Sometimes it's not easy being a spiritual director! A week or so ago a friend, while exercising at Curves, shared a recent story about losing her temper. She told the story in great detail, laughing a bit at herself and the situation, but also showing some righteous indignation about the precipitating issue. I listened quietly, but was then asked to comment on what had been shared. After taking a deep breath and asking myself, "Do I really want to go there?", I responded. "More than likely there is an underlying reason you lost your temper at this time." "You're probably right," my friend agreed, and then I was prodded to offer ways to do the necessary discovery work -- on the spot spiritual direction.
I suggested time for quiet reflection to ask herself the question, "What's underneath what happened?" and to keep repeating the question after each answer. "What's underneath that?" "And what's underneath that?" When one hits the core of the issue, it is clear. Oh, and I laughingly suggested she make an appointment with me!
Turning the Question on Myself
Little did I know how soon I was going to have the opportunity to dive deep into that question myself.
Yesterday as part of getting to know my new MAC Air laptop, I had a one to one session at the Apple Store and early in the session my entire address book on the laptop and on my iPhone were deleted. I was stunned, and my teacher was mortified. The details aren't important, except that something similar had happened when data was transferred from my old phone to the new phone. That time, however, the technicians were not apologetic and only said that with the cloud this would not happen again. Well, it did, and I sat there in utter disbelief. Initially, I remained calm. I didn't lose my temper. I didn't rant and rave. I didn't throw my purse at the nice young man. No, instead, as he attempted to explain what happened and what we might do about it, I felt the tears form. I told myself I would cry later, but with each apologetic expression, I felt myself enter the no-man's land of crying in public. Soon I was flooded with tears --not sobbing or heaving, but my voice was shaky, and dabbing at my eyes with my handkerchief solved nothing. I was embarrassed and apologized to this young man whom I sure wondered what to do with this out of control old woman.
True, there was reason to be upset, but even in the moment I knew the reason for the tears was deeper than what had just occurred in the Apple Store. There is always more to the story than the story. After leaving the store, I recovered and continued with my day, a day of many errands. and frankly, I was pleased that I interacted well with all I encountered. I fixed a good dinner at the end of the day, and I slept well without replaying the scene at the Apple Store or agonizing about how to deal with the loss of data.
This morning, however, the work began. After sitting quietly and then reading a chapter in Thich Nhat Hanh's You are Here, Discovering the Magic in the Present Moment and a few pages in Choosing Happiness, Life and Soul Essentials by Stephanie Dowrick. I opened my journal and I began to write.
"I cried instead of showing anger, instead of throwing a temper tantrum. In a way I behaved myself, but still I let my teacher know that what had happened was no small thing. I wonder what would have happened if I had expressed my anger instead.
I cried because I felt betrayed. I trusted him -- his knowledge and expertise and experience in an area where I feel vulnerable.
I cried because of the lost time: the wasted session and the need for another one, the time it will take to recreate what had been lost. Using time well is a huge value for me, and I resent when time is wasted. And more and more I realize the passage of time.
I cried because I have not cried for a long time and lately, there have been times when I have shown great calm, but underneath have felt myself swirling and swaying."
That's when I started getting to the core. Underneath the emotion in the Apple Store are complicated questions about retirement and the timing of selling this house and buying a house in St Paul with getting an apartment here in-between. I dug down to questions of regret and forgiveness and trust and choosing love over fear.
Big stuff! Much bigger than what has happened to my address book. The kind of stuff I need to continue to excavate and no doubt will write about more in this blog. I leave you with this quote:
If you are not facing one of your tigers, it's already eating you
John J. Scherer
Five Questions That Change Everything
PS: I have just returned from an another one on one appointment and while all is not perfect, there is a workable improvement.