A Garden Of Ashes – Growing love in the remains of anger

When anger goes, what is left in it’s place?

I’ve been healing from an anger that was so much a part of me, I did not see it as something I could ever let go of. For years, I fed the fire of anger more and more fuel, trying to keep it alive – memories of abuses, the pain of shame and of humiliation, of loss and of confusion and of being made a fool of. I tended the burning hearth of my anger with the kindling of my past until it all ran out, and I literally had to go in search of more. I feared allowing my fire to go out, feared it would be too much like forgiveness, like making peace, like saying, oh, that’s okay, I don’t feel that way anymore, so don’t change, don’t feel you need to be sorry any longer. It felt like betraying myself, to not be angry any more.

It felt like I would die if I could not feel that burning, that rage. I feared peace. I hated it. I felt nothing could be created out of a peaceful place, a peaceful heart. I stoked myself up and ran away whenever release threatened to hold me down and intervene on me.

But for a while now, the energy I’ve had to expend searching for fuel to feed the anger fire has felt like too much. Just too much. I’ve known it was time to release to peace. In my heart, I know there simply isn’t enough time. It’s going to take too long, cost too much, to stay at that fire, tearing myself up into pieces and throwing myself into it. Anger was overcoming me, little by little, it was taking me over. Too tired to go out looking for firewood, I simply waited for the flames. To take me.

So, I let go.

It didn’t happen one day. It’s been a journey, a day by day getting up from that anger fire and walking away to tend my soul. And there has been a space it left in me, a hole where things were not created, were not brought in, were not accepted, were not held and reassured and put to sleep. There was work undone, growing up not attended to, intelligence and wisdom not grasped and pocketed and stitched in place. I was stunted, am stunted. I have an empty place in me – a pit where the fire once was. A cold, scorched circle. And I stand at the edge and wonder what’s to become of this place. Do I abandon it? Or do I build an altar here?

I’ve been returning every day to the fire circle, to the quiet, cold campsite of my anger. And every day I bring with me something safe, small, and which has secreted inside a little beauty, a little music, a little teardrop, a promise of change. I dig a hole with my fingers and I plant the little seed there in the ashes, blessing it and covering it carefully. And in this way, I am building a garden there in the scorched remains of my anger fire, a garden of ashes, an altar to a part of me that is healing, has healed, is yet to be healed.

I wonder if your anger is ready to die, as mine was? I wonder if you’re ready to let it burn out, I wonder if you’re ready to stand and let the embers grow cold, to risk the encroachment of forgiveness and the pervasive embrace of peace to put itself around you, to weigh you down on the floor, to hold you until you’re ready to let go, ready to walk away?

I wonder if it’s your time too?

You will grieve it, make no mistake. You will cry for it, and you will stand and mourn for it, and it will hurt, because it leaves a space when it’s gone. But things come, I promise, and they fill the space. And the things that come, they are familiar, and they are safe, because they are made of you. The things that come to fill the place your anger used to be are your desire, your creativity, your dreams, your ecstasy, your feelings, your self. And they are strong, they are clear, and they are beautiful, as you are.

Imagine in your heart a garden of ashes, a place where your anger can be healed and made whole. Are you ready? I pray you will be.

Blessings,
Jo xx

A Garden Of Ashes – Growing love in the remains of anger

When anger goes, what is left in it’s place?

I’ve been healing from an anger that was so much a part of me, I did not see it as something I could ever let go of. For years, I fed the fire of anger more and more fuel, trying to keep it alive – memories of abuses, the pain of shame and of humiliation, of loss and of confusion and of being made a fool of. I tended the burning hearth of my anger with the kindling of my past until it all ran out, and I literally had to go in search of more. I feared allowing my fire to go out, feared it would be too much like forgiveness, like making peace, like saying, oh, that’s okay, I don’t feel that way anymore, so don’t change, don’t feel you need to be sorry any longer. It felt like betraying myself, to not be angry any more.

