Friday, November 4, 2011

What have you learned from you lately... OoooOooo Ya

Conflict is as much a creative process as it is destructive. It is life defined. We can take something useless or ugly and turn it into art. But like any art that is worth selling our work needs to be a labor of love. Inspired and directed. We need to take conflict and do something with it, we need to transform it. Among the many things I’ve learned about conflict, I value this lesson the most. Making the conflicts and trials in my life work for my benefit has changed my perception of the people I encounter every day.

I feel like there are basically two ways people deal with conflict. The first type, spend their whole lives trying to avoid it in any way possible. They walk around pretending things are fine just because they managed to run from a possible confrontation. They justify the way things are just so they don’t have to live in a world where feelings get hurt and people are yelling, but the reality of their lives is that they are miserable, blaming others for the contention that fills their hearts. The second type look forward to it, they try to cause it, for no good reason except that it distracts them from the unfulfilling lives they lead. These are the types that have road rage and make a scene when any expectation of theirs is compromised. These are the extremes, but both types are growing exponentially.

We teach others how to treat us.

Learning to accept and embrace the challenges in my life, have helped me grow. Accepting when I make mistakes and allowing the consequences to affect my life without justification have given me so much to look forward to when conflict surfaces around me. More importantly though, learning to accept how others deal with conflict has helped me create a life almost free of the stress that conflict can cause. Conflict has become an opportunity to me, either to prove myself or to gain a healthy dose of humility. Either way …I learn something. The only way to do this however is to look inward when conflicts surface around, and ask what have I done to casue this.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand how difficult and exhausting conflict can be. It is often the worse kind of demon to face. It is extremely hard to face our own fallacies as well as those of others; this is why people try so hard to avoid it. No one likes to be told that they are wrong or that what they believe to be true could be false, or that they made a mistake, or that they caused harm or pain. But learning to deal with each other’s differences and putting our pride aside in the choice to allow love to work instead is the best way to turn a life that could be fruitless into the best kind of living art, one that creates instead of destroys. One of my favorite quotes expresses this point…” every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” –Emerson. We can’t allow ourselves to forget this in conflict, the value of life and the potential to create, that our enemies have. Let us soften hearts not harden them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great Uncle Wally

I had a dream a couple of nights ago... one of those dreams that wakes you from it. Of course I don't remember all the details or what other things I dreamed that night, but I do remember the impression. I remember waking up and telling myself I needed to remember what I had dreamed. It was about my great uncle Wally.
My Great uncle Wally has been alive now for 85+ years. He lives next door to me now with my grandparents. Uncle Wally is special, he has survived unfavorable odds and a lifetime of relative silence. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck in which he suffered brain damage. My grandmother has taken care of him for as long as I've known him. I've lived around Wally for most of my life, I remember visits to his house with my mother and grandmother in downtown Riverside as early as my earliest memories. I remember thinking that his house was well kept for someone in his shoes. What I didn't realize was that my Grandmother went over there everyday more than once to help Wally. She dressed him, cleaned up after him, made sure he ate well. Wally can't concentrate very well and usually communicates only in yes or no. I remember trying to talk to him, but that mostly he was just Great Uncle Wally and that I felt bad for him. His likes and dislikes, his wants and desires, his dreams have always been a mystery besides his apparent love for anything sweet. Sadly to say I haven't given Wally much thought in my young adult life. Not until last night...
Last night in my dream, me and Wally shared a connection, through a microphone. It was some sort of special microphone that when he held it, I would hear on the other end ( and hidden behind a voters partition?) what he wanted to say, or what he was trying to communicate. We were in my grandparents backyard (a 1 acre garden). Like I said I don't remember all the details nor does it make much sense but what he said hit me. He was standing in front of my brother and my grandma and what I heard him say was that he loved his body and that he thought it was beautiful. Then he went on to thank my grandmother for her sacrifice and that he loved her very much.
I woke up... sweating I'm pretty sure; heart racing.
Not a nightmare.
What I think hit me was that he probably does or has learned to really feel that way.
What a great perspective, one that many of us do not share often. I know that I've been ungrateful for my body, under appreciated the health and beauty of it. Criticized it even. Hated it at times.
I'm sorry Great uncle Wally.
I'm sure my dream was a gift. One I want to share. We've often joked in our family what Wally would say if he could speak his mind, what was being pent up behind the barrier of his disability. What he said in my dream was the last thing I imagined he was aching to blurt out. My dream made me want to be able to sit down with Wally and have him tell me what he's learned and what he dreams about. Trials will make you better if you let them. They can remind you what really matters, give you restored balance and a happy grateful heart.
Remember your Heavenly Father, remember his gifts to you, including your beautiful body that enables you to live and experience all the great and horrible things this life has to offer. It shouldn't take a disability to make us be grateful for our ability.