Okay, God, Universe, Higher Power... whatever... I get it. I’m not supposed to attend my soul-numbing, beat your head against the wall, hope against all hope work today. Instead I will write this sermon. Carol is in her office. There are two closed doors between us. She is in her own universe of work on a computer, wrestling with an internet weblog design program. She is absent when I interrupt her. Like a petulant child, she squints at her screen, so intent on the puzzle of the moment she can barely get out an obligatory, but loving “um hum” when I park on the threshold to her office. It is wonderful to be married to another geek. We understand each other.
The time is 1:38 PM on Tuesday afternoon 5/26/09. It is just starting to get warm in my office. The window is open. Soon I’ll close the blinds and turn on the 25-year old fan that doesn’t rotate. I have it blasting, just so tangentially, across the back of my neck – that being more tolerable than a full on your face blast. Still, there is every once in a while a slight hint of breeze that makes its way through the open blinds.
I just finished playing a shoot-em-up computer game called “Chooper” that I am addicted to. I use it for stress relief between the many Herculean, impossible things I do in a day. As you rescue people from on top of buildings, machine gun, rocket, and bomb your way through enemy determined to knock you out of the sky there is the sound of birds chirping in the background. I know, it’s strange, but that’s what the game designers chose for most of the scenarios. Today I realized the chirping sounds of the game match perfectly with the birds outside my window. The game is put away now, but the sounds of birds, squirrels, and the rustle of leaves in the wind lingers. I was just interrupted by the mailman, who came to the door with six letters of notice in one certified envelope from our mortgage company.
Otherwise, I am waiting for news to arrive by electronic atomies. I refer, of course, to the famous comic speech by Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, who describes Queen Mab as a miniature creature who drives her chariot across the faces of sleeping people and compels them to experience dreams of wish-fulfillment. She would also bring the plague in some occasions.
“O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep...”
And so I wait for what will most likely be a rejection by three wealthy men I have asked several times to help us out with a no-risk, temporary loan so we can show money in our corporate bank account. That, in turn, will allow us to go forward with a firm that might provide my company with the funds we need. Has Queen Mab touched me with her chariot? Am I dreaming, wishing, or hoping for something in vain?
It is quiet, except for the hum of hard drives whirring and the happy chatter of birds outside. It is 2:13 PM. Carol just came in to tell me a potential client has just become a real client. Yeah. That is great news. It won’t satisfy our mortgage company, but it is good for our cats who expect, and deserve, to be fed every day. I’ll have to turn the fan on soon.
Today we all heard news that Proposition 8 was upheld by the California Supreme Court. I posted a comment about it on my Facebook page. That is linked to my email program, which I have set to prompt me every time someone comments about my comment. It is a little annoying that the atomies are rampant. Reports of disappointment about Prop 8 are flying across my screen. Yet, I wait, like a gambler, for what could be a bigger disappointment for me today... that like one potential investor, the other two will respond by saying “thanks, but no thanks” to our proposed deal.
I said earlier, “I’m not supposed to attend my soul-numbing, beat your head against the wall, hope against all hope work today.” That’s kind of an inside joke. It doesn’t mean my work isn’t extremely frustrating these days. That work consists exclusively of trying to find a job for “verifiable income” to satisfy the mortgage company and looking for funding for my company. The fact is, I’m not only the busiest non-paid person you will ever meet, but I am also, perhaps, the most stubbornly optimistic person you know. It’s time to turn on the neck blaster. I’ll take a break and come back to the “optimistic person” part. I’m going up to make some decaf espresso. God knows,.. I don’t need caffeinated coffee.
Back now. It’s 3:05 PM. Here’s the thing. Sixteen years ago, my first wife left, I was living in a house about to be foreclosed, practically the only people I talked to were creditors calling me on the phone, I spent a lot of time crying in an empty room in my house that was planned to be the baby’s room, and I needed to hock my wedding ring to feed my cat... well, you get the picture. I was in a world of pain. Anyway, in the midst of that experience I learned what I now call my ten rules, which I posted on cards all around my desk. This is rule #1: “People will do what they want to do, whether you want them to or not.” Rule # 2: “Things will happen the way they will, whether you want them to or not.” Rule #3: “Do what you can with what you’ve got, when you’ve got it.” The other rules have been lost over time. But the first three — they are most important, and they are what I live by.
Disappointment, pain, resentment, frustration, are all natural feelings. We rail against the universe because we want things to be the way we feel they should be. We want people to behave the way we want them to. We want more, but expect less. Most times, we find ourselves in this posture of expectation before we are even aware that the pain we feel comes from that expectation. In fact, I believe many of us live entire lives, but never fully understand that fact. I now consider myself lucky to have learned my ten rules when I did. If I had not come to wrestle, full-time, with the loss of everything I expected my life to include when I was all of 33 years old, I think it would have taken me much longer to gain the insight that now informs and comforts me.
