Gran's Apple Butter Blog

December 13, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Home Stretch (7XI)

Chapter 7 – Home Stretch

So, where were we? Oh yes, coming into the home stretch. At this point we tend to punch the gas a wee bit, eager to pull in and put ‘er in park.

But there’s one home stretch we tend to dawdle on. Our final trip to that Big Rocking Chair in the Sky sparks mixed emotions, ‘cause this going home means saying “see ya later” to all the homes we’ve had here – the ones we shared with friends and family, the ones that held our hopes and dreams. No matter how much we want to go, it can be hard to say goodbye.

This can be hard on everyone involved – not just the one who’s leaving, who at least has a new adventure to look forward to. For the ones left behind, it can feel hard ‘cause they’re still in the old adventure, and one of their favorite players just left the team. Sometimes that makes it hard to keep going, to finish the race.

It can be hard ‘cause this represents change. Gran said she’d never gotten very good at enjoying that. The thing with change – we don’t know what that means. And we’ve been socialized – oh boy, have we: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But is that true? I gotta say, in my life, sometimes what I found around that corner was a whole lot better.

We fight this change so hard we hold on much longer than is good for us. Sometimes because we don’t want to go for ourselves, sometimes because we don’t want to go for the ones we’ll leave behind. We know they’ll be sad and probably have to deal with some darkness until they figure out how to move on with their lives. We want them to move on ‘cause we love them – we may even tell them that. But we also know that most likely they’re going to forget this for a while. Sometimes a long while. And Gran said that was ok. It’s only human.

So we’ll hang around, dragging things out when we know it’s better to rip that bandage off all at once. Sure, it hurts like crazy. But Gran said at least then somehow the pain can seem a bit more bearable. She didn’t say how though. She didn’t always answer my questions, just like she didn’t always answer anybody’s questions. And for the same reason – she knew I’d have to figure out this one on my own.

This can feel especially hard when the person saying goodbye is young. When this happened, Gran would remind me of the saying about good people dying young. She suspected that might not be too far off, ‘cause when we’ve done our work the best we can, we’ll want to go home and take a rest – all this learning wears us out. So when someone makes this trip earlier than we’d like, Gran figured that meant this was just a fast learner – ready to move on, lessons complete. That didn’t make the goodbye much easier, but somehow the idea felt soothing, like a sip of peppermint tea on a hot summer day.

Sometimes we fear this journey so much we get stuck along the way. Halfway home, we can go no further, ‘cause that extension cord we’re hanging on to isn’t long enough. Or maybe someone roped the trailer hitch as we flew past, and there we are, dangling between here and there, lost in the darkness. There’s only one thing to do then, Gran said, and that is to lovingly and gently let go of anything we’re holding on to here, and to do what we can to help those left behind unhitch their end of that rope as well. They may not even be aware they’re holding on, but we’ll know it.

This applies to deaths of other things too – like the end of a relationship or a job, anything that means a lot to us. We go through this process consciously when we give up one thing to make space for another. Sometimes we know we’re doing this. Other times, Gran said, all we know is that something is going away, something has been lost, and we’re just hanging on for dear life.  

That’s when we have to be patient with ourselves and keep plugging away, following our path, even when it leads away from roads that have been a big part of our lives for a long time. Gran said it was very important to ask for guidance in these moments, to pray that highest good be served, and then to listen and watch for the stars that will lead you home. That’s when you learn to see in the dark, when you close your eyes and hold out your hand, trusting that Someone is there to take it, and then, follow your heart.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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October 25, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Checkers (7/VI)

Chapter 7 – Checkers

Frequently our journeys involve an overnight stop or two. Maybe a tire blows out and has to be special ordered from Wesleyville. Maybe we run out of resources and have to rustle some up before we move on. Gran said this was all part of the trip, although she suggested we avoid hotel-motels with extra large ice chests and lonely male clerks. She never explained that one.

She did explain that our homes-along-the-road reflect who and where we are, just like our starting points and the home we’re headed for. This is easier to see when we’re out and about, ‘cause it’s hard to whitewash walls when you’re on the move, in which case we tend to either ignore the grime or focus on it a little too much. During times of transition, Gran said, people’s homes often reflect a similar split.

