Human nature is to be loved, and loved alone. Of course we all want to feel special and cherished. Betrayal leaves such a mark because it damages the fragile bond of trust in a relationship, and suggests that we mean nothing, or at least that the relationship we'd presumed did not exist. If it is someone close, this can be traumatic enough to make us question every connection. It wrenches us from our natural state of comfort, offering a compelling reason to protect or hit back at a perceived threat. In our pain, we struggle to recover and forgive because it may mean leaving ourselves or those we love open to more of the same. Yet, betrayal isn't personal. It's actually a violation of self and not a reflection of the betrayed.
"Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."
In the immortal words of Jesus Christ, the embodiment of forgiveness and compassion, we find the bar has been set impossibly high. How could anyone, while being humiliated, tortured, scorned and dying slowly while nailed to a cross, possibly utter these words? What superhuman power! No matter if you read biblical text literally or see them more as parables- the point could not be clearer. If we fail to forgive "those who have trespassed against us" we fail a fundamental human challenge. To forgive is the ONLY way to heal wounds. Escalating aggression and lashing out never works, it simply wastes our precious time. Despite what we think, it isn't really up to us. Justice is a pretty word that civilization has an insatiable craving for, but we have to accept that it rarely comes from our imposition or longing. We may not even see or know it.
"The wheel of karma grinds slowly, yet it grinds finely."
Not one of us can claim complete or even partial control over what is outside ourselves. Given the chemical shitstorm unleashed with various diseases and conditions, our insides are out of our jurisdiction as well. If you meet someone living under this illusion, you may want to run. It's actually delusional to think we can change anyone but ourselves. Human beings are messy, complex and often unpredictable. Especially when they dress up like Axl Rose and accidentally break glassware while getting a bit too into 'the character'. (More on that another time, no one was wounded in this 'social experiment' but side effects include a horrific sense of embarrassment). People do incredibly unconscious and stupid things that can at times be rather cruel. My predominant regrets are within matters that caused someone pain. Undoubtedly we bring harm to ourselves in this process. I'm pretty good at this, but fortunately it happens less frequently with age.
I actually like getting older. Insecurities melt away, as I develop an ability to look outward with less self-absorption. Little things fall out and my main line of focus is on increasing awareness and connection. I'm just not interested in battles of ego and have been disabused of the idea that I'll always get what I want. In the bigger picture, and at the end of our lives, all we have is love. Who do you love, and why? I'll be bold and suggest you do not wait to write their eulogy. Show and tell them now. We tend to think of romantic love as this glittering prize, but if you must destroy others to get at something, you are doing it wrong. There is only one way in, and it must be organic. Ask The Supremes, for they know you can't hurry love. Everything gets a soundtrack.
I'll be adding music mixes to this site as well as highlighting the work of fellow advocates and provocateurs. There are some wicked sharp writers and minds bubbling up in the blogsphere and in the pages of books -on the theme of things falling apart. Sitting here giggling about how I can take myself seriously in this gigantic purple robe and mismatched slippers. If you think images posted on facebook and instagram are my daily routine, you have not been around me lately. I can barely walk and chew gum simultaneously since kidney pain and insomnia knocked me sideways.
I find solace and clarity in words- print or spoken. Memes and quotes, palavers, and all varieties of helpful intentions. We all take turns saying the right things. We all take turns saying the wrong things. We don't know what to say. We text too rapidly to make much sense and miss what's actually unfolding with neighbors next door, or in our own homes. A moment of levity, or two, mixed with sage advice on crisis and how to care for someone going through hard times. Some of these tips from Marilyn R. Gardner and Robynn Bliss make more sense than the things we typically say when we find someone in crisis:
Betrayal is so brutal because it destroys our trust in others and self. Whether on the receiving end or plunging the knife into someone's back, it causes the same amount of damage to our souls. If soul is not something you are particularly interested in, then you might want to skip my Spotify playlists. No, this refers more to soul, as in what is left when the shell of the body disintegrates or dies. It's all we've got and how we treat others that matters. If we can be brave enough to gamble being hurt, there is an infinite supply of love available through others. Without self-love, we'll never experience the full expanse of our purpose- to love one another. Equanimity comes from knowing how to be alone and enjoying your own company. Madea drops some wisdom on this point from her recliner:
With few exceptions, we injure one another even while knowing our interconnectedness only when we are unhealthy and if self-loathing and ignorance prevail, but not out of malice. Fear is the enemy. Our antagonists can be reframed as teachers and messengers. It is a reflection upon the person unleashing the damage, which is a powerless and pathetic place for anyone to be. If we find ourselves in this position, ideally, we do nothing.
"Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear." -Lao Tzu
Imagine the possibilities, if we lost our reactivity and simply observed our reactions, rather than meeting such dysfunction in kind.
"An eye for an eye makes to whole world blind." -Mahatma Gandhi (as rephrased from The Bible)
If there are people you need to forgive, I am not suggesting you contact them directly or run around opening every Pandora's Box you may come across. This is more a candle illuminating a path you may neglect or fail to see while in the middle of your own storm. Starting with yourself, fully accept that even though you are not always skillful in your interactions, that you are deeply tragically, human. Give yourself a break! Be willing to get uncomfortable and expose recesses of your shadows. If you don't get to your own roots and assimilate your own shadow, you are not only a danger to yourself, you'll keep adding to samsara in negative ways that only make life more burdensome. There is no escape from suffering, but we have the choice to avoid causing more of it. Take the gloves off, not to fight harder, but to use your hands for the holier work of love through action. To be of service is as good as it gets.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." -Mother Teresa
About this love thing- what do any of us have to lose, really? I've been made a fool for lesser things. I'd gamble everything on infinite and everlasting love. It is as real to me as the air and sky, the swaying tips of these redwoods and the sound of rain. As true as my own hands, now a bit shaky and roped with veins.
Self-care is not taught in schools, but perhaps it should be, because we seem to have forgotten the basis of a healthy life is to simply know and care for ourselves. This means different things for all, and this is just a public service reminder. Unhealthy and generally unhappy people hurt others regularly because they are in pain. See the pain instead of the betrayal and you'll have a portal into the generosity of compassion. Frequently, when adults are talking, regardless of how they are presenting themselves, I am able to observe them as a child, vulnerable and uncertain. Offer this same part of yourself a little tenderness and acceptance once in a while- we are all muddling through and everyone is doing the best they can with whatever they've got.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -Oscar Wilde
Life is painful, and can be unbearable at times. It is all temporary. Just beyond your worst nightmare is a stunningly beautiful existence. Like the fly banging against the glass to exit a room while the door is wide open, we 'think' we are trapped. This is a mind construct and a lie.
"Don't believe anything you think."
Without delving into why or who did you wrong, how about talking to yourself in a different way? Try this gratitude practice and start small. Be a friend to yourself.
My heart is beating and I am breathing.
I have access to clean water.
This food someone made is nourishing my body with love. (Thank you to my friends who brought food and sustained me in so many ways through recovery from surgery. Your friendship and care is stunningly gorgeous. I love you too.)
I have been through a lot and I'm still alive.
I am doing pretty well in spite of challenges.
There is love available, universally and infinitely.
I will never be alone.
Overflow yourself with this easy self-talk until there is no space left for hooks of hatred or anger or fear. If that doesn't work, consider what Carl Sagan wrote:
“Compared to a star, we are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their whole lives in the course of a single day. From the point of view of a mayfly, human beings are stolid, boring, almost entirely immovable, offering hardly a hint that they ever do anything. From the point of view of a star, a human being is a tiny flash, one of billions of brief lives flickering tenuously on the surface of a strangely cold, anomalously solid, exotically remote sphere of silicate and iron.”
We are so small and insignificant, yet with an inexhaustible capacity for love. Even a dog that has been beaten and is unapproachable needs love. Hurray for love! All kinds of love. I want you to experience more love, even if we can't agree. I want more love, even if I feel I don't deserve it. If I am not happy with myself in this moment, I can pause and feel it all the way, then move on. Clouds passing in the sky. The image at the top of this post was taken by my brother, who is one of my heroes. Even though this image is from a difficult time, the love in my eyes is unmistakeable. Love reminds us we can survive our anguish and allow the agony of betrayals to fall away, along with anyone damaging our trust in humanity. It is our birthright to experience joy, freedom and LOVE in it's myriad forms.