Tag Archives: meditation

Betrayal

 

 

The unkindest cut.  The one we never expect because only those we trust can betray us.   It happens to all of us.

I hadn’t thought about her for years until I ran across an annoucement about an award she had recently received.  I was surprised at how quickly the old painful memories replayed themselves in my mind.  The initial shock and disbelief,  stabs of disappointment,  rushes of anger, and eventually, more in my interest than hers, forgiveness and acceptance.

She was my student, my star student at the time.  The one for whom I had such high hopes.   The one I rescued from the slums and nurtured. Supported, financially and emotionally.  Provided a network.  Advocated for.    Defended.

It was wonderful to watch her grow and flourish.  She was like a kid in a candy store.   Everything was magic for her; the university, her classes and research, the malls, the internet,  even the night-time sky.  She glowed with happiness.  We were a team.

Until she found a brighter star and  moved on to follow it, leaving behind a trail of lies and broken promises.

Shades Down Tight, Ashley Adcox

Painful as it was, and uncomfortable as the memories still are, I am grateful for the experience.  It taught me  that my expectations for her were a heavy and unjust burden.  No one has the right to require  loyalty from another person.  In spite of and maybe because of,  my good intentions, I caused her harm.   And probably more importantly,  it brought me face to face with my own past betrayals and the lies I told myself to justify my cowardly behavior.

She must have carried a heavy burden of guilt.  It’s the only logical explanation I can think of to explain the  smear campaign she launched  among the faculty and students.  I never knew the specifics or the extent of it, but the averted glances and hushed whispers told me all I needed to know.

Make no mistake; the release that comes with  betrayal exacts a heavy price.   A plausible justification for  cowardly behavior must be fabricated and a web of lies concocted.  The  guilt of my betrayals will always follow me,  nipping at my heels,  threatening to expose my lies,  until I finally face them and the people I harmed.

Each of us has the right and the responsibility to be true to our own convictions, even though acting on them may take all the courage we can muster.   And if this means severing ties with another human being,  we harm ourselves most of all if we hack them apart in the  dark corridors of betrayal.

It’s been said that in order to know love, we must first know pain.  It follows that in order to trust, we must travel through  betrayal, be crushed by it,  burn in its crucible, and be released.

There will be another friend, lover, child, to love in the light of day, free from the dark spectre of betrayal.

 

Why am I here?

In her latter years, my mother used to ask that a lot.  I never knew what  to say, so I usually said something trite like “We still need you here.”  At which she would click her tongue against her teeth the way she did when I disagreed with her politics.

What was she asking, I wondered.  Did she still dream of unrealized ambitions in her nineties?   I always found the question unsettling and frankly, a little annoying.

But now that there are many more birthdays behind than before me, I think I get it.  I think she was reflecting over her long life and trying to make sense of it.  And I find myself doing the same.    What has my life meant?  At the finish line, will I be able to say I have   “fought the good fight” ?    Did I miss my “calling,” my high purpose?  The olympic swimmer,  the nuns of Calcutta, the Nobel Laureate, the musical prodigy;  they had a calling, didn’t they?  A custom made life-suit,  into which they fit perfectly.   Their one true path.  Is there one for me?

In my early life, I was sure of it.    My life would be exciting, full of high purpose, awe-inspiring.   Unlike my mother’s.  Especially, not like my mother’s.

Mind you, my mother  was not a slacker. She was a strong and intelligent woman; a school teacher, an avid reader, a seamstress and amazing gardener.   She make great chicken and dumplings and rhubarb pie. She survived two husbands and lived independently for 92+ of her 93 years.

But.  She never wrote a book, climbed a mountain, ran a corporation (or a marathon)  or held public office.  For most of her life she lived in the same community.  To my impatient, arrogant 18-year-old eyes, her life looked mundane,  aimless, pointless even.  Not mine, I vowed.  I would  set goals for myself and go about achieving them.  Simple as that.

But it didn’t quite work out that way.  My path took unexpected twists and  turns.   It  didn’t  lead steadily  to a noble destination, but instead  wound  through brambles, tangled ravines and rocky boulders.  I ran, I  stumbled,  I climbed, I  tripped,  I fell and I recovered,  with varying degrees of grace.

Admittedly, on its surface,  my life looks radically different from that of my mother.  I left home at an early age, attended  universities in distant states,  managed a demanding career,  travelled the world; accumulated a modicum of recognition for my work.  But at its core,  like my mother’s, my life was made of the usual stuff;  education, career, marriage, children, retirement.   And my path, like hers, was not the work of destiny, but the result of choices.

And  my path has  led me…. here. Not to a mountaintop and not to a swamp.  As it did my mother.

It’s tempting to  fall for the “one true thing”  pitch.  The idea that  we are  entitled to  the one true love, the one perfect career, the one true happily-ever-after is very appealing.   And perhaps it is true for some.   But my life didn’t  come with a blueprint; I made choices, sometimes wisely, sometimes foolishly, that in the aggregate defined my path.  I wasn’t always sure of my choices,  and  they didn’t always lead to the mountaintop.

If I could answer my mother  now, I would reassure her that she didn’t miss her calling.  Like me, she simply made choices that led her to her destination.   And  at the end of the day, it was not our accomplishments, as my teenage self thought,  but the accumulation of our everyday thoughts and actions that defined us. Both of us.

