Bruised & Pulsing

“There are certain people who come into your life, and leave a mark…
Their place in your heart is tender; a bruise of longing, a pulse of unfinished business.
Just hearing their names pushes and pulls at you in a hundred ways,
and when you try to define those hundred ways,
describe them even to yourself, words are useless.”
– Sara Zarr, Sweethearts

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013

Dialogue

“Communication has been ailing in the human race for a long time and Dialogue is concerned with that. But the primary purpose of Dialogue is not to communicate. It is much deeper. It addresses the blocks in communication, not merely to understand them, but to meet them directly. It is aimed at seeing resistances to communication. In Dialogue we are ready to raise topics serious enough to cause trouble. But while we are talking we are interested in being aware of what’s going on inside us and between us.

The word ‘dialogue’ has many meanings and we are giving it a particular meaning. In this Dialogue we are not trying to make our points prevail or, if we are, we need to look at that. Our challenge is to see when each of us is trying to prevail, because if anybody prevails it means the dialogue has failed.” David Bohm

Dialogue?
Dialogue? (Photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved)

Love’s Mutations

No, not mutants… mutations.

“You understand that you can never own love, right? No matter how much someone adores you today, no matter how much you adore someone, you can’t force that unique state of grace to keep its shape forever. It will inevitably evolve or mutate, perhaps into a different version of tender caring, but maybe not. From there it will continue to change, into either yet another version of interesting affection, or who knows what else?” Rob Brezsny

I love this gem from Brezsny. It challenges us to accept that we cannot control the metamorphosis of love in our relationships and it reminds us that we are sometimes infected by the frenzy of a desperate shapeshifter, wrestling and kicking against what cannot be controlled.

We want reliability. We want what we experienced in the beginning. We want the rush. We want the comfort. We want not to have to adjust to what is, well, mutating.

The mutations of love in a marriage immediately come to mind ‘though mine ended years ago. I still love the man who made it possible for me to grow without fear, the father of my children. But that love morphed into something no longer capable of sustaining a growing marital bond. We’re both able to live with that truth, apart from each other, but together in parenting. The whole “’til death do us part” thing doesn’t always honor what love becomes, in spite of our best intentions. But commitment is a beautiful cauldron for love’s mutations, keeping us standing in love regardless of the shifting nature of those bonds we thought we had all figured out.

And then there is parenting and the mutations surreal, the growth witnessed on levels incomprehensible at times. We fall in love with newborn, newborn begins to crawl, our love expands, deepens; toddler calls to the sweetest memories and hopes and sometimes the worst pain too. Our love shifts, taking on hues far fiercer than we imagined possible. And on it goes. We turn around and there is this mini-adult who doesn’t agree and laughs and scoffs and well, challenges what we had known of the sweet lil creature in the beginning. But the truth is, as much as that infant was the future mini-adult, the difference is akin to welcoming a new person. Yes, these changes are gradual but can evoke an unnameable grief. We cannot go back to the 16 month old and cuddle, hold the essence so unique to babies. Or the 5 year old with the inquisitive wonder. I have come to believe that many parenting woes originate in the inability of the parent to accept that the cutie pie was always going to be someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with, to concede in argument with and look up to many times. We aren’t prepared for the changes, the introduction of so many phases of one person’s development evoking such a confusing variety of response. And we feel the quality of that love shift, taking on new shapes, subsiding in some ways, expanding in others.

Then there are the downright ugly moments.

Love bears the marks of teeth-gnashing agony at times. Resistance to these precious and sometimes wildly dramatic shifts threatens the best of love’s growth and is such a common reaction. The inner seize siege for damage control begins: “Brace yourself, close up, close off, resist, run. Turn away.” But. What we need is a willingness to nurture a vibrant resilience and receptivity, a tender kind of toughness in the face of the more daunting roundy rounds of relating, knowing we’re giving room for the mystery of love to unfold in some of the most unbelievably demanding ways.

But sometimes, we just have to walk away,

sometimes for a season, sometimes for always.

And how beautiful it all is, made more precious by the challenge and more rewarding by the tenacity.

Diplomatic Immunity?

The wisdom of Anais Nin keeps tossing itself into my line of vision these days without my soliciting it.

