And from the 17 syllables of haiku I have spent the last month writing each day as a practice to heighten my connection to what I wish to express, to a lengthy contemplation on the idea of resolve.
Rather than make “resolutions,” I ask myself, “At this point in my life, where is my resolve? What strengthens my resolve? To what am I resolute?
The climate in today’s world confronts me with the presence of anger all around and within me. So I’ll start there.
What makes me feel anger? I am a very happy person, feel full of blessings even in the midst of the carnage and vitriol. today. I still feel anger, but it no longer feels virtuous as it did when I was raised and educated and employed in climates where fighting and arguments were the nature of the game. I easily walk away from settings where fomenting a dynamic rooted in anger and desire to control other people is at work. I have absolutely no desire to “win.” And with that, I feel I have learned to celebrate the good every single day…even when awful things are happening. I don’t celebrate defeat but will work with all my spirit and soul and body and mind to bring into being just and fair, ethical and true practices that work to prevent and eliminate cruelty and suffering in this world. That to me is sound living–not a game to “win.”
I have no desire to hate you, or fight you, and I take no pleasure at your misfortune. But do not mistake my mindful awareness of these things with my willingness to let injustice reign. I have learned I do not need to raise my voice, and only say difficult things, or repeat them, to be accused of yelling and fighting. We are a bizarre society that claims to hate fighting but champions it. I speak when I have something to say, and I will say what I have to say, not what has been put in my mouth or culture or gender or profession or training, to say. If I want to be scripted, I perform or act or play; I write and engage in banter for insight–but I won’t script what I really have to say…and find it much more enjoyable. It might make my creative projects much more tedious and eternal, waiting for the words to fit the inspiration, but if it’s my expression, I’ve learned I can’t feign, I can’t pretend, I can’t perform rage or anger that is habitual or rote or a caricature of who I might be thought to be.
My emotions are no more virtuous or pure than anyone else’s. I feel disgust and repulsion and impulses from hell on a regular basis in today’s environment. I am learning that these emotions are not me, but signs of how I have been raised and socialized. I can choose to let them be my master and to govern my speech and actions, or I can use them as “data,” or evidence of what I am facing both inside and outside my “self.” Similarly, others’ emotions are not my master, either, unless I allow them to be. I can choose to whom I will respond, and what will move me to act and sacrifice my time, effort, and resources.
These are my reflections as I spend this beautiful chilly evening considering how emotions are like little psychological strings that have been tied by experience and culture, to pull me this way or that, responding habitually, and using the affective nature of emotion to convince me that somehow I am compelled to respond in certain ways. My emotions and affect are not my master. I repeat this because for many years they have been. And in particular, I allowed the emotional responses of others to greatly determine my choices, sacrificing many options without even realizing I was doing it–that’s how well socialized I was.
What is it that I have held sacred? What have I claimed is most important to me? What answers have I given to these questions without even thinking of what it is to be sacred, or how I would know if it were important to me? Do I have the strength to withstand the emotional responses that changing my answers to those questions will cause? Can I be the master of my emotions, fully feeling them, but not bowing to them as evidence of some truth unless I can calmly articulate it with no sense of silencing my spirit?
As this year ends, I release the relationships, roles, and traditions of behavior that have ruled me since my childhood. This is many years coming, not sudden. But it is time. And I am ever so grateful for my practice, my prayer, my dearest friends and loved ones, whose steady presence in my life will be my steady flame on which to focus my gaze as all hell breaks loose as it might well–as it so often does, when one dares to cut those strings. You see, they were tied to something, and often, it’s not just about us. May I have the wisdom and compassion to mind my words and actions, aware of this fact.
Blessings, everyone. Be of good heart, and may your resolve be clear and life-giving as we end this year.
Phoenix, AZ, December 24, 2017