Yesterday, when I called Helen from a rest stop an hour outside of Montreal there was happy confusion in her voice: "Oh, its today that you are coming. The house is a mess and your room is just as it was the last time you were here."
I arrived, and it was if I'd never left. Such care, interest in my life and the life of those connected to me, and a willingness to listen and ask questions that invite reflection. Yes, I'm a lucky guy to have such friends in my life.
Such relationships, intimate relationships of care and concern, in my view ought never to be grounded on rights me may think we have as a result of the pre-existing relationship - but rather on questions that invite reflection and stories that tell a bit of who we are, what is important to us, what is troubling us and what we share in common in the world...
As I travel and relate to those I meet along the way on a daily basis, I claim no "right" to speak into their life. The only life I have a right to speak of and into is my own... I can only tell my own story and ask questions of the stories of others seeking to find those places where we share common interests and passions.
Parker Palmer, a hero for me, writing on Krista Tippet's On Being blog offered an entry entitled: Fierce with Reality: Living and Loving Well to the End, talks about the stages of life and offers some advice:
How can we learn to embrace with love the whole of who we are — a task that need not and should not await our elder years? Of course there are tried-and-true aids such as meditation, journaling and therapy, all of which have been helpful to me. Here are three others that I’ve found equally helpful, sometimes even more:
- Spend as much time as you can experiencing the natural world. Nature constantly reminds me that everything has a place, that nothing need be excluded. That “mess” on the forest floor — like the mess in my own life — has an amazing harmony and hidden wholeness to it.
- Move toward, not away from, whatever you fear. I try to remember the advice I was given on an Outward Bound course when I froze with fear on a rock face in the middle of a one-hundred-foot rappel: “If you can’t get out of it, get into it!” If, for example, you fear diversity, get to know “the other’s” story face-to-face and watch your fear shrink as your empathy expands.
Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. The sooner we understand this, the better. It’s a truth that can set us free to live well, to love well and, in the end, to die well.
- Reach out to the younger generation—not to advise them but to learn from them, gain energy from them, and support them on their way. That’s a life-enhancing act that Erik Erikson called “generativity,” an alternative to the “stagnation” of age that sooner or later leads to despair.
I can't think of a sadder way to die than with the knowledge that I never showed up in this world as who I really am. I can’t think of a more graced way to die than with the knowledge that, as best I knew how, I showed up here as my true self — able to engage the world in freedom and with love because I had become fierce with reality.
I think about the people I know who live fiercely, ones who I have come to love in part because of their strength of character, their commitment to life in the face of all that sometimes shitty reality that they find themselves in...
These are the ones who take difficult situations and find goodness in them, who face complicated situations, sit quietly and listen carefully before they react, who consider always the interests of the larger world along side their own needs.
They are ones who are generative and have initiative for life, who function in the world with integrity and are industrious... John, Peg, Shelly, Al, Helen, Hilroy, Ken, Pat, Gerald and the list goes on... these are the ones I admire and seek to emulate... and I can only hope that someday those who I call friends might say something similar of me and my life journey... as
Now I Become Myself
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song;
Made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
~ May Sarton
In a few hours I will meet up with Duane and Cindy and enjoy the natural beauty of Algonquin Park as we make our way to Gravenhurst and the wedding preparations that await... on the Sabbath Road...