Friday, March 31, 2006

Boiling point

We boil at different degrees. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher, (1803-1882)

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Emerson? This statement sums up much of what I believe makes up the difference in individuals. So many times I've heard people become frustrated with their friends, partners, spouses, children, baffles them when someone doesn't take an action they believe should be taken, or reacts too quickly for their taste...someone who changes more slowly or more quickly than they. Assuming basic psychological and emotional stability, we all simply move at different rates, react to different stumuli...we reach boiling at our own set point.

In this context, I'm referring to "boiling" as the point at which we affect change. When water boils, it changes to steam. When we boil, we make changes in our lives. Like water, the molecules will probably have been in motion for a long time before the first bubbles break the surface. Just because we don't see the changes, we can't assume the other person isn't simmering quietly inside, temperature rising slowly toward their own set point. When they get there, the bubbles float to the surface, break, and the steam rises.

People sometimes forestall the boiling. They resist the change to the point that they "turn down the heat." The heat is the stimulus to change, usually in the form of pain or discomfort with the present status. A statement I've heard used (and used myself) is that people only change when the pain of change is outweighed by the pain of staying the same. I think that's true. To avoid the discomfort of change, the pain of breaking that surface tension and morphing into another form of ourselves, we ignore the heat. Fortunately, the heat remains and, eventually, forces us to change. Maybe not in this lifetime...but eventually.

Our challenge, then, is to pay attention to our own heat sources and to let those we love pay attention to theirs. It's hard, sometimes, especially when the relationships are very close. Many a marriage has fallen apart because one partner is still simmering while the other is boiling away! Ahh, but perhaps that's part of the change in progress. Maybe the pain of that failed relationship is what it takes to get the other partner from a slow simmer to a rolling boil. Maybe not. One thing is certain - life is change. We all boil at different degrees but we still boil. Steam happens. So does condensation. And then we boil again.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A riddle...

Riddle: What do you say when the Universe hits you in the head with a "clue by four"?

Answer: Ouch. Thank you. May I have another?

Synchronicity. Timing. Things happening in such a way that there can be no doubt that something is coordinating the events. Affirmation that evolution happens in the micro as well as the macro. We evolve in tiny increments all the time.

My friend Lynnette is busy preparing an Ostara ritual for our little group. She sent some questions to get us thinking and help us prepare for the celebration. She talked about balance, naturally enough, and drew a distinction between static balance - "...stand with outstretched hands holding the same amount of 'weight' on each..." and "... balance experienced as a flow of seasons, cycles...".

Her words evoked an image of a curved line, a wave that curves deeply to one side, then gradually swings toward the other, crossing the center point before curving wide to the opposite side, like a continuous S-curve.

My life is like that, and it's been brought home to me lately so very clearly. I've been living in a wide swing toward ideals that I embrace happily and that, at their core, serve me well. But the curve can't stay that far out, that far from center, without throwing the wave out of balance. Like that line, there are aspects of my life that need to curve back toward center.

Here is an example, one that currently occupies a lot of my thoughts: I am a very accepting person. Acceptance is a part of my personality, but I've also worked hard to cultivate it in my life. I've conciously nurtured the part of me that takes people as they come and sees good in just about everyone. The problem is that I've also developed the habit of ignoring red flags, warnings and danger signs. It's not that I don't see them. If I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that I do, indeed, see the red flags waving. I just ignore them.

Why? Because I think I might be wrong. Or because, for some reason, I have come to believe that saying, "I don't like her" is just...wrong. It sounds so arrogant, so self-centered. What do you mean, you don't like her? What makes you so special that the universe should care whether someone pleases you or not? Why are your likes and dislikes more important than the other person's right and responsibility to be who they are? That's a person, not a flavor or a color. Focus on the other person instead of yourself for a change. People act on what they believe. Look at the reasons behind the actions instead of weighing everything in the light of whether it pleases you or not.

So I allowed myself to develop the habit of ignoring things because I was convinced somehow that I had enough understanding of human nature to see beyond the behavior to its cause. Once I knew the cause, I could ... I could...what? Change the behavior? Disregard it because I knew why they did it? That's more likely, I think. I just overlooked a lot of things because I thought I knew why they were doing them. It didn't make them any less annoying, dangerous, or unhealthy, but I could just be the bigger, more superior person and rise above it all.