“Respect for the vulnerability of human beings is a necessary part of telling the truth, because no truth will be wrested from a callous vision or callous handling.” — Anais Nin

How do we provide access to the truth in a given situation, not necessarily THE truth? How do we do that simply and with grace without alienating those who don’t want to hear it but need to in order for things to progress? As it turns out, some folks just don’t want to hear it. They possess a sort of diplomatic immunity from being held accountable and sit with arms crossed and legs crossed and chin high. And their poses hum the tune of insecurity and over-compensation for vulnerability. It’s quite a tangle, working through the layers, discovering “who’s most vulnerable here?” And asking “how do I respect every person involved when so much opposition exists in one room?”

I’m amazed when someone has volunteered their involvement or their time and then assume because they have done so, they are not to be called out even if they’ve stomped on another in their line of charitable work. This is what brings to mind a twisted daily reality of “diplomatic immunity.” Their generosity or help becomes a sort of embassy in their minds where they take refuge against accountability in the land of heartful relating. “But…all these hours, all this work!” Right, but you smashed someone. Why?

Some folks will run howling from the room if you simply say “This really hurt.” Why? Because they’ve never been asked to see beyond their own sphere. Or. Because they’ve been trying so hard to prevent any disasters they’ve forgotten they’re attempts may create disaster. Why? Because control or fear-based actions tend to do that after a while. And so this business of deciding what is “callous” in a situation can appear to be subjective. But it’s safe to say a callous vision is one that doesn’t regard the needs, concerns or desires of another. (And there are vital pre-requisites to being able to even do that.)

It eventually boils down to this main question: Who, in this room of opposing views, am I most responsible for, besides myself? Loyalties, relationships, kindred souls in agreement with furthering a vision. Sometimes you have to storm the gates because there are so many gates around so many insecure sequestered “embassies” of fear any movement would be exactly that, a storm of collisions swirling. But I like this too…

“Equally, we may cast the spells of appreciation, gratitude and love – with every breath and word we utter, poetically.” Jim Fry

It’s something to aim for, anyway.

New What?!

Things I’ve seen, been touched by, moved by, otherwise disturbed or encouraged by in the past month and 8 days…

…grass growing up from the cracks, carving inevitability across sidewalks of “progress”

…hearts reuniting after months of estrangement and breathing a sigh of relief in the refreshing flow

…lives suddenly torn away from each other by the oddest, most revealing turn of events (with some lingering unfortunate confusion)

…overhearing two of my children conversationally saying “I don’t think you realize how much I love you…” (!!!!!!!!!) (they were dealing with relationship strain, beautifully, and the one who said it first was NOT the female. that’s the kind of argument you like to overhear…)

…the news of a beautiful 23 year old in India dying after the most horrifying example of inhumanity

…the proclamation of Newtown, CT “We choose love…”

…realizations of love as a conspiracy in spite of all the tyranny and violence suggesting otherwise

…renewal of faith in fate (married passionately to free will, of course)

…free-falls into grace

…a shimmering color-filled halo around the moon with barefoot laughter and kids dragged out of bed to watch (on holiday)

…a string of “coincidental” encounters speaking purpose bigger than my own designs

…a cat fight (or 2?) o.O

…friendships strengthened

…concerts calling a symphony of diversity

…paradox making meaning

…the release of singing 5 minutes of my life as a musical

…brewing schemes for more good wickedness

…recognition (the annual one) that “new” year is a great concept, allowing us the opportunity to reflect and review our lives, and wish others all the best but it’s also just another day…

And that’s the stuff I can share…

Pause

There are times when life pushes us so rapidly forward everything in the surrounding landscape seems suspended in a freeze frame of such deep meaning. All we can do is strap on the seat belt and hope to not come out of it feeling like hammered refuse. (Ref yoose)

It’s so much and all at once and doesn’t fall on hard soil here, so much to sink in. So…

I feel like hammered um. Yes. But the pound has definitely driven home (deeper/truer) the preciousness of it all and the impossibility of ever really affirming value. We can only live, only flow, only hold and then release, only note the images frozen temporarily as their gold is branded deeply into our hearts, a realization of the depth of treasure at once fleeting and forever.

