Sunday, December 21, 2008

Clouded mind, snowy night

I just saw a photograph of two young boys on the blog of a person I do not know. There was something so charming about this photograph. I can't say what it was exactly. The happiness I saw in their eyes? Earlier this evening, I saw a photo of Dick's mother with one of her daughter-in-laws and grandchild. It was a beautiful picture, yet whatever meaning it had did not get through to my clouded mind.

I suppose I wasn't ready to let go of the clouds.

These strangers, two boys in Finland, woke me up. My thanks to Zen-The Possible Way for sharing a family portrait and some nice, simple words.

I had a strong urge to delete many of my recent posts. I've done this before and felt good about it. I felt much better after I took down my cranky posts about Sarah Palin.

Yet, this time, I'm leaving the evidence trail of my anger, hurt, fear and plain ol' crankiness. It's not truthful to my life or myself to only post about "the good things" or to only post about finding what's good within the bad. Anyway, judging "good or bad" is in itself problematic. I'm not talking about moral relativism here, but something far simpler - life itself.

Saying it doesn't hurt when one bangs a toe against a big stone would be a lie.

Life is filled with its ups, downs, pains, and joy (I take it you already knew this). Some call it the "great catastrophe." I love this phrase. Indeed, that's what it is. One big great wonderful mess. It it weren't, how boring it would be!

I'm sorry if I've been overly negative of late. Not remembering to post about the joys in the midst of pain is the fault, not the voicing of pain. But I'm human, you see, just like the rest of us.

Someone objected to my saying I felt rage the other day. Why should they object? I wasn't raging at that person in the least. But, I know anger can be scary. And I know that oftentimes people who identify strongly with belief systems that put a big emphasis on compassion and at-one-ness sometimes want to push away any negativity. Sheesh. I shouldn't just call out the self-consciously compassionate folks! We're all the same, even if we're different. (Wow, I'm just full of self-evident remarks this evening, aren't I? I blame the snowstorm.)

Getting back to the person who objected to my feelings, I was encouraged to find what was "underneath" my rage. Well, that was easy - it's called fear. But, I won't disown my anger or my fear. Even the Dalai Lama feels anger and fear. I'm sure he feels these feelings way less than the rest of us, but he suffers too, at times, from what we label "negative emotions." As he says, he is a "simple monk." I have to admit that I think he's a particularly special simple monk, but I think I get his point. He's human. We shouldn't forget that and think he is any "better" than the rest of us, no matter how much we respect him. He is not an idol, nor does he want to be idolized. But as usual, I digress.

Sometimes I think we should do away with naming emotions as negative or positive. They just are. Repressing ourselves, judging our feelings, in my opinion, can lead to them leaking out in ways that hurt ourselves and others. If I feel anger, which I certainly do, I try to say to myself, "I'm feeling angry. Hi anger! I recognize you."

But when I think, "Oh my. I'm feeling angry. How horrible! Go away!", I get into trouble. And I don't think I'm the only person who winds up suffering from this trap. Push away the negativity and it just keeps coming back. It wants some attention. Emotions are like little children. Ignore them and they'll eventually throw a temper tantrum.

All my anger wants is some acknowledgement and maybe a pat on the head.

Meanwhile, a storm is raging outside. It's -10 degrees and snowing hard. Earlier this evening, there was thunder, which is unnerving during a snowstorm. I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, which I may or may not be able to get to. I've been waiting for this appointment for weeks. I could worry about what'll happen in the morning, but I'll refrain. There will be shoveling to do, and I'll not be able to contribute to that chore. I could feel guilty about this, guilty enough to do it anyway, but with whatever is wrong with my back, shoveling is the last thing I should do. I will accept help and let myself sit in my warm house while others do the work. I will probably struggle with "negative emotions"; guilt, frustration with not being able to take care of my own chores, fear about whether I'll be able to shovel in the future, and self-doubt about my perceptions of pain.

Ah, life is complex. Yet, it's also so simple. We do what we can do. I wanted to write a happy, positive post. It seemed time. But I'm still pensive. Tonight, I'm affirming myself. I say "it's okay, whatever it is."

We can practice compassion, but I want to remind myself, and you, that compassion should also be extended to oneself. Okay folks, give yourselves a big hug. Or maybe we should have a virtual group hug. Aw shucks.

Painting note: Odd choice! I googled "exuberant painting." This, "The Death of Chatterton" (1856), by Henry Wallis, came up. I was most curious as to why. Here are some reactions to the original showing of this painting at the 1857 Art Treasures of the World Exhibition in Manchester, England: "Such was the clamour to see the The Death of Chatterton that it had to be protected at all times by two policemen. One viewer of the painting was so overcome by its rich detail and exuberant colours that she approached it, stating she wished only to straighten out Chatterton’s ruffled bedclothes." A letter published in the Manchester Guardian as the exhibition was closing said that the painting “tended to overawe and exalt the mind.” Wow. The kinds of art that get that type of attention nowadays are things like "Piss Christ."

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