One of my very best childhood friends, practically my brother, in a drunken rage, shot and killed two people. Two people we all knew in that small community of ours. The last act he would perform in this life…..was to then turn the rifle on himself.
Receiving that phone call was one of the greatest shocks of my life. I couldn’t register the reality of what happened. I made the 1000 km trek back to the town I grew up in, to be there for his family and the family’s of our two other fallen brothers, for the community, to grieve, to heal, to say goodbye. His mom asked if I would speak on their behalf at the funeral, speak for him. I didn’t think twice about it. It was my honour to. In retrospect however, what a task. To speak to the life, to the positive qualities, recalling the best, of the person who’s actions took the lives of two others. And to do so in front of their families and friends.
This is one of the most unique attributes of the Native (First Nations) culture. In light of such an event, to come together to say goodbye to the fallen members of the community. All together. At the same time. The caskets side by side. The families side by side. Therein lies a step in the process to healing that is leaps and bounds ahead of much of the rest of the world. I’m not saying it makes it any easier. But the effect is much deeper. And as a result, I felt I had said my goodbyes, done my healing and was able to let go of what had happened, because there was nothing else that could be done about it now.
The last few months, and especially since Ruhiyya was born, I’ve been doing some digging. A puzzle before me as I worked to uncover what key lay within it, that would allow me to move along to the next stage of the path I walk. It took some time and extra vigilance as I moved through, one layer to the next, each time thinking I had found the answer. A struggle with self-worth? Seeking approval from others? A few more thrown in there for good measure. While I don’t generally associate with these as being my particular challenges, I needed to look into all potential corners and be open to all possibilities. Because it is often where we don’t think to look (or we feel we are “above such ‘insignificant’ issues”) that we find the answer. While initially I thought I could see how “this could be it”, none of them truly connected. And I was spurred on.
Then finally, I did. In a power session of peeling back the layers (with my love, my soulmate, my best friend…my wife, as my sounding board), we found the gem, lodged in tight. A gem because it was a gift, to release me from a lifetime of, while well intentioned, anchors threatening to take me down as I strived to give more through the development of my capacities.
It was not wanting to let others down. My parents, my sisters, my friends, my teammates, my fellow man, God. I did not realize just how deep this went. And it went unnoticed, under the guise of helping others, being of service, caring. And this is where the fine line is. Because we should care. We should be able to be of service to others. By assisting others (in whatever function that is meant to be) to reach there greater potential, we do the same for ourselves, all mutually supporting each other to a more meaningful life. BUT! There is a way that will in the end help most and a way that will drag you under, leaving you helpless and powerless to do anything at all.
I’d like to share a brief, summarized story from the Baha’i Faith. Ruhiyyih Khanum (my daughter’s namesake) had a dream. And in this dream a dam had broken, causing a great flood. She ran down to try and help people being swept up by the water. She could save a few, but many she could not. The current was too strong and there were too many of them. At one point she saw Abdu’l-Baha further up, his back turned to her and the flood. She called out to him to come help her. He didn’t respond, but rather kept attending to what he was doing. She ran up to him, pleading with him to come help save these people. With out missing a step, he smiled at her, telling her he was. He was fixing the dam.
This has always been a powerful image for me growing up. Yet here I am, realizing that all this time, I had been finding myself drawn in to attempting to pull out one person at a time. The feeling of having to leave anyone behind, to be unable to “save” them, was difficult for me to accept. Combine that with a strong sense of protecting others from harm (having faced immense abuse myself as a child), it was a mix that would prove overpoweringly challenging to not fall into that pattern. The irony is, yes you may have “let down” a few along the way to fixing the dam. But you will let down far more trying to pull them out one at a time.
The thing is, anyone who is familiar with saving a drowning victim knows you NEVER get near them. You throw them a line or other apparatus and pull them in. Because in a state of panic, without meaning to or understanding what they are doing, they will take you down with them. Now you are both dead. For me, it’s not a matter of whether or not I care. I always care. But it is a matter of responsibility to the higher potential I am called to.
When it hit me that this was the current piece in the puzzle I needed to put in place, it all came in a rush. Like domino’s falling, I could see right back to my childhood, throughout my life, how I got caught in it. While I have been lucky enough not to find myself trapped indefinitely, I could see how at minor and major points along the way, it severely hampered any forward momentum, until finally a strong enough jolt from a screaming intuition would shove me onward.
Identifying this factor has ended up being the key to disrupting a recurring feedback loop I’ve found myself in the last couple years:
1. I don’t want to let anyone down. So I try to help everyone with every little thing (even when it is not mine to deal with).
2. By attempting to do that for everyone, I get bogged down. I get drained. I’m not attending to what I need to focus on, thus not following through on tasks that will have a fulfilling sense of purpose (because our purpose is unique to each of us).
3. As I feel myself getting dragged down, accomplishing less and less, I re-commit. I steel myself to work harder. To get the results I’m striving for (in my feeble attempts to assist everyone, whether on a personal or professional level).
4. That causes me to work more, sleep less and have less time with my family. Feeling like I’m doing this to make headway to have more quality time, and more quality services offered. Yet, I’m letting everyone down. Because I can’t do it all.
5. I don’t want to let anyone down….
You get the picture. So while on the surface it may seem like a positive course of action, in reality, it is the very act that will snuff out our light, leaving unfulfilled, the contribution of our unique gifts and strengths for those whom it will have the greatest impact. And what right do we have to do that? Pretty selfish really. Feeding our ego a nice meal of “I’m the one who will save them. If I don’t save them, than they are lost.” We have no idea what role we will play in the lives of others. That’s not for us to determine. All we can do is pour forth the best of what we have within, out. If done with sincerity, it will hit it’s mark in the way it’s supposed to.
I was waist deep in the flood, hanging on tight with one hand. The pebbles beneath my feet slipping. Wet and cold, getting drawn further from the shore, having to look into the eyes of those who I was helpless to do anything for. Pulling, struggling. I couldn’t see why all of this felt like it was imploding in on me, as I felt my efforts futile to change the situation.
It took the intensity of my best friends actions to see the sorrow I felt still, a decade later. To recognized that I somehow, on an unconcious level, felt responsible. That I had somehow let him down, and because I couldn’t pull through for him, he was boxed into a corner that forced his hand. What a way to belittle his life even further. To take what dignity he had left, that he wasn’t responsible for his choices.
Losing my breath, dizzy, unable to stand, convulsions unlike anything I’d ever felt, screaming into that pillow a gut wrenching rage filled sorrow, I entered the hurricane…..and let go.
Thank you my brother. I love you. God speed.
Dare to Evolve.