Monday, August 16, 2010

roses in the morning

My backyard smells like my grandmother's closet.  Roses heavy in the morning air.

A truly Oregon smell.  Summer heat and roses.

I am sitting in the hot tub.  Finishing a book I started reading last weekend.  Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz

For about six months, I intended to track down a copy.  But I just did not get around to it.  When I mentioned it to my house sitter, he told me he had a copy.  A Christmas gift from his sister.

He lent it to me, and I started reading it about a week ago.

Now I am at peace with the day.  With the roses.  And the book.  An hour ago, I was not.

But a little background may help.  Last night I was watching a movie with a friend.  The Machinist.  One of the thrillers that lets you use your mind more than your adrenalin glands.

The plot had been rolling along with some rather nasty scenes.  At one point, our protagonist enters a house of horrors ride that appears customized for his paranoia.  Just as his date's little boy goes into an epileptic fit as a result of the ride, my friend switched off the movie and wanted to talk about something that caught his attention in the film.

I just stared at him as he started talking.  In my mind, I was still working on the plot and what the epileptic fit had to do with a character who appeared to be slipping into madness.

When he got no reaction, he asked: "What's wrong?"

I would like to say I had a rational conversation about his point and we went back to watching the movie.

That did not happen.  Instead, I stood up, declared "I am out of here,"  and left.  In a silent huff. 

I would also like to say I went to bed and slept the sleep if the self-satisfied innocent.  I didn't because I was not innocent.  But I was not going to apologize first.  After all, my pride was at stake.

I got up this morning.  Grabbed some leftover pizza.  And took the Miller book to the hot tub.

The book is about his path to spirituality.  Christian spirituality.  In a real sense, he is a political, social, and spiritual traveler with Anne Lamott.  If you know her writing, you know a lot about Don Miller.

When I opened the book, the essay hit me between the eyes.  He had earlier made the point that self-absorption is what keeps most of us from having satisfactory relationships with one another.  And, as a result, with God.  I have known that for some time.

The part of the book I started reading was his memory of living alone until he was 30. His pastor suggested that he move into a house with several other single guys in Portland -- a small community of faith. He was reluctant to do it.

And he soon found out why. He was so self-absorbed that he could not deal with other people. As he put it: "The audacity to come into my room, my sound stage, and interrupt the obvious flow of the story with questions about how I am."

He then related a story of driving to Salem to listen to Brennan Manning speak. Manning is a former Catholic priest who struggled with alcoholism and speaks frankly -- very frankly -- about matters of Christian spirituality. He summarized Manning's sermon -- Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus. How Jesus dined with him and showed him that love -- not recrimination -- would heal his life. How the great danger of a harsh word, the power of unlove can deteriorate a person's heart and spirit. That our communication should be seasoned with love and compassion.

His summary pierced my heart. Beth (of Minto Dog) and I were at that same lecture -- that same night. The night that Don Miller listened to Brennan Manning. I recall how convicted I felt. I had shown the same lack of compassion for my fellow man. Daily. I said I was going to stop doing it.

I haven't. Last night was a perfect example.

I could have done a number of things other than getting angry.  We could have talked.  I could have repressed my self-absorption to talk about what my friend wanted to talk about.  I could have been a friend.  The type of person Jesus was.  And wants us to be.

Reading Miller's tale was enough to get me out of the hot tub and on the computer.  I sent an email to my friend -- basically saying what I have said here.  Apologizing for being so self-absorbed -- and wishing I had said the same things last night.

The exchange went well.  Because we are willing to forgive each other's foibles.  And to try not judging one another.

It is tough.  But it is the currency of friendship.

Perhaps that is the reason I wrote those essays last week about the nature of relationships.  I was supposed to be a bit more sensitive toward others -- and not so self-absorbed.

I do know one thing.  I feel at peace having had the apology conversation.  And maybe I will do better next time.  When it matters.

For now.  I sit.  I read. 

But I have stopped to smell the roses.


Anonymous said...

It is good that you saw yourself as self-centered and rude. You are fortunate that your friend accepted the apology and you can continue to be friends. We all need to be a little more sensitive toward others.


Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

I am glad that you got it worked out. You can always measure a person by the way they act after an argument. (in my opinion)

And I am glad it got out of the way so you could smell the roses and enjoy them!

I hope you feet are feeling better!

Tom said...

Friendship and forgiveness: I've got a particular job there myself. I appreciate the reminder.

Calypso said...

Self-absorption - You hit on a key problem with much of society these days - the ME generation, when the reality is about giving and receiving.

