“That I Was Blessed, and Could Bless”
I once had a coworker who never seemed to feel pain, offloading it instead of dealing with it. He passed his pain along to others. His father was an alcoholic and his mother an enabler and he was not willing to walk his way through his emotions. Instead he passed his anger along, almost without thought. When I no longer had to work with him I vowed to never again hire a person unwilling to experience pain. I wanted to work with people who believed the truth would set them free, though they also knew it was likely to make them uncomfortable first.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck once wrote about the need to entice a client into therapy. Many come to counseling eagerly, but leave prematurely, as soon as they realize the amount of work necessary to truly deal with their issues.
Most people do not want to actually grow. They just want the pain to stop. They will trade a more fulfilling future for a quick fix today. As soon as an emergency tourniquet stops the flow of acute pain, they leave therapy. Only the brave remain, the ones willing to feel their pain instead of offloading it. And what do these brave souls discover?
They discover becoming more fully human has little to do with happiness. Happiness comes and goes throughout life. Becoming more fully human is all about power, not power expressed as lording it over others, but power restrained, what the Bible calls meekness. It is the power of refusing to be defined by other people’s opinions of you. It is the power of knowing you can dialog with anyone, because you are comfortable with where you stand. It is the power of knowing what you know.
This is not the power of the desperate, but the power of those who believe in abundant life, those who influence others not through argument, but through generosity of spirit. It is the power to do what you are called to do and let go of the consequences. It is accepting the weaknesses you are never going to get ahold of, and learning to be okay with that.
People with this kind of power discover there are not many kindred spirits on the journey. They often feel alone, though some are grateful for the solitude.
Do I consider myself to be in this company of the humbly powerful? Sometimes yes, more often no. I am too aware of my need to be accepted, not a particularly helpful trait for a transgender woman. I also remain impatient, addicted to speed. (Show me any great master addicted to speed – not one out there.) Plus, with all of the humility forced upon me through my transition, you’d think I would be the picture of generous tolerance. Alas, I still do not suffer fools well. I suppose those might be some of the traits with which I need to make peace. They are so very unbecoming.
The poet William Butler Yeats had similar feelings. He expressed them in verses four and five of his poem Vacillation.
My fiftieth year had come and gone
I sat a solitary man in a crowded London shop
An open book and empty cup on the marble tabletop
As on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed
And 20 minutes more or less it seemed
So great my happiness
That I was blessed and could bless.
Yeah, I feel like that. But listen to what he writes in the next stanza:
Although the summer sunlight gild cloudy leafage of the sky
Or wintry moonlight sink the field in storm-scattered intricacy
I cannot look thereon
Responsibility so weighs me down
Things said or done long years ago
Or things I did not say or do but thought that I might say or do
Weigh me down, and not a single day but something is recalled
My conscience or my vanity appalled.
Yeah, I feel like that too. Ah, the marvelous inconsistencies of being human.
Long ago I chose to take the road less traveled by. It is a rocky path, strewn with all kinds of debris. But it is my journey, not the journey someone else imagined for me. On my better days I do not offload the pain my journey brings, but reap the wisdom contained therein. On those days, if I can offer that wisdom to others, I will do so.
And so it goes.