Tag: hurt

poem: anger

Anger has its uses.

It can serve
as a reminder
that everyone deserves
respect –
even the one
dwelling within this skin.

Too many things matter.

i care too much.

Words can still wound.

Enlightenment
has only gone so far,
a fragile heart
filled with healed
cracks and ruptures
dwells within this breast.

Lovely contentment
can be confounded
by unexpected cruelty,
someone else shouting
their truth.

Bright, shining hopefulness
can be shattered
by the cudgel
of insult.

Such things require time
to return to wholeness.

The anger provides fuel
for self-protection.
The shit thrown at me
fertilizes growth.

As long as i return quickly
to the embrace of love,
to the stillness in my depths,
i can see anger
as a tool –
proof that i finally
find myself unquestionably worthy
of kindness and respect.

11 april 2016

The floor won

photo 4Two conversations derailed what I intended to write tonight.  I had gotten as far as typing the title and setting up categories when the evening escaped from my clutches.

I was supposed to describe cleaning the studio – how even though the floor is much cleaner, I still feel like it conquered me more than I conquered it.  For two days I have been bent with pain; even though I wanted to crumble – and did disintegrate a few times – I came back together and returned to work on the job.  My psyche needed the studio to be cleaner, more hospitable to humans.

After waxing on for awhile about the painful tedium of cleaning floors and how fluently cursive can flow from my lips when I’m on all fours scraping newly reconstituted mud up off the floor, and how being present in some moments doesn’t make them less unpleasant, I would have been telling you about how it is all worth it because I get to make the floors filthy again throwing and glazing tomorrow.

Only after two unexpected conversations, my mind is in a totally different place.  My attention has been brought to the person I used to be, to the greatest pains I have suffered and to the woman I am in this moment. This path has taken me through some terrible places and miraculous moments.  My current situation isn’t completely devoid of stress.  I continue to be lonely and feel acutely vulnerable. Oh, Lord, I still have a long way to go on the path of compassion and kindness.  Still, in the middle of all the whining I have done lately, I have found great peace and happiness.

In both conversations, I surprised myself.  In the first, I realized with gentle shock that I was at peace with something that had hurt me terribly five and a half years ago.  Talking about it, I finally could see past the pain of my reaction to what might have been going on in the heart of the other person.  Great forgiveness and compassion filled me. Indeed, for the first time, I could see the whole experience through his eyes, and from that view his actions seemed comprehensible.  A deeper peace settled within me.

In the second discussion, I actually lost my temper a bit about not being heard – because I had learned a great lesson that could not be muddied by misunderstanding. We were on the same page about how living in the moment – not projecting into the future or dwelling in the past – is the key to lasting happiness. I agreed with him that there are times when terrible things happen and you can do nothing to stop them – being present in the moment, even if it’s awful and painful and traumatic – can seem like an impossible thing but is necessary. Running away just makes the healing take longer; it encourages denial and prolongs suffering. Likewise, I concurred, refraining from revenge and hate even when you’ve been badly wounded by another can be necessary for the health of the soul.  Love is always the best way to respond to anything – however, where I vigorously disagreed was in how that love manifests as we walk through the world.  You do not have to keep dipping into the well of abuse voluntarily.  You can forgive and love but simultaneously strive to avoid situations with people who have treated you terribly in the past.  Masochism is not the same as enlightenment.  Ideally, any form of violence and cruelty should be responded to with love – but I argued that practically, in the moment of injury, the most basic act of love can be getting yourself through intact.

There are spiritual levels to love on on hand and the very practical needs of social interaction in the other. We can be compassionate and keep ourselves safe. If we do not stay safe, we can forgive those that transgressed upon us, but not allow them to wound us again. I have not demanded such forgiveness of myself when I was still actively suffering at someone’s hands, as he suggested is the ideal. In my experience, that was too much to ask in that moment. Those nows centered around survival. Peace and forgiveness came later, after the physical danger had passed. Likewise for smaller frustrations and cruelties: as they are occurring, practicality demands that choices be made to accept someone else’s judgment, or defend oneself, or avoid a greater confrontation. Perhaps perfection demands that we never lose our tempers or get irritated (although Jesus did, come to think of it) but reality often means that anger is sparked and we pray for grace in whether or not we stoke the fires and in how the flames escape us.

We can honor God within every single human being, even the ones who leave a swath of destruction through the world, without having to submit to their malevolent behavior.  There are moments that we have to love ourselves enough to be firm and protective.  There has to be a way to face the world in a compassionate, loving way, but do not allow ourselves to be hurt or diminished.  On a very basic level, we must love ourselves and treat ourselves with kindness.  We can get into a great philosophical debate about the non-existence of self and how we are all manifestations of the divine, but as we move through the world in these skin-covered constructions, there remain ways to hurt us.

More than I ever did before, I have been irritated and pushing back to behavior I don’t think is appropriate during the past year. My vision has cleared. It has been incredibly hard for me to finally wake up enough to realize that I cannot fix another’s problem by arguing with them or by indulging their whims to the point of self-injury, or by altering myself to suit their mood, or by letting them hurt me.  Love has to include myself – I am part of creation too.  I love living this life; I enjoy this particular skin-covered construction.  Rather belatedly, I have realized it is alright to make my safety and happiness a higher priority without sacrificing love or being less loving.

Perhaps this is too simplistic.  Almost certainly this is not the most fully enlightened model of behavior.  However, it has helped me quite a lot over the past few months.  Every time I do tonglen meditation, I realize that I can breathe in pain and suffering and sorrow and release kindness and joy and love. There are endless depths to love. The energy of a room can change just by breathing in negatives and breathing out positives. An eternal spring of compassion flows up within our souls into which this meditation taps. This practice helps deepen my understanding of the reality and omnipresence of love.  But that doesn’t mean that I would willingly allow someone to hurt me.

I don’t want to cause harm to other people either, but I have finally found out that I have no patience for those who would cause me pain. I find myself avoiding those who would insult me, or ignore me, or actively hurt me. Even when they are not acting out of malice, I consistently find myself walking away from cruel or judgmental or crushingly negative behaviors. My vexation has been leaking out my lips too often, but I still marvel at its existence. I know that I deserve to be treated better, just because I am a child of God – just like they deserve to be treated well for the same reason. Tonight, I found out that I could say with complete conviction that love for others, a global kind of love, universal love, does not conflict with being kind to the one looking out from behind these eyes.

Ah, I have written too much.  It might be hazy and indistinct because it is already tomorrow and my back is still singing with pain.  After I awake, when the sun has long since risen again, I will deliver pottery to a gallery and then come back to the studio to glaze. Surely the floor will be messy again before the next sunset.  But it will all be well, because I will be back to making art.