love me better.

Remembering Him

I believe this realization came crashing down because I was ready for it. And I believe I was ready for it because I have been starting to remember and have faith in God. In His love. And in knowing Him, my mind and heart finally felt safe enough to let me shatter. Deep down, though I didn’t consciously know it, I finally felt safe enough to fall into that complete guilt and shame. He would not leave me. He was the only love I ever needed.

He Knows I’m Imperfect

I imagine He knew all along, that though my heart was fully in my words when I promised “I will be true to you. Whatever comes”, that imperfect me would fail. Those words when spoken by me, are merely me expressing my hopes and dreams. To believe I could ever live up to them is delusion.

I imagine the words themselves actually first came from God, and when spoken by Him, they are said with certainty, a declaration of fact ” I will be true to you. Whatever comes”. This dynamic brings to mind the bible verse “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It was His love and His promise I first heard, and my dream is to love like Him. But of course I never will be able too.

Yet I will never give up striving to love like Him. And I feel a huge part of that striving is remembering and experiencing God’s unconditional love for me even through all my continuous falls from showing others grace and love. If I pretend I’m mostly perfect, then it blocks that learning of unconditional love. I feel I cannot show others grace and love if I myself have not experienced that grace and love being shown to my failing self by God.

Mended – Healing And Learning

So though I felt shattered by the realization of my failure, I felt mended by it too. Humbled. More ready to receive and learn from Him instead of thinking I already had things taken care of. More ready to hand Him the reigns of my life. And mended in trusting the security of His love enough to stand before it and admit deep failure, shame, and weakness. And in admitting, allowing myself to experience His true love and grace. And in experiencing His love and grace, healing and learning.

Fred Rogers – “Sometimes People Are Good”

Lyrics:

“Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people get wet.
And their parents get upset.
But the very same people who get wet sometimes
Are the very same people who are dry sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people make noise
And they break another’s toys.
But the very same people who are noisy sometimes
Are the very same people who are quiet sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me and…

Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
It’s the same, isn’t it for me…
Isn’t it the same for you?”

The loving, gentle, true, and beautiful, perspective Fred Rogers shares in this song couldn’t be simpler, but it’s been so easily missed or forgotten by me . I find it is a perspective that encourages kindness, mercy and loyal love towards others and myself.

The Guilty One

Who wronged me
Never harmed me

No one to forgive

Whom I've wronged
Brought myself harm

Never to forget

Inspiration:

  • “Genius of the Ancient World” Socrates Episode.

  • “Socrates (at his trail): I have something more to say, at which you may be inclined to cry out; but I believe that to hear me will be good for you, and therefore I beg that you will not cry out. I would have you know, that if you kill such a one as I am, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me.”

-The Apology by Plato

  • “SOCRATES: “That may very well be, inasmuch as doing injustice is the greatest of evils.

POLUS: But is it the greatest? Is not suffering injustice a greater evil?

SOCRATES: Certainly not.

POLUS: Then would you rather suffer than do injustice?

SOCRATES: I should not like either, but if I must choose between them, I would rather suffer than do.”

-Gorgias by Plato

  • “My brother ought not to have treated me thus.” True: but he must see to that. However he may treat me, I must deal rightly by him. This is what lies with me, what none can hinder.”

-Epictetus

Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” Quotes

These quotes are from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov written in 1880. I first read The Brothers Karamazov for a school assignment. I absolutely loved the book. Though I could not clearly see the book’s message, I knew I found it beautiful. It always remained close to my heart; and I believe it was a large part of the light which helped me start this journey back to myself. I will be forever grateful Dostoevsky helped spread and keep alive these beautiful ideas.

“Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain.”

“Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with the love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and persistence, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.”

“I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love…..But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it – at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you.”

“At some thoughts one stands perplexed – especially at the sight of men’s sin – and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once and for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

“Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we won’t see it, if we would, we should have heaven on earth the next day”

“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”

Learning Steadfast Faith That I am Loved

I notice I freeze up often now. I feel confusion and pain. The urge to flee those I love grows more powerful by the day. Yet along with the urge to flee, grows the realization that fleeing was always and remains a delusional dream. I would be running away from what I seek, and towards a deeper pain than I now feel. I will not flee this time.

