Unexpected and Continuing Gifts of Grace

People often ask memoirists why we write the story of our life.  Writing is for me a spiritual practice — an exploration of the deepest terrain of my soul. I felt compelled to write my story. In the beginning stages, I couldn’t have told you why.

In my studies on the art of writing memoir, I learned of the importance of writing honestly about our shortcomings … of not glossing over our flaws and failings. I was determined to be as honest as possible. That meant facing head on a fear I had lived with from a young age … the fear that there was something wrong with me that made me unlikable and unlovable. You may remember that I kept Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, in the book cubby above my writing desk.

At the end of eight years of writing A Long Awakening to Grace, I received a whole new perspective … my life finally made sense. The writing proved to be healing and transforming … an unexpected and welcome gift of grace.

Publishing what I wrote was another matter. I needed to let go of a coping mechanism I had used since childhood to avoid criticism … being quiet and invisible.

For many years as an adult, I hid. I cut myself off from old friends who would have wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t want to tell them.

Except for my twelve-step support system where it was safe to be open and vulnerable, I lived a double life. I avoided people and activities where I might need to reveal my life beyond the superficial. In my professional associations, I didn’t talk about the nitty gritty details of my personal life, even with colleagues I trusted.

Publishing my memoir was a big deal. In exposing my flaws and shortcomings to my readers, I risked the possibility of actualizing my childhood fear of being judged unlikable and unlovable. My editors even prepared me for such a possibility.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” ~Brene Brown

 

The truth of Brene Brown‘s words revealed itself in these comments from readers:

“…it took courage to be so open and vulnerable.”

“…your honesty and vulnerability shown through … You are a true hero in my eyes.”

“Your willingness to be vulnerable and open about your challenges and struggles and self-criticism leave me in awe.”

If there are readers out there judging me, they are keeping quiet. If and when judgment comes, these voices will override them:

“You memories have given me hope I can survive the past two devastating years.”

“…your sharing has given me strength and courage. …your brave vulnerability has been healing for me and I am extremely grateful.”

“Your story confronted me and gave me hope.”

“Your book will bless many people.”

 

More words of wisdom from Brene Brown:

“Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world around us a little braver.” Brene Brown

And then last week, an awareness began to float to the surface of my consciousness. I’ve put it all out there … my worst stuff … for the world to see. I no longer need to hide. I’m truly free … another unexpected and welcome gift of grace.

Ranting

This is the first time in my memory that I have used this forum to rant. I think the gray-haired among us will relate. Lately, I’ve been tearing my hair out over technology. I do fairly well for someone my age, but I have my limits.

When my computer works well, I’m grateful to be able to interact with a world beyond my neighborhood, city, and country. When it isn’t working, I invariably can’t understand why and don’t know what to do to fix it. Sometime in September, the Jetpack plug-in just disappeared from my website. That meant my subscribers were not receiving my blog posts. And I didn’t know it until after I had posted twice, one being a very significant post. I also received feedback from another writer about my website. It needs an update. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Because I have no whiz-kid grandchildren, I have to “fork-over-dollars.” And in that realm, I also have my limits.

The months of September and October 2017 have been filled with anxiety and frustration as I’ve attended to several time-consuming matters, some of which involved an outlay of dollars:

  • updating my will and trust,
  • dealing with the Jetpack and other website issues (update still not resolved),
  • getting leaks to Nicole’s new tub and around the old tub in my bathroom fixed

Others were designed to save me money as the prices of everything are increasing in 2018:

  • finding the lowest gas and electric carriers
  • finding the best, most affordable health insurance supplement

Correcting the mistake made in my 2016 taxes involved both an outlay and a savings:

  • finding an affordable tax preparer and
  • receiving the refund I was owed

And that doesn’t take into account the hours spent dealing with the Equifax breech and collecting the documents the Job Center needed to determine if Nicole will still be eligible for medicaid help.

