Sunday, January 21, 2007

to know (and still love) thyself and others

Yesterday was a day of odd juxtapositioning of emotions, people, activities and my own heartbeat. In view of it all, and my yesterday's blogging as well, I realized that my responsibility is to myself as much as it is to anyone or anything else. If I do not love and care for myself like I want someone else to, I cannot receive that kind of love from another person. The second greatest commandment says, "Love your neighbor as yourself". An unfortunate series of events has transpired under the wire of my daily radar screen in a very important friendship which again reminds me it is a tricky business befriending members of the opposite sex, and the truth of what I was feeling and how much became apparent to me in a way that was personally embarrassing, very public and completely unintended by the other person. And I blasted away at them, not knowing what to think or what motivations were in play. So much for respond instead of react. Yet the reaction was completely truthful, honest and right from the heart, so if this individual has any doubt how much I care, it was completely dispelled by my spontaneous outburst. In this I do not censure myself or apologize. I go on in truth, trying to find the right type of care and the right way to love someone who has helped me on this treacherous journey of life in the prison trenches.

I don't know why I seem to need to white-knuckle everything in my life. I tend to choke the breathe out of things that could be so lovely and so edifying. But I have this appalling need to be completely sure of everything and everyone around me, and in so doing I oftentimes watch the color and beauty leech away from that which needs my trust to survive. Does it follow that I do not trust myself? Does this imply that I bleach everything in my life in the safe and digestable laundry and leave absolutely nothing to chance? Can I trust in my brokenness like God does-He's nuts, if you ask me, to leave human beings in charge and think they could ever be as loving as He is.

I juxtapose that outburst and subsequent realization that my friend meant no harm with a trip I took for prison volunteer training yesterday. Only two days before I received a phone call from the local prison chaplain, Tom, telling me there was another volunteer, a female pastor from my town, who has been in recovery for 30 years and wants to help with the 12 step program I'm interesting in starting. We had to have two volunteers to do it, at least. So I called Phyllis, a total stranger, and received her generous offer to ride along to the training, an hour away. Well, there we were on Saturday, driving in the snow, sharing like two old friends about totally personal events and things in our lives, and suddenly Phyllis was terribly important. In a 48 hour period someone I had never even met became my friend and lifeline where I needed someone so desperately. My fear at facing this training among total strangers and the idea of going back behind bars voluntarily was vanquished within the first hello.

I pondered this, trying to work out the other situation, forgive myself, realize I was within my rights to get upset because I love and care so much, and understand the truest friendships are the ones that bear our strongest emotions and bring us back to caring for ourselves. I pray to God I haven't damaged this one beyond repair, but if it is what I think it is, two people will come out loving and caring for themselves and each other even more. If not, I don't apologise for feeling pain and moving to protect myself, and Saturday's journey showed me I'm ready to accept the responsibility of self-care and open my heart to others both.


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