This happens because we don’t feel at home when we’re in between. The house or hotel or roadside park we land in reflects this with a general state of disrepair. The place itself is on edge, like the people living in it. Others may create a perfect bubble, with all the right elements in all the right places, clean and quiet, a living, breathing museum. And that may be all it is: An empty bubble, a shell of a home.

Our houses reflect more than we probably want them to. Gran said she’d seen this after bridges had been burned beyond repair and the end result was the big D word – Divorce. Divorce feels just like death, Gran knew, and it can leave us in emotional shambles.  

We may feel like life cheated us, robbed us of a dream. We may feel hurt, guilty, bewildered, furious, sad. We may feel like we didn’t get to say a real goodbye. Maybe we feel things might have turned out differently if we’d had a chance for one last do-over, or if our playing partner would have tried just a little harder, cared just a little more. We may feel angry that this person didn’t want a do-over. We may feel all these things at once, or we may just feel numb. We may even suspect that we may have had more to do with this than we’d like to admit – and we may not be ready to examine this possibility any more closely just yet. Working and learning through those emotions takes time, Gran said, and it takes courage. After all, it’s easier to hold on than it is to let go.

The thing is, whether we were living in a bubble or a grease-pit, it’s hard to wake up someone who’s pretending to be asleep, and it’s hard to notice signs that our egos are determined to ignore. The fairytale ends abruptly and everyone feels cheated, just like when someone gets frustrated while losing at checkers and “accidentally” knocks over the board.

Life can feel pretty crazy as we’re trying to pick up all the pieces while keeping one hand on the wheel and an eye on the road. There’s also the big job of figuring out where our new path leads, ‘cause changes this big tend to have quite an effect on our trajectory.

About that game board: Gran said it really doesn’t serve us to play holier-than-thou, to pretend it was an accident, or to play the victim. Nor does it serve us to pretend we didn’t see the frustration building in our checker-playing partner. These situations can help us realize how desperately we’ve been blocking out things we didn’t want to see, and can help us take a good look at our plays-well-with-others skill set.

If you can’t play nicely, Gran said, you shouldn’t play at all. But then, we already knew that, didn’t we?

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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October 20, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Bridges (7/V)

Chapter 7 – Bridges

One thing about traveling: You cross a lot of bridges. But what about when you need a bridge and there isn’t one to be found? Maybe it’s been washed away, or maybe it never existed in the first place.

Then, Gran said, you become a master bridge builder. It’s not impossible, but it takes real effort, and drumming up the will to make that effort can be the hardest part.

Sometimes it’s better to look for a different place to cross. There may be another road, another bridge, another gatekeeper. Let’s face it, bridge construction is hard work and takes a lot of energy, so we want to be wise about when and where and how we undertake this. These projects cost an arm and a leg, and not just in terms of ego-stretching and letting-go. Sometimes there’s a price we’re not ready, or even able, to pay. Or maybe we’re not in the position to build that bridge, but Joe down the street is. If we can connect with him, the road will still go through.

We also cross bridges leaving places. The lesson here, Gran said, is learning to cross gently, without burning anything behind us. Granted, that’s not always an option. No matter how much we want to keep that bridge, there may be someone happy to burn it for us, goodbye and good riddance, don’t hurt yourself on the door on your way out. When that happens, Gran said it was usually best to keep on moving, making a note to stop by once the smoke has cleared.

Sometimes there’s a way to rebuild that bridge. Sometimes there isn’t. That’s just the way it works. Sometimes we return to find that bridge already half built from the other side, just waiting for us to finish it. Other times we work ourselves to death, building a two-mile extension bridge with the best materials we can buy, putting our hearts and time and energy into it, and just as we’re about to step across, someone sneaks up with that match again.

Then what? We can try to strike up a conversation, but they generally only work when they’re two-way. We can start building again, if that feels right, or we can take off on another adventure, planning to stop by later. If this happens enough times, and we’ve got the scorch marks to prove it, we can also say heck with that, I’m done bridge-building here, and we can head on down the road ‘til we find a place to sit and draw our circle, sharing our love from a distance. Sometimes that may be our best choice, Gran said.

It’s a tough decision, but when it’s clear that we’re the only ones who want a bridge that works both ways, trying to build that bridge over and over can be guilt’s way of side-tracking us from what we’re really supposed to be doing. Carrying a load of guilt doesn’t make one righteous, Gran said, but it will keep one resistant. Sometimes things happen just so we can learn from them, one of those contracts being fulfilled. Once we learn the moral, we can let the story go.