And then, of course, there is life:

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking
  • cleaning (to pay for Nicole’s tub, we let our house cleaner go)
  • doctor appointments

All that interfered with what I really wanted to do:

  • promote my memoir
  • prepare my home for Jacqui’s return from Taiwan so she could  move in

What frays my nerves and pushes me close to the edge of insanity is:

  • automated answering systems

It is next to impossible to get a human being anymore. And what should take minutes, takes hours. It is unbelievable what all is involved in getting instructions or the answer to a simple question. I even found an article about it here and here and here.

Twice this week, I was put in a queue and promised a call back. I’m still waiting.

Monday, we cut the cord with cable TV. Upgrading our internet was a breeze. Changing phone carriers and learning to use our new streaming device was not.

Thank God for Jacqui. She is far advanced beyond Nicole and me in her understanding of technology. And she is willing to help. Nicole and I have made progress in understanding how to use Apple TV and Hulu and we still have a ways to go. I’m happy with the dollars we are saving.

An awareness I didn’t expect, after witnessing Jacqui’s very different manner, was noticing how contracted and defended I have become. I approach armed and ready … alert in every interaction to being taken advantage of and cheated out of my hard-earned money. Of course, the customer service representatives are not to blame. They don’t make the policies. They are just trying to make a living. And they bear the brunt of our increased stress. And that isn’t good for any of us.

I firmly believe that the rampant greed and contentious climate in our culture today contributes to our stress. Clearly I’m not alone as the articles I referenced above prove. Whew!! However, watching Jacqui joke with customer service representatives and extend kindness to them brought me up short.

Being tense, anxious, defended, and contracted are not ways I want to be.

So, I am increasing my motivation by embarrassing myself here and revealing one of the worst parts of me. My plan for change is:

  • determine what I want and need before the call or encounter
  • breathe deeply
  • set my intention to be kind to the rep and to my body
  • and to assertively ask for what I want and need.

These are skills I have possessed for a very long time. I plan to start being intentional about using them again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devotion

Many readers of my memoir have been telling me what an amazing woman I am because of the way I maintained my sanity while dealing with insurmountable obstacles. I almost responded to one of them, “I’ve worked hard at it.” And then I stopped myself. I had recently been given another way of looking at my journey. I have poet, Bob Kamm, to thank for that.

Even though I am retired as an Imago Relationship Therapist, I continue to be enriched by this amazing community of people who are devoted to changing the world one relationship at a time. Check them out here. Bob  Kamm is Imago’s resident poet.

Bob Kamm

Bob shared with the Imago community a poem he had written and his reason for writing it. He said that the words “work” and “commitment” were losing their validity for him when applied to love.  “I took a fair amount of time to dig into this to try to express what I felt on the deepest level.” And then he shared his poem, “Devotion.”

You can hear Bob recite “Devotion” here between positions 8:52 and 15:07.

Bob’s poem touched me and  caused me to look more deeply into how I have internalized cultural messages about working hard in every one of life’s realms in order to receive good things…how the encouragement to be good little girls and boys plays out in our adult life, becoming our “Dominant Noun and Verb.”

I could see the truth of that for me as a Type A personality and why I responded to my friend as I had. Through Bob’s poem, I found a different way of looking at the actions guiding my life … a deeper element than “work” guiding me.

While Bob acknowledges that “work can be a great good,” it doesn’t speak to what calls to him when he enters the realm of LOVE, which he refers to as the “Ultimate Noun and Verb of Life.” When it comes to LOVE, he finds the words “devotion” and “vow” calling to him.

Through reading Bob’s poem, I came to a deeper appreciation for the word devotion as well as for devotion as a spiritual path. And I realized that the reason the readers of A Long Awakening to Grace can refer to me as amazing is because of my devotion.

From the age of ten, watching my extended family, scarred by the shadow of alcoholism, struggle to relate lovingly to each other and often failing, I knew there had to be “a better way” of loving.

“During my unconscious years, quality meant the better way to be family, an ideal that had fascinated me since I was ten years old. Under my fascination was a yearning to experience love, the greatest of spiritual gifts. Because I was not awake to the spiritual significance of my longing and love didn’t come in wrappings I recognized, I distorted it throughout a good part of my life.

