My dead friend came to me after meditation the other morning. I’d posed a question to her and she showed up to answer.
When she was alive, our friends called us the Brenettes because of our close friendship, yet Brenda and I were very different. The high school administrator and the delinquent, the graduate of Lutheran high school and college and the one who abandoned parochial school after 4th grade. There’s a lot more, but all you need to know for this writing is that despite some similarities and an incredibly close friendship, we were not really that much alike.
Brenda had a Big Persona. She was larger than life and could take up all the space in a room. People naturally deferred to her because she was so clearly in charge. And she was smart, funny, and wildly entertaining. I loved (and love) her madly and yet, despite her magnetism and charm, she wasn’t perfect.
Of course not. None of us are, least of all me. I’ve always been pretty out there with my messiness, but Brenda wasn’t as open with hers. People naturally focused on the obvious presence: a very impressive, grown up woman, ultra responsible, a left-brained powerhouse of efficiency. I think maybe my purpose with her was to see the tender bits, the old hurts, decades-old wounds, and the behaviors that arose out of them, and to love every aspect of her without condition.
In my favorite book of this lifetime, Lonesome Dove, there are two main characters, lifelong friends, and they couldn’t be more different. Woodrow Call is a super responsible, highly capable leader of Texas Rangers. He works from dawn til dusk and manages to convince everyone else to do the same. He’s as hard on himself as he is on others, torturing himself for his rare failures. No one would dare defy him and everyone looks up to him except for his partner, Augustus McRae.
Gus is my favorite. He doesn’t really work any harder than he has to. He has zero desire to lead though he’s as capable as Call. He’d rather chat, tell jokes, play cards and spin yarns, content to let others do the heavy lifting unless his presence was absolutely required. He appreciates himself quite a bit.
In our friendship, Brenda was Call and I was Gus. There’s a hilarious piece in Larry McMurtry’s delicious book that goes like this:
The funny thing about Woodrow Call was how hard he was to keep in scale. He wasn’t a big man — in fact, was barely middle-sized — but when you walked up and looked him in the eye it didn’t seem that way. Augustus was four inches taller than his partner, and [his lieutenant] Pea Eye three inches taller yet, but there was no way you could have convinced Pea Eye that Captain Call was the short man. Call had him buffaloed, and in that respect Pea had plenty of company. If a man meant to hold his own with Call it was necessary to keep in mind that Call wasn’t as big as he seemed. Augustus was the one man in south Texas who could usually keep him in scale, and he built on his advantage whenever he could. He started many a day by pitching Call a hot biscuit and remarking point-blank, “You know, Call, you ain’t really no giant.”
Brenda’s sense of humor about my keeping her in scale was far better than Woodrow Call’s, Call being unamused at being pelted with biscuits. There were times she’d be holding court, her audience in thrall, and a slight raise of my eyebrows would earn a wink and we’d later dissolve into hysterical laughter.
I loved that she could laugh at herself. There was a joy for both of us in recognizing that we’d escaped Satan’s clutches and the Lutherans’ dire predictions to find such happiness in being alive, and I encouraged her to embrace rather than hide her foibles. Laughing at ourselves and our shared and flawed humanness was divine. We are messy. So what?
One hot summer afternoon when I was six or seven years old, I traipsed down Elmwood hill to Jack’s market where I acquired a ten cent Coke in a green glass bottle. Though not really a fan of carbonated drinks, it seemed like the very thing to have on a sweltering day in tinytown Oklahoma.
But halfway up the hill I was suffering the pain and burning Coke has always caused me and I was anxious to get rid of it. As I passed the neighborhood mail drop, I popped open the metal door and rolled that nearly full bottle inside.
There are times I still wonder what that bubbly sticky sweetness destroyed in that mailbox. A child’s drawing on the way to an absent parent? A grandmother’s birthday card? A sweetheart’s letter to a soldier? I don’t agonize about this inexplicable behavior, probably because it pales in comparison to some of my later misdeeds, but I do remember it and how utterly bizarre and out of character it was for a very good little girl.
Why would a good girl do such a stupid, thoughtless, destructive thing? Why would any of us deviate from the loving nature that is truly who we are? Because that’s what humans do. We need egos to operate in this world and with them comes the potential for conflict and separation and Not Love.
In her book, “A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are,” Byron Katie writes:
The Master can’t take sides. She’s in love with reality, and reality includes everything—both sides of everything. Her arms are open to it all. She finds everything in herself: all crimes, all holiness. She doesn’t see saints as saints or sinners as sinners; they’re just people who are suffering or not, believing their thoughts or not. She doesn’t see any difference between states of consciousness. What’s called bliss and what’s called ordinary mind are equal; one is not a higher state than the other.
It’s all equal. Could this be true? Maybe our real task here is to experience and not judge, to embrace the mess of us and love every bit of it, no matter what. And then to recognize the falsity of our painful thoughts and return our focus to the Love that underlies everything. There might even be a sacred purpose to these forays into imperfection.
In Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson writes:
Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.
… Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. … If someone tells a lie, that person is not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer.
Those are powerful words. Embracing our humanity in all of its aspects, the magnificence and the brokenness, the all of it, knowing that it’s all the same to our souls, every bit holy and perfect and sacred, is healing. It opens us up to flow with this life. Byron Katie again: “The Master can’t take sides. She’s in love with reality, and reality includes everything…”
She doesn’t just tolerate it, she’s in love with it. All of it.
Our souls, those aspects of Joy, the One of Us, wanted to experience human life as each of us — just the way we are — not as the shiny perfect beings we are when we slip out of these human suits. We’d already done that. We had perfection before we came here.
