Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DIFFERENCES

OK … brace yourself! This is another of those Muse-abused mornings. (She can be so unrelenting!) Awakening all fresh and empty of either thought or concern, I was feeling GOOD! To which that devilish little inner whisper said “Here’s something to occupy that ‘blank slate!” And all through work, the trickle of thought grew to a torrent of words that required, yet another, fresh cartridge in the Waterman, and cup of coffee at the remote corner in Mickey D’s.

Here, I present a gut-wrenching (for me) personal insight. “So, why do you do it?” Your rational and completely natural question could be. And the answer to that, totally appropriate, question, would be … the very point of this message.

So. I would have you stop … and focus your customary page-skimming eyes … and allow your Self to absorb what is, arguably, the most crucial reality in our human interactions. We are different! Yes, You and I … You and many with whom you work, live, worship, play, and even sleep … are different. “No shock Sherlock! Of course we are different. Tell us something that we don’t already know.” you defensively reply. Yet, whilst you profess a knowledge of this fact, you will, in all probability, become frustrated with … bothered by … irritated with … and, in all likelihood, confused by, the words or actions of someone in your life today. They will simply fail to do something, or react to some stimuli, in a way that you deem “appropriate” or “right.” Their behavior just will not “make sense” to you.

You will notice that I excluded myself from that response. Though I sometimes waiver, my many years studying and applying the principles of differing temperaments and personality types, have made my acceptance of all sorts of behavior, a habit. It is now, for me, an automatic reflex to see the behavior of others through the prism of their innate “type.” I accept, even embrace the mechanisms that cause us to sense life in sometimes radically-different ways. And, as is my usual, I will give you a living, breathing, real-time example to illustrate and (hopefully) illuminate my critically important message for You (though I know neither your personal identity nor circumstance.)

Inasmuch as I am defined as one of the small minority of strange (some would deem ’weird’) folk having been “blessed” with my funky temperament type … (check the number of solitary Shaman, introverted Writer/Poet, isolated Medicine Man, types you know of) … I could no more sense life’s stimuli as You do (given the likelihood that you are “normal”), than I could grow gills and assume a life beneath the waves. Our differences are truly that great. And, inasmuch as we have all been mystified and enchanted by the plight of lovers depicted in the “Little Mermaid” and other similar tales, there is a legitimate sub-conscious reason for our fascination with this genre that plays out in a “Two Different Worlds” conflict … it is REAL.

Yes, indeed, we can … and often do … love Another who is of “another realm.” The primary demonstration of this reality, in my life, is the relationship between myself and my now-grown daughter. (I told you that this would be “gut-wrenching” for me!) She hates her Daddy! (If it made you cringe to read it ... imagine how it felt to write it.) But, that summarizes our deal to date. She and I are diametrically opposite in EVERY imaginable way. Where my natural, instinctive impulse is to “give it all away,” hers is to take all that she can get (a completely “normal” and acceptable survival instinct.) There is absolutely nothing inherently right … or wrong … with either of these inborn impulses. They are stamped into our individual psyches from conception (or at whatever stage of development such things are instilled.)

For her, life’s unyielding burden is to be a responsible and efficient Achiever. To garner all of the successes, accolades, honors, rewards, and material goods (that Life has blessed her with potentials for acquisition of) is her motivation. So you can see how she finds it impossible to understand my burden (and, yes, it can be and sometimes does become burdensome), in my making certain that the sun does not set on any property, resource, word, or inspiration, that I might have given to Another, that day. We both possess tremendous potential to be astronomically obnoxious in our compulsions. While my giving is endearing to its beneficiaries, it is perceived as an outrageous exercise in irresponsible extravagance to those who (like my daughter) see me giving what they KNOW, in the core of their very being, should rightly be theirs. My open and unrestrained generosity of spirit spurred my daughter’s “Well, Daaaaaaad, (parents know the inflection all to well) you have a beautiful family too.” in response to my excusing myself from our table; crossing the restaurant; and saying, to the man dining with his family, “Please forgive my intrusion, my friend (‘thank you’ Leo Buscaglia, for teaching me this magical device) but I could not help but be impressed and touched by this beautiful family that you are so blessed with. My compliments to you Sir.” Whereupon I quickly turned and returned to my own table.

