Tag Archives: forgiveness

Dead Right?

I was about to leave my family home this morning when I spotted a daddy-long-legs (crane fly) moving on the spare bed in my childhood bedroom. I’d first seen it on Saturday night. Half of its legs lay a couple of inches away from its body. I’d presumed it dead. But it had been suffering there for at least two days. I agonised over what to do.

The humane option would be to kill it, I thought. But why should I have the power to decide to end its life? If I lost a leg, I’d still have the will to live. I’d still have hope for my survival. But there were no other daddy-long-legs rushing to its rescue and there were no daddy-long-leg hospitals that I knew of. It would be easier to simply leave it there but who knew how long it would remain in pain before it eventually died. It was all alone. I brought my face close and inspected it. Did it have a chance? “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

Lots of people don’t think twice about killing healthy insects. Mosquitoes, ants, even spiders. But I didn’t want to kill any living creature. Was that selfish of me? I would allow it to continue to writhe there because I didn’t want to feel bad. I was going to feel bad either way. If I believed in reincarnation, the daddy-long-legs wouldn’t die as such, it would simply move on to the next part of its journey. Maybe it would come back as something much better than a daddy-long-legs. Then again, who am I to judge what a good incarnation is? Oftentimes, being a human is so complicated that maybe living as a daddy-long-legs would be a relief.

I probably shouldn’t interfere with its fate, I pondered. Perhaps I could throw it out the window, let it back outdoors where it belonged. Although if I had just had my leg amputated, being thrown from a two-storey building would be my very last preference. If I squished it, would that be a sin? Surely not if I believed I was doing the right thing.

Eventually, I scooped it up in a piece of tissue and killed it. It was difficult but, once I decided to do it, I did it quick. I brought it to the bathroom, flushed it down the toilet, then sat on the edge of the bath and cried. I have no idea if I made the correct choice. I’m sorry, little guy. I really am.

The Deception in Perception

One evening, my friend told me about a fight she’d had with a friend of hers. She finished her anecdote with the statement: “Oh my God, I’m a complete psycho!” Hearing herself say the story aloud made her realise that she may have overreacted.

I went on to tell my friend about a guy I was dating four or five years ago. He came from a far-off land (Italy). I mentioned our email correspondence, which hadn’t ended well. “He was a real A$5hol€,” I added for good measure. “I might still have the emails,” I squealed excitedly. Minutes later, I managed to retrieve them. When I read the last email my Italian beau had written, I was surprised to find that, in parts, he had actually been quite nice and affectionate. I definitely hadn’t remembered that. As I read the last email I’d sent him, I visibly cringed. I sounded moany and needy. I hadn’t remembered that either. Yes, there were parts of his email that were defensive and uncompromising and parts of mine that were fair but, up until now, they had been the only parts I’d remembered.

Revisiting a memory when your emotions aren’t running high, when you’re not too attached to your story and when your ego has taken more of a back seat, can be quite revealing. My friend and I had, one after the other, found that we’d perceived the event in a very different way than it had actually occurred. We had been convinced of our innocence. It was hard for us to admit that we had a part to play in the drama but at least we were open to letting go of the need to be right. As a result, the other person could no longer be labelled the “bad guy”. The real villains in our cases were our egos. And that was something we were going to have to look at.

I still feel that my Italian wasn’t the right stallion for me. But I now understand that perceptions are extremely unreliable. We are all coming from different places and experiences… so everything, everything, is tainted with that. For example, I thought the Italian was harsh and inconsiderate, whereas he may have felt perfectly justified in his behaviour. He may have told his friends that I was more trouble than I was worth and that he wasn’t going to change for anybody, especially not an argumentative Irish woman.

Perceptions are totally subjective. The world looks different to you than it does to me. And it looks different to me today than it did yesterday. Everything I look at is compared and contrasted with everything I’ve already seen. I view current relationships through old hurts. Past fears leak into new ventures. Everything is laced with expectation. And my ego assures me that the way I see the world is the only reality there is.

I’m not suggesting that we beat ourselves over the head until we completely banish our egos. We are human beings with egos and emotions. However, simply recognising that we all experience things differently allows for understanding, forgiveness and acceptance. We don’t have to be right. We don’t need to be better. We just are. With this knowledge, we can stop expecting, judging and criticising and start really experiencing and enjoying life.

Depending on how you perceive this famous image, you may see an old lady or a young one. And once you’re aware of this, you can see both.

