Monday, June 29, 2015

I'm not sure when it began, but there has been a slow and steady shift in me. I felt it on the inside a couple of years back but I'm now hearing about it from the outside, a sort of confirmation for me.

I talk a lot in this blog about "lifeshocks," those wake up calls we get from God or life that tell us, "Wake up, be present!" Sometimes they are subtle, like a child misbehaving in a way that looks exactly like me. Others are huge, like the death of a loved one or losing a job (or the converse, a new baby or a windfall of money).

Since 1992, I have made a conscientious effort to pay attention to the lessons in my lifeshocks. Like everyone, I go through periods of sticking my head in the sand and trying to ignore these nudges and when that happens, they just get louder and louder until I have to pay attention! Back in the early 90s, my main goal was to find joy, to have a joyful life. That happened almost the instant I started paying attention! My secondary goal was to be a serene person; I wanted to learn to weather my lifeshocks with grace and tranquility.

That one took longer. Honestly, sometimes Life batters me around like a raft in a hurricane and tosses me, shipwrecked, on some foreign shore. Yet I notice it happens less and less often. It takes a big one, these days, to throw me off completely.

I had an unprovoked and amazing affirmation toward the end of school. Someone I work closely with and whom I greatly admire said, "Dreena, I want you to know I am trying to be more like you. You are a pillar of calmness and serenity in here."

Lifeshock! I do feel very calm and do not let little things or things outside my control rattle me, but it was so evocative to have someone notice it and call it out. Wow!! It's good to know, too, that my serenity does not look like complacency because -- on the inside -- it is anything but! I am focused on doing as an old Rudyard Kipling poem says, "keep my head while all about me are losing theirs."

I read a quote from Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, after her death.  She said, "I do believe people can change." I believe it too. Genetics play a huge role in our personality but so do habitual responses. Automatic behaviors and learned responses so often rule the day. We are not slaves to these bad habits! We are able to learn to curb a harsh tongue, take a deep breath in crisis, learn to be less defensive, or become empathetic. Awareness is the first step. Choosing to be different is the second.

It's a self-serving time; we are in another "me" generation. Yet it is also a reflective and growth oriented time. As a nation, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in arenas of poverty, child welfare, hate crimes, our political system and climate change, as a start. Change happens from within. When, as individuals, we recognize our power to break free of the crippling habits and behaviors of our pasts, as a whole, we are then empowered to act on our collective conscious and work to reform our communities.

What is solid and holy and blooming in you? What steps can you take to nurture it and let it bear fruit?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Righting Some Wrongs

A few weeks ago, I started to write a post about the things we do in childhood and our young adult life that we regret as we become wiser. Strange how these childish things stick with us, isn't it? Those little mistakes we made make us wonder, do the people we hurt remember us? Does it sting, still?

I started thinking about all the kids I hurt growing up and as I thought about these people, I started looking them up on Facebook.  I was shocked to learn that one of my highschool friends had died the night before in horrific car accident. He was with his wife, traveling home from the baptism of his youngest grandchild; a tragedy. It was a sombering moment, to say the least.

Rather than write a tongue-in-cheek post about all the silly things I did growing up, I've chosen another course. We cannot undo our past. I cannot go back and un-hurt the people I've hurt. There are avenues of growth, however.

In some cases, we can right the wrongs of our past. If the people we've hurt are still living, we can seek them out and genuinely apologize. The "wrongs" are often not the things we did, but what we did or did not do directly afterward. Perhaps we did not show remorse, we didn't apologize, we didn't try to make up for our actions. The odd and awkward part of this, is sometimes people don't remember what we did and aren't holding it against us. You have to make a judgement call as to whether tracking down someone you haven't seen since 2nd grade is the most helpful thing to do.

Perhaps equally valuable, if not equally important, is to handle our own thoughts about our past mistakes. For example there is a lot of difference in motive, intention, and blame about my role in someone else cutting their own hair in 2nd grade versus my unkind and callous handling of a break up when I was 17.

We learn from our past when we are willing to look honestly at it and without judgement;  there are treasures there. When I look at that break-up, I remember a couple of life-shock moments that were the catalyst to that event. Those moments point to one thing: I did not believe I was worthy of love. If I had a chance to tell that old flame anything today, I would of course apologize for my appalling behavior but I would also thank him. I would thank him for being the deliverer of the wake-up call that there was, in me, someone loveable and desirable. It was important to hear it even though, at the time, I fended it off.

Sometimes the mistakes we made in our past are simply there to remind us we are human and to teach us how to forgive ourselves.Sure it would be great if everyone we wronged forgave us, but what really matters is that grace has been acting in our lives all along  and now we must forgive ourselves.

Your past, my past, can only hold us back if we let it. We can and should ask forgiveness if appropriate (or even make restitution) but in every case, we can only grow if we look, learn, and let go. Right your wrongs to straighten your path forward but don't forget to look in the mirror while you do it. You will be the richer for it.