Thursday, June 2, 2011

Being Right and Doing the Right Thing

My dear friend Cathy was telling my daughter Shelby and me recently about an Epiphany of sorts that she had while making Deviled Eggs.  She explained this to us in the following way:

"I spent a lot of time this afternoon struggling to peel hard boiled eggs and became very frustrated because the eggs were too fresh.  She further explained that egg shells peel off easily from eggs that are about to expire as air seeps into the porous outer shells over time.  Something about all of that helps to loosen the shell after boiling.  Fresh eggs are then not 'seasoned' enough in this way to work well, as the egg and the shell have not yet begun to separate.  It is as if the fresh egg still clings to the shell." 

As with most people who process thoughts with the most clarity while working with their hands (Cathy is an artist who works with many mediums, including clay) she explained that for her the whole experience soon became a metaphor for faith.  She went on to explain this as follows.

"In the beginning of a faith journey we sometimes are like the fresh egg and want to cling to the protective shell and as time passes we start going through a transforming process that allows us to begin to let go of that protective shell and become freer in vulnerability rather than closed up in fear."

Cathy knows that I like to write, so she asked if I would write about her experience somewhere.  Those who also love to write will know what I mean when I say that once an idea starts forming, it will not let you rest until you release it.  Hmmm..."release it"  sounds like an egg story to me.

I have been "pondering"...I like that word, don't know why...but I have been pondering off and on for years now something someone told me which was "there is often a difference between "being right" and "doing the right thing."  This has become one of my personal guiding principles.  Something about Cathy's egg metaphor initiated a dance of sort in my mind with her egg story and this guiding principle.  That following is what surfaced for me in all of this.

"Maybe 'being right' is often what we need to feel when we are the fresh egg.  We cling to 'being right' sometimes as if it were the protective shield.  It is often a very precarious shield though as it almost always assumes that in order to be right, anyone who doesn't agree, is then by definition, not right.  The conflict that often ensues between 'right and not right' results in something similar to a damaged egg as the egg shell is forcibly peeled, before it has had time to season." 

On the other hand --'doing the right thing' is often a wholly different choice.  It requires some seasoning to discern fully what the 'right thing to do might be' through allowing 'air, prayer, silence, light...' whatever the transforming property might be, to penetrate the protective shell so that we might release it in the freedom of vulnerability, humility and faith.  It is in this place of freedom that we can more easily know and freely choose "doing the right thing" over "being right" in every moment and every choice.  What we find when we are able to do this often is that like the well seasoned egg, we can let go of our protective shell without inflicting or incurring damage. 

Guess I better move on from the egg metaphors for now though because I can just imagine someone thinking "well once it loosens it's shell the egg is devoured!"  I'll have to see if Cathy is willing to go back to the kitchen to ponder that next part of the journey--the obvious immediate benefit of that for me of course is more delicious deviled eggs to eat.

I can tell you though as I personally move into this more seasoned time of life..this simple guiding principle has served me well over and over again.  "Doing the right thing", although not always the easiest choice to make, is often the most liberating choice.  It is another way that I am learning to trust the mystery.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blame it on "Big Moon"

Blame it on Big Moon

When I was in graduate school, I did some research work for a class that involved exploring cycles and patterns.  While the study at the time was for a Finance class, it introduced me to a whole broad spectrum of interest and research regarding patterns and cycles.  Most recently the “Big Moon” as it was sometimes called reminded of some of that.  Some “Big Moon” facts in case you somehow managed to miss all of the media attention it received:

-- On March 19th, 2011, there was an unusual large and bright full Moon
--This full moon was the biggest in almost 20 years as a result of the Moons own orbital
   path, which is oval in nature, brought it to its closest point to the earth
--The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993.
--It will be several years before this happens again

As with most rather periodic phenomenon the “Big Moon” event resulted in a lot of speculation in terms of what it might “trigger.”  Those who study such things seemed to be mostly of the opinion that “Big Moon” would not trigger anything out of the ordinary, except a brighter, bigger looking moon.  They may be right, but for whatever reasons, the time leading up to that event and the time following seemed to coincide with some rather dramatic world events and on a more personal level, some very unusual outbursts of anger all around me.