Of course, if the other side of that bridge was an important piece of our home at one time, this tends to leave holes in our hearts. Holes that can’t hold anything anyone tries to put in them, holes that don’t have anything in them to give anyone else, just a big bunch of empty air.

We can patch these holes, like we’ve already talked about. Gran recommended this, although in her experience, one’s heart was never the same afterward. For one thing, her heart was a whole lot stronger, due to repairing itself, like any muscle. But even with that added strength, there would still be a scar. That’s why it’s important to keep building bridges as long as it feels like there’s a bridge to be built.

Once we patch that hole, Gran said, it’ll take some time for the wound to heal. As an echo of our past, that scar may be tender for a long time, but Gran thought that’s what scars were for – to remind us of the lessons we’ve learned and how important bridge building is, and maybe even to remind us to take care of the ones we already have.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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September 6, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Circles (6/XI)

Chapter 6 – Circles

In all our relationships, whether constant companion, family member, or momentary hitchhiker, there are a few helpful things to keep in mind.

Number One: Forgiveness is highly underrated. This isn’t just about forgiving others. It’s also about forgiving ourselves. But remember: Forgiving doesn’t mean we give up on things that are important to us. Nor does it mean we continue interacting with people who continue to hurt us. Forgiveness simply means we let go of the weight we’ve been carrying – the weight of anger, of a grudge, of our expectations. When we’re ready to forgive, to let ourselves and others heal, once again, miracles can happen.

Number Two: Pride is highly overrated. Learning how to say “I’m sorry” and really meaning it can take you a long way in this world. Even when we’re sure we were right, when we’re sure we were the only ones who got hurt, we have to swallow our pride in order to practice forgiveness. But again, remember: Excessive use of these two little words when not accompanied by changed behaviors or attitudes can lead to others questioning one’s authenticity.

Number Three: Unconditional love means that even if other people don’t accept your apology or never let you in, you get to love them anyway. Like the song says, “Draw the circle wide.”[i] If someone doesn’t want you in their circle, just make yours bigger, until it includes the world – and them in it.

Number Four: Courage in large doses is required for all of the above. If you’ve burned a lot of bridges, the trip home may take some doing. When in doubt, repeat steps one through three, never give up, and don’t forget to say thank you.

These points were all key to what Gran considered a very helpful way to heal our relationships, past or present: rewriting them. We have scripts in our heads, she said, stories about each person, each place, each memory. These stories are typically small, with constrictive borders that tighten over time. We know their dialogue by heart because we’ve replayed these scenes over and over in our minds, tightening that noose with each showing. We think this serves some purpose, but there’s no room to grow in there, and we become as trapped as all the other actors.

The healthiest thing we can do here is to rewrite those scripts. Take a whole notebook for each one if you like, use colored markers or finger paint, Gran didn’t care which, but rewrite those stories into grand sagas with plenty of empty pages at the end – pages for each person to complete as they grow. Pages where words spoken in haste can be transformed into words of love. Someone used to be your mortal enemy? Rewrite that story, leaving enough space for this person to turn into your best friend, and you may discover that even as you rewrite this plot, the story begins to come true. That is the power of the word.

We judge each other so harshly, projecting our fears outward. Yet there’s just no reason why we have to do this. Sadly, it seems we often make this choice because we don’t understand there’s another way. That other way doesn’t get many headlines, Gran said, but it’s true. And we all can do this, if and when we’re ready to take this step.

As we rewrite our scripts and expand our circles, we redefine the hold the past has on us, shifting our grip until we see that really, we’ve been the ones holding on to it all along. Then we have the power to decide what we’re going to do next – let it go and move on, or remain willing prisoners to our past. Only we can make that decision.

Gran had gone through this editing process many times after she figured out she didn’t look so good in those horizontal jailbird stripes. This changed her life, she said – and she hadn’t looked back since.

[i] “Draw the Circle Wide,” lyrics by Gordon Light, music by Mark A. Miller

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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August 24, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Finding Our Tribe (6/X)

Chapter 6 – Finding Our Tribe

Some people along our journeys come with the territory – like our families.

