A friend’s practice inspires a change of heart

My theatre partner and I saw a completely forgettable show last week, but a story she shared with me over dinner is a keeper:  her words of practice inspired a change of heart. 

We have had a rainy year. The water table in Baltimore has been rising. And recently the temperatures have been frigid – a time of year when “black ice” on the road and underfoot invites skids and falls.  As water poured into the road from a property across the street from her house, Marilyn had a growing concern about how to resolve this, considering what persuasive or even legal means might be at hers and others’ disposal. A longtime Quaker, she told me how she had woken from sleep the day before with this dilemma on her mind, with these words from her contemplative practice: “Let’s see what love can do.” Moving into the day and into action, she talked with some of her neighbors and then her city councilman’s office. By the end of the day salt boxes from the city were delivered and in place.

While the problem is not completely solved, the energy around the issue has shifted to a completely different mode.

We marveled together.

 


You can meet multiskilled Integrative Psychotherapist Marilyn Clark here.


 

Marilyn’s story and words have been working me:  “Let’s see what love can do.”

They shift my rhythm, and hence the way I move with life. Because one of the peculiarities of my functioning has been a split between my cognitive and emotional functions, and they move at different speeds. I have worked with the symptoms of this for years: feeling isolated, unmet, misunderstood. Isolating others, failing to meet or understand them.

It is only recently that I have actually been able to name this behavioral, and physiological, split. For years I have been mystified and troubled by my ability to speak eloquently and passionately on behalf of social causes, moral and ethical positions, justice in the world, awakening and healing – while remaining unable to advocate for myself one on one when my own deep-felt needs are at stake. I can be coolly rational OR express (mostly dissolve into) an emotional state, a deep ravine between the two. I’ve focused my personal healing work on this dilemma the last number months: my dark light.

If you grew up in an emotional desert, and learned to keep your feelings to yourself, or even secret from yourself, you may be familiar with this pattern. This is a great set-up for regularly failing to ask for what is needed and receive it – or not. And for indirect means to get unarticulated needs met: a recipe for one disappointment after another.

Then there is the lag time – ask me what I am thinking or feeling after my words do not have the effect I intend or following a heated exchange: I don’t know. I need to go away and settle down. Sometimes five minutes is enough. Sometimes I need twenty-four hours. Or a number of days.

 

I used to think that when I pulled away, I was cowardly. Or stubborn: if I can’t get my way here, I am not willing to negotiate or compromise. Or small-minded: I just won’t/can’t agree to disagree. Sometimes it feels like I am stepping on the accelerator and the brakes at the same time. And yes, I can give myself whiplash. While I have no doubt that I can lack both courage and willingness to negotiate, as I consider “what love can do,” I can allow for and work with my own disordered rhythms.

“Let’s see what love can do” brings vividness to my dilemma, throws a suspension bridge over the ravine, and offers me solace. The words reorient my system. They presence what creative business coach Jeffrey Davis calls “qualitative slowness.”  They transform the self-judgment into a nod of the head: oh, right, I am human. Again. Still. The words lessen my urgency to retreat, and instead bring forward a wiser part of myself who has just been hanging back.

 

“Let’s see what love can do” brings about in me a change of heart. And that is what I am here for.

 

Practice:

Start where you are, as you are. Perhaps while reading, your thoughts went to a particular relationship or situation, or a rush of feelings came up. Hold the dilemma lightly, as if it were a small bird in the palm of your hand. Wonder at it. Take in its shape and its effects on you. Let the details be very vivid. Then just say to yourself, and to the dilemma – “Let’s see what love can do” – and notice what shifts in your body, your feeling state, your perception.

Please share in the comments. Your story may ease some difficulty for another reader, as Marilyn’s did for me, and bring about a change of heart.

 

 

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