I will learn to more freely express my love and feel other’s love of me. This pain is a sign I am putting in the effort to learn and grow. Giving my full effort is all it is within my power to do.

The area I am currently struggling in, learning, is how to build a steadfast faith that those closest to me love me unconditionally. I do believe they love me unconditionally, whether they fully feel that love or not in any given moment. But rarely, or rather never, do I “feel”/experience their unconditional love. I don’t “feel” unconditionally loved. This lack of first hand experience/feeling leaves the belief super fragile. At the slightest perceived sign that maybe they don’t love me, my belief in their love of me is lost and I am left in doubt or maybe even believing they certainly do not love the real me. Being in the state of doubting their love or in the state of believing they do not love me is very painful to me. Other hurtful beliefs form in this state too – such as the belief I am simply unlovable.

How wonderful it would be if I could learn a steadfast faith in their unconditional love. I suspect it would open my eyes and heart to the signs of their love in my day to day life. I would “feel” what it feels like to be loved. A reality I am largely blind to now. This seeing and feeling of their love for me would be a wonderful and healing experience for me. But not only would it be wonderful for me, I suspect it would be wonderful for them as well. We all love to see others feel secure and at peace within our love. It helps build up our faith in the goodness and power of our love.

A steadfast faith in their love may also allow me to more accurately understand their actions and words. I believe this is crucially important for myself and my loved ones too. I believe I have often misunderstand their words and actions as being about me when in reality they are about them. I believe my loved ones and I are all on the same team. A team bonded in love. But each of us have our own struggles, and each of us share many of the same struggles. Some close to me find it difficult to express their love (as do I), some fear being unloved or unlovable (as do I), some fear being vulnerable (as do I), some are confused about themselves (their desires, motives, feelings, etc.) (as am I).

These struggles confuse the individual who experiences them. The struggles cause pain, they are past wounds within the individual and they continue to wound the individual. The pain and confusion of these struggles can lead one to a confused interpretation of themselves and those around them. In this confusing darkness, where the beautiful and revealing light of love has grown dim, “what is” can be mistakenly perceived as a long feared nightmare. Like a chair with a hat on it in the darkness can become a demon in the night. These confused interpretations can paint a loving and loved family member or friend as an “enemy”. This can lead to confused defensive (and often aggressive defensive) actions and words towards the “enemy”.

The situation can become even more confusing and painful if the defensive/or aggressive defensive words are misunderstood by the other person. And I believe I often do misunderstand my loved one’s words and actions formed in their inner struggle. I see their actions and words push me away and I assume they are trying to push me away because they see me as a “problem”. This makes me feel like I am an unwanted burden to those I love as opposed to a loved team mate. I feel there must be something about me that makes those I love not want to be around me. Makes them not love me.

At this point, I become lost in my own pain and struggles. My loved one disappears before my eyes. I may even be inspired by my own painful and confusing struggle to see my loved one as an “enemy”. Then I might say and do things that will send my already struggling loved one further into their pain and inner struggle. A vicious cycle of hurt and hurting each other can form so easily within this dark fog of confused and pained seeing. There can be a blindness to the reality of this being a communication between 2 people who deeply love each other.

I believe if I can build a strong faith that I am unconditionally loved, then I can hopefully avoid false understandings and all the pains and struggle they bring. With that solid foundation of knowing I am loved, then I can correctly recognize attempts to push me away as indications my loved one is struggling internally with themselves. This more accurate understanding may inspire compassionate actions and words from me as opposed to defensive or defensive aggressive ones. I will see their attempts to push me away, as not about me. I could continue to see my loved one as a loved one. Someone on the same team as me, bonded in love. This is a moment where they are struggling a moment for me to offer support. A moment they may want a listening ear, a hug, understanding, validation, motivation, an expression of faith in them, an expression of being with them right where they are and loving them.