We spend all our lives working on these relationships, whether we like it or not and whether or not we want to admit that these are some of the most influential people in our worlds. We put an awful lot of time into figuring out who we are in relation to these folks – our tribes, as Gran called them – fer ‘em or agin ‘em. Either way, they remain a central point of identification.

An important thing about family is not only how we define ourselves in relation to them, but in whether we can step away from our own projections about these oh-so-familiar people (and we know what familiarity breeds). Can we allow each person to redefine him or herself, even as we are redefining ourselves? Perhaps then our whole family will grow into something new.

One day Gran brought up that word: FAMILY. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but Gran paid a lot of attention to words. She said they hold more inside ‘em than we realize. So sometimes she’d pick a word, and we’d drink some fruit punch while we thought about it.

That day, Gran took the word FAMILY and showed me how the words I AM are hidden in the middle. You had to look close, she said, ‘cause they were backwards. Sometimes, in order to find ourselves, we have to shuffle those letters around a bit, or we’ll get so caught up in the family as a single unit that we lose ourselves inside it.

Gran said it was about balance. Family is important. And so am I. I can be myself in a family, but sometimes this can be tricky. Gran thought those letters were in there to jog our memory if we ever realize we’ve gotten lost in the middle of lots of shoulds and shouldn’ts and other people’s dreams we start to think are our own. When this happens, we’ll want to stop and make sure we have those words straight inside ourselves.

Sometimes this puts us on the hunt to find our tribe – people like us. Gran spent many years on this quest, all part of finding her way. She loved the home she was born into, but somehow she always felt like an outsider. She didn’t think like them. She didn’t fit in, like a lump in your mashed potatoes. In a world of mashed potatoes, being a lump can feel pretty lonely.

And so, when Gran was old and brave enough, she struck out on her own. She didn’t find her tribe all at once. It was almost like they’d been separated at birth, each born somewhere else, lumps in other people’s mashed potatoes. And yet when they’d find each other, there was no doubt. Sometimes you could tell who they were by the flecks of gravy on their elbows.

Gran said she wouldn’t change anything if she had it all to do over. The way things worked out, she got to have all kinds of incredible adventures and she got to feel what it was like to find her way to the Home of Lumpy Potatoes, to see a welcome mat out front, and a sign hanging above the door with her name on it.

This way Gran got to meet so many people and to learn to love and accept them all, unconditionally. People and ways she might never have encountered otherwise. People she could adopt as foster families, so that in the end, she had not one family, not one tribe, but many, in a series of circles that covered the globe. And all in all, that was way better. 

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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August 9, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Wings (6/IX)

Chapter 6 ~ Wings

     When it came to marriage, Gran could speak from both sides of that coin. She’d married and divorced young, learning more about herself in the process than she really cared to. Those lessons took a while to sink in, but eventually she felt ready to try the world of relationships again, this time more aware of what it took to build a happy, healthy home.

     Learning to balance the healthy needs of each individual and the relationship is quite an exercise in character building. For one thing, Gran had learned that the first rule for a good marriage was “Get it in your head: It’s not just about me anymore!” If we want to live a life based on our needs only, we’ll do everyone a favor by staying single. It isn’t fair to add that weight to this experience. On the other hand, a good relationship isn’t based on giving up oneself either. Instead, the road to marital bliss curves somewhere between the two. 

     A key word there was “healthy.” We bring all kinds of needs into our relationships that don’t even serve our own good, much less anyone else’s. Half the expectations and projections we haul in aren’t even related to this new chapter, they’ve just come along for the ride since we never unpacked ‘em from previous journeys. Gran laughed about this. She’d heard somewhere that you marry a family, but she thought in some cases it was more like a small country in the midst of civil war. 

     Gran had her own ideas about relationships. She didn’t believe they required legal tender, for one thing, or that “til death do us part” was either healthy or wise to insist on. Instead, she thought people came together for specific purposes. Once those purposes were served, whether that took one year or fifty, both people would know it, at least if they were being totally honest with themselves. And of course, maybe some couples are supposed to show that life-long commitments really can last in a healthy way.

     Either way, Gran didn’t recommend turning tail as soon as things got hard, ‘cause that’s usually when you’re just starting to work on the relationship’s true purpose. If we run away each time we reach this point, wherever it may be, all we’ll do is find someone else to study our homework with, and the cycle will repeat itself.