I pondered love’s rough edges in childhood and searched for love’s balm in every relationship. I studied love intellectually and entered experiential training programs to learn about it empirically. Love’s expression encompassed my calling and ministry as a family and couple’s therapist.” ~except from A Long Awakening to Grace

 

 

I didn’t consciously make a “vow” to grow in my capacity to extend love. I experienced myself as being called to a path I could not avoid…like a mandate from The Divine. I worked hard, and I did grow in my ability to be loving in some very difficult circumstances. But because hard work didn’t provide the fruit for my labors I longed for, I would not have stayed the course. I would not have awakened to Divine Love and Grace. Thankfully, I was devoted to the inward call of my soul.

If you appreciate words flowing with wisdom as I do, you can check out Bob’s poetry and musings about life here. Gazing is just one of Bob’s books of poetry. He is an amazing man, and I’ll bet that has something to do with his devotion…to Love and to Living Life on a profoundly deep level.

The Voice Inside

August 31, we observed the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. My daughter and I watched a couple of the many television programs commemorating her life. I found myself paying close attention to “Diana: Her Own Words” based on the interviews she gave for Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story.

“Everyone who wills can hear their inner voice. It is within everyone.” ~Mahatma Ghandi 

What struck me most as I listened to Diana reflect on her life was the number of times she referred to “the voice inside.” Throughout, her inner voice of wisdom spoke to her powerfully and humbly. Despite all the hoopla that surrounded her, she noticed and observed the wisdom that lived within her. She did not always heed the wisdom revealing the truth aligned with her soul.

I suppose I took note of this part of Diana’s story because I could relate. I, too, did not always heed the guidance coming from my inner voice of wisdom. I paid more attention to outside influences than to nudges from my soul. It is in that juncture that true suffering is born. It is part of what contributed to my awakening to grace being so long.

“I took note of this unmistakable warning–the first time I had received such an unambiguous message from the still, small voice of wisdom within. The next day I tried to give expression … I was unable to advocate for myself. Sadly, I possessed little relationship with my depths, my inner voice of wisdom. … I didn’t know myself or the importance of choosing a path in alignment with my soul.” ~excerpts from A Long Awakening to Grace

Just as Diana did, I tried to make the best of the wrong turns I had taken in my life. I discovered that if I kept my heart open and trusting, I would learn valuable lessons along the way.

  • All is not lost when we take a wrong turn.
  • There are treasures to be found in our suffering and in our search for the meaning of our life.
  • In silence and stillness, and sometimes in our dreams, we are more likely to hear our inner voice of wisdom.
  • Contemplative writing often results in wisdom flowing from our pen. (We can experience wisdom flowing from any form of meditation or artistic expression.)
  • In nature, if we pay attention, Divine wisdom and guidance often emerges.

“If you have a deep desire to move forward, a way is being prepared for you.” ~Bryant McGill

It was speculated that Diana was looking for a new way to move forward in her life when she died at thirty-six. And while we will never know the extent of the life lessons she learned in her short life, it was clear to me as I watched this program that she had already learned a few valuable lessons. Perhaps the intensity of her experience forced her to learn more quickly. I have no doubt that if she had lived, she would have grown in her ability to trust her “voice inside.”

Fortunately for me, I had many more years to learn to listen to the still small voice of wisdom within me … to glean the treasures from my life experience…treasures I share in

 

Noticing

 

On Monday I had an opportunity to notice how I am being affected physically and mentally by the threats to the protections put in place after the 2008 financial crisis and to the Affordable Care Act. I can’t afford to lose what I lost in 2008. My daughter can’t afford to have another healthcare crisis if she is no longer covered by health insurance.

As a responsible person, a major focus in recent weeks has been consulting with financial and estate planning experts to once again make sure everything is in order. With my daughter’s changed circumstances … moving in with me and no longer being able to work and live independently … changes need to be made. As a single woman, I find it difficult to make these important decisions alone.

 

Spiritually, I know my daughter and I will be fine no matter what the future holds. I have experienced miraculous gifts of grace in the past, but as my memoir attests, my awakening tends to be long. And, it seems, I have been caught up in fear and dread again. I’ve been afraid to tap into my savings, including investing the money I’ve saved to publish my memoir. We might need it to deal with an emergency in the future.

