Obediently I crawled around on the floor, following directions. I pulled the PC off its shelf, identified wires, unplugged the old, and plugged in the new. As we worked, I described how everything looked–and sounded. The new UPS emitted a soft “beep beep beep.” “It’s fine,” he said.
Well, two days later the computer flipped off while I was typing. A few days later, I walked in to a blue screen. A week later it happened again. “There’s something wrong!” I screamed at my poor computer guy. “Bad UPS,” he said.
I called the manufacturer. A very nice, very calm, very patient guy said, “I can help you.” I didn’t want help. I wanted a new UPS, but I crawled on the floor, followed directions, pulled out the PC, identified wires and plugs. “Hear that beep beep beep?” he said. That means the battery is not connected.
Turns out there’s an enormous battery inside the UPS. You have to connect one red wire inside the UPS to that battery. One red wire. But without that connection, you’ve got no juice.
THAT, I thought, is the perfect description of prayer. No connection. No juice. And the whole time your soul is sighing: beep beep beep, help help help.
My UPS is now connected to its battery. And I had a nice reminder to get back to my foundational practice. A practice that even I, a teacher of such things, can easily misplace. Too busy, too upset, too scared, too…whatever.
But I’d received an incredibly simple lesson: No connection. No juice.
I love the way Spirit talks to me. Even through my UPS. I connected that red wire, thanked the technician, hung up, and sat right down in my writing chair.
“Hello,” I wrote, “I need some juice.”
Maybe that’s a stupid title. The perfect day to think about forgiveness is every day! But today, Good Friday for Christians, is particularly important because Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.” To my human mind, it is impossible to imagine forgiving in that moment.
But I know that forgiving is the most important thing we do. The hardest, too. In Caroline Myss’ s Entering the Castle, she describes St Theresa of Avila’s image of the soul as a castle. And ten guesses what’s in the basement of your castle? Your dungeon.
The second I read those words, I saw my dungeon in the pit of my bowels, and saw who was chained up down there. The good news is I’d already released my parents, my ex-husband, old bosses, and even the judge. But the joint wasn’t empty. I’d locked up a few other people down there.
Once you have that image, it’s almost automatic that you realize that you have to open the cell, let your prisoners out, and flood that space with light and, yes, love. I can do that in the moment, but then, wham, I lock ’em back up when I think about the hurt.
Forgiveness, I’m learning, is a lifelong process. It’s necessary. Just think how sweet life will be walking around without a dungeon. I’m working on it.
We all try so hard to do the right thing, to find the right way, to be a success. We’re all working so hard–so very hard–but we don’t feel satisfied, fulfilled, happy. Why? Because we are putting in all that effort to meet some external measure of success, some model on the outside of what a good life, a successful life should look like.
I sure did. For years and years and years, I tried to be “successful” as a teacher, as a headhunter, as a consultant. And the more I tried to squeeze myself into someone else’s version of “successful” or at least “good enough,” the more miserable I became. Because I didn’t fit that model. The clothes just didn’t fit. And on some level, I knew it. (But that didn’t stop me from trying even harder. Slow learner over here.)
I started blathering about this on the page and realized there is no external model. There never was. It’s a mirage. A compilation of other people’s ideas of “success.”
In the end, there’s only my soul’s version of myself, my own picture of “success.”
What is that? Well, I think it’s nothing more or less than my purpose, my heart’s desire. That’s why the question is “What do you want?” Doesn’t that sound simple? Ricidulously simple? But it’s not. Oh lord, it’s so not simple. It’s THE question and we rarely if ever ask ourselves.
And, sorry, but the answer ain’t Fettucini Alfredo (although lord that does sound good), or a million bucks in the bank (although that sounds even better), or a new car (Lexus, if anyone wants to know), or any other thing. That’s just our materialist society pasting those images of what’s desirable in front of our eyes everywhere we look. We’ve been taught to look outside for validation, credentials, income…all of it. Even relationships somehow have to fit into the “happy family fantasy” mold.
The great gift in our global pain is that everyone, and it does seem everyone, is looking at all the “stuff” and saying, “This isn’t making me happy. In fact, it never did.” And that, I think, is a very good thing.
So what will make you happy? I don’t know. That’s the point, no one outside of you has your answer. But you do. And it’s right in front of you–or rather right inside of you. Just ask. Let your little scared self ask your wise knowing self, “Hey, what do I want, what do I really really want?”
Ask on paper, then write fast. Really really fast. Your wise self has a few surprises for you.
I wasn’t going to do this 25 things thing, until I saw Denis Gaston’s and then I thought, if Denis can do it and do it so well, well, I can, too. So here goes.
1. I adore opera. It snuck into my life in Atlanta in the ’80s and I’ve been smitten since the first note. Life without opera is a dry barren thing. Just remember that it has to be live or loud. (Renee Fleming, if you’re asking.)
2. I completely and totally forgave my ex-husband and I have proof that the moment of forgiveness changed us both. I may not be able to explain it but forgiveness is THE miracle–and I know it.
