Acceptance of What Is Can Be Learned

Cabbage with holes           I began at an early age to learn my role as a would be peacemaker. My parents were both very special and wonderful people, yet they had a lot of differences and often had trouble bridging them. As the eldest and only child by a number of years I had a good deal of practice as a kind of go between for them when there were difficulties to be dealt with. In addition I often found myself with my hands over my ears while my parents attempted to resolve their differences at the top of their lungs. Loving both of them dearly, I was often at a loss as to how to make things better. Most of all I had to deal with my desire for things to be different, and my inability to make this happen.

Fast forward to the present. I recently found myself in the midst of a situation that was very uncomfortable, yet that I could nothing to change. Like all the other times in my life going back to when I was a small child and this was the case, it felt very similar. So in addition I had to deal with these echoes from the past as well as the experience of the present. My nature as a peacemaker, has always made it difficult for me to deal with conflict. This time, as I often do, instead of facing the situation that I was confronted with squarely, I kept wishing things were different.

To be sure that is a natural reaction. Few among us are willing to face a difficult situation without feeling regret as well as the desire to change it in some way to make things easier on everyone. Yet sometimes even with the best of intentions from all concerned, whatever is going on will continue. If I could have accepted this, I would have been better able to come to terms with what was happening. As it was, I had to work hard just to stay calm and keep from trying to help. I have been reflecting on this ever since.

The best that anyone can gain from dealing with a situation where one can do nothing is to allow for a greater sense of compassion to emerge in the heart. A wise woman once quoted me this ancient Hebrew saying: “If there were no grief to hollow out our hearts, where would there be room for joy?” As I have grown older and experienced more grief as well as regret, which is a precursor to grief, I have recognized that there is a treasure to be gained from it. Yet the treasure must be dug out from beneath the stubborn, unyielding crust of denial.

The denial can only be dealt with by my conscious acceptance of my inability to make anything different. As I accept what is and interweave it with threads of compassion, I can come to terms with my own sense of powerlessness, as well as with the pride that weeps over that, and the need to simply let go. The road cannot always be smooth. If there is no grit under the wheals, they will slip and slide without progress. The sandpaper that smooths the rough wood brings out the beauty of the grain. As I allow it to my heart can surely learn to grow.

Practicing Unconditional Love

 

Sidney and pony 6

 

          Holy week celebrates the life story of Jesus, specifically its culmination. His life is a very special example of unconditional love. Whatever you may or may not believe concerning His life, you cannot argue the fact that here is someone for whom love was the supreme guiding light. In his life and in his words there are numerous examples of unconditional love: that love which is given without expectations or parameters. While Christians are supposed to practice this kind of love, they may or may not focus on it to the extent He did. Unfortunately, it is often not easy to do. It begins in families.

          We learn about love in childhood. If the love we are given does not feel to us like love, we grow disappointed and eventually believe we are not loved. To a child’s mind, if we are not loved it must mean we are unlovable. With the help of a therapist I learned to see my parents love as authentic, thus I was able to begin to love myself. The more I can love myself, the easier it is for me to be grateful for and accepting of the love of others.

          My parents did the best they could. They were two very different, very volatile individuals. Their attitude toward one another was so fierce and their fights and disagreements so frequent that even though now I know I was loved, I could not feel it then. In addition they had high standards for me, their oldest child, and were quite strict in what they expected of me. Too often they stressed my inadequacies rather than my successes. This attitude, with which they both had been raised, did little for my self esteem.

          As a result of learning to love myself, I started to practice unconditional love. I began with people I didn’t know well, went on to friends, and finally to family. It is most difficult to practice unconditional love with dear ones because I have expectations of them. Expectations and unconditional love do not mix. Still as I learn to love more deeply I can allow myself imperfection. After all if I do not spot my errors, how can I correct them. If I love myself enough, I can smile at my errors and congratulate myself on my efforts rather than criticize.

          Awareness is important; it is easy to justify criticism of others by thinking of them as in need of correction. However, when I encounter what seems to need correcting, I can ask myself if the fault I perceive in another is a reflection of something in my own being that needs work. If not, it may be that what I am uncomfortable with in the other person stems from a wound of which I am not aware. Then perhaps I need to relinquish judgment and practice compassion. The practice of unconditional love is ongoing. As I work at it I find that as well as deepening my love of others I am deepening my love of myself. In this way I find more and more harmony in the beautiful song of life.

Tasha Halpert

Celebrating Birthdays by Tasha Halpert

Celebrating Birthdays

When I was little I looked forward to my birthday. Rarely there was a party with friends, more often it was celebrated quietly within the family. This was probably just as well. I clearly remember the embarrassment I suffered at my twelfth birthday party. There were two small nude statues displayed on our living room bookcase. They were by my mother who was an artist and sculptor. These created a small sensation among my invited classmates who pointed and giggled, looking at me strangely. To me they were simply statues.

