Transparency: I'm getting close to Anne Lamotting it

The Five Misdeeds, Beatrice Alemagna, Topipittori 2014, detail. “In its folds hide all the memories.” One of her 29 books. 

I am doing a daily exercise (Melodie Beattie) where I give thanks for things I might normally resist. I wake, self-reflect as a way to see what is meaningful, and within thirty minutes begin writing. Then I exchange my list of gratitudes by email with a partner who also writes a list. After reading my list, a partner writes back something like, “I’m here. I’m listening,” as a witness rather than as someone with an opinion, suggestion, or solution.  

Remember my gratitude practice? I commit to write for 40 days just after waking. Well, I haven’t stopped. I’m on day 52.

Today I write this.

I’m grateful for that old Quaker adage “let your life speak.”

That sure gathers my words before I utter them for a gentle reminder, “Words listen up. Take a nap. Action will show the way.”

I’m grateful for the next thought: “Be known as you are.” Hold hands with transparency. Let others see you. As much as possible, refrain from platitudes (which can be nice, like “let your life speak.”) Instead, write your own words about your own life.

What I mean is, Anne Lamott it.

I have an idea to just write here like Anne in a queen-of-tell-it-all way (without harming others) but right now I’m not brave enough. No, that’s not it. I’m brave enough. I’m not ready enough. But I’m getting close. 

So might as well practice. This happened last night.

Terry spontaneously comes over to play with Grandson while I’m there babysitting. He brings Jenga, a block building game. He comes in and says to Dylan, “Want to play?”

Seeing a happy nod yes, he adds, “Dylan, we need a table.”

Forgetting my name isn’t Dylan, I respond like he’s talking to me.

In a staccato, unsolicited-disguised-as-hovering-helpfulness voice, I point to this table and that one. “Here!” Flitting here and there, “How about the peace table, I’ll clean it off. Here’s a chair.”

At home the next morning, T says, “You know I felt some skittish energy last night. I did not ask you for help to find a table.”

I ask him to tell me more about what he sees and feels. I do not put my fingers in my ears making a lalalalalalala sound. I listen.


Wait. There’s more. (Here comes some honest accountability and a memory.)

The memory: I recall just a few days earlier a dramatic but gentle vow-sigh as I sit on my cushion to meditate: “Susan, no discrimination about feelings. They are all welcome.”  (I’m laughing as I type this. Those words sure flow easy when I’m not feeling bad, which is probably why I practice saying them when I feel good. It makes it easier to remember to accept uncomfortable feelings when I feel shitty.)

Well anyway. While I’m listening to T, I’m vaguely aware of that vow. It feels like I’m sitting on an imaginary tack. I notice a wee bit of discomfort. A little bubble-up. I’m feeling inferior, like I messed up. Some “wanting to justify and explain” words are running around in my mouth looking for a way out.

I think, “Why certainly I’m an exemption from imperfection.”

I feel like poor me with a smidgen of powerless weakness, and a deep desire to say, “I was just trying to help.”

I know a little bit about what happens when the imperfect, less-than feelings come up. They morph into angry persecuting feelings. I could think or say bad things to T or myself. If I hurt enough, I might even go off topic and remind him of when he did such and such about 5 years ago or describe all the times I haven’t messed up.

All to avoid feeling uncomfortable. So I stay with the discomfort and it passes.

High ho the dairy oh. Progress. Feeling and accepting is invigorating and relaxing.

I notice my energy is different when I’m trying to make things all hunky-dory in a people-pleasing way. I tend to slip into that type behavior more often around the holidays. Maybe it’s the pressure to be joyful.
I’m grateful to remember Thay’s talk at retreat about peace being an energetic change.

The energy of behavior was clear that last day when 500 people who had not attended the retreat came for one of Thay’s talks. As I’m sitting on a rock outside chewing my oatmeal 30-some times without counting because I’d been practicing slowing down and being present 24/7, I watch a woman get out of a taxi and walk with a Mad Hatter “I’m late” gait towards the Meditation Hall. Consumed and distracted, she misses by inches ringing the dinner bell with her head. Her energy is palpable.

I get it. I could have been her. Heck, she is me last night at Grandson’s house. I better see the energetic effect of my behavior on others.

So, I’m grateful for a capacity to listen to T and feel whatever comes up. I believe the ability to listen and sit with my feelings is directly related to my meditation practice.

I remember listening to Pema Chödrön share what she notices in friends who have consistent meditation and stillness practice. These are my words, but it’s her message.

She says these friends with a history of practice are more flexible and content. They have a sense of humor and lightness. They don’t get all worked up so easily and when they do, they are able to flow quicker through the work up. They’re curious and open, less clingy to their views. When they are clingy, they notice it quicker. They’re less angry (fearful). They allow themselves to feel and consciously let go of numbing. They don’t take on others’ lives, and instead wish for others the same goodness, peace, happiness, contentment, curiosity and friendliness they want in their own life. They live in a golden rule way, speaking in a way they want to be spoken to, behaving in a way they want to be treated.

I want to be more like this, and for that aspiration I’m grateful.