“God doesn’t give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED, to help you , to hurt you , to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be…”– anonymous
Hello again, Dear Readers. This morning the sun is shining and the sky is blue overhead. There can be no denying that Spring has finally come to Denmark. Thank goodness.
Many thoughts are spinning around in my head today. I wish to try to write something cohesive but please bear with me if it comes out a bit of a mess. Guess my soul is in a process right now (is there ever a time when it isn’t?) If I had a life motto, it would be, Work in Progress.
Last night my husband and I watched a movie by the filmmaker Robert Altman, called Short Cuts. It was made twenty years ago. The story takes place around Los Angeles and Bakersfield, and is filled with many characters who are neurotic, dysfunctional, angry, lustful, bored, frustrated, and just trying to get by in this crazy life. There are stories within the larger story, and they are woven loosely together through their relationships to one another. There is much irony in this film, just as there is in life. It was a long story, three hours running. Within this time, we witness people living in the middle of modern life’s sicknesses and excesses, trying to cope with themselves and each other. All the large themes are present: love, jealousy, avarice, lust, deceit, vengeance, desperation, despair, death. People living lives of not so quiet desperation. We watch, helplessly, as the characters hurt one another, lying to each other and themselves, without much compassion. Few of them are innocent, and the one character who is blameless (the good wife and mother, played by Andie Macdowell) is rewarded by having her just-turning eight year old son get hit by a car, go into a coma, and die during the course of a couple of days. This film takes no prisoners, there is no redemption for these people; only the continuation (for most of them) of this endless, sometimes utterly senseless and absurd theatre we know as Life.
The film did what all good stories ought to do; it showed us ourselves in the rough, without gloss or soft lighting. Whatever else you can say about life in a human body, you can also say that, shortly put, we’ve got issues. We’ve ALL got them, there is no one walking the planet today who is immune. We are in turns small, scared, angry, frustrated, guilty, guilt-ridden, loving, sweet, selfish and selfless. We toil, endure endless drudgery and suffering of many fools, not the least of which is our own self. We suffer, and suffer some more. We make decisions out of need, desperation, and desire for relief. What helps, what heals?
Facing the trouble, whatever it is, is a help. Naming it, speaking it out loud, seeing that we are not, are never alone in it. No matter what the trouble is, no matter how ashamed or filled with pain and remorse we may be, we must remember that we are not alone, not the only one with that heartache. On the contrary, there are many others with that same wound, carrying that same pain as us. Rilke once wrote that ‘perhaps all the dragons of our lives are simply princesses who are waiting for us to see them for who they truly are.’ My interpretation of his words is that even the most dark and terrible secret that a person can hold is something to help us learn how to love, how to become more human. The holes in the heart of one can and are healed by sharing them with another. It is painful to share these, yes. It takes time, maybe many years, for the healing to happen. But it CAN happen, it does happen, the miraculous thing is that by sharing one’s wound with others, instead of hiding it away, the wound can be cleansed, dressed, cared for, attended to, healing balm applied, sunshine and fresh air given it until it becomes smaller and smaller, and finally is gone.
We all want healing. We all have wounds and broken places. We are all of us singing over the lost bones of our lives, singing them alive again, calling them back into being. Yes we have lost our way and forgotten totally who we actually are and where we come from. Anyone looking around at the current state of the world will readily agree with that. The question is, are we lost forever? Will we continue sleepwalking through our lives, unwilling to feel or see that others’ pain is equal or perhaps greater than our own? Will we succumb to our own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, letting the weight of life’s cares crush our spirits and smash any small sprouts of hope?
There is no one solution to this problem of living, but there are wise ones who have found some tools to help. I have a slip of paper (one of many) at my desk that states, “Practice looking at each situation in your life and forgiving everyone and everything throughout this lifetime, and most especially, yourself.” This is ongoing, daily practice. And it makes good sense, because if I cannot forgive myself for the messes I have made and the hurts I have given to others, then how can they ever forgive me? We are our own judge and jury in this life, ultimately. As in the Robert Altman film, each of us is walking about trying to keep our heads above the swirling waters of insanity which are all around us. How can we cope, unless we begin with self-forgiveness? And after that, forgiveness of everyone else, as difficult as that may seem, is really essential. We cannot possibly change this world into something kinder, more loving and peaceful, as long as each of us still carries hatred, greed and revenge around in our souls. In the movie, there is a woman blues singer who sings at a jazz club every evening. One of the songs she sings talks about being a ‘prisoner of life.’ You could say that this idea is the main underlying theme of this film. It is so easy to feel this way! I have, a thousand times over, and have felt quite justified in doing so. And yet. I am realizing more and more, that if I am life’s prisoner it is because I myself have been my own jailer. Realizing this makes finding the key to unlock the door much easier.
In the end, it is true that Life gives you what you need to grow and become a better, not a worse, human being. In the kitchen last night, after the intense experience of watching the three-hour long film, my husband and I spoke together. He mused, “I actually suffer much more than you do, however I carry my suffering with a lot of dignity.” I gazed at him a moment, and then replied, “Yes, you certainly do. You really have a lot of dignity, and it is one of your most beautiful qualities.” He was pleased to hear my words, and I meant them sincerely. Carrying one’s suffering with dignity is extremely important. So is the ability to laugh at the craziness of this life.
- There Is No Peace Without Forgiveness. (po11ycheck.wordpress.com)
- Forgiveness is a 9-5 (thebayarean.com)
- The Work of Forgiveness (gettingbetterman.wordpress.com)
- Short Cuts: Art, Aggression and Altman (kubrickontheguillotine.com)
- Forgiveness + Emotional Healing (thewritingculturist.wordpress.com)
- Start Healing the World: Take Responsibility for Healing Yourself (tinybuddha.com)