My dear parents were more sophisticated than my friends’ parents. My mother played in a civic symphony; my father was in a local theater group. They didn’t talk about sports, discuss politics, or participate in the kinds of activities my classmates’ parents did. My days were spent either by myself or with adults. I welcomed the idea of growing up. Every birthday was a step in that direction.

My husband Stephen celebrates his birthday the day before the 4th of July, and we celebrate our anniversary the day afterward. This makes for a grand celebration for us, taking place over all three days. We will have enjoyed doing this now for thirty five years of marriage. Born so close to the birthday of the USA, and being an independent person himself, Stephen feels connected to the celebration of independence that it signifies.

For myself I enjoy celebrations of all kinds. Birthdays are a wonderful opportunity for this. Over the years making up for all the parties I never had, we have enjoyed commemorating both his and my birthdays with friends. I also enjoy sending cards and even making telephone calls to sing happy birthday to special people on their day. The internet provides wonderful animated cards that cost little or nothing. Sadly some people either can’t or do not wish to open them. It always makes me happy when they do.

The birthday of our country is an important one to celebrate. Despite our faults we have been generous and supportive to many. While our growing pains have sometimes been severe, we have in the long run achieved much as we have grown. By European standards we are a very young country. There are churches all over Europe that are over a thousand years old. Nothing in this country even comes close to that. Being a young country, like any other gawky adolescent we could perhaps be excused for some of our clumsiest actions.

Whether one is a person or a country, it is impossible to grow without making mistakes. The important things is to learn from one’s mistakes, and also to be forgiving of whatever stumbles have been made in the process. The acknowledgement of oneself as a person who lives and thrives makes a statement concerning oneself. To have a birthday is to have survived another year of ups and downs, of trials and triumphs, and of defeats and victories. This alone is a cause for celebration.

Sydney's Party Blowing out the candles

The Gift and the Wrapping

by Tasha HalpertKathy's Christmas tree

Being somewhat uncoordinated when it come to things like wrapping packages, I have always struggled with trying to make my presents look reasonably attractive. Some people are really creative with how they wrap their presents. I envy them. I wish I had that kind of creativity. My mind tends to run along more utilitarian tracks and I don’t always think to add the trimmings.

I have a friend who does lovely wrapping. She told me about the finishing touches she had put on the colorful hand made gifts she had crocheted. She went on to tell me that someone said to her that the decorative packaging she had purchased to do this was extravagant, asking why she had spent so much money on something that would soon be discarded.

I understood completely why she had wanted to do this. Her gift was special and she wanted it to look that way. Her expenditure made perfect sense to me. While I tend to be less decorative in my thinking I can admire someone who knows how to do up a package and make it look special. My artistic friend has very clever fingers and knows exactly how to fix up a package to make it look extra special. I wish I had her skills.

The care with which a gift is presented says something important about the giver as well as the gift. Stephen and I accumulate presents for family and friends all during the year; my wrapping though not fancy is part of the caring. I used to have a dreadful time wrapping presents until a friend who had done professional wrapping for a department store showed me some useful tricks. Now I can make my packages look much more attractive.

There was a time when wrapping paper for Christmas gifts was not as inexpensive or as available as it is now. When I was a child we used to save all our Christmas gift paper from year to year and reuse it as often as we could. The use of scotch tape was discouraged and gift paper was sturdier as well. I remember one special piece of wrapping paper that appeared every year on a different present. It had an elaborate design and was very lovely as well as quite durable. In her elder years as the Christmas presents were opened my late mother would spend her time folding the wrapping papers. I expect this brought back vanished memories of when we were all young.

At this season of giving many feel compelled to spend money they don’t have to buy gifts for others who probably don’t need them. The simple gift of a hug and a plate of home made cookies or a hand made card might do just as well. Even young children need to learn to be content with less rather than yearn for more. Whatever I give at Christmas is primarily a token of my affection, and it need not be expensive or fancy. I will, however, wrap it with care and love because these are the real gift I am giving.

The Permanence of Impermanence

Stones and leaves, fallThe Permanence of Impermanence by Tasha Halpert

 

Stephen and I were strolling along on Thayer Street in Providence on our way to meet my granddaughter who is a freshman at Brown. My daughter and her fiancé were with us, and Stephen was pointing out various landmarks from his years living in that city. We were almost to the place we were to meet my granddaughter. Stephen turned to point out a building of special significance to him, stopped still and gasped.

“It’s gone!” he exclaimed. He stood looking across the street to where the house turned shop that he had known from his childhood had been. In its place was the gaping infrastructure of a soon to be Brown University dormitory. Stephen had grown up in Providence, and his family had once owned the now totally vanished building for all of his young years. In his childhood it had housed a shop that his mother and father had managed and in which he had spent many hours as a boy.

“It was such a lovely little house,” he said. There was another house on either side. My mother ran the Scotch Shop in it, and I think she was happy there. My grandmother used to say that one day the building would be mine, but they sold it after I got married. I suppose they thought I wouldn’t be interested. Why did they have to tear it down?”

