I have just finished rereading an old novel*, one I’d read some 15-20 years ago, one I’d remembered having moved me profoundly then, carrying me weeping-my-way through its final pages (to the dismay of my then teenaged children). I remembered little detail of the story, just the basic sweep of the plot, an older long-married couple on a road trip revisiting the story of their lives to its climactic culmination. In revisiting it, I was mostly curious to discover what it was that had moved me so in that first reading, in the midst of what I’ve (with great hubris) considered to be my ‘pre-awakening’ days. What had I found so meaningful in its mundaneness? What clues might it give as to who I was then, what I was thinking, feeling? Though I’m uncertain that this visitation has given me anymore insight into who I was then, I expect it has given me some insight into where I am now.

Last night, over a 9 o’clock slice of vegetable-stuffed pizza on our way home from setting up for an out-of-town craft show (a five hour process, including said slice of pizza and the hour drive to and from), I found myself saying some bleary-eyed words to the effect of “well… when I was a parent, I did such-and-such in that circumstance…and I believed myself to be a good parent, but I’m not so sure about that at all anymore’

And perhaps this is the crux of it. Some basic core of my identity is being shattered in these past years, some pride being tumbled, some blindness about myself is being cleared.  Can I hold this new more-honest seeing without turning a harshly critical eye on myself, without despising and denigrating what I see? Can I simply see myself, with both raw honesty and deep compassion?

Ah, so then this is perhaps the real reason for the book’s reappearance.  While some see the book as an unconditional love story between two, and perhaps that is what I felt at first flush all those yearning years ago,  this decade’s rereading perceives it more as an unconditional reckoning and acceptance of a failed and flawed life well-lived.  The main character’s life review has him coming to terms with his humanity as he seeks to understand it. In the end it is a grace-filled journey of benevolent discovery.

Can I extend the same grace to this complex and multi-faceted human character inhabiting and navigating her way through my own life story?

I have been so utterly exhausted of late, my weariness at times spewing negativity at and upon those whom I love. I don’t very much like this aspect of myself either. This facet of my personality also feels ‘out of character’ with the image of myself that I like to hold.

But of late, it seems to take so very little effort until some fatigue washes over me.  At times, I feel so utterly put upon, as if I have to ‘live up’ to some expectation.  While sometimes that expectation is put upon me by others, most often I am the one who opens that closet door and dons that particular ‘get-up‘.  I try to wear it well, but it’s just so threadbare it doesn’t cover so well anymore, and too quickly it falls away, leaving me cold and exposed, and needing to crawl inside myself for some warmth.

I wonder, what is this weariness asking of me?


Just stop.

Stop covering.

Just take it off.

Stop trying so hard to keep up the façade, let it crack open, reveal your fragile, flawed, vulnerable, needy, weak, imperfect, exhausted self. Stop defending out of fear you will be seen as less-than. Too often that defensiveness comes out hard, as I suppose defensiveness will, as judgment or control– of self or other. I blame the other for my own inadequacies. I judge the other for choosing to value something different than I do… because in some twisted way, their choosing other-than makes my choices feel less-than. I control the other because it makes me feel bigger or better (not quite so vulnerably powerless to it all) and off-the-hook to the ways I have contributed to their pain.

I wonder.

Curiosity, I think, is one of the greatest antidotes to judgment that I know, because curiosity moves me one step closer to wonder. When I practice it, I feel instantly softer, less rigid. Less fearful, too.  Might I simply be curious about the way others see and do and choose life without needing to let it make me feel any sort of expectation about how I live mine?

There are endless possibilities, endless ways of approaching and experiencing this wondrous thing called life, this mysterious journey we call humanity.  Entering into another’s honest story with curiosity, as I was able to do in the reading of a life-story novel, not only opens me to my own humanity, but it leap-frogs me right over blame, judgment and control to simply allowing.

Can I turn that curious eye then upon myself?  Would that gaze soften my need to prove that I am good, or good-enough? Help me to stop blaming… judging, controlling…myself too. Allow myself to simply feel/ act/ be… not right, nor wrong, but human.

I wonder if curiosity and compassion might hold hands, one accompanying the other through that doorway to Love.

*Praise the Human Season, Dan Robertson, 1974, Arthur Fields Books,  New York

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