Browsing the archives for the Vulnerability category

On Being Teachable

Life as it is, photography, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

I love to learn. Sometimes, though, I forget how little I know, and in so doing I lose my chance to learn something. This is a character defect of mine, this arrogant pride of my intelligence, and it can lead me into being an arrogant know-it-all if I let it get away from me.

But how to do so? That’s a real question….

I’ve worked against this a long time – and not always with success. If the opposite of being proud is to be humble, then I needed to work on being humble, i thought. I tried this and it never worked for me. CS Lewis had it right when he wrote as Screwtape, a senior demon in hell, to Wormwood, Screwtape’s nephew – an apprentice demon on his first assignment in the field. Screwtape warned that humility was fatal to demon-kind, but easily defeated as his advice went.

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to this fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear”

So how to defeat this, when to try by will alone is to create some sort of proud false-modesty? Yuck! That’s even worse than being a know-it-all in my book. It’s true that the only thing worse than false pride is false modesty.

The answer is in something simple – it is in not trying to be humble. It is in trying to simply stay teachable. In fact, if i can stay teachable in all situations, and with all people then i am coming closer to something good – something close enough to being humble that the difference doesn’t matter.

“Every man you meet is your superior in some way. In that you should learn from him”
Abraham Lincoln

Tonight was the classroom discussion for a wildflower photography class I decided to take. I took it because I recognize the instructor as a master at nature photography, and every time I have gone to one of his workshops, I am amazed at how little I know and how much he can teach me.

So once again tonight, I arrived and since it was a lecture, I found myself skeptical as to what I could learn and couldn’t i skip this lecture – after all, I have already heard several of his lectures. But I could be teachable, so I took out my notebook, and started writing notes on his ideas and the structure of his lecture and anything else I could learn and be taught. And as I opened myself up to being teachable, I found myself learning about topics of which I knew nothing, and seeing the results of ideas I had read about but never seen attempted. This being teachable stuff works!

May we all become teachable a little more today than we were yesterday.

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Rejoicing in my Imperfections?

family, Life as it is, Mistakes, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

I found a note in some old writing of mine that says, “If I ever figure out how to celebrate my imperfections, why, I could have a life of constant celebration.”

My inner critic has really been kicking up a storm lately. I was complaining to someone about how I broke a promise to my son to run an errand for him tonight, and that my teen aged daughter was having an emotional meltdown concerning the telephone. I found myself yearning to be a better dad than I am, and to have better skills than I have, and be better organized than I am.

This is the point where I usually will excuse myself for a short self-pity break. Then I came across this brief story in some of my old journals:

A man visited his Rabbi. He sat and said that he had spent his life trying to live according to what the Rabbi taught, but after all these years he had gained nothing. He was still an ignorant and foolish man. The Rabbi turned to him and said, ”But you have gained an awareness that you are ignorant and foolish, and that is something.”

And now, things are still the same in my home. It is hard to be a single father of two teens. It is hard to stay organized and work like i do and also have my own hobby and life. And I have spent a lot of time working and studying and learning and trying and counseling and being counseled and still I am not the father and man I want to be. No matter how long it seems I have been traveling this road, I am just not there yet.



But, I have gained an awareness of the fact that I am not yet the man I want to be. And that awareness of my imperfections is something of value. And it must really be something too, because i can almost catch a glimmer of what it is to celebrate my imperfections and that there is such a well-perceived gap between who I am and who I want to be.

Tonight I celebrate my imperfections. Tomorrow, I will continue my journey. Who will join me in the party and the adventure?

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The Choice to Abandon Myself

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

While I was in Dallas for my daughter’s hospitalization, I attended several support meetings. In one of these, someone read a small chapter of a book. It didn’t hold my interest, but caught me in the last sentences. They said in effect:

You may feel abandoned by those who you counted on. But we still have choices – only we can decide whether to abandon ourselves.

And this hit me pretty hard. Because I had been feeling pretty abandoned by my former bride and her decision to leave the state and move thousands of miles away while I raise two teens, one of whom has special needs. But it was that last idea – the one of abandoning myself that I had never looked at.

But it certainly fit to some degree. I had gone out and bought a video game to escape into from the hotel room after the first few days. In very little time, I found myself wanting to play rather than attend to phone calls I needed to make or e-mails that needed to be written. I told myself that as hard as everything had been, I deserved these breaks. I needed the escape.

Looking at the word, I found the following:

a·ban·don
tr.v. a·ban·doned, a·ban·don·ing, a·ban·dons
1 – To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2 – To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat: abandoned the ship.
3 – To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely.
4 – To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
5 – To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.

It was this first definition that caught my attention. Sure my life was difficult, but one of the things that keeps it difficult are all of the things I keep telling myself I will do – and then never get around to doing. Or worse, doing the first 95% of the task, and then deciding that was enough for now – time to go play a game. And then never returning to the task….

Isn’t that abandonment? In that first definition it talks about duty and responsibility as what is being spited in this stuff. An I saw my poor inner child being left behind, not by others but by myself.

So this past week, I have been trying to stay in the present moment with myself. Paying bills when medical expenses has stripped the accounts to the point that there isn’t enough to go around. Making calls, sending FAXes and signing documents that need it even though it hurts to do so.

And in doing so, I have been reminded that this shit hurts. Nothing like turning into the storm and trying to hit the waves bow first (to avoid being capsized) to see just how big they are and want to be somewhere else. No wonder I keep wanting to escape! Abandon ship!

But me and my life is the ship….

So maybe there are those who captain their lives and navigate storms and fair weather and this just seems like basic lessons. Captaining Onje’s Life 101 is a course I never saw advertised. Are some just born with this ability? Or does it take something opening our eyes to the way things are to show us what we do to ourselves?

I don’t know, but I believe there is hope through the storm. After all, look at the word, “abandon” when it stops being an action and becomes instead a thing of substance. That is, a noun:

a·ban·don
n.
1 – Unbounded enthusiasm; exuberance.
2 – A complete surrender of inhibitions.

Imagine being able to captain a life like that. Until then, I need to keep bailing and staying at the helm.

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The Vulnerable Heart

family, Life as it is, Love, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

At last night’s Lifeway meeting (our alternative peer group), the topic was on the importance of staying vulnerable. Several people shared, but as a parent of an addicted teen I have my own experiences I can share. One of them was last night after the meeting and again today.

Victoria's Heart

Last night I found that my daughter has been stealing spare change from my room. Not a huge cause for concern, we have consequences to help take care of that. But then she came to my room and gave me a long hug and kiss and I sent her back to her room to bed. After she left, I realized that she had manipulated me and the situation to steal my keys during her visit so she could get into my computer room and the Internet.

So today she has disconnected her stereo and her computer and gone back under consequences by placing them in the storeroom so I can lock them up until she starts moving in the right direction again. It’s hard to just let the consequences be the only consequences – I am hurt by her behavior. It brings back old tapes and reminds me of a time in my past when loving actions were a lure to get my guard to drop so that cutting remarks could pierce more deeply.

There’s a quote by C.S. Lewis I tried to share last night in the meeting and did not do a very good job paraphrasing it. Taking a few minutes to look, this is what he said that spoke so clearly to me:

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” -C.S. Lewis

I choose today to keep loving my daughter – to stay vulnerable to her. I choose to remind myself that feelings are not facts and that her consequences in the form of loss of her stereo and computer take care of the situation in full and to trust this program that has helped my family so much. For me to distance myself from her in the name of guarding my heart is to send a message that it is her I have a problem with, and not her behavior.

This is incorrect. It is her that I love and her behavior that I will not accept.

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