Don’t Hide; Seek Yourself

Last night, I dreamt that I was going to stay in a hostel with a young couple. I worried that the couple wouldn’t get in if they weren’t seen to be with me. They went in ahead of me and got in, no questions asked. As we settled in our bunks, I could hear the couple talking loudly. Again, I worried that others would judge them, dislike them, and maybe even kick them out. I was surprised to see the older people around them smiling, joining in, laughing, and even telling dirty jokes.

When I awoke, I wrote down this dream. I realised that I am still trying to control my feelings and behaviour. I think I need to change myself because I’m afraid that if I don’t, others will criticise or reject me. In certain situations, around certain people, I believe that I “should” behave a certain way in order to give off the “right” and “acceptable” impression. I fear that if I am open with my emotions or childlike in my behaviour, people will have nothing to do with me. However, in the dream, the older people enjoyed the lightness the young couple brought to the hostel. They even began joking about “inappropriate” things.

I recently started seeing someone who’s very calm and centred. I really like the way he’s so sure of who he is. He doesn’t change himself for anybody else. However, I worried that I wasn’t as together as he is. That if he found this out, he’d be out the door. I know now that I started to close myself off a little, trying to control and even change myself. One evening, as we played CraniumI was so astonished to answer a factual question correctly that I actually tumbled off the couch, landing in a heap on the floor. I had been taking myself so seriously and I still wound up arse in the air right in front of him! I laughed and laughed.

I am adamant now that I am not going to change myself for anybody else. Thankfully, we are all different. We can learn from each other and enjoy our differences, bringing new depths and dimensions to our lives. I was drawn to this guy because he is so sure of himself, which is clearly something I need in myself. And maybe he was drawn to me because he sensed that I could bring an element of fun into his life. And whether it lasts or doesn’t last isn’t important. We should keep learning and growing, no matter what, always remaining open to love for and from others and, most importantly, for ourselves.

This got me wondering how much do we close off to when we hold back, when we suppress what we’re really feeling, and when we deny ourselves what we truly desire? All because we think we have to hide who we are. We are afraid that if we are our true selves, if we express what we’re feeling, and ask for what we want, we will be judged, criticised, and abandoned. So, we control ourselves. In new relationships, in the workplace, and even amongst friends and family, we hold in our opinions because we’re afraid that we won’t come across as being intelligent or witty or loveable.

But here’s the shortcut – be yourself and you’ll find out much, much sooner if you and your partner are really suited. Or your ideas might revolutionise your company. Your friends and family members could learn a lot from your views. The simple act of being yourself is so freeing that it will allow others close to you to be themselves also. Judgement and role-playing will dissolve. You will become assertive in asking for what you desire in your life. People will know where they stand with you because you will be reliable to them – you will always be exactly who you are. And because you are no longer judging or trying to change yourself, those around you will know you are not trying to control or change them either. How liberating!

Of course, it’s not easy to be yourself. First, you have to know yourself, own and accept it, forgive yourself, and love yourself unconditionally. Then, you can gift that beautiful, unique, sparkling true self to the world. Today, decide not to hold back any longer because you would be doing yourself, and those around you, a huge disservice.

Faith in More

I’ve been learning a lot about religion lately. I’ve been pondering questions and ideas and philosophies about what to believe and how to live my life. I was raised a Catholic and my father is Greek Orthodox. I married a Muslim. I spent a week in a Buddhist centre in the Scottish Highlands. I’m currently preparing to give a lecture on Hinduism in my meditation class. And this week, I’ll be learning about Judaism from a couple of other students.

Faith is something that gives people hope and direction. It enables them to look to the bigger picture when crawling through dark and difficult times. It offers them comfort when they face illness and death, be it of a loved one or of themselves.

Nowadays, many people have moved away from religion and towards what they call spirituality. Spirituality is a belief in the spirit or the soul. New Agers talk about energy and chakras, synchronicity and meditation. Without a specific religion to practise, it is important for spiritual people to have a discipline and a network of people with a similar mindset to their own. But what a spiritual person does is not so dissimilar from what a religious person does. Prayer is a form of meditation, after all. A way to connect with God or nature or the oneness of the Universe.

I’m constantly searching and questioning and wondering. Some people might accuse me of being lost or easily led or of turning my back on the religion I was baptised into. I disagree. I find other cultures and their beliefs fascinating. I love to learn new things, to consider different ideas, and to understand where everybody is coming from. I think there is value and beauty in all faiths. We are, every one of us, a human being, whether we wear a burqa or drink the blood of Christ or circumcise our children.

