Last month, marked three years since my dad passed. In my meditations of him I came across a memory. Our family’s version of a holiday story; about a time when he poked me, I hit him and we both learned an important lesson about the world we lived in.
I recalled writing about it years before and with a little searching, found it.
“When I was 11 or so my dad and I were doing some Christmas shopping. We were walking and talking while put my hair up in a ponytail. As a joke, he poked me in the ribs and made me jump (one of my least favorite things.) I in turn, spun on him and slugged him HARD in the upper arm.
A childhood of mountain-girl-games and running with the boys meant that I could hit quite hard. Even though I pulled the punch at the last second, his arm hurt the whole way home and he let me know it the entire way.
I told him I was “sorry” but that it was a “reflex” to hit those that poke me (by that time none of my peers would have perpetrated any similar act for fear of reprisal.) He replied that “a reflex is a reaction that you do not control and even though it had become a habit in my life I DID have control over it.”
I made the choice; albeit a quick one, to hit him. His actions did not MAKE me do it. I choose to.
This was a defining point in my life. I realized that so much of our habits and practices masquerade as reflex or unavoidable reaction and they are neither.
We always have the choice; whether we exercise it or not is a different topic. I had to really examine what motivated even the smallest of my actions.
Our relationships with others are both controllable and uncontrollable. We can control who we spend our time with (for the most part) how much they influence us, but we can not control THEIR reactions to us, or life.
Absolute concepts are debilitating to all involved. As a friend of mine is fond of saying “no one ever, always or nevers.”
Hyperbole rob us of reasonable expectations and compassion for those we share our days with. My Mother has told me countless times, that you can never give up on a person’s ability to change. Doing so limits not only ourselves but who others may become in our eyes.
There is much to be said about tough love, holding to resolutions and keeping promises. These things are very necessary but they are not the only skills we should cultivate. All the “I told you so” and “you promised” don’t change what has happened and only make future change seem unachievable or futile, since the conclusion seems to have been drawn and professed already.
This does not mean that we should be walked all over or not have any bottom lines; only that we must error on the side of love and compassion or any relationship will cease to be made of such things.
In the worst cases we are left with a mountain of resent and feelings of inadequacy since “I was not enough to make them…” When in reality it has nothing to do with you.
Peoples’ choices are their own. You can try to provide motivation for them to act differently but you cannot force meaningful long term change upon another.
While we can hope to be considered in the choices of others to enforce such a rhetoric will only drive people further from you, cut you off to them as a resource and in general hurt all those involved.
Anytime you present the reality of a moment to yourself or others as permanent and not an impermanent ever changing thing; we stagnate and fall further from the truth.
The only truth I have been able to find consistency in, is love.
Not romantic love, or movie love. Not fairy tale love when Mr. Charming and I live happily ever after.
There is no happily ever after there is only the present.
If you are not willing to go with life and love those who share your space then you cannot pass into the future. You are stuck in a moment that implies a future and then simultaneously negates the constant change that the future will bring. It implies a stopping place like isolating a drop of water in an ocean and saying “there, and only there, is the sea.”
I think it is an example of humanity’s ceaseless the urge to have things “figured out.” Stretching moments into eternities, believing absolutes and making excuses for our own misbehaviors. “What did they expect me to do?!” “They left me no choice…”
We all have a choice every minute of everyday.
Every second of your actions is under your control- if you are willing to separate your reactions from your influences and really think before you say or do anything.
Almost any historically significant action, was at the time a break from the norm. In fact, that is its defining future, if it were not then it would not have been historically noteworthy.
Every great revolution, world leader, Noble Peace Prize winner, has embodied this concept of thought before action. It is a willful exercise to stand against what has been presented as inevitable and permeate, to “become the change we want to see in the wold”-MG
We must all resolve to stand (alone if necessary) and shout that we can leave this world different than we found it. We do not have to accept what we have been told to do, we can act for ourselves and make the world a more loving place. A place were all future children can encounter more support and kindness than strife and struggle.
All of these grandiose ideas start and end in the individual actions and people who are brave enough to objectively examine themselves and ask “am I doing all that I can to make my world a more loving place?” We must have the courage to answer ourselves honestly and only then, act.
Just like my negative ‘reflex’ to my father’s poke. We can train ourselves to react with love and kindness without second thought no matter the situation. This is the only semblance of control we can exert over life. We should do so not with the intent to control it but in an effort to control ourselves and leave those around us better for it.
We must do what is right, for no other reason then that is it kind to do so. Hold ourselves to a higher standard and accept that the only things we truly control, live and die within ourselves. We can leave behind the memory that while you could; you tried every time no matter what to be kind, do good and love those around you.
Even when life is poking you in the ribs.”
That day I learned the definition of discipline. My dad learned it is better not to poke me in the ribs.
All that really meant was he had to find alternative ways to screw with me. Don’t worry, he managed.
Be well and Happy Solstice!