"You never know till you try to reach them how accessible people are; but you must approach each individual by the right door."
~ Henry Ward Beecher ~
It's rare to experience people as they really are. We tend to see them as we are, through the veil of our history, our prejudice, our longings, and our mood of the moment. It's worth keeping this truth in mind as we slap our concrete judgments on others as if a new day or insight might not change the way we feel.
I give people more than one opportunity to show me who they are.
When I found out today that the stone caps for the brick pillars we are having made for the entrance to our 170 year old Virginia Farmhouse are from China, it felt inappropriate to me, and I wasn't sure I could live with it. Not that I have anything against China, or Chinese stone per se, only that it felt like local stone would be more fitting somehow.
And then, when I shared my concern with a guy at the Stone Quarry, a bright-eyed, likable fellow, he asked if he could maybe re-frame the situation for me and I said sure.
"The fact that these stones from the other side of the world are so close in color and texture to the ones in our own backyard amazes me," he said, smiling. "They are both natural rock, and both 'of the earth,' so in that way they actually are the same, and it's possible that they are even connected deep below the surface, like some great shelf. I don't know if that makes you feel any better about it, or not, but-"
And it did actually. It made me feel a lot better. The name of our farm will be etched in Pennsylvania blue-stone, and the pillars on which they live topped with an equally rich and complimentary stone from the other side of Mother Earth.
When I don't like the narrative I'm living with, I have the power to re-frame the situation in my mind.
"I will release all the confined forces of my soul and apply them directly to that which I may be."
~ Muriel Strode ~
It's fun to feel a little badass every so often- to know that we will not be manipulated, or baited. Others know when we are feeling it and give us a bit of distance and respect.
There's time for generous compassion and loving goodness and thinking of others and doing for others, but let's not forget, there is also a time to say, "No!" and to firmly stand our ground.
"People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing."
~ Will Rodgers ~
Anger is a response to a perceived threat- to our sense of order and safety and well-being, or to our happily contained memories or future plans. It's a railing against, an insistence, and a rising fire of resistant force. It clenches our jaws and hardens our stomachs like steel. It sets us up for attack.
And sometimes attack is called for, and sometimes it's not. Sometimes our perception is skewed. So we have to be discriminating when it comes to anger. We have to check our motives and our immediate past. Has old reactive stuff been triggered in us? Are we acting out like a child who has not gotten their way?
Authentic anger is rather a blessed thing. The other kind we would do well to leave alone.
I honor the difference between perceived threats that arise.
"I think I've discovered the secret of life- you just hang around until you get used to it."
~ Charles Schulz ~
The world is full of spinning tops and cross purposes and delays and distractions and deadlines, and, much as I may want to dictate my own terms, I nonetheless have to work within the system, which requires compromise and flexibility.
Consequently, I may not always get what I think I want. What I get is what I get, and how I interact with that unchangeable fact determines whether I am peaceful or pissed off.
In spite of my plans and fears and preconceptions, things have a way of working out.
"A joy, a depression, a meanness... welcome and attend them all."
Life is full of detours and encounters with what we have not anticipated and do not particularly care for. How we deal with these unexpected twists and turns determines our experience. We can be put out, let down, or twisted into knots of anxiety. We can shrug it off or laugh out loud. And depending on the day and the weather and whatever else is going on, the way we respond is unlikely to be consistent. The only thing we can know for sure is that the unexpected is going to keep on happening. What we haven't planned for will come to face us and challenge us and see if we're willing to play.
What destroys my inner peace is my needing things to be a certain way in order for me to be happy, because then, if they are not that way (which they rarely are) I become righteous and accusatory and demanding and distressed.
"The feeling is often the deeper truth, the opinion the more superficial one."
~ Augustus William Hare ~
Being at war with ourselves is exhausting, and that's what happens when we resist what we feel. It's tempting to put a gate up- I'll allow this feeling, but not that one, and yet, that's the one that has shown up.
We have to be gracious. We have to be welcoming. It may not be convenient, and it may not have been in our plan, but rudeness and avoidance doesn't change the fact that someone's at the door.
"Life will have vastly barren places until I cover my own desert with green."
~ Muriel Strode ~
Let's give ourselves permission to be vulnerable, to be human, to like what we like and to feel what we feel. Let's stop with the punishing, fearful thoughts and the idea that we are not enough. Let's step out of shame and despondency and step into the light. Let's choose ourselves exactly as we are.
We often anticipate happenings in life with a sense of excitement or dread, and rarely with a sense of ease. Trusting the unknown is a tricky business. We attempt to control the future by thinking about it. Allowing the process of meetings and conversations and life experiences to evolve organically out of the present moment takes practice. It's our standard MO to want to figure everything out in advance.
"A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners."
~ Irish Saying ~
Staying on top of our mail and paperwork is so much easier than letting it build up and having to face it as a daunting mass. And that's true with other things as well: our weight, our level of fitness, the state of our relationships, and the condition of our homes to name a few.
Daily attention and care given to the priorities in our lives makes our lives run smoothly, and gives our minds a chance for peace.
I take care of what needs to be taken care of, and don't let things pile up.