Periodically, I write a post and then decide to save it as a draft. This is often when I write something in anger and/or frustration and then decide to shelve the energy instead of sending it out into the virtual ethos. I wrote one such post today, titled The Power of Shenpa, which I may or may not publish at a future time. This post is about the Tibetan term Shenpa, which is the hook that triggers us to become irritated. Our learned response is to respond in kind to this kind of energy. In my path to awareness and “waking up,” I notice Shenpa seems to live at a steady roil inside me, particularly with the events of 2017.
In temporarily tabling the piece, I happened upon the one below. I read through it and was fascinated to find that it deals with the same subject but from a previous version of me circa spring 2015, just a few weeks before I began to study yoga in earnest.
Finding a piece of writing from an earlier time in my life is like artistic and spiritual time travel. I think the time has come to share that past with you, dear reader.
I have been holding onto anger and the feeling of betrayal for a week. It is not easy trying to move from a place of anger to one of empathy. I feel so justified in being a victim that I want to lash out and make the other person pay for the hurt they have caused.
Plus, when I feel things, I really feel them. In my entire being. And shaking them often takes even more energy than just giving in and wallowing. I remember a friend of mine calling me up during a very dark time in my life. I explained the guilt and sadness I was feeling in the wake of great changes I was making.
“How’s that working for you?” he had asked.
“Not very well,” I admitted.
This past week, I was visiting the Prescott College Kino Bay Research Station in Mexico. Paradise for a birder and lover of the open ocean. Depressing for one who wishes to rid the earth of pollution, especially in the form of plastics.
After a few brief days, I was a mess of emotion from the visible trash, wandering packs of bony dogs, and cement block shacks lining the streets.
Then came the third in a string of unfortunate financial issues befell me all at once in the form of an email communication that appeared on the surface to be kind but was beneath that thin layer also cryptic and brought news of a break in a legal contract that the person had somehow justified as legal. I could feel myself beginning to drown in anger and frustration combined with shock and an inability to comprehend this dishonest, darker side of human behavior.
If you have been reading my blog, you know that I too have my own dark moments. I will tell you in all honesty that the longer I spend walking this earth, the more I try to be kind and the less premeditated, nasty behavior I commit (even though sometimes I think it would feel so damn good; at least, it has in the past until I cool off and wind up feeling bad and apologizing).
In this instance, my choice for response was limited to nothing or an email. I sent a couple of follow up emails. I sent a couple more, reviewing them several times for any potentially heated language that might cause a stir on the other side.
Still no response.
I felt completely helpless. I could give the person the benefit of the doubt, but I had a sinking feeling that this would prove fruitless in the long run.
Nearly a week later, I wrote a very kind email, wishing the person the best but also making the point that I really did require a response.
More than 24 hours later, and I continue to wonder in the dark.
Except the dark feels less laden and pushing down on me overbearing/bearing down.
Where has the change come from?
By yesterday afternoon, I was so filled with shock that someone could be so dishonorable and disrespectful that all I wanted to do was run outside into the middle of the street and scream at the top of my lungs. I didn’t go otuside and scream because I no longer live in the wilds of Alaska, but it was a long wait until I got home from work and could start drinking whiskey.
What happened was that I reached a threshold in my tolerance for pain.
That was it. I could have likely taken much more, but I just didn’t want to.
I was letting this person ruin me over a few thousand dollars.
And I had done all that I could to elicit a response without taking drastic, stress-inducing measures like contacting lawyers and going the route of small claims court.
I slept better last night than I had in a week. Feelings of hurt and anger flitted periodically by, but I was able to keep them from spiraling into the “how could they” questions that can easily become obsessive and endless and maddening for one’s sanity.
This post may seem dramatic. I guess I can be pretty dramatic at times. I want to say that in the grand scheme of things, it is only money. But there is something deeper that I find incredibly troubling. It is the entitled act of justifying unethical behavior. In this instance it may only be money, but there is still hurt involved. And if this kind of action can be justified, what next? Ethics are a slippery slope.
For this recent event, I still keep thinking that somehow respect and honesty will win, but deep down I know that I need to let it go.
I recently picked up a copy of a book that was life changing when I read it as a child. I read a line that was a perfect description of making it from one side of the storm to the other through sheer force of will.
“When I came up to the sunlight, which I did by simply poking my head into the soft snow and standing up, I laughed at my dark fears” (George, 1988, p. 5).
Peace and relief on the other side of the emotional storm were there all the time. I simply had to relinquish my hold on the idea that I can control another person’s behavior. Once again, I have learned that it is my own self that I oversee and no one else.
I also found a sticker that read: “Empathy will set you free.” Not sure I am quite there yet. Perhaps, someday.
Of course, the irony in all of this is that I imagine my counterpart feels just as fervently “in the right” as I. They have battened down the hatches and dug in tightly. They are on the defensive in preparation for the attack from the enemy, which is, me (I know, it’s funny).
Who, then, is right? I would like to defer to the law in this scenario, but somehow my counterpart has interpreted the law differently and seems to hold no reservations in communicating as such.
Because we live so far apart and have actually never met, I am not a real person and can much more easily be vilified as an evil force in this person’s life. And is this person even real to me? I want to see them as a person with feelings not unlike my own. I want to be able to empathize, but at present I feel the hurt of this perceived betrayal by their recent actions more deeply. And we have never met. Their life and daily struggles are foreign to me. I have no idea who they really are. They are a figment of my imagination, pieced together from email communications made up of filtered thoughts. The reality of them is a construct of my mind. Perhaps, this is the first step toward empathy.
I know the world is not black and white, and I also know that it is far easier to behave unethically toward someone you have never met than a person whose hand you have held, if only in a brief moment of greeting.
In the end, I really have no idea what is going on with this person. All I know is who I am and what I feel. I am simply trying to process and do my best to understand what is going on and why so that I can move on to “greener” pastures.
Because I am at a loss for how to resolve this situation, I defer to Bob Dylan’s song “With God on our side.”
So now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war
Peace be with you, friend.