In my early twenties, I read the Quran, completed Ramadan twice, and spent a month in Morocco, where I spoke to many Muslim men and women, attended a Mosque, witnessed the slaughtering of lambs for the festival of Eid al-Adha, and even wore a headscarf. It appealed to me that the focus of Muslim life points far away from that of body image, which many Westerners obsess about. However, that reason alone is not reason enough to dive into a religion.

papilot.pl

Hinduism teaches about karma and reincarnation. This religion is about overcoming maya, the delusion of separateness; and accepting that this world, which we believe to be reality, is in fact an illusion. Every time we suffer or feel depressed or alone, every time we have a problem with money or with a co-worker, we must realise that this is all a dream, a test. Nothing is as important as it seems. What a relief.

Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism. Buddhists don’t believe in a God and they don’t worship a particular prophet. They believe that God is everywhere. God is within all of us. They don’t believe in souls either. They believe in energy and, when we die, our vibration simply joins the vibration of the Universe. The end goal of a Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment, which like Hinduism, is to lift the veil of maya, and become one with the world. I also welcome this concept of feeling at one with everyone and everything. When I have a negative thought about someone, I should just remind myself that I am them and they are me. Not so easy to get the head around that one.

Last weekend, I paid a visit to Glenstal Abbey, a beautiful Benedictine monastery in Limerick. I participated in a Chant Day, attended mass and Vespers in the evening. I even had an interesting chat with a lovely priest. I put my questions to him about different religions and spirituality and the idea that God is a part of us all. He answered in a non-judgemental fashion and presented me with quotes from The Bible.

He told me the story of the thief who was nailed to a cross beside Jesus Christ. He turned to Jesus and said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The priest elaborated: “This man had sinned all his life but, at the last minute, he asked to be pardoned. Don’t forget to ask.” This reflects the New Agers’ thinking on the power of intention and of “putting it out there to the Universe”. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

The priest also told me about the importance of gratitude. And of helping others. And of positivity. And when I spoke about us all being part of the same family, he answered: “You are not just one piece of the whole, you are irreplaceable. God loves you very much.” Always nice to hear.

The following morning, as I waited for the gift shop to open, I decided to attend 10 am mass. The ceremony was beautiful. I felt like I was at the theatre. The monks gave readings and chanted and sang to the tunes pounded out on the organ. They bowed and swung smoking incense in every direction and held the priest’s robes as they moved across the altar. I felt happy to be able to participate in this celebration of faith and togetherness.

I don’t have any more answers now than when I started writing this blog post. In fact, I probably have more questions. But I’m curious and open-minded and full of faith. Faith in God. In love. And in the bigger picture. Faith is “belief that is not based on proof” (dictionary.reference.com). I don’t have proof. But I know that I believe in something higher, something more important, something more real than this body, this pain, this life. I also believe that we can learn so much from all traditions. My eyes and ears are open. And, more importantly, so is my heart.

Co-dependency

I had a rather interesting awareness today. I was needy. Up until very recently, I had been behaving in a needy, co-dependent manner. Throughout my life, I had a number of co-dependent relationships (not all romantic), which were safe and sweet when they were good and devastatingly painful when they weren’t.

I became unreasonably annoyed when a boyfriend didn’t contact me for a whole day. And I felt justified in my anger. He mustn’t care, I thought. If it had been a friend or family member, it wouldn’t have cost me a thought. But because he was my boyfriend, the rules changed. Boyfriends should contact their girlfriends every day. Otherwise, it’s a sign that they’re not interested. Can we take this deeper? If he’s not interested, it probably means that there’s something wrong with me. That I don’t deserve to be loved. No wonder I was angry! Which made him frustrated. And not long afterwards, he left me. My heart broke. And then it healed. I now know that he did me a huge favour. I’m glad it’s over. That’s not to say that he’s a bad guy. We just weren’t suited. Deep down, I’d always known this. I’d just become too attached to the idea of being attached that it hurt too much to detach myself.

I only realise now that I’d been acting needy. I needed constant reminders of his love. I needed to be reassured. To be held and rocked and stroked like a screaming baby, terrified of being left alone. To be left alone as an infant means certain death. But we forget that we are adults. That we are strong. Capable. Loveable. Enough. So, we wail and cry and demand attention. We get attention all right. Just not the type of attention we’d been hoping for.