 

 

PEACE

 

This Lent, I promised myself to spend time each day away from the busy-ness of life, seeking peace – in meditation, quiet walks, reading, listening to music.   But then, as it has a way of doing, bit by distracting bit, sticky note by stick note, life happened..

So some days the best I can do is to let peace find me.

 

Summer Rainstorm

 

 

It is early morning and I watch the sun rise over the lake from a sagging settee on the sleeping porch.  Our Boston Terrier, Jake
IMG_1910peacefully naps  at my feet.  As I sip my morning coffee, I watch his rhythmic breathing  punctuated now and then by a twitch of his ears, a muffled yip or a brief pummeling of his legs.  Maybe he dreams of chasing  a squirrel or a cat.   Maybe he doesn’t dream at all.  I wish I knew.  I wish he could tell me.

Our house is on a cove. which  this morning I share only with  nature’s creatures, or more accurately, they share with me.   A great white heron perches on a rock, his large round images-1body impossibly balanced on  one long thin leg. A school of ducks fat from the bread we feed them  paddle languidly by and assorted songbirds compete for air space.  An occasional bird of prey soars overhead in search of food.  Today there are only buzzards and hawks but on rare occasions, we see golden eagles.  I wonder why we revere hawks and eagles, and find their buzzard relatives disgusting. I wonder if buzzards know this.  I wonder if Eagles do.

The loblolly pines on the distant banks are a blue-green blur in the morning light. One by one, lights appear in houses along the shore as daybreak approaches.  A lone fishing boat advances slowly from the far side of the lake, the sounds of its outboard motor growing louder as it nears.  I watch it come closer, its metal hull slapping on the waves, a flag  of Louisiana fluttering from a standard.   It is a bass boat, rigged out for serious fisherman.   Its occupants are visible now, two young men in camouflage hats and gear.  Seeing me, they wave, and I wave back as they veer into the main channel of the lake, headed for the fishing grounds.

The statue-still heron on the rock  cocks his head sidewise, and although I cannot see it, I know that  his steely, menacing eye is intently following the movement of an unsuspecting fish below the water’s surface.  He holds his preposterous pose perfectly still, patiently waiting for the right time to strike.  Suddenly, and with lightning speed, his long pointed beak jabs into the water.  His ambush is successful; he  emerges with his prey in his beak,  lifts into the sky and soars above the lake, his long neck curved backwards towards his body, legs straight behind.  I watch his great wings
images gracefully folding and unfolding, embracing the morning air as he glides away.

It is perfectly still in the aftermath of the kill.   The only sounds are the waves lapping at the wooden bulkheads below and the chirping of a small martin warily eyeing the bird feeder in our crepe myrtle tree.   The rising sun glittering on the undulating waves creates the illusion of tinsel blanketing the lake.  Only the slowly escalating motion of the waves foreshadow  a storm brewing in the south.

A squirrel hops effortlessly between the limbs of the sugar maples bordering the lake and disappears into the high branches of a nearby elm tree. The creatures, sensing Mother Nature’s mood about to change, disappear into their nests or hiding places.  Blue-grey clouds slide in front of the sun and jagged lines of lightning, white against the darkening clouds light up the sky,  followed by thunder claps, getting louder as the storm nears.   Jake is suddenly on his feet and into my lap, ears back, trembling, his nap destroyed.  His big brown sad eyes seem to plead with me to make it go away. I wonder why he is so afraid, and I wish I could make him understand that he’s safe.

Curtains of rain advance across the lake minutes later as the storm gathers force.   The first raindrops hit the tin roof of the sleeping porch in single sharp pings. Slowly they  intensify into a steady rumble. The wind IMG_0373has picked up now, and the lake is choppy.  The rain slices at the side of the house and the wind drives it into the porch.  I watch the rain pounding on the lake and wonder about the young men and their ill-fated fishing trip.

I revel in Mother Nature’s operatic performance and  am loathe to give up my front row seat. I hold Jake tightly to calm him but the thunder is getting louder and he is increasingly more anxious.  I cannot stay.  But for this moment, I am at peace with myself, the lake and its creatures.

 

 

Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

hand-1030574__180 Most of my New Year’s Resolutions  over the years haven’t lasted past  the last winter’s frost.  So last year I  finally decided to avoid the guilt and let myself off the hook (Post 1/1/15).

But it didn’t feel quite right.  It isn’t just that New Year’s resolutions are a tradition, like the ball on Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  There’s something more.  Writing  new year’s resolutions requires that I take the time to  thoughtfully review the past year and to look forward into the new one.  Each resolve is  the hope to become something better than I am.  This brand new year will provide fresh opportunities to be a kinder, more compassionate, more balanced person.  In this new year there will be times to smile more; to be more playful and less anxious; ways to spend more energy on the people in my life and less on the“busyness” of life.   To forgive more and worry less.

So this year I’m giving it another try.  Maybe I’ll be more successful this time.   But  even if my resolutions last only three months; three weeks, or three days, it will be  time well spent. Happy New Year!

Looking for truth in all the wrong places

For me writing is no more nor less than paying attention and telling the truth. Unfortunately we live in a culture that rewards “busyness” and “self-improvement.” Sadly, if that’s where our attention lies and that’s our truth, we miss the best parts of ourselves trying to improve  our worst parts.

 

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