There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
I woke up this morning, a good place to start. In my goings, my comings, my interactions, I am asked that profound question that has been lurking close by, since the dinosaurs: “How are you doing today?”
Me: “How ‘you doin’?”
Others: “I’m doin’ good. How you doin’?” (Just like the commercial, with a New York accent – “How You Doin’? I’m Doin’ Good. How You Doin’?”)
Me: “Well, I woke up, this morning. That suggested that it was going to be a good day.”
I have a theory: most people know, that on some level, it is good to wake up. Not everyone wakes up. This morning, when sleep slipped away, I thought of my grieving. Anyone who has (miraculously) read any of my posts might know that my dad finished up his race (a metaphor for his life), last year, 2016, June. The grieving process has, seemingly,not been, successful. Some say that this kind of loss involves a lengthy process, longer than a year and four months. And yet, I’ve been on the other side of the forest from joy, from victory, from strength, from my dreams … Get the picture? The weariness of grief shows up in more ways than one: the darkness, the sadness, lack of motivation, the loss of dreams. Evenings, the fatigue may hit like a freight train. I don’t think this is as simple as I would like it to be. Is your grieving over? To think, that there is more life, a different life, just over the horizon. That is a good thought. Some of you have already reached that point. Don’t stop: I’m right behind you.
I’m fortunate in so many ways … Countless ways. Even the wounds are a gift. For I I learn from all of this. Every week or every other, I meet with a wise woman, walking with me for a short season. I bring a few pieces for the puzzle; I reach down, I reach out, to find pieces that might fit. Sometimes a piece will fit. I might want a piece to fit, but it doesn’t. I just keep the pieces coming. I call this process “Puzzle-ing”.
No, no. No-no-no-no-no-no. You are where you are at, and I am where I am at. And believe me: I wouldn’t want to be where you are at.
How’s the view up there? Up above guys like me who don’t have it together like you?
(Pause) What are you were asking me? And, I’m kind of in a hurry, okay? So, tell me what you need, and I will try to help.
I was asking you … how we … “I” … arrived here, at this place.
Our relationship? Fading. I have become isolated. My addictions, like work; like books; like fast food. And, life – – – I do not enjoy life as much. That’s a picture of what I am talking about.
Okay. (Pause) I have to get going, need to be somewhere. Take care of yourself.
You asked me about “this place” I am in, I told you, and I thought we were going to talk about it. But, you … are just leaving, now.
(Pause) I am sorry about your confusion. I can’t help you. I don’t do well with others’ shame. I don’t do well with addictions. Your isolation is something you have chosen; your relationships evaporating didn’t suddenly happen. It’s been in the works for a while. And your enjoyment of life? Not happening? I don’t want to have anything to do … with that. (Pause) On top of all that, you wouldn’t even hear what I have to say.
Why would I not want to hear what you have to say?
Because you are right where you want to be. And if you are right were you want to be, why talk about how you arrived at this place? If you wanted to change all that, you would. But, there is no change.
(Pause with some hesitation) Uhhhh, maybe.
You’ve got me all wrong.
‘Doesn’t matter. This is your party, not mine.
The dialog, above, is like a metaphor, representing some of the relational pain / disappointment that happens … on some level … in the human soul. Our hearts, our minds … bring about different dynamics of expectations (realistic and / or unrealistic), an arcane blend of intimacy (healthy and / or unhealthy, whether it be physical or emotional or both). The relationship and dialog happening up above is somewhat of a composite derived from my years working as a psychotherapist with married folks. Lastly, the nuances / verbal clues accentuate the factors / themes we deal with in our society, and our relationships:
“I don’t have the time to have this conversation …”
“Don’t blame me for you problems …”
“I don’t have any compassion for you, now …”
True, this is a rather cold exchange happening between two people. My hope is that one can see their thankfulness for being able to transcend such unhappiness, such insensitivity. We all need help, at different times, and in different ways. Here is a truth that is disruptive to many, and this truth applies to the “composite” dialog at the beginning of this post:
This post is not about me. But if it was, I wouldn’t tell you. It’s about a man. That’s all that matters.
An angry man. Not something I say out loud to anyone.
People, both good people and the other kind, are able to translate, equate, restate, with differing degrees of inaccuracy. Example: “anger” misunderstood with “danger”. It is like that one exchange between folks that has been going on for centuries:
“This is what you said.”
“No, that is not what I said.”
“Well, that is what I heard you say.”
“Yes, I believe you. But those were not my words, were they?”
“(Long pause) No, but that is what you meant.”
“No, that is not what I meant. It is what you wanted to hear, maybe. It is what you wanted to believe.”
You have the basic idea, yes? Maybe you’ve had that dialog with different words.