It felt like I would die if I could not feel that burning, that rage. I feared peace. I hated it. I felt nothing could be created out of a peaceful place, a peaceful heart. I stoked myself up and ran away whenever release threatened to hold me down and intervene on me.

But for a while now, the energy I’ve had to expend searching for fuel to feed the anger fire has felt like too much. Just too much. I’ve known it was time to release to peace. In my heart, I know there simply isn’t enough time. It’s going to take too long, cost too much, to stay at that fire, tearing myself up into pieces and throwing myself into it. Anger was overcoming me, little by little, it was taking me over. Too tired to go out looking for firewood, I simply waited for the flames. To take me.

So, I let go.

It didn’t happen one day. It’s been a journey, a day by day getting up from that anger fire and walking away to tend my soul. And there has been a space it left in me, a hole where things were not created, were not brought in, were not accepted, were not held and reassured and put to sleep. There was work undone, growing up not attended to, intelligence and wisdom not grasped and pocketed and stitched in place. I was stunted, am stunted. I have an empty place in me – a pit where the fire once was. A cold, scorched circle. And I stand at the edge and wonder what’s to become of this place. Do I abandon it? Or do I build an altar here?

I’ve been returning every day to the fire circle, to the quiet, cold campsite of my anger. And every day I bring with me something safe, small, and which has secreted inside a little beauty, a little music, a little teardrop, a promise of change. I dig a hole with my fingers and I plant the little seed there in the ashes, blessing it and covering it carefully. And in this way, I am building a garden there in the scorched remains of my anger fire, a garden of ashes, an altar to a part of me that is healing, has healed, is yet to be healed.

I wonder if your anger is ready to die, as mine was? I wonder if you’re ready to let it burn out, I wonder if you’re ready to stand and let the embers grow cold, to risk the encroachment of forgiveness and the pervasive embrace of peace to put itself around you, to weigh you down on the floor, to hold you until you’re ready to let go, ready to walk away?

I wonder if it’s your time too?

You will grieve it, make no mistake. You will cry for it, and you will stand and mourn for it, and it will hurt, because it leaves a space when it’s gone. But things come, I promise, and they fill the space. And the things that come, they are familiar, and they are safe, because they are made of you. The things that come to fill the place your anger used to be are your desire, your creativity, your dreams, your ecstasy, your feelings, your self. And they are strong, they are clear, and they are beautiful, as you are.

Imagine in your heart a garden of ashes, a place where your anger can be healed and made whole. Are you ready? I pray you will be.

Blessings,
Jo xx

See the King. Hear the King. Be the King.

I just experienced another of those confounded divine appointments, on a train journey.

I entered the carriage and sat at one end, and within moments became aware of a situation happening at the other end. A young man was verbally abusing some little children sitting with him. It was startling, confronting. My first instinct was to get up and move away to another carriage; others probably already had, the carriage was empty but for me and this group. I sat tight, prayed, even asked friends on Facebook what I should do, if anything. God, help me to see the King in this situation. Tell me what to do.

Over the next half an hour, the situation vacillated between outright rage from this person towards the children, to quiet moments where one would climb on his lap and all would be quiet. Then the mood would change in seconds and he would snap at them yelling at the top of his voice. At one point he took a phone call from a Telco, demanding payment of $250 for an internet service he hadn’t even used yet. I know this, because the conversation was conducted at volume, in detail, between demands for the children to sit down and be quiet, using some colourful language. Then someone else phoned him, and he explained he was on his way and couldn’t make the train go faster, and was planning to be there at five in time but had been held up thirty minutes by trackwork, which was out of his hands. All this time, the kids giggled, and laughed, punctuated by silences which followed his tirades of frustrated anger. As time went on, it became clear this wasn’t simply some hot-headed bogan taking it out on his kids…this guy was doing something very stressful (ever taken three kids under ten on a long train journey?) and was having, as well as that, a very bad day.