3. I had the greatest mother-in-law who ever lived. In her eighties, she got on the plane for the first time in her life to see her fifth and last grandchild. She would pick up his toys after I begged her not to. But you couldn’t stop her. Emily Koch embodied unconditional love. We should all have such a perfect grandmother.
4. I can’t balance my checking account. Yet I adore numerology. I notice numbers. I love numbers. Just not in columns that have to be balanced. God really needs to send me a bookkeeper.
5. I have to take a hot bubble bath every night. Non negotiable. Can’t go to sleep.
6. I do a crossword puzzle every day. Slightly crazy, but what can I say, it makes me feel better. Don’t even ask me about Sudoko. I came up with a system and it became too easy.
7. My favorite person on the planet is my son and I tell him, even in front of his college roommates. He cringes, but he smiles. (Hey, it would be a perfect world if we were all someone’s favorite person on the planet, right?)
8. I don’t care how cheap it is, I won’t walk in a Wal Mart. It’s against my religion.
9. I know I am divinely guided. I guess that means you are, too!
10. I have real art on my walls (yes, two by Denis)–no posters, no copies. Somehow this really matters to me and I’m appalled when I walk in people’s homes and there’s no art. Huh?
11. There are twelve or more books on my nightstand. Does anyone ever catch up with their reading list? I think I never will. And if more people keep writing like Paul Auster, I NEVER will.
12. I start my day with a poem from the Writer’s Almanac and end it with a poem from Hafiz, the mystical Sufi poet. Life without poetry….dry, dead, lonely.
13. I love prayer. The idea of prayer. The concept of prayer. The reality of prayer. I walked into Inkwood, a bookstore in Tampa in 1995, and said, “show me your books on prayer,” and walked out with a grocery bag full. Still have them all.
14. I love my book. The cover, the color, the content. I love everything about it. I love it like it was a person. I am blessed to be the messenger for this sweet sweet book. When I’m sad or frightened, I look at my book and feel instantly better.
15. Michael showed up at my first booksigning at Wings Bookstore. Oh yes, he did.
16. A pair of cardinals live in my bushes and speak to me every twilight. I answer them.
17. When I teach writing down your soul, I get “high” and can’t fall asleep till 1 or 2 am. People who know me don’t even think about calling before ten am.
18. I love food. Cooking, shopping, setting the table, serving, pouring the wine…everything about food. Food is proof that we are alive.
19. White or beige walls should be against the law. (My living room is orange and yellow, my kitchen chartreuse, my bedroom parrot green, my office copper, my bathroom periwinkle)
20. Ospreys love me. They live in my tree, call to me all day, fly overhead…they are my companions and protectors.
21. I did not set out to have this life. It meandered. I meandered. I continue to meander. My daily prayer has been and continues to be “You shine the light and I will follow.” Do not write that down. It’s a dangerous prayer.
22. A red convertible came within ten feet of hitting me in downtown Tampa in 1992. I was “lifted” out of its path and onto the curb. No one seemed the least bit surprised that I had just flown through the air. This should have been a clue that my life was not going to continue to be the nice dull boring successful life of a headhunter. Perhaps I should have paid more attention. All I did was go back to my office and eat the lunch I was carrying.
23. I can’t date a republican. Shit, I’m not sure I can even talk to one. Except my brother, Jay. He’s forgiven.
24. One of my favorite possessions is a Harley Davidson Willie G jacket with four-inch fringe. After we broke up, I didn’t miss my husband, but lord, I missed the Harley. (Softail Classic and Road King, if you have to know)
25. I am a lily. You have to figure that one out for yourself.
Well, now do you think you know me a bit better? I didn’t fit in Bobby Darin or David Whyte. Rats. And I forgot to say that after 29 years, I still smile when I see the CNN logo. Or the necessity of french press coffee, but I think you get the gist.
Went to Dances of Universal Peace at the Sufi center, Rising Tide International in Sarasota FL last night. The Dances of Universal Peace are simple moves in unison, usually in a circle. As the group moves, you sing or chant beautiful prayers. One of the chants last night was “I am you and you are me,” as we moved our hands back and forth together. After awhile, it began to sink in. “Oh my gosh, I really AM this other person and he/she really is me.”
Well, this morning I was writing down my soul about this experience and realizing that this is another way of saying that psych 101 premise: whatever drives you crazy about the other guy is actually what drives you crazy about yourself. (Oh, we all hate that truism!)
So I asked, what do I do when my buttons get pushed by someone. The answer came quickly: 1. SEE the other person’s fear and recognize that it’s also your own, 2. CLOSE your eyes. With your eyes closed, stop looking at that scary thing and allow your inner eyes to see the truth that is right there in your peripheral vision, running beside the fear. 3. BREATHE (When in doubt, breathe, right? When my son calls upset in NY, the first thing I say is breathe!) 4. SAY something that is the opposite of the fear.
What’s the opposite of fear? I asked. Trust, the Voice answered. (Duh, I thought.) So for me I would say outloud, “I am safe and loved.”
Man oh man, that feels good and right. Now, all I have to do is remember to DO it. Feel the fear, close my eyes, see the truth, breathe the truth, and say it–out loud. I feel better already.