When I was in a committee meeting a little more than a year ago in Atlanta, a colleague challenged me to sit with my feelings. The meeting was an hour and a half appointment, and we were twelve minutes in. That wasn’t a great sign, his kind challenge.
It was a terrible meeting in select ways which would take months of posts to unfurl. The committee’s evaluation of me would either keep me in what ACPE calls supervisory education or the result would change my status so that I could offer clinical pastoral supervision as an independent educator. I’d be done with the learning process officially.
I was less concerned about the result for that reason actually. My job was supportive, my manager understanding. Of course, I had conceptualized a dozen directions after having thought through a list of if/then possibilities. That’s the kind of planner I am.
There was something beyond the result about that meeting. Opening to me was, in my work and in the rest of my life, something significant. I knew in my soul that what they said mattered. I had grown to trust the people I met in my process to that point.
I knew that their critique of me, their feedback for me, and their way of being with me were all represented by every previous encounter I had with supervisors and mentors through my process.
I knew that the kind challenge to sit with their feedback and to what it was doing to me was an invitation to some kind of good. I was angry about things in that meeting. I was uplifted by things in that meeting. I was exhilarated when I passed. Surprised too at first.
I celebrated and having finished the process completely one year later, the next November in the same city, Atlanta is still a second home in good ways.
So his challenge was an opening. I didn’t know then that sitting with things and then responding would be a new way for me to step forward as a pastoral educator and person. I have practiced parts of that my nature of my personality, and the committee’s work enriched that part of me. It’s really re-making me and how re-making how I’m trying to be.
You may not be able to do much about the deeply embedded reality of another person, system, or structure. It’s sad and may be cynical, but it’s also real.
The deeply embedded knowings, truths, or realities of others mean that they have made commitments that they aren’t likely to release.
When someone commits to something so strongly, they have cultivated a way of being that they naturally protect. They hold it tightly. After all, what’s a commitment if you don’t keep it?
You may be able to reframe what you see. You may be able to affirm that the system is seeking familiarity or that the person is doing what’s familiar. You may stretch in your imagination and see the fear of change that is present.
But those are reframes, imaginative attempts for you to adjust to what’s real, and that is that some situations don’t change. Some people don’t change. Some structures have to end on their own choking path.
Maybe your critique is better suited for who and what can accept it, house it, and respond to it. Maybe.
My friend said something to me years ago that I can’t remember. He says things I like to remember but the way he phrased his words slips me. What I haven’t forgotten is what I’ve done with what he said.
In my mind, what I’ve done is try to pull together the strands of fatherhood and contemplation. I do remember leaving that conversation thinking, “How can I be a contemplative father?”
I think back to his words, said to me on the street in our neighborhood and just outside our mechanic’s office, when I hear people say of their own child-rearing, “The years run by.” Or something like, “Don’t blink. You’ll look up and they’ll be leaving home.”
When people say this, I think of contemplative parenting. I think of my conversation with my friend. In my mental world, contemplative parenting brings together being a parent and being in the moment. Contemplation means being where you are. It means being centered and keeping your weight over that center. It means to be present.
Pulling together contemplation and parenting, it’s impossible to miss moments. Your practice is to be in those moments. You certainly don’t remember them all. Your brain does things with memories that you and I can’t understand. There are things that you lose or let go of. You forget. You will forget but that doesn’t mean you will have missed the moments.
You will have lived them. You will have participated in them. In that sense, those moments as a father (for me) will always be there (in the present), have been there (in the past), and left me available for being there (in the future). If my orientation is to be in the moment, I miss nothing. To be sure, it is exhausting, this orientation.
It’s easier to obsess about a future. It’s easier to fume over yesterdays. It is hard to be right where I am. May God continue to help me.
I was with a group of coworkers eating lunch, and we got onto the topic of eyesight. Glasses, lenses, and aging eyes. We shared quick stories about seeing and not seeing.
I talked about single lenses, they different ones. There are lots of options for people who have different eyes in their heads.
I have a lot of experience with seeing what’s in front of me. When I remove my glasses, a necessary accessory I’ve worn all my life, I see what’s there but in very different ways.
What’s clear with them is unclear without them. Sharp becomes fuzz. Distinction turns into muddled mess, especially the further a thing is from my face.
What’s there doesn’t change. I don’t even change. My eyes are the same. But the tools I use to enrich my vision make things appear different.
My natural ability remains but I use something in order to see what’s there. A tool can change your world.
Just the right tool can turn something from mess into clearness.
Stress has a way of uncovering your faults, stripping you of your character costumes, and revealing who is left.
When taken into your body (and by that I mean all of you), stress is received as a signal to your system(s) to fly, flight, or freeze.
Another way of screening stress is by calling it your way of coming down to your basic self, your raw self, and who you are.
You’re surely more than any one decision, but you are definitely who you are when you’re raw. Angry, pissed, disappointed. How you interpret stress, how you take that stressful event in and live from it, will look differently from the next person. But you are in that response.
Take a look at your stresses. Take a look at your responses. Notice who you were in them. Notice who you still are.
Is that the person you want to be when the next stress comes? Is who you are consistent with who you thought you were?
Accept who you see. Love that person. And decide if you want to change.