You Just Never Know

A few days ago I was playing cards with some people I had only very recently met. I laughed and joked and tried to be friendly. One of them, Dick, an elderly man of about 70, barely acknowledged me, and was actually quite rude. “Crusty old bastard,” I thought. “What could he possibly have against me? He doesn’t even know me. Why doesn’t he LIKE ME?” My first instinct was to lash out, but I didn’t. Instead I began thinking about how I would be rude back. I lost focus on the game, and this thought began to consume me.

A few minutes later, he left the table to get a beer. While he was gone, Earl, one of the other players, told me that Dick had cancer “real bad,” and had only about six months to live. All those negative thoughts that had been swirling around in my head immediately dissipated. Instead, I redoubled my efforts to be friendly and took every opportunity to compliment him on his play. Then he calmed down and was a little friendlier. Only a very little mind you. He still is a crusty old bastard.

But I am so glad I held my tongue in that moment.

In the days since, I have been thinking about that episode. How I almost fell into the trap, and contributed to its escalation. Why it took hearing about his illness to let go of my negative thoughts and change my approach with him. And why is it so freakin’ important that I feel liked by others?

Giving people the benefit of the doubt and showing them love and compassion is always a better option than fighting fire with fire. Easy to do when the love is returned. Far more difficult when it is not.

I suppose we’re wired to see the world through our own lens. I am trying to be more compassionate. It’s hard sometimes. I continue to be a work in progress.

But you just never know why people do what they do, and what they may be going through.

What's Love Got to Do with It? - Rookerville | Rookerville rookerville.com What's Love Got to Do with It? - Rookerville.com

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What Would Love Do?

A few days ago I sent an email to my mother, asking if I could mail a package to her. We don’t talk or see each other much any more…the past continues to interfere with our ability to be in the present together. I think this dates back about seven years to when I began a relationship with Deborah, and more intensely since we were married in 2009. I think my mother lost an “emotional” partner in a sense as I began my matrimonial journey, and she has never accepted that. But that’s a whole other topic for another day.

It did not seem like a complicated request to me, but it clearly was to her, the tone of her reply emails to me becoming more and more terse as her insistence on controlling the process grew. This is not new. By the third email I was really pissed, and began hammering out a reply to match.

I too, am still very angry—specifically that she has never accepted or become part of my new life—and I could feel the fury and frustration building inside of me as I pounded away on the keys. She has a knack for bringing that out in me. I think most of that anger comes from the sadness of what could be, but isn’t. Like love is now conditional, and has been withdrawn, and this hurts. But I have trained myself not to feel hurt.

Trouble is, I have repressed and denied my feelings for most of my life. And that clearly has not worked, as I am slowly discovering. I need to acknowledge the feelings now, but also not allow myself to be ruled by them. Another topic for another day.

My instinct is to lash out and hurt back when I feel attacked. But deep down I know there is nowhere to go with this. Deep down, I don’t want to blame or make my mother (or anyone else for that matter) responsible for my anguish. I want to understand where it comes from so I can let it go, and focus on being and becoming the person I want to be.

So right before I pressed SEND, I stopped. Do I really want to escalate this, I thought to myself.

Is this what love would do? Asking myself this one question has changed a lot in my life lately, often preventing me from doing and saying many potentially destructive things. I need to remember that anger is really a cry for love. Do I want to be right, or do I want love?

Love would definitely not send an angry email.

So I have not sent it.

Violence: When Will We Decide That Enough is Enough?

In the wake of these recent individual violent acts in the US, I keep wondering about what it is that makes these people do what they do. What is making them so angry? And it’s not just a US phenomenon. There are examples everywhere.

And it’s not just the individual. Our frame of reference is a world that is constantly bickering and competing. One where countries are always at war with each other. Where individual acts of terrorism seem like the norm, and where the decisions and actions of the few dictate the parameters in which the vast majority of us live our lives.

I don’t have the answers but I do know that it is a symptom of profound anger, unhappiness, and disconnectedness. It is a symptom of a very sick and fearful society. One that has lost its way.

Why do we continue to choose hurt over healing? Why do we not opt for creation, cooperation, and peace over destruction and aggression? These are not new questions, but we keep doing and allowing the same things over and over, expecting a different result (Einstein’s definition of insanity).

How often will it have to happen before we look honestly at the root causes, and decide collectively that we don’t want to live this way? Once a month? Once a week?

Or will it be when enough of us have been more closely impacted by these acts of violence? Or will it be when we have all simply wiped each other out?

What a blunt and primitive species we are. And we know better.

Surely we have all seen enough–lived enough–to know that violence does not work.  We have thousands of years of history that proves it. And we must know by now that it is getting us absolutely nowhere.

Aren’t we all getting just a little tired of this?

I just came across this timely piece by Richard Rohr. Substitute your own beliefs or words, but the overiding message is clear and universal.

“If  the self doesn’t find some way to connect radically with Being, it will live in anxiety and insecurity. The false self is inherently insecure. It’s intrinsically fragile, grasping for significance. That’s precisely because it is insignificant! So it grabs at things like badges and uniforms and titles and hats and flags (and I would add: GUNS) to give itself importance and power. People talk about dying for the flag of their country. They don’t realize that the Bible would definitely call that idolatry. What were you before you were an American? Will you be an American in heaven? Most of us don’t know how to answer those questions without a spiritual journey and an inner prayer life.

In prayer you will discover who you were before you were male, before you were  female, before you were black, before you were white, before you were straight, before you were gay, before you were Lutheran, Mormon, or Amish.

Have you ever lived there? At that naked place, you will have very little to defend, fight about, compete with, overcome, hate, or fear. You are then living in the Reign  of God, or what Buddha calls the Great Compassion.

Violence is unneeded and undesired.”