Sunday, September 18, 2011

My enemy is my teacher

The thing that gets me lately, the top of the list of things, is that as a Christian I am tasked with not just loving my neighbor, but loving my enemy. This is the teaching of Christ, the greatest teaching, the most demanding one. And I signed up for it as an adult (I was baptized and confirmed at the age of 31), so it's not like I didn't know the drill already. I can't play dumb and pretend to not have read the fine print on this one. But I'm happy to gloss over that section of the contract every Sunday, because it's HARD FREAKING WORK. Hell, it's hard enough loving my miserable, alcoholic neighbors, but I give it a shot. My enemy? No thanks.

So, it's fair to say that I've been doing a pretty shitty job of the whole "love your enemy" thing, despite 18 years of devoted religious practice, prayer, meditation, and whatnot. I've prayed for my enemy. I've examined my resentments toward my enemy. I've searched for ways in which I played a part in creating the enmity between us. I've sought forgiveness and redemption there. But I would still mostly like my enemy to be run over by a truck, thankyouverymuch, and I feel awful about that truth.

Anyway. Imagine my surprise when I got it right today, for at least an hour, maybe more. I did this little mental trick, when I felt the usual "oh God not him again" thought trying to worm its way into my brain, and I quickly did a mental gymnastic trick and gifted my brain with a different thought entirely. That thought was, "oh good, my teacher is here."

I don't even know where that came from*, but it made me smile. My teacher? Of course. And what does he teach me? Patience, with myself, with him, with God, for allowing things to unfold in His time and not in mine. Forgiveness for my own mistakes, for his. Love for everyone, including my teacher, all of us children of God. And selflessness -- stepping outside of myself and my own self-centered view of the world, and seeing everyone, all of us, as equal, and equally loved. My teacher is a gift, my teacher is grace itself.

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” 
-Desmond Tutu

A therapist once told me that the time would come when I would be grateful not just for the experience, but grateful to him. I think -- maybe -- I'm getting closer to that time.

*(God, duh)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Empty Sky

I stood in my mother's Woods Hole kitchen, watching the reports trickling in on the morning news show. I remember all that initial confusion, before the pieces fell together. What kind of plane? Was it an accident? On purpose? And then that sickening moment, that second-plane-shot.

I don't really know how to deal with this 10th Anniversary. It all feels far away and yet very very fresh. Extremely personal but writ large. Self indulgent to relive it, to write about it, but important, too. My memories are the same as your memories, but different, and it's all tied in with where I was then and where I am now and all that happened during, and just before, and in between then and now.

Remember that moment before you knew it was possible for that great big tower to collapse? And then remember that moment when it came down? And then the realization that the other one would, inevitably, too? And how you couldn't help but think of all the people trapped inside? Of course you do. On the Cape it was glorious early autumn, the air was crisp, birds were singing, and on the television -- Hell on earth.

I remember those eerie, empty skies above Cape Cod over the days that followed. And reflexively watching for con trails, for signs of danger. It was blue, beautiful, rainless, and cool, and I felt hollowed out and spent.

I want a kiss from your lips
I want an eye for an eye
I woke up this morning
To an empty sky

People I knew died that day going into the towers. No one near and dear to me, but people I knew by name, who knew me by name. Brothers of friends. Other people I knew decided to take a later flight out of Logan and were miraculously, mysteriously spared. I was already in mourning for my stepmother who had died suddenly and young, just four months before. A friend from college died two years later from complications from AIDS -- specifically, a respiratory illness. He lived near the World Trade Center. I blamed Bin Laden.

My three-year-old pointed at our crushed oyster shell driveway just a few days after and said "Look, mama! Debris!" He had seen a lot of television by then. I cried a lot. He patted me on the head. My husband had already left for Texas to start his new job and our new life, to buy our new house. We talked on the phone maybe that day, maybe a day later. My panic and sense of urgency were met by his coolness and political analysis.

That life was already cracking for me, but September 11th didn't help. The gap between my experience and his was jarring and unresolvable. A few weeks later I flew with the boys to Austin, a stranger in a strange land, surrounded on the highway by pickup trucks with that same Jingoistic bumper sticker on them, purchased at Wal-Mart. I don't even remember what it said now. "These Colors Don't Run," maybe, or "Never Forget."

As if.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

this could be the place

Hello, original blogging platform. I wish to reclaim you.