Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creating a moment of grace

Each moment in time is a moment to open more,
to love more, to forgive more,
To bring grace and compassion to the rest of life.
Julie Redstone

Most of us may not remember Florence Chadwick. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. At the age of 34, she became the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast, besting the record by two hours. It was her second try. On her first try, physically fit, ready and eager to get going, support boats in place, she gave up the attempt half a mile from her goal. She had been swimming for almost sixteen hours. She had the physical capacity to keep swimming but her mind would not let her go on.

It wasn't tiredness that got her. Or the icy cold waters. It wasn't a cramp. It was the fog and the fear it instilled in her mind. From the moment Florence Chadwick slipped into the water on that July morning in 1952, dense fog surrounded her. She couldn't see her support boats or the people urging her on. She could only hear the sound of muffled rifle shots scaring the sharks away and the voices of her supporters calling to her to keep going, telling her she was almost there. Twenty-five+ miles later, she was, 'almost there'. But half a mile from her goal fear overcame her resolve and she asked to be pulled from the water. Later, she would tell a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it."

Two months later she would complete her goal. Swimming through the same ice cold water and pea soup fog she would slip into the waters off Catalina island and twenty-six miles later, step onto shore on the mainland, two hours faster than the last man who had accomplished the feat. The difference this time: She knew the fear was only in her mind. And, because she knew her mind, she kept her goal in her mind's eye. She focused on what she knew was true -- land was ahead and she was heading towards it -- even when she couldn't see it.

I have always desired to be a woman of integrity. To act up to my higher good, in everything I do and say, think and believe. From my thoughts to my actions, how I express my feelings, my desire has been to act with integrity, to be authentic, to be real.

And sometimes, my realness is expressed in my petty behaviours that reflect where I'm at on my journey -- never who I am.

Last weekend, C.C. and I had a dinner to attend that was organized some time ago. As we drove through downtown to meet the couple we were to dine with, a Simon and Garfunkel song played on the radio. "Will you still go to the Simon and Garfunkel concert in July with me?" I asked.

"Of course," he replied.

"Too bad I didn't return the extra two tickets," I said. "If you'd known you were going to do this then, I could have at least gotten rid of the extra tickets." (When the show was cancelled in April, ticket holders had the option of returning tickets they didn't want for the July show.)

"Oh. So now you're blaming me?" he said.

I paused. Thought about the tone and content of my statement and replied. "Yes."

Duh. Blame games are shame games and always a reflection of the state of being of the speaker, not the beholder.

I thought about my little game for sometime and on the first available opportunity mentioned to C.C. that I appreciated his awareness and his willingness to speak the truth in the moment. "Thank you for calling me on my behaviour," I told him. "You are not 'to blame' and I was behaving badly when I pointed my accusatory finger at you. I apologize."

"Thank you," he replied.

See, in the moment of feeling hurt and frightened about the changes in our relationship, I lost sight of my goal - to be a woman of integrity.

I was stuck in the fog of my feelings and forgot, no matter how my emotions are unfolding in the moment, or what I'm feeling, I am accountable for how I express myself. In taking my consciousness off my goal, I let my emotions have their way. In my dragging past hurt into our conversation, I baled on being a woman of integrity. I chose instead to behave with petty vindictiveness, creating a situation out of something that isn't really all that dire or awful -- the tickets are still for the friends we had intended to give them to. And the concert will still be a blast. And really, the conversation wasn't about the tickets. It was about me wanting to express my fear by getting a dig into him.

Now, I need to clarify -- this doesn't make me a 'bad' person. It does mean I'm a human being capable of bad behaviour. And the truth is, regardless of where I'm at, or what I'm feeling, if my goal is to be a woman of integrity, then it's up to be to act accordingly. And, when I don't, to be accountable.

I am always creating my experience in the moment -- and my belief, "He's hurt me. It's not fair. blah blah blah," interfered with my being 'real' in the moment. My belief blinded me to my truth. It inhibited my ability to be the woman of integrity I strive to be. It kept me stuck in the blame game.

The beauty of awareness is -- being accountable gives me back my power. It puts me back in the moment of creating the experience of my lifetime -- the experience I want to have, deserve to live and choose to embrace.

C.C.s willingness to speak the truth in the moment gave me an opportunity to 'see' my behaviour through his eyes and to look at his reaction through eyes of compassion. It allowed me to become accountable for my actions and words and to be a woman of integrity.

There are moments in all our lives where we say or do something that inflicts a wound upon someone we love. Our intent may not have been to hurt them -- but, when I can step back from the situation and reflect upon my deepest 'intent' in that moment -- it was, sadly, to hurt C.C. Just a little bit. You know. Nothing major. But, couched in my comment was the desire to 'make him feel bad'.

And that's where I get to come out of the fog into my integrity boat. I can't change 'that moment'. I can acknowledge the truth of that moment and apologize for my behaviour. And in my apology, I reclaim my integrity.

I may have fallen down, acted out my lesser good, but like Florence Chadwick, nothing is stopping me from getting back into the waters of life, rowing gracefully towards shore in my integrity boat -- except my fear. Oh, and perhaps a desire to not be accountable for my bad behaviour. And, oh right, a desire to be right. To cling to hurt and blame. To sluff off my feelings of angst onto someone else...

An apology from the heart is an opportunity to create a moment of grace. It is an opportunity to step into integrity, with grace and ease, to create a world of harmony all around me.

I am blessed. In C.C.s willingness to speak the truth, I was given the gift of exploring how I let my integrity go and the opportunity to create a moment of grace in my life.


This post was for the Tuesday, May 18, Blog Carnival sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time and Peter Pollock of Rediscovering the Church. I know. I know. Today is Wednesday but... better late than never!

The Blog Carnival is a biweekly online event open to anyone. Participans write on a one-word prompt or topic. This week's is "grace".

At Bridget's place you'll find a list of links to all of the contributions, which are posted throughout Tuesday and often through to the end of the week.The Blog Carnival's FaceBook page is here. (Thank you Maureen at Writing without Paper for the descriptive paras.)


Maureen said...

You make an important point about distinguishing between who we are and what we do; what we do because we are human does not mean we are "bad" or unlovable. Accepting that truth about ourselves makes it possible, I think, to get back in the boat.

C.C. also experienced a moment of grace, which was in accepting your apology.

Anonymous said...

ahh . . she's back

on track


life is good!


Anonymous said...

So real and honest... thank you for always speaking to my heart, Louise.

Anonymous said...

glad you did a grace post :-).

Joyce Wycoff said...

Thanks so much for the story and your beautiful build on it. You are indeed a woman of integrity, willing to look at your own actions and weigh them against what you want to be. You are an inspiration.

Tricia said...

"An apology from the heart is an opportunity to create a moment of grace." I like this statement. So very true.

Sandra Heska King said...

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Plucking the zingers.

My husband is an expert in extending grace.

caryjo said...

Grace is a constant learning curve... and opportunity... both coming and going. Thanks for sharing.