I grew up in a home where  “emotional” responses were talked about as being a negative thing.  I wasn’t sure what being an “emotional” person was, but I was pretty sure it was not a good thing to be one.  Consequently I worked very hard not to be one.  I was very young when I came to the conclusion that I must develop a way to hide this undesirable part of myself.  This, as it turns out,  is something that has gone on in my family for generations.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I came to realize that I had an opportunity to finally stop this family tendency, but that is another story for another day.

People who develop these kinds of coping strategies (and I am finding there are many of us), become quite adept pretty quickly at assessing the environment around them.  We spend most of our time unconsciously assessing those around us.  You see it is more difficult to “control, contain, etc” your own response if you are blind sided by events or most importantly by other peoples unanticipated emotional outbursts.  Emails, Texting, Instant Messaging, etc.,  have made it more difficult for people like me to “read between the lines” so to speak, without the visual cues and tone inflections that we rely on to “gage the emotional weather.”  So I will often wait until I can talk to people in person and/or at least over the phone, if it is a situation that I feel requires some assessment.

I have come to understand in time that the impact of all of this for me is that I often have a way better sense of how others are feeling, than how I am feeling myself.  I spend a lot of time in what a Pink Floyd song describes as a “comfortably numb” state of being.  Humor, one of the ways I have come to rely on in helping me start to “un-numb”,  allowed me to begin joking and blaming all of these unexpected emotional outbursts of others around me on “Big Moon.”  I am not sure I really believe that “Big Moon” was to blame, but my fascination with patterns and cycles helped me enjoy the speculation. 

In my last post I spoke of working to find “humor and gratitude” as much as possible in everything.  Just a week later I was quick to find humor in the situations, as it is an old coping mechanism, but I had to remind myself to start working on the gratitude part.  That is usually much, much harder, but when I am successful, everything almost immediately becomes much easier.  A strange paradox to be sure and a definitely a part of “learning to trust the mystery” for me. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trust and permanent ink people

I recently turned 50 years old and have been gratefully discovering the many blessing of this new decade in my life. I have for example, over the last 50 years, learned to look for the humor in most situations.  It just simply makes me a happier person and that benefits those around me as well.  There are I am finding, lots of humorous things that come with aging.  Like getting up to walk across the room and forgetting where I am going and why.  Like leaving my mind next to my keys sometimes and not being able to find either one.  I am working also to try and be grateful that this is only a part of my increasing experiences of ADHD and I hope to remember to say a prayer in those moments for all of those who are increasingly forgetful like this for more serious reasons. 

I haven't decided yet if I believe in the idea that things happen for a reason, but I do think that when we are awake enough, we have a better chance of seeing the things more clearly, that are continually being presented to us.  I am thinking that maybe things just happen and our part is in how we choose to respond.  So I am choosing to continue to try to respond with humor and gratitude whenever that is possible and appropriate.  More than anything else I am working to trust the mystery that is in every moment of every day and in doing so, I am increasingly experiencing a tremendous sense of gratitude. 

I had a friend once who pretty much summed me up in one brief explanation.  We are lucky sometimes in life to find friends who can do things like that for us so easily and readily.  She said to me "Janine you are a permanent ink person."  I had to ask her what that meant exactly as my initial reaction was that she was likening me to a tattoo or something of that nature.  I am not a big fan of tattoos, so I definitely wanted some clarification.   Back in the old, old  days (remembering that I am 50 now and some of the things that I speak of are really quite antiquated) , before Blackberries, IPads, Iphones and the like, we used simple organizational tools like paper address books. 

My friend said to me "some people you write in your address book in pencil and others you can write in permanent ink... you are in my address book in permanent ink." 

I can't tell you how many times over the years since she said that to me that I have reflected on being described as a permanent ink person.  It was a real gift she gave to me and I don't think she ever really realized that as she is one of the "pencil people" in my life. One who came for a moment and then moved on and erased themselves physically from my presence, but left enough of an impression that they are with me in some no longer visible form. 

T.S. Elliot wrote that "and the end of of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know that place for the first time."  That struck me recently at a level that I do not yet  fully understand.  So much so that I wrote it out on a post it note and stuck it on my desk (another one of my 50 year old antiquated methods).  But I think for permanent ink people like me, it has something to do with learning to trust the mystery and choosing to continue work to respond with gratitude.