Monday, March 15, 2010

Nothing Unsaid

     It was one of those moments that, in retrospect, leaves you naked and breathless. It was a moment that lacked the import of JFK’s assassination or the bombing of the World Trade Centers. It was a moment, nonetheless, like the others, that I shall always remember where I was and what I felt when I heard the news, the words. “We’ve been friends for so long, it’s not like there was anything left unsaid.”
     Her best friend had just passed away. Her comment was so casual, spoken without forethought that I do not think she realized the weight of its profoundness. To have walked beside someone, as a lover, a friend or as a family member and in absolute honesty be able to declare, “I have left nothing unsaid” is perhaps the summation of all spiritual quests. It transcends the literal translation of verbal communication and includes actions, presence, attentiveness and constancy.
     As I sit here, my tapping fingers are slowly wearing out the letters on the keyboard. Perhaps it is just a message for me and will not resonate with others. How does one write about leaving nothing unsaid? Have I come full circle again to the earlier post where frustration led me to Gabriel Oak’s quote? Can I unroll the scroll of my heart and speak their names in the same way? Will their names now bear the question of what is left unsaid? Alas, I am not so wise.
     When I look at you, fear not the concentration of my blue eyes. I am simply searching in yours what I have left unsaid. When I reach out to touch you, worry not that my hand may tremble or even linger just a moment. My energy, the force of life within me is speaking to you and asking what I have left unsaid. If you see me walk slower than normal do not assume the arthritis and my knees are cranky. The souls of my feet are speaking to the earth and asking what I have left unsaid. When I say ‘I love you’ it is the ‘you’ that you are, not what I need or wish you would be. I will not define you and risk a box that excludes and leaves something unsaid. And in my struggle to leave nothing unsaid, know that I am both saint and sinner, easily distracted and absent minded and my words may scale heights that my actions do not. My claim to imperfection will never go unsaid. Nor shall my cry for forgiveness and my zeal to begin again and leave nothing unsaid.

no brakes, no seatbelts, and no anaesthetic

Sometimes life brings us drastic change -- disease, war, natural disasters, things that are larger than ourselves which we cannot control -- and sometimes we walk into it, or stumble into it. We've all heard the convenient little tidbit of "New Age" philosophy that states, "You create your own reality". There's certainly a level on which our perceptions shape the narrative we tell ourselves and others about our experience. It is also not far wrong to say that our perceptions are shaped by the choices that we make from moment to moment.

However, there's a dangerous "blame the victim" sort of slant implied by this bit of folk wisdom. We've all taken the stance of the victim from time to time, and certainly there is a responsible way for any adult to step out of victimization into empowerment -- I may have not caused the earthquake that destroyed my house (at least not directly or consciously), but I am in charge of rebuilding it. And if we burned the house down by getting drunk and falling asleep while smoking, well, we can't exactly blame the liquor store. But I feel a little uneasy about over-simplified statements of "Karma" (a complex philosophical framework that is mostly misunderstood by Westerners) or "drawing experiences to oneself", when considering things like child abuse, racism both institutional and social, famine, inter-generational poverty, and genocide. Even when faced with unintended consequences of one's own actions, to minimize the suffering experienced by saying the person "brought it on themselves" isn't exactly the sort of compassion I'm comfortable displaying in public.

In reality, or so I believe, we all brought everything on ourselves by being born; but we didn't deserve any of it, even the good things. However, for me to hold onto blame for someone who I believe has wronged me is just another way to hold on to suffering. In my experience, keeping score regarding what I perceive as harm done to me by others doesn't result in some sort of cosmic actuarial reckoning at the end of the day or even at the end of life. My fear, and I have good reason to fear this, is that there is no great cosmic reckoning of any kind, ever, other than in an unimaginably gradual process of random movements in the universe. Instead, the only reckoning I will experience is the one I bring about by the immoderate and reckless act of forgiveness.