Hogwash! I've been ignoring red flags and it has cost me. More important, my ignoring my own instincts contributed to friends being hurt. No...I'm not trying to take resonsibility for everything in the world...but facing the fact that, had I listened to certain instincts, raised a question when I observed things that weren't quite right, or just spoke up and said, "Hey, I know BS when I see it and that was some of the S-iest B I've seen in a long time!" is just facing the truth. I've been so focused on not being self-centered that I forgot to use common sense and simple self-preservation, practicing a special brand of self-centered, cleverly disguised as acceptance and other-centric living.

Though the reasons were very different at the time, I have been ignoring warnings and flags since I was young. I got married twice under a fluttering, flapping, sea of garrison-sized crimson beauties. I knew it wasn't right but I chose to ignore them. Why? That's a whole 'nother subject for a whole 'nother time. Regardless of the reasons, the behavior was the same. Was the pattern being set even then? Maybe.

So...lessons learned...and being learned...again...still. I feel the curve turning and flowing more toward center, away from the wide arc too far out to the side. Of course, the curve continues, and I'm sure I'll swing wide again on some other issue...or the same one, though I truly hope not.

I am still an accepting person, and I don't want that to change. I like that part of me and I'm glad I've cultivated that trait. What I do want is to accept my own right and responsibility to listen to the warnings.

It doesn't do much good to be a very intuitive person if you ignore your own intuition, does it?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Remedial Learning - Life for Dummies - The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stuff We Should Know

I've often said out loud to anyone who could be coerced into listening that the universe is constantly in teaching mode...that we are all learning lessons all the time...and that some of us (ask me how I know this) end up repeating the same lessons over and over until we get it.

Lately, my school-of-life schedule has undergone an overhaul and suddenly, I'm in remedial class with lessons coming fast and furious! I cannot remember a time when there were more "aha" moments in my life. Every day something else happens and another light bulb comes on, another little voice inside saying, "You knew that! You should have known that! Why didn't you know that?"

On the one hand, I'm bowled over by the intensity of it all. On the other hand, I'm deeply grateful. Not only are the lessons coming, but I'm able to recognize at least some of them. Those are the ones that, hopefully, I'll "get" this time and not be repeating the course again and again. No guarantees, of course...but I'm trying.

So what am I learning?

Trust your own intuition. If something bothers you, listen to it. Speak up about it. If you aren't bothered but people you love and trust are, encourage them to speak up... and LISTEN to them. You and/or they may not be right (we all have our own filters, after all), but you may be dead on target and you could be spared a lot of grief by paying attention.

Practice what you preach. When you believe that sharing failings, disappointments, and hurts is just as important as sharing joys and accomplishments, act on that belief. Don't keep your disappointments and injuries from people you love, trust, and respect, even if you believe that you're doing it for good reason. A prime example: I learned from a deeply loved and cherished friend today that she'd been carrying around pain and heartache over a situation that I, too, had experienced. Had either of us spoken up about it, we could have, as she so beautifully put it, helped each other to heal. Instead, and for the very best of reasons, we both kept our hurts to ourselves. In doing so, we isolated ourselves in that lonely place where you come to believe it is you and you alone who bears that burden. While I was trying to hold myself to a standard I had set, I left a friend to suffer alone, and I suffered alone, too. I have to learn to trust those I love to be strong enough to know what happens to me and how I react to it, without having my reaction shape their own.

Trust. Cherish it. Nurture it. Hold it dear and protect it. Honor it as the center of each relationship. Every relationship is a set of mutual promises, some stated, others implied. We make plans and live our lives on the basis of those promises. Don't make promises you aren't willing to do everything in your power to keep. If you don't understand the implied promises in a relationship, put on your grown up shoes and ask.

Accountability. I've posted a lot about accountability already. A point that keeps being driven home to me is that we are accountable for every action, and no action is purely good or purely bad. Everything we do puts things in motion, causes ripples in the pond, creates vibrations on the web of life that connects us all. Even decisions that are ultimately right and good create those vibrations, and what is good and right for us may be disappointing to someone else. Causing pain to someone by our actions, even when those actions are exactly what we have to do to meet our own honest responsibilities, is never easy for those who love broadly and generously. I have a beautiful little book called, "The Invitation," written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. She says, "It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself, if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy." Pretty words. Hard questions. Important lesson.

I'm sure there are more lessons, probably some that are just zooming over my head completely unseen. I can almost hear the, "tsk, tsk, tsk...she'll be back next semester..." in the ethers. I suppose I should be grateful for that, too. If life were strictly a pass/fail, one-shot-and-you're-out proposition, I'd have been booted a long time ago. Instead, we're given opportunity upon opportunity to learn, to grow, to get it.

I'm working on it.