He turned to me and the expression on his face was sad. I felt for him. When something special you have known from your childhood is gone it is as though you have lost an old friend. The experience brings to mind other losses as well. I know I was reminded of other vanished childhood places as well even as people who have disappeared from my life. As a wise person who had been one of my teachers was fond of saying, “The only constant is change.”

It seems important to be able to take this kind of experience in stride. While it is appropriate to mourn a passing of significance, it is also vital to move on from it and to accept the inevitability of change. Growth cannot take place without it. Brown University had outgrown its current ability to house students and needed to expand. To make way for that, buildings or houses of lesser importance to them had to be razed. In life, what we have left behind must be removed to make room for what is to come.

As a mystic, I see a potential for symbolic meaning in this experience. Perhaps something from Stephen’s past has been eliminated to make room for something new that is being built for him. I am always curious to see what develops when a major change has taken place. Our lives are subject to the currents of energy that take us where we need to go for our next adventure. Meanwhile, as another wise person has said, there is always the laundry and the grocery shopping.

 

Living a No Fault Life

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Automobile insurance from Massachusetts companies is based on the principle of no fault. What this means is that if you are involved with other vehicles in a car accident, regardless who is at fault, each insurance company pays for damages experienced by their insured. There is no need to go to court, no tangle over who is right and who is wrong, or any other difficulties associated with the distribution of funds to those who need them.

What happens if this principle is applied to life? What if instead of spending time assigning blame or fault with all the resentment and anger that that can produce, no fault were placed upon anyone? If that were to be the case it could mean that any resentment or anger I might feel from a perceived injury, whether physical, emotional or psychological could be seen in a different light.

Think about it. If a cat scratches me, is it the cat’s fault, or is it simply the nature of a cat to scratch? If a small child breaks my precious piece of china or even pulls the dog’s tail, whom can I blame? Children are often careless and break things. Especially when they are very young, they may not recognize that dogs don’t like to have their tails pulled. Is the child at fault for how he or she acts, or is the child simply acting the way children do?

In my life there have been many people who metaphorically speaking stepped on my toes because of who they were. They didn’t do it on purpose. They were just being themselves. Can I blame them for being themselves? Do I resent them for their actions, or do I simply recognize that it’s not their fault that they are inclined to be forgetful, careless, ill informed or whatever else caused the problem?

I may do a disservice if I place blame on another instead of recognizing that he or she only acts as she or he is capable of acting at the time. The same is true of myself. I can take responsibility for my action; I can try to do better next time; yet I do not need to fault myself. It is my firm belief that at any given time people do only what they are capable of doing and that there is no need to assign fault. Blaming causes resentment and anger as well as tends to prolong the original difficulty.

I might gently call attention or discuss what was said or done, yet only if it seems important. It’s not my job to judge the actions of another. Perhaps this is why statues and other images of Justice are usually blindfolded. She holds scales symbolizing fairness. Perhaps she sees with the eyes of the heart rather than her physical ones. To be fair I need to take into consideration all the factors in a situation and not only my perceptions. When I can accept that there really is no fault, that it simply is the way it is, then compassion and forgiveness will guide my response.

It Tolls For Thee

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As Above, So Below Photo by Tasha Halpert

Heartwings says, “Love is the goal and love is the way to achieve it.”

When a huge tragedy occurs we are all affected. As John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet said, Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. On April 15, Whether we were on the scene or safely watching it on TV, we were there. Even if we hadn’t yet heard about it, we were there. It is my feeling that in some mysterious way, we are all connected, interwoven with one another like the cells of a finger or an eye. Yet each functions as we are created to do by our unique makeup.

As we are all connected, when we harm one another, we are harming ourselves. It makes more sense to be peaceful, yet human beings seem to continue to pursue conflict as they always have. Animals that live by cooperation live longer, healthier lives than those who do not. Why is it that part of us attacks another part of us? There may be many reasons given, as many as there are speakers. Not one of them is either right or wrong. It is what it is.

Regardless, the healthier each one of can become, the healthier we all will. Much progress has been made in the last century in so many ways. Most recently is the trend toward men spending quality time with their infants and toddlers, changing their diapers and bathing them. How wonderful for a child to have the care of both mothers and fathers at such a young age. Cigarette smoking was once prevalent throughout our society. Now it is frowned upon by many. Recycling is common, conservation is growing.

Progress is made slowly. Yet sometimes that is best. The slow plow turns a deep furrow. The loving responses of the many as the Marathon tragedy unfolded is heartening to see. Little tales of compassion continue to surface. We might take some small consolation that the tragedy has brought out our best selves, teaching us what  we can do to change the world to a more compassionate, loving place to live. Little by little with each act of kindness and compassion we add to the sum until little else is left but love.

May you find joy in sharing and caring. Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert