I scoured my photos for one that could show an unexpected place for peace, and find, not unexpectedly, that I photograph nature I love, people about whom I care, and especially flowers. All have the potential to provide peace. I wanted to write about finding peace within in unexpected ways. A photo of me was needed, but an ordinary one, not one where I exuded joy in my natural surroundings. In the one above, I show the smile usually put on for pictures, whether or not it represents my inner feelings. Also the background, undoubtedly nature, isn't obvious. I don't frown in photos, and don't have friends who catch me in a pensive mood and take a picture. In fact, most of my pictures of myself are taken by hiking friends/companions, on vacations, or are selfies. I am the family photographer, and my only family photos including me in many years are ones I've requested be taken with grandsons or are selfies with one of them.
The past couple of weeks have brought more turmoil, sadness and pain than I've experienced in months, perhaps since the excruciating experiences around my daughter's need to cast me out of her life or my move from "my mountains" back to Nashville. In the course of life, all but one was a small thing that took on larger proportions than necessary.
One came in my role as a group facilitator every fourth month. My "I must protect the integrity of the group" came out strongly and with people who didn't realize that was one of my hot buttons. After way too many e-mails, the issue resolved itself with the support of another leader and with the group. We didn't choose exactly what those who thought they knew best wanted but will get there another way.
The other upsets were personal, feeling bereft when left out as happens since I was away for so many years, and finally a situation where I experienced unexpected rudeness from another luncheon guest. When walking out of the restaurant, a comment from the hostess expressing finality, said in a light tone that was perhaps intended to soften the barb, dug deep, as endings of old relationships can.
Yesterday I awakened with that feeling that someone had died, deep sadness and body pain that didn't dissipate all day. As I got ready to visit my prisoner friend on death row, I thought "I'll have someone to listen carefully to my pain. That will make it worth driving in that intense 5:30 traffic in the dark."
An hour after I left--the various obstacles that delay getting into the actual visiting area for prisoners can be the topic of another blog--I was granted access to Unit 2, death row. There my inmate didn't come. I waited. The guard went back to check on him three times, unusual, but this guard is a compassionate man, unusual in that institution. My friend still did not come. Another prisoner, visiting with his friend, told me that my prisoner was upset that his dinner was about two hours late, agitated, he said. After a fifteen minute wait, he arrived, still clearly upset. In addition to a very late dinner, he had an incident with another inmate, one who issued platitudes that my friend hated and finally let the other know rather forcefully in words.
I listened, making suggestions only when his rhetoric went over the top, and then simple ones--take a deep breath, perhaps that's extreme, and finally, noting that because his temper is known, he's setting himself up as a target for those who wish to interrupt his peace. And what I found, was that during that hour and fifteen minute visit, my pain and angst was gone. I drove home in total peace, albeit in the middle of traffic coming from all sides.
At home, I received a text from a friend who recently lost her mother, and texted back and forth with her other over the next half hour or so, again feeling complete peace. The pain and angst didn't return at bedtime. This morning there is a bit of residual of the "there was a death" feeling, but most has evaporated. I'm aware that when the next former family member comes to town, and I'm not invited, some of those feelings may return, but the lesson seems clear.
Being with others in their pain has long been one of my gifts, in the past sometimes given away indiscriminately. Today I am reminded of the gift, but as with my leadership gifts which must be put on a shelf, I see no place in which to use it. Perhaps it's only to be used as an occasion arises since I can hardly hang out a shingle that says "compassionate listening provided" for a small fee.
Today, I'm a writer. That's what I can claim as I have the ability to do that without anointing from others. In most areas where I look, people are holding tightly to their roles, letting few others in. I am blessed that our Cathedral Dean was willing, and that there was a need, to let three newcomers, one being me, into the fold of Sunday Eucharistic Ministers.
Today is a day of activity--Tai Chi, Pilates, tutoring, errands, and hopefully an hour for a walk. I approach it in peace. Thanks be to God.