I find self-absorption a lot on the Viva Veracruz Forum for example - so many readers there but a mere handful of contributors. I keep encouraging people to get involved, to share their experiences to help others - but it is mostly about taking information and going away - really a picture of what you are writing about - self-absorption.

Anonymous said...

The awareness you have about yourself and your reactions to others are very important to future personal growth. Many people live and die and never have the opportunity for self growth. It is wonderful that you were able to share this with us and your story may have a domino affect. It may make others aware of their self absorption as well. We all have areas in our life that need improvement and it takes courage to do what you needed to do, apologize to your friend. He sounds like a true friend in that he accepted your apology and you are both now able to move on and continue your friendship . You are truly a very special person Steve.

NWexican said...

Once again, "simple and beautiful"

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion." Brennan Manning

Anonymous said...

it sounds like a good book, one i would like to read and pass on to one of my sons.

read your comment on cynthia's blog. wish you could have joined us too. i still hope you can make it up here before you head south but i know you're very busy. hopefully, someday. we really enjoyed having them over. it was fun going back and reading the other e-mails she made reference to. hard to believe it was almost a year and a half since we met in salem. if you do decide to visit, i can make you some cuban food and that delicious flan bliss mentioned in her post about my family's work in chacala. i can have cynthia and mike over too. think about it. a trip to seattle and lake stevens, maybe the san juans ;-)

did you get my e-mail last week? i'm still trying to find out the name of todd's blog.

have a great week and stay cool. i was supposed to hike today but my friend changed her mind because of the heat. i think she had the right idea. i will hike with another friend tomorrow.


Rosalie said...

Been following your blog for about a year...enjoyed this last entry so much...a common problem for many of my devotions I have read many works by a Bishop from the 16th Century named Francois de la Mothe Fenelon, married to his mentor, Madame Gouyon. His writings cut to the core and have given me so many insights into what love really encompasses. I hope to get back to Mexico again someday...have lived in the Yucatan as well as central Mexico from time to time.

Rosalie said...

Been following your blog for about a year and enjoy your adventures..loved this last are not alone...a common foible I'm afraid. Have you read anything by Francois de La Mothe Fenelon? He was a Bishop in the 16th century...his writings cut to the core of what love is. I'm 60 now and as I re-evaluate my life in the light of what Fenelon believes I have been sadly lacking. Why is it we have to age some to become a little tiny bit wise then spend the time feeling badly for being such a jackalope in the past? In any event I keep on learning and trying to apply the good things to my life. I miss Mexico so much..spent quite a bit of time in the Yucatan. Oh well, perhaps someday. Life is full of surprises isn't it? Rosalie

Anonymous said...

Very insightful post, Steve, and a lesson for us all. Your ability to share a perceived chink in your armor says alot about you!

May I share two thoughts here?

1) As to the incident in question, I've learned that it helps me to acknowledge my irritation at the moment, before it becomes a matter of major anger and frustration. I think my reaction would have been, "Hey, why did you turn it off right now? We're right in the middle of the best part?" Without anger - just incredulity. ;-) The result might have been different...just saying.

2) I am not religious but I certainly respect others faith and beliefs. However, I do tend to bristle a bit when "good" human behavior is attributed to adherence to one's Christian beliefs. I understand and admire the strength you find in such beliefs. But, can't the same kind of forgiving behavior simply be attributed to just being a decent human being, without the need to believe in a higher power?

Alee' Robbins, Salem

Laurie said...

I loved that book. And Steve, don't you love how honest Miller is about how hard it was for him to live with housemates? Bravo to you, too, for listening to your heart and making things right. I hope 100 people pick up that book because of this blog post. And Google Donald Miller. He has a nice blog, too.

Steve Cotton said...

Mom -- A lesson I learned early from you.

Rosas Clan in Tulum -- Of course, the trick is learning to not let these things happen. But that is also the hard part.

Tom -- Nice to know others are on the same path. Sharing always helps to let us know we are not alone.

Calypso -- I fear a lot of the world's problems stem from that one issue: self-absorption. Racism. War. Poverty.

Anionymous -- It also helps that he is a special friend.

NWexican -- Great quote.

Teresa -- I have your email. I am really behind on correspondence. Work tends to get in the way of this blogging business.

Rosalie -- Thank you for commenting. It was an experience I had to share.

Alee' -- I am not religious, either. I find mere ceremony does nothing to develop one's faith. On the other hand, I am a follower of Jesus because he provides a role model I can truly believe in. I do not need to believe in a higher power. I am satisfied he believes in me.

Laurie -- I particularly like his honesty in every aspect of his life. I understand there is a movie based on the book.