Jan Denise writes a weekly newspaper column called “Naked Relationships”, which is represented nationally by Creators Syndicate. Her book, called “Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth that You’re Not”, identifies the ultimate fear of not being "good enough" as what triggers empty pursuit, escape, and addiction, as well as all negative emotion, and then invalidates the fear with the truth of innate goodness, or the love within. She wrote:
“Anytime I am looking to somebody else as my source, I'm coming from scarcity. I am no longer trusting God, or the Universe, for my harvest. It's reasonable for me to have expectations based on what somebody I trust has committed to. And it's natural for me to feel disappointed when that somebody doesn't come through. But when I feel more than disappointment, when I also feel anger, it's because I deviated from my truth. It's because I compromised my truth to get what somebody else promised. Because when I'm really following my truth, I will be at peace with the consequences — whatever they are. I can accept somebody else's truth, but I must live my own truth. And sometimes that means walking away from a relationship.”
Being in relationship, whether with ourselves, or an aspect of ourselves (such as with another person), is sometimes difficult. The relationships don’t always work the way we expect them to. Facing the truth that you don’t really control anything, or anyone is a lesson that needs constant repetition. Even people who really understand this can sometimes forget, and they experience pain, just like the rest of us. The only thing you can control is your attitude towards what happens to, and around, you.
This is not just a good way to understand pain and disappointment. It is actually clinically proven that a positive attitude can affect your health. It used to be thought that the mind and the immune system existed independently of each other. But research now shows that they may act as a single unit. Feeling stressed, for example, can make you more susceptible to whatever virus is going around. On the other hand, when you feel joyous and lighthearted, your immune system has a better chance of protecting you from it.
In a study conducted at the University of Chicago, on the effect of attitude on health, 200 telecommunication executives were observed as their companies were downsized. The health of the executives who saw change as an opportunity for growth fared much better than those who saw it as a threat. Fewer than a third of the executives who had a positive attitude contracted a serious illness during or soon after the downsizing. But executives who saw downsizing as a personal threat had more than a 90 percent likelihood of becoming severely ill.
We all know that life works in cycles. Things get worse, then they improve. Things go great for a time, then they get worse. Da! It’s really just that simple. Why is it that we all know this, but then act surprised when it happens? I learned Rule #1 (“People will do what they want to do, whether you want them to or not”) on a molecular level because my first wife gifted me with that. The pain I felt after she left was so severe, I couldn’t breathe sometimes. For a time, every waking moment provided me with the opportunity of understanding that I could choose to live with that pain or I could let it go. The funny thing was, I was the only one in pain. At least, I was the one in the most pain. She, on the other hand, was liberated. I was left to hang on the cross of a relationship that didn’t exist, but I kept myself there. And I nailed myself to that cross with the nails of desire, and expectation, unfairness, and even self-pity. After a while, the startling realization came that I was the person doing the hammering. She wasn’t. She didn’t care. Bless her little heart... it was free and I wasn’t! Oh, I remember one of the other rules: “Things are always much worse than you think they are, you just don’t know it.”]
The point is,.. I had to get off the cross. First I had to stop hammering my own nails. Then I had to forgive my first wife. Then I had to forgive myself. After that, things were much easier for me. I started populating the empty room that was going to be our nursery with my own furniture. I didn’t need to cry in there any more. I started joking with the creditors who called that I’d gladly work at their company since they were so concerned about me paying them back. They never took me up on my offer.
Look, I still had to get food stamps. I was still living in a foreclosed house without any idea of where I would go next. I still couldn’t find a job for anything. My clients all dried up, the economy was terrible, and I was too familiar with my friend Jim Beam. But, I learned not to take anything personally, or to believe I am in control of anything. I do what I can do with what I got, when I got it (Rule #3). And I work in the way that I feel led to at any given moment.
And that is why, at 5:13PM, I am not plussed that the two remaining wealthy men, who could really make a huge difference in me and Carol’s lives by parking money in my company’s account – have not yet responded. At 5:30 PM, Carol and I will join others to protest the Court’s upholding of Prop 8. So, right now Prop 8 is upheld. Ultimately, I firmly believe prohibitions against same-sex marriage will be found unconstitutional. Things are bad, then they’ll improve.
Queen Mab honestly doesn’t visit me very often. I imagine you could say I indulge in wishful thinking. Some might believe the quest to fund my company in this economy is a Don Quixote-like exercise. I become discouraged on occasion... sometimes, even have bouts of doubt, and fear, and anger... but they pass.
That is because: first of all, I am married to an amazing, supportive, wonderful woman, and second – I’ve been here before. I know everything is down now, but it will turn up. That is a law of the universe. My optimism about life in general is not forced, or contrived, or derived from a fear of the alternative. It might, actually be genetic. I don’t know, but I am happy for it.
Okay, God, Universe, Higher Power... whatever... I get it. Whatever it is... bring it on. I’ll kick its butt too!
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!