Last night, I came home to a very challenging situation. My wife told me she could not find the tickets to the Wanee music festival. I tell you all this not for your pity, but to spend a moment analyzing an existential/stressful moment. There was a point between reaction and action in which there was an obvious emptiness dying to be filled. The emptiness arose as a question mark seeking its answer. It was not an immediate reaction, more of a slow freight train of mixed emotions. After all the starting answer, “it’s around here somewhere” soon evolved into “What will we do if we can’t find them”. Wanee is important to us for a number of reasons. Those who know me, probably know that music is my engine. Music charges my batteries, helps me through the hard times, consoles me when I am down, and offers epiphany after epiphany in the midst of live jamming or improvisation. So for me it is a battery charging weekend. For the two of us, it is a needed respite from the cares of the world. My work is emotionally stressful. I hear stories of neglect and abuse every week that would curl your toes and make you wanna wash out your soul. Suzi on the other hand lives in a stress generating universe where the big boss creates struggle after struggle, and Suzi’s supervisor (direct report) has to constantly repair those rifts that the big boss creates. So you can see, Wanee represented more than the money that would be lost. It would be a loss of something very special to the two of us. Add to this the stressful realization that there is no place to point the finger. When we encounter a stressful block in our lives, we are built to seek out the origin of the stress. We like to be able to point the finger. Somehow, pointing the finger and setting the blame elsewhere often makes us all feel better. There is a collective sigh, “Thank God it is isn’t my fault” and then all of the energy is redirected at an attackable source. Then there is anger. Anger rises like a fire breaking loose and generally results in damage to someone or something. In know this experientially, and in my job I am constantly teaching my clients how to manage this emotional cascade.
In this case, I could not place blame. I could not honestly say it was not my fault, as much as I wanted to. In the fallout from our basement flood we went into a state of temporary chaos- one that is still looming just below our feet (and in our garage). So this flood decentered us. It ungrounded us. The usual order that we cling to so strongly was gone after the flood and we went into a repair mode of thinking. We did everything we could within our power to resettle and reground. But no matter how hard you work, chaos and dread are always just around the corner. Don Juan said that death is just over our left shoulder, guiding us to our answers if we only consult it. That is to say that any ungrounding and unsettling event, can only be so because it reminds us of the temporality of our moment in the world. All that we cling to for security and safety can and will inevitably fall apart and we are left with just what we came in with, breath, curiosity, pleasure, fear, hunger, disgust- all of the base emotions. We are chaos born into the world craving order, and when order fails chaos returns, the uninvited guest.
So here I was in the midst of this wave of emotions with no place to go. Oh, I certainly expended energy towards looking for the tickets, but somehow that was not what quelled the fire. I tried throughout to be mindful. This was after all not the end of the world. It was not as if we lost someone we loved, or got into a bad situation. Instead it was the specter of blame and the reminder of frailty, the things humans rail against daily.
One of the things I teach my clients is a concept called Radical Acceptance. It is a difficult concept but it is helpful. Radical Acceptance is the ability to recognize that which you cannot change, and letting go of the will to change it. It isn’t giving up, or accepting derision or pain. Rather it is a letting go and letting be, allowing things to pass and paying attention to that which is solid and real in the moment. So I came to this realization- I could search the house, I could call the ticket vendors, I could yell and scream (a momentary release of tension), but beyond all of this, I could not change the situation. And so I let it go, as best I could. I surrendered to the moment. I let sadness and anger flow through me. I felt it prior to sleep, I felt it when I woke. I sat with it. I allowed it to be with me. I was disjointed and out of groove. I was the sour note in a beautiful symphony, but I let it be and let go of the fight.
Now, the story does have a happy ending in that the folks at ticketing have told us that we can still come to the show. But this is not the point, the point is that I made it through this in a way that I have never made it through a stressful situation, I let it go.
There was a moment when I really surrendered all of this. Suzi was clearly upset and I realized that she was hurting. At that moment, all of my rage and venom fell flat and all I could think of was that I did not want her to feel all of this. So I comforted her, took my half of the blame, and sat with her. And perhaps that is all we need in a moment of rage or pain, the realization that we are not alone in the experience of loss and chaos. We need look no further than the person next to us to find someone else in pain. And comforting that person, can cause the release we all need. So that is my message to anyone within ear shot, helping others through pain is better than sitting with pain alone. Desires, addiction to order, material lusts, these all have their place but none compare to just caring for someone else.
I will close this message with a verse from Oingo Boingo, the band who soaks up lots of pain. I encourage anyone reading to give someone else the gift of comfort, help them soak up the pain.