     Gran knew the sting that came with all this learning, but she also understood the growth spurt all that pain can spark. Everyone has to make their own choices, she said, realizing that all choices have consequences. Sometimes simply making these choices ourselves, rather than letting them be made for us, is one of our first lessons.

     Regardless, true love doesn’t mean desperately clinging to each other, especially not when our grasp is only a clutch of fear of the unknown or of being alone. True love can mean letting go for the good of all involved. Sometimes we’re just not ready for all the work and growing up a relationship requires, although it’s better to find that out before we get into one. Or maybe it’s just not part of our path right now – maybe we’re here to do something else – and that’s fine. Relationships are only an option, Gran said, and only we know if one feels like highest good.

     Gran had counseled a lot of marital problems on all her Sunday picnics. Most of them came down to communication and power. Each has a flip side – we learn about power by abusing it and being abused by it, and about communication by over- or under-expressing ourselves and our needs. Gran had learned she couldn’t expect someone to meet needs she wasn’t willing or able to express or even to admit to herself. Of course, it was then up to her to figure out what those requests were and why she couldn’t share them – and then to learn how.

     It’s complicated, Gran said. We have so many lessons to learn about what true love is and about mastering our mind, ego and emotions, instead of being mastered by them. Luckily for us, sharing a sandbox provides plenty of opportunities for practice.

     On the upside, Gran said these lessons didn’t take nearly as long as she’d expected. One passing grade at a time her learning progressed, ‘til suddenly there she stood, a fledgling butterfly, wings still crimped behind her back, fluttering in the breeze as she began to flex them. She had finally reached the place where she could fly.

     Of course, that didn’t mean all the work was over. Just as Gran had learned to dismantle her walls, on the other side, she had to learn how to set healthy boundaries and how to invite someone in without letting them take over. For that matter, she had to learn whom to invite in, and how to go visiting without trying to take over herself. Even butterflies have to earn their wings.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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August 2, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Ducks Here and Yonder (6/VIII)

Filed under: Books,Companions,Dating,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Relationships,Sharing the journey — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:49 am

Chapter 6 ~ Ducks Here and Yonder

     As we travel around practicing our diplomatic skills, Gran said we’ll recognize people from home by their voices, their accents, even by what they talk about. After all, someone from your hometown usually sounds a lot like you. That’s why Gran liked country music so much. Those voices reminded her of so many people, she’d say, all rolled up in one, with mud on their whitewalls, clear eyes that looked straight back into yours, and strong hearts that weren’t afraid to stand up for what they thought was right.

     That’s why Gran often made friends with people named Mater and Dickey Lee and Sara Jean when she ran into them out on the road. In her hometown, two first names meant good people. And the accents you heard when the conversation started flowing – they rang true. No falsity there. No I’m-trying-to-be-somebody-else. Just Me.

     Often we run into these people when we’re clear across the world and least expecting it. Sometimes that’s when we need this connection most. That’s when you find someone else who understands the importance of Taco Night. Or maybe you’re in the middle of a concrete jungle somewhere on the far side of the moon, and all of a sudden you hear a voice and you know where that person came from – that voice came from your corner of the world. That’s when you realize you’re not the only one who can’t roll her R’s, and home doesn’t seem so far away then.

     We look for this feeling of recognition on all kinds of levels, almost by instinct. Does a person sound like home? Smell like home? Most revealing may be the way a person thinks. You see, people from the same hometown will often look at something and see the same thing, whatever that may be, at least in the first moment until they take off their sunglasses.

     For example, if you look at a mallard duck and think “endangered” and the person you’re with thinks “dinner,” the two of you may not be overly compatible in a long-term arrangement. At this point it may not matter who’s right or wrong (unless you’re the duck) – what matters is that you’re seeing very different things. Which is not to say companions should be carbon copies of each other – traveling with someone with different views can dramatically widen your horizons, and perhaps theirs too. Just be aware, Gran said, that you may have frequent discussions about what belongs on the dinner table.

     If you’re not up to 24/7 learning, Gran thought you might want to travel with a person with similar core values. After all, that first response, however it may eventually develop, provides a strong foundation, and from there your combined experiences can color and shape your journey together.

