This Christmas was like any other day in my life. Much of the world was gathered together with their families or friends and spending time in shared company. I was not. I was with my own company. I have become very accustomed to being in my own company and when I seek it as a preference, I have often found that my preference is misunderstood as rejection.
When it becomes my preference, it is because there is something I need to overcome and I have been alone for so long that at this point, I only know how to overcome challenges in my own company so that I may enter the company of others with my full presence.
I have experienced many days which can pass sequentially, where I can go without uttering a single syllable to another human being. At most, it could be saying “Hello” or “Thank you.” to a clerk at a store.
I was not always this person. But I slowly became this person as the result of losing the people I believed mattered the most to me. As a result, it called into question how I “do” relationships. Or if in fact, I could.
Looking back, I see how many relationships I have lost. Those which I have sabotaged, those which have harmed me and those which I have had the wisdom and heart and fierce loyalty to sustain. The last category consists of very few.
I have worked at every relationship, every friendship with the commitment of an Olympiad. And there have been those that I have continually wanted to avoid engaging. Avoidance or aversion have taught me a lot about myself. The feeling of not wanting to “head in” has at once informed me of something I have healed and don’t wish to repeat. It has shown me something about a fresh wound and how painful it is to throw hot spicy cajun sauce on itself when open and exposed.
I know enough now, at mid-life, to know that the most intelligent way to approach any relationship is to do so with no expectations and to accept the other as s/he is. But here’s the problem: if you haven’t worked a particular issue out, the “as is” is a particular problem for you because you are still trying to work it out (ergo, that is why it still shows up in this or that person in this or that form of this or that relationship). Oh dear lord, it’s exhausting!
So what I am working with currently is something I was taught early on when I was first both learning and dissatisfied with yoga, and therefore, began the process of actively seeking more.
It really is the heart of spiritual practice: to find a way to turn it all over. To turn fear into astonishment and then into joy. To turn anger into courage and then into love. To turn sadness into compassion and then into peace.
Every day. Every day I’m not dead in the ground this is my practice. To wash whatever suffering I am in through with love. To turn it over and transform it into something else because it deserves to become something else. It has been what it is long enough.
And what I recognize now is that those we most want to hear us may never have the ears to hear us. This “us” in this “us” form. They may never have the courage to maintain a seat of hearing. Because as Byron Katie says, “Defense is the first act of war.” And it is so much easier to defend than to listen, to soften. To surrender.
I believe it is an act of courage to apologize.
As this year comes to a close, I wish to make things right in so many ways. But I know that I cannot talk to a wall. So what I realize more than anything is that the greatest call to action is to forgive myself in order to find my way home and also in order to call myself forward.
Maybe we are truly at our best, our most powerful, our most beautiful and our most tender when we cross the threshold of pain and choose to leave it behind us. Forgiving ourselves and those who have hurt us, harmed us, betrayed us, so that we can take a step into the fullness of a heart which beats fully in all of its love and aliveness and is no longer hemorrhaging from its past.
This is an act of courage, will, and self-love. May we each step into this commitment one step at a time.