It is my responsibility to build this faith in their love. I understand now that it is time for my old interpretations to be replaced by the new. For the misunderstood and painful words of my loves ones to be removed by their roots from my past and to never be heard again in the present. With a steadfast faith in their unconditional love the past can be reinterpreted and the present understood clearly. A steadfast faith in those closest to me love of me seems powerful. It has been clarifying writing this all down. It appears building this steadfast faith in being loved is an excellent focus in the struggle to learn how to feel other’s love of me.

This returns my mind to earlier in this write up when I stated “I will learn to more freely express my love and feel other’s love of me.” When I started this write up, I was most focused on learning to express my love more freely. I believed how loved I felt by others was out of my control. However, that does not seem to be the case. I now suspect this learning to have steadfast faith in others love of me will free me to “feel” others love of me. It will bring me an awareness of what already is but I am blind to. Furthermore I think this “feeling” of being loved may be connected to more freely expressing my own love. Maybe I’ve had the ordering wrong. Maybe the proper order is 1) Learn to feel others love freely then 2) Learn to express my love freely.

This clarifies a lot of my struggle to me. I have noticed expressing my own love in any sort of free way is often too big of a challenge for me right now. I have so much fear of expressing love. Even when a loving impulse arises in me, so often I hold it in. I am so afraid to act. I do not understand why? What do I fear will happen? Do I not trust my love? Do I fear it is a destructive hurtful force to those around me? The feeling of fear is so real, but what the feared outcome is seems invisible to me.

This fear of expressing love which holds me back from expressing love frustrates me and sometimes leads to a sense of hopelessness and shame. But maybe a steadfast faith in other’s love of me is the missing key. Maybe it feels like loving freely to me is an impossible challenge because I never feel loved with any sense of security. Sure I wish I could show love freely even if I am unloved, but maybe that is an unnecessarily huge hurdle. Maybe it’s a hurdle I’m not even facing. Though it is how I “feel” the situation to be, maybe I am mistaken. Maybe I am already surrounded by love (I know my family and husband would say they love me), but my detection of it is lacking. My awareness is the problem.

Concluding all these thoughts, I am recognizing so often that confusion (which often leads to fear) is the greatest challenge for me. It feels like growth is learning. But for learning to really be running smoothly there must be a sense of clarity. What is one attempting to learn? What is an effective way to learn it? How to determine whether progress is being made in learning or whether changes need to be made? How to understand and whether to adjust for feelings of intense pain? How to understand other people’s inputs and feedback? I am very thankful that expressing myself in writing and reading what others have learned about themselves often is a path to clarity for me.

“The Ballad of the Judas Tree” by Ruth Etchells

In Hell there grew a Judas Tree
Where Judas hanged and died
Because he could not bear to see
His master crucified
Our Lord descended into Hell
And found his Judas there
For ever hanging on the tree
Grown from his own despair
So Jesus cut his Judas down
And took him in his arms
“It was for this I came” he said
“And not to do you harm
My Father gave me twelve good men
And all of them I kept
Though one betrayed and one denied
Some fled and others slept
In three days’ time I must return
To make the others glad
But first I had to come to Hell
And share the death you had
My tree will grow in place of yours
Its roots lie here as well
There is no final victory
Without this soul from Hell”
So when we all condemned him
As of every traitor worst
Remember that of all his men
Our Lord forgave him first

-Ruth Etchells

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion

My kids have been enjoying I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde. It’s a short children’s book with a beautiful message.

I will share some of Susan Verde’s empowering words below.

This is the author’s dedication at the start:

“This book is my love letter to the world, as each one of us is worthy of love in all its forms and expressions, and we are ALL capable of adding light to the world when we listen to our hearts and choose love”.

-Love, S.V.

The story begins as follow:

“When I see someone going through a storm of hurt and unfairness, of anger and sadness when the sun disappears and the skies grow dark….and I see there is fear…I ask myself, “What can I do to help let the light back in?” I put my hands on my heart and listen. And that is where I find the answer: I have compassion. I act with tenderness. I am love.”