Like a daughter’s prom details thrown together at the last minute as our relationship continues to morph in the setting sun of her childhood (and I swallow huge lump in throat, grin and grab one more hug, so proud beyond measure of all she is becoming, unfolding) as she expands her horizons, and continues to teach her little brothers great things… the continued meaningful silences from a son who still has few words but a brain alive, a soul running deep and an ability to convey with his body language and eyes beyond what is so often for far too many a flip use of verbal language (nothing flip about this one), as he wields violin and climbs trees, creating maps and adventures within the stillness… and the son with hair afire and heart running fast forward into comprehension and expression, so far beyond his years, holding tight to bonds while learning who his real friends are and how amazing is music, is the outpouring of heart…

Like a body slowly healing and then stumbling and then back up again and pounds gained, then lost, muscles diminished and then trying again, a fine science to this tightrope walk with chronic illness and fitness (insert ironic laughter here), friendships new and renewing, insisting on stretching my mind, my self-perception, my limitations, my pride, my walls, preconceived ideas and notions stripped away as the imagination begins to slowly re-emerge and…

All of this richness of living suspends my writing and pauses my outpourings because of what stews in the cauldron of heart and mind, growing me more deeply settled (and stirred!) but with so much less to say. For now, living is all…further bulletins as life allows…

Beauty, Minstrel teaches her bros guitar-pickin’ and…
Long-haired, “Jesus” plays soccer too…
Red, Rockin’ Blackbird beautifully…

21st Century Enlightenment…

Worth the visual/audio time…

Key element of personal growth… “successfully functioning in society with diverse values, traditions and lifestyles…’requires us to have a relationship to our own reactions rather than be captive of them’…’to resist our tendencies to make right or true that which is merely familiar and wrong or false that which is only strange’…” (partial quote of Robert Kegan, developmental psychologist).

Such is the work and play of self-awareness with a view to a more thoughtful loving practice… “a relationship to our own reactions” means, to my mind, developing a thorough capacity to examine our reactions, theorize as to their influences and motivations and discern how much of our integrity is compromised by any contributing factors. How are “these reactions” symptoms of a deep need for discovery of personal truths and visionary self-guided purpose in resonance with whatever manifestation of Divine guidance we choose to rely on OR choose NOT to rely on? How are “these reactions” a manifestation of a refusal to make choices? How are “these reactions” a manifestation of a deep resistance to _____? It’s not necessarily about finding the right counselor as it is about being willing to ask the tougher questions (but great counseling is so vital!).

And on it goes. But we do land. We do conclude and act on those conclusions and then check back in with “our own reactions.” This is “a relationship to our own reactions.” We are not on auto-pilot doling out ripples on the pond blithely unaware…

 

Loving Concentration . . .

“To be concentrated means to live fully in the present, in the here and now, and not to think of the next thing to be done, while I am doing something right now. Needless to say that concentration must be practiced most of all by people who love each other. They must learn to be close to each other without running away in the many ways in which this is customarily done. The beginning of the practice of concentration will be difficult; it will appear as if one could never achieve the aim. That this implies the necessity to have patience need hardly be said. If one does not know that everything has its time, and wants to force things, then indeed one will never succeed in becoming concentrated–nor in the art of loving…One cannot learn to concentrate without becoming sensitive to oneself.” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving

Cultivating concentration can be so difficult because we’re taught to be something other than sensitive. The barrage of messages are many: “Toughen up, kiddo. Brush it off, move on. Let it roll… Go. Go. Go. Show the proof you’re worth something! Whatcha got? What’d you DO, MAKE, PRODUCE? What?! Do it NOW.” Life created by the industrial revolution is something a bit automaton, no? Even if we don’t succomb to the vibes, they’re there trying to assert destructive criticism as we reach to type out the next chapter of a book that surely no one will want to publish (says the vibe screaming, anyway). Now our technology makes us more “efficient.” The need to concentrate and cultivate sensitivity is critical only to the point the political or philosophical advantage is secured. What it could mean as a way of life, as the artfulness in our loving is an obscure song long gone for most.

Then some of us are just sensitive to the nth degree and we grow up feeling like a big baby with an alternate “tough guy” persona pulled out for the more awkward moments. A safe mask to keep people from criticizing who we really are. Until. Until we discover that sensitivity is something other than a bane on the landscape of soul. It’s the greatest fecundity of our fields, yielding fruit supreme beyond the briars of our toughest moments. Go back to those most sensitive moments when you were criticized hugely for “over-reacting” and love yourself to pieces.  Discover what was awesome about that sensitivity.

Such discovery is essential to developing ourselves beyond the token “listening” and “communicating” in our closest relationship. Some of the more important layers of personal growth require we dig deep into self-awareness and damn the tough-guy programming. Why am I feeling this way right now? Why are my thoughts going in this direction? What do I believe of my own existence along these lines? How does it influence my dialogue with those I love?

And that sensitivity must include loving acceptance of what we discover of our souls and commitment to work through and manage the muck…