The Crying Man

One day on my lunch hour I went to a large hardware/lumber store. I was in the garden section looking for a pot for a plant. Along comes a tall white haired but hearty looking man. His curly hair and build made him look younger than I suspect he was. He towered over me, a profusion of white chest hair spilling out of his shirt. As he approached me his lovely Aussie accent came tumbling out of his mouth, “Hey you look like you might know something about plants. I got a question for ya.” In fact, I do not take after my mother, The Tomato Queen, who can grow anything. I have ten brown thumbs. I said “Well I am not sure about that but I’ll see what I can do. What do you need?” He proceeded to tell me… “I need something drought tolerant. I am making a memorial….. of sorts…. for….” At that point he burst out crying on the spot! Large loud crying, wracking shoulders, bent over his large garden cart. He continued walking this cart forward all the while crying and bent at the waist. I think he did not know where to go or what to do.

I stood there for a long while so as not to abandon this man in his pain. I wanted to take action in some way to help. In a moment like this you can send love so I did that for a few minutes. Eventually he made his way to the checkout with bags of soil, a container, but not plants. After giving him some space I gently went up to him and told him colorful mums might be a good choice. He apologized for crying, still sniffling and dabbing at his eyes. Apparently he lost someone two weeks ago and the pain was still fresh. Oh my heart went out to him.

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For a long time now, I’ve been experiencing a great deal of cleansing and purging in the form of physical problems. I am out of my element, a fish out of water. This does not make the Capricorn mind sit easy. We need to know what’s going on so we can figure the best way forward. It is hard to simply surrender to what is. For most of my life I have enjoyed excellent health, and suddenly all sorts of things were upsetting my applecart. Problems with the body is a good indicator that Spirit is trying to get through to you. I’m a very firm believer that the body presents you with physical challenges because there is something non-physical that needs addressing. However I also tend to over think things—I am my own worse enemy. I observe, analyze, research, take action, modify, rinse and repeat. To be too action oriented and not go deeply inside enough can block spiritual progress.

I want desperately to break out of this tailspin. I am tired of not having fun. Tired of being tired, of going to the doctor, tired of being sick. My doctor moved across the country in the middle of a months-long diagnosis, but forgot to tell me she was leaving. I was furious about that for a time. That old feeling of being invisible and abandoned, presented at the same time. I thought those old ghosts were long gone. So why was I being shown this man so…in my face? 

Now is the time for me to sink into my heart, forget the outer, trust, and have complete and utter surrender to outer circumstances. I get to the verge of tears and the feeling goes away and I miss my chance to let go. I want that purge. I want to have a watershed moment where I cry and let it all out. But life ebbs and flows, and today I feel better than yesterday. Dang! I was so close a few days ago. I know that sounds counter intuitive, you should feel good that life is better today than yesterday. But I want to be able to move on to the next level. (There’s that action-oriented mindset screwing me up again. Getting in the way of the purge.)

The takeaway for me is, what a beautiful example the Universe has given me in the form of the Crying Man. Someone larger than life, just giving in and letting go, in public in front of strangers, no holds barred. Now, to surrender and find my true north, through the eyes of the Crying Man. I know it is easier said than done, and you cannot force such things to occur. I give thanks to the Universe for showing me one beautiful example of letting go. Life is about ebbing and flowing, ups and downs. Every time there is an ebb or low spot, I feel closer and closer to a breakthrough. It’s just not here yet. As life ebbs and flows, so it goes. Maybe next time.

Comments and dialogue are highly encouraged and welcome. “Likes” tell me someone is out there listening. 

Compassionate or doormat?

Being compassionate and being ‘the wounded healer’ and wanting to help others is a good thing to do. But be careful you don’t overdo it in terms of being a doormat. You should never come away from an experience in compassion feeling used, spent, foolish, tired, or drained. And certainly you should never feel you have been taken advantage of.

Several years back, a local I knew and liked came knocking on my door in a rainstorm. Let’s call him The Farrier. I knew, as did everyone in town, he was recently on the outs with his boss/landlord. He had been kicked out of the place he had been staying, and lost his job. He was at rock bottom. I could not turn him away in the rain. Looking back, he had it timed just right, how could a person turn someone away in a downpour? Once I realized he needed more than shelter from this storm, I made it clear, this was to be temporary. I offered him three months stay, as long as he helped himself to get ahead in the world, not just lay around sleeping. He needed to earn his keep in working toward his future. I stressed it was more important that he work toward his future, than do chores around my home.

At first things went well. He started gathering firewood in the mountains to sell, and he was a farrier, so he had employable skills. He kept his part of the house clean. His needs were few. But I let things go too far too fast. He wanted to constantly borrow my car—a total no no in my book. He needed money all the time, and ate me out of house and home. After only a week his teenaged son and him were reunited. This really complicated things to say the least. His son did not live at my home, but he visited often and of course I had to drive him back and forth, usually a 60 mile round trip. I already drove 84 miles a day round trip Monday through Friday for work. On weekends I strive to never get in my car at all because I am burnt out from driving to work and back.

A few weeks later, on my birthday  (just after Christmas) the Farrier’s son called me. He  wanted to come live with us. Us? Us who? There is no us. I said no, flat out. I think that was the first time in my life the word no came out of my mouth so quickly and so definitively. I patted myself on the back for that one small victory. A few weeks earlier I had been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, an extremely painful, nerve condition. I spent most of my time in bed, in the fetal position trying to figure out how I would have the energy, mental or emotional capacity to carry on with my job and my life. My family was far way, and I needed them. I could hardly manage my own life, much less take on another person in need. Instead of feeling cared for and nurtured, I was the caregiver to two very needy users.

They were nice to me to my face, but together they made my house look like a tornado hit it. They listened to music that was extremely rude toward women, and never helped with a thing. I fed their unending hunger, allowed them to do laundry, shower, and socialize at my place as if it were a flop house. Things were totally out of control within one week of these two reuniting. The son didn’t live with me but it sure felt like it! He was out of school and had no plans of returning—a high school dropout.

The factor that really kept me from kicking both of them out was this 15 year-old kid’s mother had kicked him out and given up on parenting him. All he had was his dad, who didn’t have the financial or mental capacity to deal with him. Emotionally speaking his dad was at the level of a 12 year old. He treated his son like a buddy, not offering any discipline. What would happen to him if I kicked his dad out? Where would they stay? What would they live on? His dad had given up on any sort of employment. He was flat broke. He’d be on drugs so fast and I didn’t want that to happen. Yet I hated myself and them for making me feel like the world’s biggest doormat. When I did suggest they clean up, etc. the change was short lived and things reverted back to chaos and drama. How to resolve this?

Before I gave them both the heave-ho, my compassionate side agonized with my rational side. I kept rolling this problem over and over in my head. How could I deal with this successfully, give this guy and his son the platform and foundation they needed for a better Continue reading

Where compassion is born

When I hear someone is having a hard time with life, miserable, or suffering through a painful experience, I also experience pain at the empathy level. I can almost feel it, viscerally, inside my body, emotionally, and mentally. How did this happen? How was I softened? I can tell you, when it was time to end a relationship that was over 18 years long, it was difficult. I held on to the bitter end. It was me being foolishly loyal to someone who did not have my best interest at heart. It felt like torture to be in this relationship every day. I seemed to do something wrong, not make my partner happy, and no matter how hard I tried, I was made to feel that everything was naturally my fault and I failed at every attempt to ‘fix’ things.

You might think my compassion was born of simply going through a divorce, but it was not. You might think that ending the marriage made me more compassionate, but it wasn’t that. You might think the pain I suffered through the marriage was where compassion was born, but it was not. What really opened me up was, when I considered all options, and I knew without a doubt I would be dead if I didn’t pull the cord on the marriage, that it would still break my partner’s heart in two. As mean and as cruel as he seemed to be, I knew that he really had no intent on truly hurting me. But the relationship was beyond fixing. I knew the day it broke apart, it would break his heart more than mine. That’s what opened me up from stem to stern all the way to my backbone….totally opened up, hurting, and in pain from knowing I would hurt the person I loved for so many years.

That ‘opening’ never completely healed, the wound never really fully closed. But that is a good thing. Suffering is an opening that gives you the gift of compassion on a human-being level. It is where compassion is born. On the most basic level there is, you are gutted. But it is through this wound that you are softened. It is a place from which Spirit is allowed to flow, and where you can give of yourself, to help others.

My hurt and pain seemed to be on the surface for so long after that opening. I hurt for others going through the same thing. It’s called empathy. I also love the study of the Buddhist philosophy and practice of Tonglen, Continue reading