The sweetly illustrated book then lists actions of love, what love is. These are some of the examples given in the book –

– “I can listen and not say a word. I can be there. Love is being present.”

– “I can speak softly and choose my words and actions carefully. Love is gentle.”

– “I can keep my mind and body safe and healthy. Love is taking care of me.”

– “I can express what’s important to me. Love is creative.”

What a wonderful, simple, practical, and empowering message for kids and adults! After a few reading sessions I discovered the author’s notes in the back of the book –

“Love is everywhere! It is inside of us and all around us, and there are so many ways it can be shared and expressed. But sometimes things happen in life that make us feel afraid, sad, frightened, or helpless, and our ability to find that love can get lost. “I am Love” is an exploration of the many ways love exists, and an affirmation of how – once we listen to our hearts and find the love within ourselves- we can share it with the world and find connection and compassion. My hope is that this book will inspire conversations with our children about love in all its expressions, and about how we are not helpless but in fact have the power to make the world more beautiful when we come from a place of love.”

I am seeing beacons of love, like Susan Lorde’s I Am Love: A Book of Compassion, everywhere. I often wonder how I remained unaware of all this beauty for so long. It sometimes feels like a riddle I “need” to solve. As if the answer could empower me to better support others in finding love again, or convince me I have security within this new world of experiencing love.

Though I guess, like described so wonderfully by Susan Lorde, it was hurt and fear that caused me to lose sight of my ability to love for so long. And what reawoke me to my ability to love? LOVE. What will keep me from falling so deeply back into the old fears and hurts? LOVE. How can I support others wherever they are on their journey? LOVE.

How powerful, how beautiful, how good, love is! How simple the equation, how simple the philosophy of love. But how difficult to stay on the path of love…yet it always remains in all its beauty and power within us and around us. Welcoming us back, with open arms, a smile, and celebration. Healing. To be lost and found over and over again.

This path like nature of love vs. a destination is something I have been pondering recently. It seems I always have farther to go, more to learn, more growth. I so often, unknowingly, wander off the path of love. And have to seek love’s path again.

Though, so far, my experience has been that I do not get as deeply lost as I was before all this change within me. Before all this change within me, I had deeply lost track of my ability to love (so much so I didn’t even believe in the existence of a purer love) yet I was searching for love again. Whereas now I often, unknowingly, wander away from love’s path. But usually rather quickly recognize I have left love’s path and somewhat smoothly redirect myself back towards love. I seem to know where my love is better now, and how to get back to it.

At first I felt this wandering and returning was a “problem” so to say. A sign of an underdeveloped area within me, an area that needed to learn and grow. But I am starting to feel this unknowing journeying away from love’s path, realizing of having journeyed, and then reorienting myself back to love’s path will continue. Maybe it is simply part of being human. Part of the nature of a free being who is living, learning, creating, and growing empowered by love.

The Way of Grace and The Way of Nature

I saw Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life a couple of years ago. It spoke to me. But I didn’t understand how it related to real life, I felt something powerful was being expressed, something good and beautiful. But what truth did it have in it? I wasn’t sure.

In the midst of this journey/ growth/changing/returning to being comfortable with who I am, I searched for clips from the Tree of Life. There was a pull back to it since it had spoken to “I am” years before. I felt overwhelmed by this clip. It brought tears to my eyes. It was good, beautiful, and I felt a new sense of faith in it being TRUE. A new element of the experience was added. This increase in the truth experience, seemed to increase the sense of beauty and goodness too.

As time has passed, and I watch in now, the faith in the truth of it have increased to a recognition of sorts a “Yes, that describes it well”, a certainty. Parts of the clip (in particular the line “when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things” and her sense of faith and maybe even surrender in the line “I will be true to you, whatever comes”) which felt powerful to me a short time ago, where I guess a wish/remembering in my heart pulled me to a faith in that experience being possible/true, I now understand in a more experiential way. I want to rewatch this movie.