During lunch with a friend on Monday, something had shifted. She is serving as a caregiver for her mother and is in a similar situation as I. She is single and needs to make decisions related to her mother in the same way I need to make decisions related to my daughter. She needed a listening ear. She said our conversation was very helpful.

And our conversation was helpful to me, too. It gave me an opportunity to notice a difference in myself. It was as though the light had burst through the dark clouds that had been hovering over me. I felt totally present to her, a contrast to my experience of myself in recent weeks.

My stomach has been tied in knots, I’ve lost sleep, and most noticeable to me, I’ve had difficulty with holding information in my mind and with word retrieval. But while listening and responding to my friend, I held onto what she shared and words I felt proud to utter and she found helpful flowed easily from my mouth.

And what could this difference be attributed to?

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear  not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” ~Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 10:30-31

Over the weekend, I received a gift of grace. Just a reminder that I am really not alone and that I never know who will show up and offer just what I need at just the right moment. I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. And what a difference it makes in the way I move through life … in the way I was able to respond to  my friend.

I can let go of all the fear and dread because my daughter and I are being cared for and carried by a power greater than our own.

Thank you, Universe, I needed that reminder. As You know, I learn best through experience.

🙂

 

On NOT Being “Humor Challenged” … Seriously

“…the Spirit prays for us with groans too deep for words.” ~Romans 8:26b

If the Spirit prays with groans too deep for words, then I’m okay with my moans and groans about writing on the topic of “happiness.” Writing is for me a spiritual practice … writing letters to the Divine in my journal is a prayer practice for me.

I often moan and groan until an opening occurs and what is too deep for words emerges … wisdom flows from my pen as though from the still, small voice within. The Divine doesn’t always speak to me this way, but I have experienced these transcendent moments enough to trust that my moans and groans are leading me to a deeper place of awareness. Being in league with the Spirit isn’t a bad place to be.

And so, while I moaned and groaned about writing on the topic of “happiness” for my writing group, I trusted something deeper would emerge. And it has and continues. Here’s the latest!

Growing up, my family dubbed me the weird, serious one. They reveled in joke telling and laughing uproariously. I didn’t get some of their jokes, didn’t find some of them funny, and couldn’t join in their merry-making.

I inevitably forgot or messed up the punch line of most jokes I attempted to tell. My family happily reinforced my thinking about myself as “humor challenged.” That presented a dilemma

If you have been following my blog posts on happiness, you have probably guessed that my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, is not a tale of “happily every after.”

“Be kind to your readers. Color your darker moments with humor to lighten the heaviness of your story,” those of us writing memoirs are taught.

As you might imagine, that unsettled me. How could a “humor challenged” woman prone to melancholy make her less than “happily ever after” story funny?

“Comedy comes from pain.” ~Kevin Hart

According to Forbes, Kevin Hart, was the highest paid comedian on the planet last year. That makes him pretty popular. And he makes people laugh by making fun of himself and finding humor in painful situations in his life … like his fear of the dark and absurd reactions to his mother’s death.

I’m no Kevin Hart, but fortunately for me, I have good friends and many of them find me funny … not for the jokes I tell … I gave up on jokes a long time ago. They find my  comments about the absurdities of life and my wry comments, usually made at my own expense, funny. Sometimes they even laugh uproariously.

If you have ever experienced that side of me, just know that is a sign that I feel really safe with you.

And fortunately for me, I had a good editor. After reading my manuscript, she would not accept my perception that I am “humor challenged.” Hmmm. Had she noticed something in my writing that would at least give my readers a chuckle.

Hey, I’ll take a chuckle anytime.

But, since satire had never automatically flowed from my fingers before, the tongue-in-cheek humor that emerged as I wrote about “happiness” filled me with happiness. 🙂 I noted it as the presence of the Transcendent.

Then, last weekend, some bonafide funny words popped out of my mouth in a phone conversation with a friend I hadn’t talked with for awhile. She was excited to hear that I have finished writing my memoir and that it will be published in 2018. I told her:

“My memoir is in three parts:

The first part is: ‘I’m a mess.’