We often see small children forgiving and sharing with others in a manner which seems angelic and pure to us; but it's really only a matter of the degree to which they feel the pain of their experience in any given moment. You and I haven't changed much since we were children. Sure, we'll share and forgive and include and all that great stuff -- when it's comfortable and convenient. Everybody likes to be perceived as a "nice person". It's when giving and forgiving hurts that it truly has any meaning. Anybody can throw crumbs to the birds; it takes a different sort of person to see a bird fly into a closed window and go check if it's injured. I think a good many of us have an "I gave at the office" approach to those who come to us with hands outstretched, reduced to a level of desperation in which they are incapable of feeling any shame for begging. But we need to help, however much we may resist it. It's like we have two voices in our heads -- or rather, one in our head and one in our heart. The one in our head says, "You'll be taken advantage of," and the one in our heart only knows how to say "I love you".

The secret to all this is that forgiving is easy, or at least it is past the first step. It is impossible to forgive anyone else if we can't forgive ourselves -- that is where it must begin. "I chose this" cannot be a self-condemnation; rather, it's an acceptance that we are not that special in our suffering. Miraculously enough, I have discovered that once I drag myself over that first terrible hurdle, everything afterward is a cakewalk. If I can fully and completely forgive myself for my mistakes, laziness, cowardice, even moments of cruelty, I have everything I need to forgive others. In forgiving myself I don't let myself off the hook; to the contrary, it's claiming a whole other level of responsibility for my actions. Once I've set aside luxuriating in the self-pitying voice that says "I suck!", I am confronted by the task of making ordinary human amends for my ordinary human misdeeds. You aren't a f?!?-up; you f?!?ed up. Get clear on the difference between those two statements, and you can get clear with anyone about anything.

Why Worry?

"Why Worry?
There should be laughter after pain,
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now?"

Relax! Most of the stuff we worry about doesn't even happen!

I used to be the ultimate worry wart.
I had a panic attack for every occasion. From financial woes to 'does my bum look big in this?' type dilemmas.
I was plagued with the 'what-ifs' and the 'what do they think of me's', I would have mini cardiac arrests about a mess in the house, an upcoming bill or the fact my hair colour was not quite the shade I was aiming for.
I barely got through a day without having to close my eyes  count slowly to ten picturing calm waters and smiling Buddhas!
It was so difficult to enjoy life because rather than being in the moment, my head was compiling predictions of doom!
My alter ego "Nostri-doom-us" hung around more than I care to admit.
These days I am the opposite.
Perhaps it was one too many panic attacks or the realisation that as a Mama my son is going to take his cues on how to react to life from his parents.
Some of the things I DON'T worry about now, would make my own parent's enter cardiac arrest territory.
They actually worry about my lack of worry at times! Crazy!
I have decided to trust in the flow of life and to put my energies into the things I can do, change and things that matter.
It is with pleasure that I have compiled Swami Sharni's Guide to Five things NOT to worry about (aside from anything)
1) Mess. It is inevitable (particularly with a one year old)
If you are a parent, you can mop the floors until your pearly whites are reflected back at you from it but in five minutes it is going to be smeared with watermelon and Vegemite. Worrying about this raises your blood pressure, makes you feel a failure  and is a waste of your precious mind.
ACCEPT MESS! Embrace it, enjoy it! Make it! Sure it is also wonderfully therapeutic to clean it, but do so with a healthy sense of humour knowing that your best scrubbing is only going to come undone sooner than you think.
2) Lack of Sleep - worrying about not getting enough is what makes you tired! So don't -a- worry!
Repeated declarations of how little sleep you have had (speaking from direct experience) "I only had THREE HOURS last night AND it was broken" makes you tired. Worrying about how you are going to get through the day makes it harder. Cut down on worrying about this and watch an amazing energy boost come into your life!
3) What other people think - As a great person once said "What other people think of me is not my business" Damn straight.
4) Weight - worry is futile. Action is key. Why worry about how fat you have become? Put the energy that you mull over it into belly dancing and kayaking! Worrying about it will only make you reach for the packet of Retro Party Mix.
5) Other people - you can stay awake all night troubled over a love one. You can make yourself cry, toss , turn and pull your hair out over someone else's dilemma. Truth is, sometimes we worry about someone else, but they are not worried themselves! Perhaps take a leaf out of their non-worried book and save yourself the anguish....
Are you a worrier? What is your worry philosophy?