Last week my sixth grader’s homeroom teacher asked the kids to submit a goal for the year – something they wanted to accomplish in school, that was specific, measurable, timebound. All good things. Will’s first stab was to “get all A’s.” A fine, admirable outcome, but an outcome nonetheless – something that he could either achieve or not achieve with no in between, that had all kinds of factors outside his control, and that he’d really only know if he did it at the very end.
We talked about setting a more one-day-at-time goal, something that he could control, something that he could make most days but miss a bit on and have that be okay. We landed on something like, “Turn in my assignments on time, nine days out of 10.” I think he still wants to get great grades, but at least with this we can have a bunch of good days, maybe have a bad day, and then reset. Not all the focus is on the outcome.
It’s been a theme for me this week, as I think about wanting to get to the other side of things – to the other side of my anxiety (which I’m pretty sure is a part of me that isn’t actually going anywhere). To the other side of this pandemic.
Maybe: there is no other side of the pandemic. I know, the vaccine will come. I’ll get to hug my mom again. We will feel safe in each other’s airspace again. My children will return to school. I think the pandemic is going to live in us for a while, though. I think fears about being around other people will linger and need to be healed. Self-doubt about whether I’m overreacting or under reacting will need to be soothed, for a while.
I will beat myself up for this, for holding onto the fear, for not getting over it right away. My anxiety and the lingering trauma of the pandemic will team up and throw me off balance. If my goals are to cure my anxiety and get through the pandemic.
Maybe: Instead of trying to remove something that is intrinsic to me and beating myself up for not checking this box, I should give myself permission to include the anxiety in the lovable whole of me. Maybe: this pandemic is shaping us. We’ll have to heal from the trauma, put our outer lives back together when it’s safe to do so, but we’re not standing still here. Kids are growing and lives are being shaped. Love is deepening and careers are progressing.
Maybe: there is no other side.
Maybe: There’s just today, and progress is measured by how much love we let flow through us today.
Just a Horny Celibate
Knowing ourselves as we really are is a kind of buffer against self-righteousness and thinking we are holy and better than other people. We begin to realize we are all on the same journey. We’ve all got the same stuff in different degrees and in different ways. It starts to look more and more ridiculous to say that I am better than so-and-so. You see, I cannot say that if I know who I am.
However, our ego is terribly tricky. Even when we can see and admit who we really are, the ego finds ways to get in there. For example, I’m not proud anymore. Then I take pride in now being proud. It’s like an onion. You take off one layer and not much has changed. You keep on going and it’ the same stuff all of the way through. When I realize, Oh, I’m not self-righteous, then I become self-righteous about not being self-righteous.
Ram Dass, the Harvard professor who turned to Eastern mysticism, really had it down. He said, “After all of these years of celibacy, all these years of spiritual practice, meditation and prayer, I look at myself and realize that I’m just a horny celibate.” It’s right on. What has changed? It seems kind of hopeless, doesn’t it? I realize that there is no possible way I can make myself holy. So for me to even try looks laughable, absurd, and ridiculous.
What’s left? All I can do is surrender – surrender to the deep Love that lives within me and all of you and our families too, our neighborhood, our world and our universe. Of course, this deep healing infinite Love is in everything. We trust that this Love will make us whole.
We can pray about this. So just sit back, relax and close your eyes, keep your back straight, breath slowly and deeply, slowly and deeply. Let the cares, the worries, the fears, the hates, the anger, the vengeance and the cruelty, the bitterness, despair and depression fall away.
We are surrounded by love, the love we name God. That love holds us, embraces us, cradles us, looks at us tenderly and with compassion. That love lives deep within our souls and bubbles up with powerful, healing energy.
Let us be aware of that deep infinite Love within us, for that is who we are. That is God within us, the utter spark of God. With this loving image of God, the brilliant diamond that is in us can never be taken away. It will always be there. Let us be open and believe that this is true and trust in it. We’ve all come from the hand of God, and what comes from God’s hand is good.
Let us be aware during the long and difficult journey. Help us surrender to that Love. I want to be in control. I want to be able to think that I can make myself holy, good, and that, even worse, I can make other people good.
Help me to see myself as I really am. I am beautiful and good with many faults, sins, mistakes, abuses and twistings. Help me to recognize how dysfunctional I really am. Help me to see that and know that these things do not make me bad. Help me to embrace them and give them to you so that they may be integrated.
When I look at my sisters and brothers, help me to see that they are the same as I am, though their paths and hurts and sins may be somewhat different. Let compassion grow within me for myself, my sisters and brothers.
Help me to surrender myself to you and to rest in you.
God bless you
From the homily “Getting There” by Father John Clay, in Surrounded by Love, © 2005