This (very normal and usual [for me]) behavior was cause for the irritation to, and resulting remark from my daughter. In her eyes, I had just given some of my attention, and in fact some of my Self, to someone else. And her natural bent is to see that “giving away” as my dispensing something to which she expects sole claim. My response to her was, “I have no need to have the beauty of my family brought to my awareness. I noticed that family, and that gentleman who was displaying his indifference to and disregard for them. My Spirit spoke to me and encouraged me to encourage him. To awaken him to the wonder and beauty of those who were alone … in his presence.” With an unreceptive sigh accompanied by the ever-famous “rolling-of-the-eyes” (don’t we all just loooove that treatment!?), she replied, “Does everything have to mean something?!”

I then, in my insensitivity born of ignorance of the whole “temperament, personality type” thingy, and acting on my perceived imperative to teach and inspire my child (I can be so stupid! … and have I mentioned “obnoxious” … sometimes) I answered with, “Everything does, in fact, mean something Sweetheart (wasn’t that a nice touch?). And it is our choice to either see life’s meanings, or let them pass us by … unseen and unknown.” (I know … stop yelling at me … I can be a complete pain in the ass when I am on a roll in my natural personality/temperament mode of an Idealist/Romantic.)

Therefore, it came as no great shock, when she squared her shoulders and declared (at some point toward the end of her college years), “You are an embarrassment and a humiliation to me!” What was a shock (as I stood there in her Mom’s kitchen … just her and me) was the immediate thought processes that I responded with. First, the recognition of how humiliating it must be for her to meet her college classmates … particularly her sorority sisters … and have to come up with a response to “ … and what does your father do for a living?” What kind of a social-enhancement could she spin in explaining that her Dad had (as she has ’delicately’ put it) , “dropped out of life.” He had left the glossy towers of commerce, the thousand dollar suits, the seminars presented, meetings managed, personnel and clients dealt with … to deliver newspapers. Would the fact that he had made that choice ... to allow himself to be able to spend his daytime hours … teaching rudimentary reading and sequencing skills, motor-skills coaching, social-skills imparting in coffee shops and restaurants, physical training at the YMCA, for her older brother, who had no other resource for overcoming the challenges of his cerebral palsy … make it any easier to present herself with an upwardly-mobile image? The answer, of course, was “no.”

But the second of my inner reactions to her cutting proclamation was most amazing to me (and I was lost in wonderment even as she stared at me in her anticipation of a response.) I was proud! That’s right! I was proud and happy that I had created an atmosphere of safety and confidence that gave this young woman the inner-assurance necessary to make such a statement to my face. (If I had ever said anything even remotely like that to my Dad, I would be picking myself up somewhere in next week. For that’s how far he would have sent me.) “Wow! I am a good Dad! “ was how I felt. (The shattering despondency hit as I drove toward my little one-room cottage.)

I could go on and on with examples, illustrations, and demonstrations. But my point would drown in the stories. So I will stop all of that and summarize with this. My daughter reached a point in her disdain for my Personhood (with the encouragement of a second parent who delighted in the alienation of her affections), that has eliminated me from her life. No invitation to college graduation. No invitation to her wedding. Nothing! And, I have accepted her election with a distanced, yet respectful, peace. Much as one does with a death.

For, you see, I have learned (thanks be to all that is Holy!) that I am a part of an infinite and eternal Reality that supersedes all of these daily details. I answer to Life, my Creator, God, Allah, The Numinous … by whatever label or name … I answer to the eternal and without limitation. And I enjoy a daily celebration of my awareness that I am giving every bit of all that is Me to the betterment of all that is in need of whatever I have to offer. I live in a certainty that all that has happened … all happening … and all that is to come, is choreographed to render ultimate beauty and harmony. I like being part of that!

Including our amazing … and often vexing … DIFFERENCES.

14 comments:

Corrie said...

I admire your ability to keep perspective and live life so fully.

John-Michael said...

The days get served up ... one at a time. And I am thankful that I have learned to take them exactly that way.

I am grateful for your kindness.

Melissa said...

My sister has a very similar relationship with me and my parents. I wish there was a way that we could all just accept one another for our differences but unfortunately we are unable at this point.