The core feeling in co-dependency is a fear of being left alone. We long for connection. Because when we feel connected, we feel safe. The delusion is that we are disconnected. Separate. Alone. So, we cling to others. To the people who show us affection; to the ones who look after us, and make us feel good about ourselves. When we fear they might be slipping away; the love, security and trust that we associated with that person disappear with them. And we are left vulnerable and scared and angry that they could make us feel this way. They didn’t make us feel anything. They didn’t make us feel hurt or betrayed. They didn’t even make us feel happy or in love. We did it all by ourselves.

When you love someone so much that you can’t live without them, that’s when you’ve got to live without them. Live your life to the fullest. Believe in your power and potential. Love yourself exactly as you are, where you are. And when you feel strong enough to be compassionate, independent enough to feel connected; and when you’ve got so much love for yourself that you can accept somebody else’s love for you, then, and only then, will you be ready to enter into a healthy partnership.

favim.com/image/27261/

The Crime’s The Punishment?

I just watched the season finale of Love/Hate, a hard-hitting Irish drama. I couldn’t believe my reaction when the credits began to roll. I admit that it had been difficult to watch at times but it was such an honest and thought-provoking portrayal of Dublin criminals that it had gripped me right around the jugular. This programme got me thinking in a way I’d never thought possible.

Throughout the series, the viewers got to know, and like, the characters. We watched them progress from naive young adults to violent gang members, desperate drug addicts, prostitutes and murderers.

We all hear the news about massive drug seizures and gang shootings. And it doesn’t have much of an impact on us. We’re just grateful that we’re not involved. We condemn these “low-lives” for choosing such a depraved existence. But what we fail to consider, and what this brilliant drama has demonstrated, is that life is never simply black or white.

The pretty girl, with so much potential, is putting herself in danger to work as a prostitute because she would do anything to get the drugs she’s so dependent upon. The corrupt policeman, who’s being paid by the fearsome gang leader, is too terrified to put a stop to it because his children have been threatened. The young man, who’s already taken the lives of two human beings, cannot look at himself in the mirror. He thinks that if he does this one last job, he’ll be left alone. They all dream of one day walking away from this hideous way of living.

Most of these people would never have willingly chosen to do the things they are now doing. As children, they too had hoped for love and success and happiness. But circumstances have forced them into this. Of course, I don’t condone their behaviour. The taking of a life is especially difficult to comprehend or forgive. But now I understand that we are all just trying to survive this challenging world we live in. And everyone, everyone, has their reasons.

From black and white to technicolour

Good fucken fuqballs, I’m writing at 5am again! I blame Jeannette Walls’ gripping account of her exciting, albeit difficult, childhood in The Glass Castle. Only moments earlier, I had to hold the book away for a good five minutes as I sobbed.

Walls’ honest depiction of life as the resilient daughter of an irresponsible but irresistible drunkard, and a refreshingly free-spirited but inexcusably selfish artist, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.

This captivating memoir teaches us that we mustn’t view things, or people, in black and white. Jeannette paints her unique story, mixing muted shades of sepia and charcoal with delightful streaks of vibrant colour.

Everybody is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We are all simply trying to survive. Even the most despicable of villains have another (better, softer, more vulnerable) side. Lord Voldemort lived a loveless childhood and suffered a pathological fear of death. The Joker was grieving the loss of his wife and unborn child. In 102 Dalmations, Cruella de Vil dedicates her life to saving animals. And Simon Cowell still goes to bed with his blankie. (Poetic license here, folks. Work with me.)

So, the next time you want to curse (or plot the untimely demise of) your unreasonable boss or critical co-worker, take a deep breath. Recognise that they wouldn’t be behaving this way if they were content with their lot.

On his days off, that bad-tempered librarian volunteers to help children with special needs. The self-centred ladies’ man cries himself to sleep each night. The rude motorist who cut in front of you this morning was preoccupied with meeting his new-born son for the first time. The irritable shop keeper doesn’t hate you. She hates her job. Or her husband. Or herself. The town drunk you cross the road to avoid tried to clean himself up several times before he lost his wife, his kids, and his battle with this unrelenting illness.

Insert gratuitous Leo pic here.

I’m not advocating that you accept bad behaviour. I just want to promote compassion and understanding. Everyone has their story, their baggage, their reasons. Everybody longs for happiness. For love. Everyone breathes the same breath of life and dreams of a better future.

Somewhere between the stormy blacks and calm whites of judgement and acceptance appears an uncontrollable rainbow of regret and determination, sorrow and hope, anger and forgiveness. Because that is what it is to be human.

Images: http://www.thew2o.net/; http://favim.com/image/125933/;

http://kairaa.tumblr.com/