Giving Up Sympathy for Myself

When I began writing these posts in October 2020, I felt it would be very important for me to be as honest as I could. I’m not sure if I always am, because we so often tend to fool ourselves. We think one thing but feel another. Which is the truth?

I was struck with a thought lately having to do with how I make my way through an illness or challenge I’m having. It occurred to me that I feel a need for sympathy. Not only my own, but from others as well.

An internal quote materialized out of nowhere.

“The more you are willing to give up your need for sympathy from others, the more easily you’ll be able to accept that all things serve you, even the ones that don’t appear to. Perhaps, especially those.”

Wow, I thought, there’s a lot of meat in that statement.

I sensed two enormous ideas emerge.

One, that everything serves me. I’ve spent a great deal of time considering this with my head only to fall short of understanding it. My head says this couldn’t possibly be true because its view is narrow. It only looks at the present so, of course whatever problem I’m having seems unfortunate to me and I want to dispense with it as soon as possible.

However, when I engage my heart, the meaning becomes clear, or at least clearer. My heart sees into the distance. It waits and watches and connects the dots so that a whole picture is revealed. Once this happens, I can see that what first seemed to be an insurmountable challenge, is actually a powerful message to me. A message that creates clarity and helps guide my thoughts and actions in the future.

The second idea is potent for me. Perhaps others don’t rely on sympathy, but I’ve come to realize that I do.

Feeling that I need the sympathy of others is a huge crutch for me and it prevents me from seeing any depth or from moving on. It makes it difficult to shift and recognize any insights.

The NEED for sympathy becomes my focus and commands my attention, leaving no resources available to me for deciding what would better serve me.

I have to force myself to stop and ask, “what do you want most?”

Part of me responds that I want sympathy from others. It feels good. And yet, I recognize that it is only momentarily satisfying, leaving me unfilled and wanting more.

Another part of me takes a different approach and understands that what I truly desire most is to connect as deeply as possible with the divine inside of me. It knows that every time I focus on soliciting for and accepting sympathy from others, or from myself, there will be a delay in connecting with my heart and my spirit.

I have to decide what is most important to me.

Choosing can be a hard thing to do and I am not always capable of selecting the most beneficial response to the situations I encounter. Maybe this happens to you too.

For now, I’ve decided to give up sympathy for myself and look deeper into the experience so that I can discover the hidden gifts and messages. And I want there to be free space available for me to store the new treasures I find.

I’m pretty sure there will be times I succumb to the charms of seeking sympathy for myself, but my heart feels open and ready to look elsewhere now.

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Power

Recently, my wife and I were babysitting our two local grandchildren. Their family lives near a very active train yard and we’re pretty used to all of its noises. The screeching of rail car wheels against the tracks and the loud slamming and banging of train cars being coupled. And, all of the whistles.

But, what we heard last Wednesday went far beyond any of these sounds. It was as if every train car in the yard had suddenly been picked up and smashed into one another in some kind of massive train wreck.

It turns out, it wasn’t trains we heard, it was the wind. It howled and shook the house. It destroyed trees, pulling some enormous giants out by their roots and simply tossing them aside.

The devastation was mind blowing and widespread.

And, of course, the power went out. Went out and stayed out.

Once my wife and I were home it was time to go into action. Time to find all of the flashlights and candles and get out extra blankets for us, plus one for my 96-year-old mom, who stayed with us. Of course, there was one more important thing to remember, don’t open the refrigerator door!

You probably have your own tales to tell about power outages, so you know how the story goes. No heat, no food, no light, no TV or computer. And for us, no cell phone, since we don’t have a car charger.

No communication with the outside world.

Powerless.

The part of me that wasn’t feeling sorry for myself understood this is the way vast portions of the world’s population feel every single day of their lives.

I don’t mean being without electricity, although there are many who exist this way. I mean feeling powerless to have the kind of life they want, for themselves and for their families. Powerless, with no real prospect for that to change. Powerless, and probably, hopeless.

I thought of all the people whose whole world falls apart due to some calamity. Some outside or inside force that shatters their lives.

I thought of those who deal with disease or oppression or racial injustice or malnutrition. The list goes on and on.

I thought, what is my powerlessness compared to theirs?

You might be wondering, what is the message of inspiration here?

Well, part of the answer is found in knowing how our electricity was restored. PEOPLE. Humans reconnecting wires and reestablishing a path for the power to travel.

People working together we are capable of incredible things. We’ve been able to reach out and touch the moon and beyond. We’ve discovered new medicines, saved rain forests, created new ways to harness energy. This list goes on and on too.

People working together we can do amazing things. Perhaps we can even offer hope to the powerless. No doubt, there are a million ways to do this.

Choosing just one can make a difference.

We all can make a difference.

We don’t have to cure everything in the world. But, imagine if one million people did one thing to help restore power.

That too would be mind blowing.

Expectations

I still find it upsetting when my expectations are not met. It doesn’t seem to matter what size they are, the unsatisfied feelings I get are pretty much the same. Some part of me knows there is a wealth of value in every experience of my life, but, when I’m in the moment, I often can’t see that.

Here’s a real-life example.

Despite all of my best efforts, my first website post wasn’t visible on Sunday, October 4, 2020 at 7:30am as I’d promised and I’d expected.

I confess, I panicked. I sat in front of my computer, frustrated, unhappy and frankly more than a little angry. And, I had no idea how to fix the problem. I believe I might even have said a bad word or two. Okay, I did say a bad word of two.

Even though I eventually found a work-around, I realized I had many more changes that needed to be made so that you could navigate more easily. And, so that you can share your comments and read those which others have written. I’m still working on these.

Looking back, I understand that I reacted very emotionally. Nothing specifically wrong with that, after all, I am human. But, were my reactions helpful and what might have served be better?

Well for one thing, I could have stopped and allowed myself to sit in stillness. I could have breathed in and out slowly until my emotions came to a halt. And, I could have allowed a part of me to stand at a distance and observe what was going on inside of me. From this place I could have acknowledged my feelings, encouraged them to speak to me and embraced them. If I had, I might have understood what was beneath the surface. I might have realized that each feeling came to serve me and offer me a message.

Many years ago, my wonderful friend and Unity minister, Jim Fuller, shared in one of his sermons that it is very important to ‘feel your feelings’. This idea was a foreign concept to me and had not been a part of my cultural training. And yet, I sensed how significant and necessary it could be for me.

So, I began expressing my feelings in a daily journal. It’s been almost six years and I’m still writing every day and discovering truths hidden beneath the surface.

And now, back to my opening paragraph about my unmet expectations. When I stood still and gently breathed in and out and let my intense emotions drain away, I found that my fear of failure sat directly on top of me. Fear that I could not manage the technology necessary to communicate with you. Fear, that despite my deep desire, I could not keep my promises to you and share my thoughts based on when I said I would.

So, I turned to Lia, one of my names for (god), which stands for ‘love in action’, and asked for her wisdom.

She reminded me of a simple, yet powerful message she’s offered me in the past, “just show love”. These words sunk into me and allowed the power of my expectations, and the fears underneath them, to fade away, replaced by a marvelous sense of love.

I hope to remember this wisdom sooner next time.