The second part is: ‘I’m getting my act together.’

The third part is: ‘I think I’m getting the hang of this now.'”

We both chuckled. Later she sent me an e-mail.

“It was so delightful to talk with you this afternoon.  I can hardly wait until your book is published!  Please keep me in that loop so I can get an early copy.”

You, too, could be “in that loop.” All I need is your e-mail and permission to add you to my list. You could send me a message on my contact page. Or, if you haven’t already, you could sign up to receive notifications through my blog. Just saying.

I never cease to be amazed and in awe at the way Spirit works in my life. Today I’m grateful to know that I am seriously not “humor challenged.” My editor confronted me several times with this truth. She will be happy that I finally get it. Groan! Forgive me. Sometimes I can be a slow learner. 😉

Happiness: How I Missed the Mark

As I mentioned in my previous posts, I moaned and groaned with the other women in my Cincinnati Writer’s Group as we came to our gathering to share what we wrote about “Happiness.” Today, I am quite happy that we chose to write and share on this topic because it has led to an important awakening in my life.

After contemplating Gary’s profound piece on Transcendent Happiness, I realized that my moans and groans related to my 1950s-60s socialization.

Missing the Mark (sin in the original languages):

The promise of “happily ever after” portrayed in co-dependent ballads that I loved as an idealistic, naive young woman: (think Johnny Mathis’s “Voice of Romance” … Misty, Chances Are, The Twelfth of Never) and musicians who made my heart be-bop (think Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Tommy Sands) tripped me up.

“Happily Ever After”

I actually believed that “happily ever after” was how life was supposed to work. Somehow I missed that it is a MYTH! I missed the mark.

When my life didn’t work according to my expectations, I wrestled to make sense of it.

At first, I made myself the problem. “What’s wrong with me?” I tried to whip myself into shape with a long list of self-sabotaging messages. More “Missing the Mark.” 

When I learned about misogyny and sexism, contributing to women’s low self-worth, I reasoned that life was unfair. True, but knowing that didn’t help me hit the mark.

Eventually I found a more productive route. Focusing on “What am I doing wrong?” produced a lot of fruit. There was indeed a lot I was doing wrong. I made a concerted effort to clean up my act.

The tongue-in-cheek perspective in the next paragraph that appeared in my original treatise on “Happiness” makes me happy because it flowed from my fingers automatically … a sure sign of the Transcendent engaging me. 

Not everyone in my life liked my journey from “dysfunctional” to “more functional.” I can’t say from “dysfunctional” to “functional” because I’m not functionally perfect, though a very dysfunctional part of me wishes I were.

Pay Dirt

 

“The whole idea in life is growth. I mean you stop growing, you stop asking questions, you lose your curiosity. That’s not a life you want to live.” ~Goldie Hawn

Gary’s writing on Transcendent Happiness made me curious about my moans and groans. That opened my eyes to how off-center and out-of-balance my 50s-60s mindset throws me … how much I still carry that longing within me for “happily ever after” and how far from the real treasures in life that obsession takes me. Knowing how I miss the mark when it comes to the topic of happiness, I think I can let go of “happily ever after” once and for all. What a relief.

The Comparison Trap:

“Aggregate happiness has not risen in countries where incomes and educational levels have risen. There is much evidence that people compare their income with other people and, if others become richer, they feel less happy at any given level of income.” ~World Happiness Report

 

The same can be said for “happiness.”

“When I compare myself or my life with others, that is a sure sign that I have moved too far away from engaging or allowing myself to be engaged by the Transcendent.” ~Linda A. Marshall

I think my friend, Pat, who described her true happiness as having a sense of peace even when things around her are not going well is on to something significant. She attributes her peace to her relationship with God and the Holy Spirit working through her…what I believe Gary was saying in different words.

For me, I much prefer to focus on The Pursuit of Meaning. That leads me to be right on the mark … growing in consciousness.

Thank you, Gary, for opening my eyes a wee bit wider and my heart to the true treasures in life: my blessings as well as the strength, resilience, and wisdom that can flow from adversity when I am open to receiving it. That is “happiness” I can embrace.