While I respect her decision it still makes me sad, just as your daughters eliminating you from her life makes me sad...but then I'm a fixer, it's what I do.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!!

John-Michael said...

The biblical concept of the Almighty not forcing entry into our hearts ... entering only when our heart's door is opened ... by us ... gave me what I needed to clarify my understanding of the principle at play between myself and my daughter. She doesn't want me in ... I am certainly not going to force my way in ... can't! I have learned a healthy respect for the free will of others. This helps.

Classic Charm said...

Oh my...yes quite a thought provoking entry here, but I admire you for finding a place in your life that most of us will never find, or reach, or even realize is there. I'm sorry that your daughter can't accept you for who you are, probably the most important person in her life if only she knew it...
Rose

John-Michael said...

The really good news is ... Life rewards a willing heart. And I have been given the gift of two "adopted" daughters and one "adopted" son. All who had always yearned for a Dad. And I had room in my heart for them. So, I have a daughter in Italy, a son from Columbia (now here), and a daughter here. It's all very good!

Jules~ said...

John Michael...my heart breaks and is lifted up all at the same time while reading this post. Myself, having a dad who forgets he has a daughter, I want to grab your daughter and make her recognize the joy and beauty of the father/daughter relationship. And yet you are right in so many aspects. We are all different in how we react, live, and perceive life. That is part of what makes us unique creations. And we cannot ever force an opinion on someone. Being made with free wills makes that task inherently impossible.
It shows strength of character and security that you can look at it all the way you do...despite the hurt that invariably comes with it.
I love how you went to the man at the table to encourage his eyes to be opened to the joys around him. I find myself doing the same thing with frustrated parents of toddlers.

John-Michael said...

With gratitude for the sense of kinship in spirit that you bring, I thank you for your voice, and your insightful perspective.

NAMASTE

Lizzy in the Burbs said...

john-michael,

I was very touched by this post. My sister and I lost our father two years ago to lung cancer, and while it seems a long time ago in some respects, in others it seems like only just yesterday.

What I wouldn't give for one more day to hear his familiar voice, to receive his customary bear hug. I can't help but feel profoundly sad for your daughter. She is missing out on one of the most important relationships she'll ever have, and more importantly, the unconditional love of her dad.

My father and I did not always see eye to eye, our relationship was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. My parents went through a very bitter divorce when I was a teenager and I went to live with my mom. He took this as a personal afront. We went through periods when we would not speak for years at a time. I regret this now with all my heart. I cannot help but think that your daughter will feel the same way someday.

The good news is, you are still here, and so is she. While you cannot and will not force your views upon her, there is always hope that she will get to a place of, if not exceptance, tolerance. Don't give up on her just yet, she may surprise you.

Lizzy

John-Michael said...

I, somehow, feel that your father is pleased with what you have expressed to me. Beyond the limiting veil of earthly constraints, I am confident that he is proud of who you are.

I can tell you, for certain, that I am, as a father and as a fellow pilgrim on this life journey, honored to have your supportive and caring company.

NAMASTE

Am'n2deep said...

I love the awareness of what is in life and the ability you have found to see deeper. Yes, we are different, but in personality only. At the core of our Being that goes beyond personality we are really at one with each other and God. And yet it's a beautiful thing to find it within us to let go of our judgement of others and embrace them as is. That unconditional love is ultimately what heals all. Thank you for sharing your insight.

John-Michael said...

"Judgment" is the antithesis of acceptance. It is the insensitive and selfish cancer that flourishes only in an environment of a disregard and accompanying disrespect for the unique and individual personhood of others. Judgement can only flourish in an atmosphere of arrogance and ignorance spawned by those who persistently hold others to a disrespectful standard of artificially applied expectations.

I grew up in a fundamentalist, evangelical world where judgment and condemnation of others (and each other) was the order of the day. "Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty, I'm Free at last!"

I am so pleased that I live, and love in an atmosphere of recognition of and celebration of all that has been so beautifully and specifically created to be ... just as it is.

All of that energy that would have been consumed in "healing" (had any "healing" been necessitated by that demon, "judgment"), is available to me for enjoyment of all aspects of life. Such a delightful way to live!

Am'n2deep said...

Amen. Judgement is the insanity of humanity. So glad you are Free at last :)

John-Michael said...

Me too!

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