My question to Brenda in meditation, then, was this: “Do you mind if I talk about you this way? That I write about the divine you and the still-divine-but-not-so-perfect-by-human-standards you, the one you struggled with and hated so much of your life? Is that okay? You know how much I love you, right?”
And my dead friend said, “Of course I know you love me. And no, it doesn’t bother me for you to talk about my humanness. That isn’t who I am. You know this very well. Talk about me. I love it. I love being the center of attention even now ~ but with humility, not the self-loathing that often led me to seek acclaim from others.”
So here I am talking about my Brenette and the human lives we led and how much I miss her and how okay it is to be what we are: full tilt, high/low, all over the place human. It’s okay with our souls to be contradictory, hypocritical, loud, not truthful, too much. (I can feel a collective cringe out there upon reading those words.) It’s beautiful to be weepy, angry, self righteous, and wrong.
It’s equally okay to be none of those things, to be quiet, graceful, kind, full of love, and to emanate peace. Be the salt of the earth rock-solid person or the whirlwind spinning through life at top speed. To quote my mother from the other side via the medium Sandy Soulsister, “Even in the hard times my soul was rejoicing.”
My point is that it is ALL okay in soul terms. And even our judging of ourselves is okay. It hurts, so learning not to do that has been key for me, but hurting, too, is fine with our souls. Whether salt of the earth or whirlwind, over time we will find that some of our human actions and behaviors feel better than others. They are more in alignment with the Light within. And discovering this, we may discontinue the painful behaviors — or we may just crank it up and double down. It’s fine. The Master is in love with reality, and reality includes everything.
It’s fine because it doesn’t last. It doesn’t harm us, who we really are, and it teaches us, if not here, on the other side. We get the experience of every bit of it. We can live a gentle life like a graceful and slow moving Ferris wheel or we can dive in to one like the wildest carnival ride: fast, furious, with whipsaw curves and impossible climbs. We are always utterly safe, so deeply loved and cherished — and never judged. No matter what.
All is always well in this life even when it so often doesn’t feel that way. And it is always well after human life, when the illusion fades away and we become Aware again of who we really are.
From Annie Kagan’s book, The Afterlife of Billy Fingers because it resonates so.
Why would a soul forget its high origins, clothe itself in a body, and leave the Higher Worlds for the more difficult earth? Well, my darling, because the soul loves experience and doesn’t fear suffering. The soul knows it can never be injured. This doesn’t mean it isn’t natural for people to prefer pleasure over pain. That’s part of the plan. And until you’ve left your world, you’ll never fully understand all the whys and wherefores. I was never fond of pain and suffering, but my end-of-life-on-earth scenario was filled with it. You might think because I suffered so much that I failed, but that wouldn’t be true. Even though my life ended like a tragic opera, that was okay, honey.
Our souls don’t fear suffering. They just love the experience. They know they can never be injured. It’s all okay, honey. It’s all okay.
Billy’s words are underscored for me by Brenda’s experience of living and after-living. She suffered a lot in life, experienced a lot of deep emotional pain, and yet with her last breath, she burst through the veil wide awake and joyful, and she hasn’t quit chattering since.
My most transformational spiritual teacher, Suzanne Giesemann, is right now teaching a class aided by Brenda and her insights from the other side. Suzanne has made it very clear in her teachings that we are part of a spectacular web of light and love. We are shot through with it. We don’t get cut out of the web and discarded when we mess up.
We are here to revel in the experiences of this lifetime. And no, we never come with the intention of hurting one another, yet it happens when the ego takes over entirely. We can be hurt and in our pain hurt another and another and another and on it goes. And then it’s over and no lasting harm has been done. Our souls gather it all in, for the experience of it.
Showing up in whatever way we are at this instant, embracing it all, and opening our self-punishing, judgmental hearts to the possibility that it really is going to be okay in the end, that our souls are untouched by the human drama, works magic here and now. We can take a breath, relax, and begin to love ourselves: every flaw, every gift, every bit of our human nature. We can grow to appreciate ourselves, flaws and all.
This is what we came for.
I hear this from my misty people on the regular as they go sailing by together in their spirit bus, laughing and rejoicing in their stories of That Time I Did Such A Crazy Human Thing. They’re not judging. They are free, joyful, unharmed, and celebrating all of it.
Soon enough, soon enough, we all get to go Home again and in the meantime, recognizing the truth of who we are and what we’re doing here makes this life pretty kickass and fun. I’m having a blast now when not that long ago I just wanted out. I’m grateful today for the mess and the holiness, for all of it. I hope you are too.
I’ll leave this long, long thing with the words of my soul brother, Jeff Foster. He doesn’t know me, but he writes from inside my heart and soul. Let these words resonate, for they are very, very healing.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU Friend, from the very beginning, you were not broken. You were not born into sin. You were not destined for the garbage heap. … You were always perfect, you see, from the very beginning. Perfect in your absolute imperfection. Your imperfections, your quirks, your seeming flaws, your weirdnesses, your unique and irreplaceable flavours, were what made you so loveable, so human, so real, so relatable. Even in your glorious imperfection, you were always a perfect expression of life, a beloved child of the universe, a complete work of art, unique in all the world and deserving of all the riches of life. It was never about being a perfect ‘me’. It was always about being perfectly Here, perfectly yourself, in all your divine strangeness. “Forget your perfect offering,” sings Leonard Cohen. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
This is the second part of a post I wrote about imperfection.
Her message this morning contained this wisdom, which says in a few words all that I was trying to convey here. Divine. One mind. Isn’t it delicious?
“…do not fear the
the shadows beckon,
to stretch you
so you may know
as limitless as