Returning to the track, my thinking out loud about anger, I again acknowledge that I am angry. Fortunately, the anger has not permanent residence, here. It blows in, like a sneaky wind missing the normal comfort of a cool breeze on a hot day. My anger is inward, and shows up on the outside with slight sarcasm, or less-than-kind comment, or an occasional scream of anguish … “AAAAUUUUUUGHHHHH!!”
“It’s not the big things that send a man to the mad house. Not a death in the family (one example). No, it’s the small things: the snap of the shoelace when there is no more time.”
Quote from Time Magazine I remember from about thirty years ago.
Anger rides my heart and soul about my depression that is always close by, but not always at sitting across from me. This anger steals my joy for a while, until I rally up and fight it off. This anger distorts my thinking / perception, long enough to take me off the path for a bit. There has been a tragedy; and maybe I would say that is a small tragedy. By the way: is that an oxymoron? ‘Never liked that word: the word “ox” combined with the word “moron”. Both have negative connotations, for me at least.
This tragedy … it happened a long time ago (thirty years or so?) Like the depression, I fight this tragedy’s threat to derail my life. It was the tragedy of minimizing hope; embracing more isolation than what was healthy; forsaking visions and dreams. Fortunately, the older I become I experience the piercing awareness that I have to fight it, and that I don’t have to settle for it. There is far more to this life than the psychological hoodlums lurking outside. I am a fighter, just like you. I have to tap that truth, and live with the hide of a Rhino, and the heart of a dove.
What do I know to be true? Know yourself, and I will know myself, and if I come up short in that area, then … then … What? Then what? Oh, my! Maybe the earth will rip off its axis and hurl into the sun!!!!
No, I doubt that will happen. Here’s one truth about me: I am able. I am able to do both good, and not-so-good. I am able to empower (good). I am able to enable (bummer, not-so-good). I’ve walked with many folks over the last 20 years in the counseling context. And in the realm of addictions, I have encountered the “enabling” dynamic a great deal. And, if an individual is an “enabler”, that does not mean … that their heart is not good. In fact, with every enabler I have sat with, there has always been a good heart. We, with our good hearts, are able to miss the bigger picture, to mess up the smaller picture. And we, with our good hearts, are able to walk with a soul and inspire, without many words. We, with our good hearts, are able to run races with specific individuals who have come into our world who want to run well, with love in their hearts … a healthy love, an empowering love, a fragrant love, a tough love, a tough love not without honor, a tough love not without integrity, a tough love not without gentleness.
I am able. I am able to go after myself with rocks and razored insults; rage and disgust. There is a fancy word for it, I think: “self-contempt”. Truly, I am not exempt from self-contempt. And, truly, there is no exemption from redemption.
And, to use the title of one of my favorite films, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, there is an indescribably intense piece of fighting with honor and love and fairness and staying in the place of a safe place. Not fighting with physical warfare. Not fighting with psychological abuse; or verbal abuse; or emotional abuse. No … this is a fighting where, at the core, is a deep authentic love for the other; caring for the other; and choosing to not let the other “off the hook” … because that is the last thing we need, to escape the responsibility of loving well and “doing relationship” well.
And that is all I’m going to say about that, for now.
The trees below are from someone’s “Other Side of the Trees”, not mine.
A road, or a path, or both, heading outward or inward; or both. It is good to be out, accompanied by trees. It was my path. Yesterday, I knew I was to be … there. I was concerned about more firewood.
We had snow … two nights ago, and a lighter sprinkling last night. Our wood, close to the house, is almost out. That makes sense, as we are on the final snows, I think. My backup firewood is down on the other edge of the property. There is a place where one can pull in, or back in, there. I have used the space to pile up downed trees. After I chainsaw, I haul up the logs to our house, right after I chop. But this past summer, I kept chopping and never got around to hauling. I made my way through the thick two feet of snow, pulling a long sled behind me. A strange sight: shoveling snow off logs. I loaded the logs on the sled, and used bungee chords (which are like gold) to keep the logs from falling out of the sled. Once back at the house, out of breath, I unloaded the firewood. I was looking forward to calling it a day, when I couldn’t ignore the dog, Stash (short “o”), her .deep resonating barks … just loud enough to be a nuisance. Stash is our Bernese Mountain Dog.
To get Stash into the house requires a patient “herding” strategy. How do you herd a dog that has come from many generations of seasoned Swiss “herders”? I walk through the deep snow one way, then walk back the other way, depending on where Stash is going.
Once inside, my daughter gave me a great hug … and she said “Dad, you smell good!” I didn’t know if she was being serious. I thought she was talking about my perspiration. She said “You smell fresh, like you have been out with the evergreens.”
Now, all of this was happening on my “Other Side of the Trees”. But the picture at the top is of trees from someone else’s “Other Side of the Trees”. My hope is that you are able to find your own quiet place: your “Other Side of the Trees”, or some other beautiful, healing, place.