It’s so easy to be jealous and I am most envious of people who are graceful despite extraordinary circumstances. I don’t mean ballerina grateful but in having grace or courteous goodwill, as the dictionary would suggest. And by extraordinary circumstances, I mean as Jon Kabat-Zinn put it, the full catastrophe of living. I mean abuse, pain, grief, and trauma of every day living with where we find ourselves in any given moment.
I have not been gracious in quite a long time and perhaps that is why I am so envious of it when I see people who can be gracious in the midst of their tsunami. I can blame it on my pain but I think it was much more than hating the moment, being out of touch with the present moment as being perfect. I am envious of the few rare individuals I have met that were so healed, so united with Life, that in the face of unimaginable anguish, they are truly gracious, loving, and accepting.
I’ve known a few people like this. An AIDS patient I met a week before he died; his brother already dead from the disease and his other brother suffering from dementia due to the same illness. But after a few moments with him, he told my friend and I that he was healed. Yes, he knew his body would succumb to AIDS and probably pretty soon but until then, his Being was healed. He stated he was OK with how God had made him and that he had become ill. He had come to realize that he was more than his illness and that is why he was healed — his heart had been purified in the knowledge that what was was indeed what was supposed to be. Sigh.
I knew another person, whose cancer had come back for a third time and whose grace in living and dying with her disease could not be described. She had such a zest for life and because of that, held herself in such dignity and good humor as she experienced “morphine breath” or her precious hair falling out. She didn’t let the constant nausea eat away at her joi de vive but allowed herself some pot brownies if she needed them. She consciously decided that her experience with dying was for the benefit of all of us. She was a teacher to the very end and did benefit countless people, professionals and others who were ill and dying. Her grace and joy were celebrated by so many who came to love her for being a bodhisattva of grace for us. (More on that later)
Such a huge lesson for each person. And I don’t know? Is that a lesson you only learn a few days or weeks before you die? When you have nothing else to worry about . . . not going to work, paying bills, being responsible for this, that and the other? Does that lesson come when you are standing in the middle of a big box store buying toilet paper or does it come when the community gives you space and all you have to do is be with your existence?
Now, for a moment, I give myself a pass in that I do not know of too many people who have not let their pain get the better of them. I’ve sat with people in psychological pain and I’ve been with others in deep, torturous physical pain and well, I have not known too many saints in either group. What I did meet were very real humans. And daily, I am trying to remind myself that, I too, have been one of those humans and have not been dwelling in the space of safety that a community provides.
At times, I’ve been all too human in the most negative light of the word — petty, hateful, hurtful, caustic, cantankerous, moody, negative, etc. I’ve been living in a world that sees others as objects, not my world, but the world I found myself in and instead of removing myself from it, I allowed myself to submerge to its depths and it took its toll. But make no mistake, I was a participant in allowing that to happen and the weight of that has been as unbearable as the physical pain. And what had happened was the “physical destruction or disintegration of something” – ruin. The world I had known, physically, psychologically, socially, emotionally, spiritually, and biochemically fell into ruin.
It’s been fortuitous that a weight has been lifted because I was able to dwell, not in the community but in a safety net. And I’ve been blessed with some days that have been pain free. The veils have been parted and there is a soft light in the distance. I see ahead that it is grace that is beyond that soft light. No, I don’t mean God’s grace. I am not sure if I believe in such a thing or such an experience. But sheer grace, acceptance, regard respect, generosity, goodwill, and the like.
Before anyone is concerned by my metaphors, no, I don’t see the veil as death. Well, I do but not in a suicidal way, more in a “renewed life way”. Everything I have known has crumbled down around me and it has been a death (of my psyche and spirit and body). But what’s beyond the veil that I speak of is the spiritual world of being right here and accepting of what’s going on. It’s not some esoteric place or some other world but it is a new place to be. It is the place of Grace or maybe where Grace can be touched or experienced. I don’t believe that I will never have days of great pain or darkness ahead but I have been reminded that there is a grace in the searching and for that, I am not envious but instead grateful.