     Of course, Gran always tacked on a postscript: If a person doesn’t even see the duck, and that duck is pretty important to you, you might want to reconsider. But that’s your choice.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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July 26, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Pearls (6/VII)

Filed under: Authentic self,Books,Companions,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Love,Relationships,Sharing the journey — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:46 am

Chapter 6 ~ Pearls

     Once we have our eyes and hearts open, this whole love thing can be quite fun. Gran believed the purpose of all relationships was learning about ourselves and about others – both sides of the story. Sometimes we do this quickly and move on, other times it takes a while. We may not be sure what draws us to someone, but if we dig deeply enough, she thought we’d get to the root of it.

     Being in any relationship takes a lot of energy, and keeping that connection healthy and happy takes even more. It’s not for the faint of heart. We have to be willing to work, to dig through some dreck, to see through the shadows we project at each other. Once we clear all this away, Gran said we’d see a whole other world.

     It’s like growing a pearl. Three pearls, actually – one for each person, and the third they create as a pair. Shut inside an oyster shell together, now that’s commitment.

     Gran believed the work these two grains of sand were drawn together to do began close to home. It began with themselves – they were the treasures they’d been brought together to uncover. This may sound romantic until you consider how pearls are formed. It’s not very glamorous. It involves sand in uncomfortable places for large amounts of time and a lot of rubbing each other the wrong way. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?

     We see our dark sides through each other’s eyes, the hotspots we’re here to work on. We become aware of things from our past that first shaped us and then shaped our relationships, debris that needs to be cleared before we can move forward.

     Some of our popular ideas don’t help, Gran said, teaching that we can start a new life with a blank slate, declare bankruptcy instead of paying our bills. She didn’t think this was very responsible, because it weakened our sense of accountability. There are ways and there are ways, she said, and there are also causes and effects, checks and balances, and records and memories that must all be tallied.

     It could be downright discouraging when those who walked that path encountered challenges, Gran said. That wouldn’t be right. She’d followed this road for a while, and when she reached the point where nothing felt fair, she started looking around for someone to blame for all her troubles, maybe even God. After all, she was a blank slate, so it couldn’t be her.

     Further along she learned about the scale of justice, which explained things a whole lot better. When sticky situations appeared after this, she understood that old accounts were coming into play again. This meant it was time for them to be resolved and healed, and that was truly encouraging – and just a little exciting!

     At the same time, Gran said, there’s no reason to focus on one’s darkness any more than on one’s light. Trying to move forward while only looking at one side is like trying to row with one oar: Your boat just goes in circles. Only through balance – looking at both sides – can that second oar ever hit the water.

     Then Gran would laugh, “Of course, I still have a lot to learn about this myself, so don’t listen to me!”  But she never backed down on one thing: Our greatest work is ourselves – you and I – confronting our pasts, our shadow sides, coming to terms with and resolving all these things, turning ourselves into those Pearls of Great Price we’ve so often heard about.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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July 19, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Fairytales and Treadmills (6/VI)

Chapter 6 ~ Fairytales and Treadmills

      An important part of communication is honesty – certainly with others, but also with ourselves. It’s amazing how well we can fool ourselves, Gran said, and she should know – she’d done just that.

     It’s like living in a fairytale. They’re not just for kids, you know. At one point, I looked around and realized I was living in a fairytale, at least that’s how it looked from the outside. Every component was there: Prince Charming rescuing a fair maiden, sweeping her off on his white charger to a far-away kingdom where they lived happily ever after. What a lovely story. I was infatuated with this story.

     Unfortunately, so was Prince Charming. We were both completely bonkers over the idea that we were the perfect match. It was so obvious. However, we hadn’t dug quite deeply enough in the relationship books to learn that once the fairytale ends, if you don’t have a foundation, well, you don’t have a foundation. And if you haven’t done enough work to be at home inside yourself, rather than just a character in a story, a wolf at the door looks even more threatening.

     Sometimes we run instead of facing the wolf, thinking it’s safer. Sometimes we just ignore him, hoping he’ll go away. And sometimes we play the mugwump, with our mug on one side of the fence and our wump on the other, having neither “heart to stay, nor wit enough to run away.”[i]

     Wolves don’t usually go away, though, ‘cause they tend to be hungry. And other times we’re so busy in our little make-believe version of Jack and Jill that we don’t realize the curtain has gone up on a different play entirely and we’re smack-dab in the middle of a tornado, a long way from home.

