Today, I found encouragement in the messages of The Glass Castle movie (in theaters August 11, 2017).
The message that we don’t have to be ashamed of those things over which we had no control.
The message that there is hope for kids and employees and spouses who are under the thumb of crazies.
The message not to give up on the escape plan.
The message that there are essential things to love about everyone.
The message that we can survive (and somehow thrive under) radical pain and confusion.
The message that all of our stories hold much more mystery than we ever dreamed.
This quote is not for the faint of heart, the young crusader, or the know-it all. I was all three when I argued on the black and white side. Similar to author Jeannette Walls, I graduated to gray after failing to force an ambiguous, mixed-up world into a tidy black and white box. Good people did screwed up things. Bad people did good things. Bad things turned out good. “Good things” turned out not so good.
No one managed to have a tight rein on truth.
Jeannette Wall’s parents (as chronicled in The Glass Castle) often let her go hungry. Despite this fact, she knew they loved her. Their behaviors took “dysfunctional” to a whole new level, yet their whacked-out worldview toughened and trained her voice to speak for millions.
Neil Gaiman’s delightful short story, Calendar Tales, contains a vignette about a woman who finds a genie in a lamp. When the genie asks for her three wishes, she says, “I’m good.” Eventually, the genie gives up asking, but stays around, settles in, and becomes her partner. One day she asks him if he has any wishes. He says, “I’m good.”
Relationship 101 lessons:
- Contentment, self-reliance, and confidence are great for attracting the perfect partner.
- There is nothing sweeter than a good relationship with ourselves…and, then, someone to share it with.
Sometimes, I wonder at the richness of my life. I am not wealthy or famous or young and beautiful. Yet, I have what I always wanted: a clear conscience, people to love, and work that makes a difference.
“I used to try to change people, now I just want to be with them.” -Bob Goff
This might be the story of my own life’s metamorphosis. (Still rehabbing from the short-sighted, control-freak approach. Apologies.) The super irony of it all is that people want to listen to us when we quit trying to make them listen.
When author and speaker, Bob Goff, decided to drop out of high school to become a mountain climber, a Young Life counselor wooed him back to reality by just leaving for the mountains with him. It didn’t take two days for Bob to figure out he needed to finish high school.
It always takes a little longer to “be with someone” rather than tell them what to do, but the results sure last longer.*
* Want more proof? See how Stephen Covey “listened” his son into staying in school in Seven Habits of Highly Successful People
“And if by some twist of fate, darkness was all that she would find, she would make darkness her friend.” – Dennis Lehane (from Since We Fell)
This last line of the novel made the whole read worth it to me. The remark was the thought of the protagonist after living through the darkest human experiences in Haiti followed by four years of panic attacks. Finally forced into radical courage by her circumstances, she came through with the resolve to live again.
Since we all have fallen, I could relate to the themes of this Dennis Lehane novel: fear, alienation, self-protective deception, and, finally, bold acceptance of our shared fallen state…without judgment.
Not many people look forward to being around boring, uncaring, or shallow people, but we often feel roped into these situations to fulfill work, social, or family obligations.
Or we might find ourselves in other painful environments where our opinions don’t seem to matter, we are treated like a number, totally ignored, disrespected, or criticized.
To avoid the energy drain of these scenarios, I developed a three-step fix that really works for me (and also stops my complaining about these experiences):
- Focus on what energy I bring with me rather than what lack I perceive exists in others. Everyone is looking for ways to feel valued. How can I alleviate the lack of that for others?
- See myself as a force for good in the world wherever I am. I have the power to make a difference with a genuine smile, a compliment, a resource, or a benefit of the doubt.
- Think partnership; when someone else loses, so do I. Rather than get defensive or aggressive, can I take a minute to recognize the source of my antagonist’s pain and turn a disagreement into a win-win instead?
Pardon me, have you seen my sense of destiny?
I seemed to have lost it along the way somewhere
Yet, I’ve looked up and down and it isn’t here anywhere
I can’t even remember when or where I had it last
Or any other clue that links the future to my past
I must have lived so long without it that, I’m ashamed to say,
I hardly even noticed it was gone today
Until I read that book.
The book that meddled, unauthorized, with my head
Forcing me, irreverently, to unearth the sacred dead
And bow humbly to destiny’s gravitational force
At the unyielding wall of its Holy Source
I wrote this after being struck dumb with Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane; a delightful read that surprised me with the holiness of everyday life and everyday people.
The words of Micah, “…do justice, love mercy and walk humbly…” have always been a basic tenet of how I wanted to live.
Only, I’ve changed my mind about loving mercy. Before, I thought that phrase meant that we should passionately believe in doing merciful acts, but, now, I think it might mean more than that.
Maybe it means changing what we love. Maybe it means that we should love mercy (and people who model mercy and do acts of kindness) more than we love winning and money and power and prestige and status and sports (and people who model the best of those things). Maybe it means that we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up for not being rich and successful if we are working hard to be a mercy-giver.
Which prompted me to think about the opening story in Emotional Intelligence about a kind NYC bus driver who changed peoples’ moods…
And Anne Lamott’s challenging and irreverent book…
Sometimes when I hear a singer belt out a song with jarring clarity and passion or read an impressively-crafted paragraph, I am moved to tears. This morning, while reading Shantaram, I realized that some of those tears were prayers: prayers of gratitude for the perseverance it took for author David Gregory Roberts to find his “voice,” but also, prayers for using my own “voice” with such power and precision.
I cannot sing at all, but, there have been a few times in my life when I have felt the electricity moving from me to my audience and knew I was singing, standing in the live current of eternal power: giving the gift I was born to give.
And, I knew that those who sing out loud with their gift become the gift.
It might take a lifetime, and it might not be easy, but there are people waiting for the song only we can sing.
However difficult, we must sing it like we mean it.
Upon seeing the anger in the eyes of a menial laborer working in atrocious conditions, author Gregory David Roberts says to the fry cook with his eyes, “I’m sorry that you have to do this work, I’m sorry that your world, your life, is so hot and dark and unremembered, I’m sorry that I’m intruding…”
With those lines, the author not only captured my interest in the book, but, most importantly, the kinship of my agony for the “incarceration” of countless souls who live unremembered and hopeless in darkness and drudgery.
Even though my personal agony was small by comparison, for years I felt imprisoned in mediocrity and anonymity, doing a job I didn’t like. Now, I cannot stand to see anything in a cage. I feel the silent rage of so many: refugees, strangers I encounter, and others I know well.
My prayer is that those of us who remember the pain will bring…
However and whenever we can.