Transcendent Happiness

As we gathered, the female’s in my writing group groaned about our topic of “Happiness.” Our lone gentleman just smiled.

Gary, one of the deepest and most reflective men I have ever met, noted that on July 4, 1776, our Declaration of Independence named the pursuit of happiness as our inalienable right.

And then on April 10, 2017, 240 years later, Gary received this from Sounds True, “Your experiences matter. And how experiences change your brain profoundly affects your happiness.”

Sounds True was advertising a Rick Hanson masterclass. Hanson has written many books including Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence and offers several masterclasses through Sounds True.

Hanson is a psychologist with a special interest in neuroscience’s research about our brain’s neuroplasticity and how we can rewire our brain to get our emotions back in balance. He says that happiness is far more than a positive feeling that comes and goes. It is a skill that you can develop. Bridging neuropsychology with the great contemplative traditions, Dr. Hanson helps people learn to let go of negative experiences to make space for positive thoughts and feelings.

When Gary received this advertisement about Hanson’s masterclass, he asked himself, “Am I happy? Do I need to take this class?”

He began to write his reflections on these questions and after three drafts, felt happy with his result.

Personally, I think “I felt happy with the result” is an understatement.

Gary realized that he is and always has been a happy person. He hadn’t known that in quite the same way and that led him to ask, “What is the source of my happiness?”

His answer was profound. “I am happiest when I am ‘Engaging the Transcendent.” He went on to share the various forms in which he engages the transcendent.

You can read what he wrote here.

How would you answer Gary’s question: “What is the source of my happiness?”
In what ways do you “engage the transcendent?”

 

Our Sage Sister Revolution

My Sage Sister book study group met yesterday. We dug into Chapter One in our newest selection, From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older.

At this time in our life, late 60s to early 80s, this book encourages us to view elderhood as an opportunity to reconnect with the sacred dimension of life:

  • find a sense of “enoughness” from within
  • connect with our inmost essence and cultivate the calmness and self-knowledge that breeds wisdom
  • transcend “doing” in favor of “being” and a clarity of consciousness that comes from spiritual growth
  • cultivate the quietness and inwardness from which mystical experience is possible
  • pursue our own paths to fulfillment … following our own inner promptings and intuitive leads.

An example was given of a seventy-four-year-old women pursuing a Ph.D. in conflict resolution to sharpen her skills as a mediator. Our conversation was energized by her view that “elders have a special responsibility to infuse public life with higher values that stress cross-cultural understanding, social justice, and world peace.” Growing into her full stature, this woman plans to speak out more often and from her inner authority.

We shared around the circle how we struggle to transcend “doing” in favor of “being.” Letting go of our all too familiar “doing” mode, we are seeking balance by going within to discern how we are being called to infuse public life with higher values … how we are to speak out from our own inner authority.

Cindi shared a recent experience of interacting with college students at an event focusing on protecting the environment. The only white-haired person in a small focus group, she was shocked to find these students unconcerned about climate change. She has no idea the effect she had on these students, but she took the opportunity to ask them probing questions, hoping to stimulate their critical thinking on this issue so vital to her and her husband.

Cindi also shared about her passion for healthy eating. She made an offer to her local food bank to work one on one with those they serve to teach recipients how to prepare unfamiliar fresh vegetables.

Sue, our youngest member and a retired teacher, shared her passion for working with young people to increase their understanding and empathy for people who are different and the spiritual community in which she participates that focuses on raising the consciousness of humankind. She is currently substitute teaching, but her greatest joy is nurturing her grandson’s development and awareness of the differences that enrich his world.

Jasmine, our oldest member, and her husband are the parents of nine children. One is gay and another is lesbian. Her love for them was undiminished when they came out to her. She shared her concern about the hatred that is directed at LGBTQ people and how she tries to dissipate animosity by openly sharing about her love for her extraordinary children. Jasmine spends a lot of time in prayer and knits prayer shawls which she donates to local hospitals and nursing homes.