     When we look up and see how far away we are, we have a choice. We can commit to doing whatever it takes to get started in the right direction again, by being totally honest with ourselves and each other. We can choose to stay busy, to ignore the situation, convincing ourselves it’s only a dream that will fade in morning’s light. 

     But this world isn’t make-believe. It’s very real. So are our choices, and so are their consequences. That choice we confuse as the status quo – it isn’t. There is no status quo in life, Gran said. You may be coming and going, but if you think you’re standing still, you’ll soon see that things around you start moving on their own, like you’re on a treadmill. If you stand there long enough, you may fall off. I know, because I stood there until I fell.  

     On the positive side, the crash generally wakes us up. Then we have a few choices: Do we get back on the treadmill? Do we start walking or running or do we just stand there again? How many times will we climb back on the same machine? After enough falls, we tend to look for a different one. It must be the treadmill’s fault, ‘cause it can’t be mine.

     We think everything will be different then, and it usually is, in some ways. There are different buttons and gadgets and we have a spiffy new outfit and running shoes. But the basic rules of treadmill operation are the same. We have to keep our eyes open and keep moving. Otherwise the whole cycle just begins again.

     Sometimes after we stand up we realize that we fell, not because there was anything wrong with our treadmill, but because we were balancing between two bands running opposite directions. This becomes very apparent when the switch is turned on. There’s little we can do to change this – these things are bolted to the floor, and we only have the keys to our machine. If it feels right, we can turn ours around to run alongside our partner’s. But if our heart cringes at that thought, we may decide to step back on our own path, facing our own direction, before anyone else gets hurts. 

     Gran said she’d heard rumors that there was a way people could step off these treadmills, either alone or together, but she couldn’t speak to that, not having experienced it. This seemed to be a place beyond coming and going, beyond cooperating and consensus. But it couldn’t be reached by force, and it couldn’t be reached before one was ready. Maybe someday I’ll learn what this means.

     Whether we’re on a treadmill or the blacktop, or even if we learn to step beyond, Gran said, we want to always keep our eyes open for truth. It’s better for us, it’s better for everyone around us, and it also lets us check out the cool little hula dancer on the dashboard of the old van that just passed… 

[i] Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English composer and satirical author, in Hudibras, pt. 3, cto. 3

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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July 12, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Weight Limits (6/V)

Chapter 6 ~ Weight Limits

     Learning to communicate with ourselves involves looking for our own answers. This wasn’t how Gran was raised. She’d been taught to obey the words of her elders as though they were book, chapter, and verse, to look to others for the answers. Somehow, “others” always knew better, although Gran wasn’t sure just how that came to be.

     Our tendency to put certain people up on pedestals concerned her. For one thing, Gran didn’t think anyone deserved to be in charge automatically, whether by birth date, body part, or bullhorn. The responsibility of leadership had to be earned.

     Other than that, Gran believed we should respect and love and care for each other, just as we do for ourselves, that old Golden Rule. But that was a long way from looking to others for our answers. As we journey along, Gran said, it’s important to make up our own minds about things, rather than counting on someone else’s fingers. It’s like copying homework. If you don’t study the lesson yourself, you won’t realize when you mark down a wrong answer, which can lead to a whole heap of trouble and an awful lot of red ink.

     Besides, Gran had heard about the dangers of high altitudes on top those pedestals. The air gets thin up there, which makes it hard to think clearly, and sooner or later can lead to toppling off. Gran said she’d crashed enough times to develop a healthy respect for heights, so she’d quit climbing on pedestals about the same time she quit trying to stick ‘em underneath other people.

     It was tough when she first started looking for her own answers. The hardest part wasn’t the search itself, though – the hardest part was letting go of her guilt for daring to look for her own answers in a world that doesn’t overly encourage self-determination. Daring to disappoint others is never easy, especially those who are sure they know the answers, and especially if those people are important in your life. But, she said, it was well worth the effort.

     One thing about it, trying to transfer do-it-my-way answers to someone else can be a pretty heavy load on a relationship bridge – well over the double-axle weight limit. Bridges collapse under all that weight, Gran said, and the people they connected go separate ways. They may try to rebuild that connection, but sometimes they don’t.

     Whatever they decide, those who learned from that experience tend to put up bigger weight limit signs on future bridges, and pay more attention to the ones they see posted.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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