Sunday, August 05, 2007

flaws and all

"Let's trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let's lay down our righteousness and just be together." Ram Dass

It’s amazing how we react to the troubles and woes of the people around us. Put a little drama in your life and you are given a very valuable lesson about the kind of people you want sitting at your kitchen table. It seems to me there are three kinds of people that show up at various points of your life, and you can easily identify them when the proverbial chips are down.

There are those who just want to be around you when you’re riding high, in the driver’s seat, shit together, in the spotlight, numero uno, ever-so-popular, working the crowd and pleasing everybody. And as soon as you stumble, they disappear like yesterday's news. Pardon the expression, but I like to call them star fuckers. These people are not your friends and never will be.

Then there are those who only show up when the shit that was together has now hit the fan, so to speak. This group is actually divided into two subsets. The first subset are those who jump right in, offer advice, try to save you from your own bad self, make themselves indispensable to you, but then strangely disappear as soon as you’re happy again. I haven’t quite figured them out yet, except to say that maybe they prefer being in the middle of someone else’s chaos so they don’t have to deal with their own. And then become resentful when you find your way out.

The second subset are those who hang around just to watch you struggle. They sniff out the drama and think it's a spectator sport. And then they talk about it with anyone who will listen. You are the train-wreck-of-the-week, and they think it's better than color TV. They eat it up like chocolate and if you look closely enough you'll notice they are almost always smirking. I call them drama whores, and along with the first subset, I simply have no use for them.

Finally, there are those who never leave you...they love you when you’re up, they love you when you’re down. They just appreciate the fact that you’re walking on a path next to them, and you know you're safe, always, to be exactly who you need to be exactly when you need to be it. These people are the keepers. The ones you need to hold on tight to and never let go of, no matter what. You want them at your kitchen table, every chance you get. Savor them. They are angels.

I’ve had some experience with all three types, particularly in the last seven or eight months. It would not be an overstatement to say that during that time it’s been a highly emotional walk around the block for me. And I’m happy to say, I’ve been mostly blessed to be surrounded by extraordinarily kind and compassionate people. Some are friends I’ve known for years. Some used to live just on the edge of my life and then found their way inside it. And some I did not know even existed at all before this recent journey began.

Whether I’ve needed a strong cup of coffee, a cold beer, a pillow and a place to sleep, a laugh, a cry, a hot meal, a hug, a quiet conversation, or just an out-and-out wild and crazy roller coaster ride of a night, I have rarely gone without, and most times I haven't even had to ask. It’s just been there when I've needed it. No judgments handed down. No gossip whispered. No commentary on what I could do differently or better. Just something unspoken that tells me I am accepted and loved, bumps and bruises and flaws and all.

As far as the rest of them go, it’s been a wonderful time to do some metaphoric weeding of my life’s little garden. It's a gift, to be lost at sea, and then to find your way back to shore. It's a gift to have your most imperfect self in plain view. You learn so much about humanity and compassion and authenticity and friendship.

In ancient Chinese art, the greatest painters always included a deliberate flaw in their work to illustrate, in some subtle way, that human creation is never perfect. I like that, very much. The people I love the most are those who aren’t afraid to show their flaws, and who aren’t afraid of mine. Who embrace those imperfections, and maybe even celebrate them. Who recognize my inner demons and accept them just as much as my better angels.

So yeah, I pay attention to the way people behave when the chips are down, whether it's my own drama or someone else's. It's a remarkable way to figure out what someone's really truly made of. The thing is, I’ve got no time in my life for people who just watch someone digging themselves out of a tough spot and who shake their heads with a tsk tsk tsk this isn’t the way you get out of that mess and you should have never put yourself there in the first place and if you just behaved more like ME...


I want to fill the spaces in my life with the kind of people who don’t ask questions about how someone got in the spot in the first place or why they’re digging instead of climbing. They just immediately grab a shovel and start to help because hey, that's what you do for someone who's in trouble. They do it without judgment, without opinion, without expectation, understanding that we all find our way out of the tough spots, we all find our salvation, and we all, ultimately, find our joy, in our own unique and beautiful ways.

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