Cathy has a passion for social justice especially as it relates to underprivileged and marginalized folks. She, too, has been active in donating to our local food pantry and educating others to the food insecurity that exists in our region of the country. Dayton is in the top ten of the hungriest cities in the country. Cathy has also been active in helping immigrants get settled living in this new and strange country and city.

I shared my concern that responsibility is often omitted when we talk about freedom … responsibility infusing freedom with a higher value. I have recently awakened to my responsibility in our current political environment. I asked to be appointed as a precinct captain, something I am capable of doing, assuming a larger role in my community than I ever imagined. This action speaks to my concern for our government to be in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I am educating myself about actions I can take to free our government from the undermining effects of big money and using my writing and speaking skills to call our government officials to engage in responsible prophetic action.

We Sage Sisters will meet again next month to give each other support on our continuing journey of conscious aging. I am so grateful to have these outstanding women accompanying me on the journey of becoming a conscious elder.

 

A Disturbing Awakening

Awakenings often begin with a disturbance in the midst of ordinary circumstances. I have found that if I stay with the disturbance long enough and follow its threads in my life, a profound awakening is in the offing. Recently, I experienced this unexpected phenomena.

On a Saturday afternoon in January, I joined three of my cousins (Chuck, Cathy, & Mike) and Cathy’s husband (Gary) for a visit with their mother (my Aunt Evelyn), in her assisted living facility. We formed a circle in a lounge area for our visit.

Mike, Cathy, & Chuck behind Aunt Evelyn

A volunteer at the facility approached us. She seemed to know my aunt and cousins. She shared the progress she was making on her cancer journey. Then she suddenly launched into a political rant.

I found what she said offensive.

I looked down and played with the zipper on my coat.

Mike attempted to engage her in conversation, but she was on a roll and was not really interested in dialogue or in hearing another point of view.

I continued to play with my zipper.

I felt jarred by her intrusion into our pleasant visit. On the hour’s drive back home I wrestled with myself. Despite my discomfort with what she said, I said nothing. I could have launched into a rant of my own. I have some strong political opinions, but I said nothing.

That evening my daughter and I watched a movie that had been recommended by my friend, Ani. Gentleman’s Agreement is a 1947 movie starring Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck portrays an investigative reporter who has been assigned to write a series on anti-Semitism. He struggles with how to approach the subject. Then one day he has an idea. He’s new in town and no one knows him, so he decides to pretend he is Jewish. Instead of basing his series on research and interviews, he would be able to write from experience. Even though his best friend from High School is Jewish, he is shocked by some of his experiences.

In the meantime, he falls in love with a woman. She is from an upper middle-class family and shares his hatred of anti-Semitism. But in her tight-knit community of family and friends, they have a “gentleman’s agreement” not to speak up about the discrimination, prejudice, and hostility they witness. I squirmed as my eyes were suddenly opened to something about myself that has bothered me for years.

From 1990 until my retirement in 2007 I worked as a chemical dependency family therapist for Turning Point, Miami Valley Hospital’s treatment center. I am guessing that the event that bothered me happened sometime around the turn of the century in 2000. The African-American member of our staff decided to do a survey of our African-American clients to see  how they felt about the way they were treated by the white staff.

At that time, we had five or six African-American clients. When our coworker gave us the results, the only thing I remember from that survey was that they dubbed me “Miss Nicey-Nice.” I took that to be a derogatory term and it bothered me for years because one of those clients was special to me. In my private practice as a couple’s therapist, I had worked with him and his wife. I loved them and agonized with them about the difficulty he had letting go of his addiction.

So, for at least sixteen years, I carried that with me. What did they find objectionable about my being “nice.” With my father’s shining example, (see my December 3 post), I thought treating others with respect and compassion was a good thing.

But as I listened to Gregory Peck and his love interest argue about her reluctance to speak up to her family and friends, my eyes popped open.

That must be why they called me “Miss Nicey-Nice.” I’m too nice to speak up in the face of injustice. Just like today. I stayed silent during this woman’s diatribe, despite how offensive it was to me.

I didn’t like what I saw about myself.

Being “nice” isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it is not enough.

I need to change.

To be continued.

 

 

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