I’m supposed to be in a period of self-imposed social media silence during which I meant to blast through a few thousand words a day of writing on my current projects, on both of which I feel I’ve fallen behind. I had good intentions. Then, life happened. Today raced away as I was busy being with other people, people I love deeply, doing things that needed to be done, after which, dinner had to be made, after which . . . well, long story short (cliché – edit later) I only wrote about five-hundred words today.
During the course of the doing of the things that had to be done, I ended up kneeling on the floor of the grocery store to reach some things on a bottom shelf. I had trouble getting up.
I’m not twenty any more. I work out. I eat reasonably well. I’m not unhealthy. But, my body is aging. Bodies do. There is a limit to the number of times one will, in a life, kneel comfortably on the ground and hop right back up before it becomes an effort. Which, I think, always comes as a surprise. The loss of resiliency, the way that bouncing back becomes increasingly difficult, these are not things for which one can prepare.
I was having a discussion with a dear friend, a dear friend who’s had some difficult episodes of being on bended knee of late, episodes not unlike those I’ve experienced. The result of these common experiences has been, for both of us, the loss of some people in our lives we thought we could trust, and with that loss, a change in what those people thought, felt, and said about us. These losses and changes have caused us both to have moments of existential doubt and eviscerating personal examination consisting of the question, “Am I really a bad person?”
I’ve struggled and struggled with that question. I have cried. I have considered self-harm. I have wished for death. I have lost my faith in greater powers. I have changed. But finally, one week when…… I was de-friended by one more person and when a story was relayed to me of what one of those former dear ones had said about me, and when my actions – completely innocent – in a group of people were interpreted as deliberate unkindness by someone whose love I thought I could trust, I hit bottom.
And bottom was good. Because once there I said to myself; “Charlie, worst case. Let’s say everything everyone has said or thought or spun or imagined is true on its face. Let’s say what you did or didn’t do caused lots of pain and anguish and you were wrong. Even so- you were there. You know that you never, ever tried to or planned to or wanted to cause hurt, pain, or anguish. You know you were never motivated by ‘evil’ or a desire to damage others. You know that you have operated your entire life from Love. So, how can you then be a bad person?”
And I could breathe a bit better. And then I realized further, this. I believed the same to be true even of those whose actions had caused me the most pain. I believed – at the core of me – that whatever they did, they did from a place of Love; that sometimes a place of Love is about protecting your own heart. That sometimes when the reality of another person’s feelings is far removed from the story you wanted to live, you needed to live, that the truth of who both of you are is lost in the differing stories you tell – to yourself, to them, to others; and not just (not even) the stories you tell in words, but the stories of your actions.
Confession: I know I’ve hurt people. Truth: It wasn’t cruel or intentional.
Look, no one gets through this life without having – somewhere, sometime, somehow – caused another person pain. And no one gets through this life without feeling pain they think another person caused them. And the secret is, when you’re in that pain, when it happens enough times, when you are down there, on your knees, surprised at how much harder it has become to stand again, it doesn’t help to look to blame – yourself or others.
Pain is a part of life, like aging. It happens. And there will be people in your life who will see you as a person who is “bad” or who is “wrong” or who is “cruel” – and it isn’t worth your time or your energy to try to convince them otherwise. The only person who needs to know you are not those things, the only person who needs to understand you operate from love and do the best you can – is you.
I’ve been kneeling for a couple of years now, because I had to – in the course of doing things that had to be done – reach for something I needed, and it forced me to my knees; and holy mother, yes, I have been surprised by how difficult it has been to get back to a standing position. But, I think, I am rising again. And it starts by letting go of the voices of the judges, all of whom have their own agendas and stories to tell and things for which they are reaching.
And that’s not your business. Your business, my dear, is to get back up as many times as you can.