My head was saying, get the hell out of here. A young guy brushed past him and touched his leg, eliciting another tirade of expletives. I thought, if get closer, and say the wrong thing, this guy could start swinging. But my guts were saying “Get closer. Wait for an in.” Are you crazy? I don’t want an in…I want an out. But I couldn’t do it. So at the next stop, I pretended I just got on the train and sat three seats away from them.

Last week, there was a huge controversy in Australia when vision taken on a phone of a woman in a verbal rage on a train over a seat – on this very route, in fact – went viral on TV and the internet. Everyone had an opinion about the woman and what should’ve been done about her rage-filled racist tirade on a crowded commuter train, other than film it, which is what everyone actually did. I don’t know what I would’ve done, but I hoped I would’ve offered her my seat, then stood between her and the subject of her abuse, well, that’s what I like to think I would’ve done. And here I was today, in this incredibly gut-wrenching situation thinking, here’s the chance to see the King, bring the King, be the King. What are you going to do, Jo?

God – I have no idea. Give me an in, and let’s see what happens.

A second later, one of the girls says, “Daddy, I’m thirsty.” “I don’t got no water, I didn’t have time to get water. You’ll have to wait until we get to Sydney.” I know that’s two and a half more hours away. I remember I have a bottle of water in my bag with one slurp out of it. Here’s my in. I take a big breath, grab the water, and head across the aisle. I drop to my haunches, look the guy in the eyes, and in a quiet (trembling) voice, I offer my water for the girls.

He stares me in the eyes for the longest second, like he’s trying to decide whether to haul off and punch me, or thank me.

He thanks me.

I smile. I tell him I can see and hear he is having a very bad day. He tells me he is taking the girls to Sydney to meet a child services worker, and has to be there by five pm. I say, wow, that’s stressful, and you can’t make the train go faster, can you? No, he says, he looks like he might cry. His voice is low and his eyes are on mine. I turn to the girls and ask them their names, they giggle and tell me the longest most impossible-to-repeat back names I have ever heard. I gasp, and tell them I had no idea I was sitting so close to real, live PRINCESSES. Where are their crowns? Do they have glittery gowns on under their jeans? They laugh, their dad relaxes. I tell him I know how hard it is to take little kids on a train, and he’s doing a great job, and his family is beautiful, he must be so proud. I touch his arm and smile. I feel as though I am about to shake to pieces.

It’s almost my stop. I tell the guy I think he can refill the bottle in the rest room downstairs, and ask the girls to kiss their fairy friends for me. I go. The carriage feels filled with light, like fairy glitter is everywhere. I am crying and trembling when I step onto the platform. I don’t know what happens when I leave. Oh, God, bless those little girls. God, help them never to forget the King loves them, sees them, knows them.

And may that dude know he is not alone, he is doing hard things, and he is seen doing them, and is respected, because I know what it’s like to feel like you are doing very hard things and nobody knows, or sees, and when they do, they only see how badly you’re behaving, or how wrong you are, or what a monster you’re capable of becoming when you’re stressed. I hope he feels seen, heard, and noticed for who I feel he really is under all that anger and emotion and frustration. Because he is us, and he is me, and you.

See the King, hear the King, be the King.
Love, Jo xxx

See the King. Hear the King. Be the King.

I just experienced another of those confounded divine appointments, on a train journey.

I entered the carriage and sat at one end, and within moments became aware of a situation happening at the other end. A young man was verbally abusing some little children sitting with him. It was startling, confronting. My first instinct was to get up and move away to another carriage; others probably already had, the carriage was empty but for me and this group. I sat tight, prayed, even asked friends on Facebook what I should do, if anything. God, help me to see the King in this situation. Tell me what to do.

Over the next half an hour, the situation vacillated between outright rage from this person towards the children, to quiet moments where one would climb on his lap and all would be quiet. Then the mood would change in seconds and he would snap at them yelling at the top of his voice. At one point he took a phone call from a Telco, demanding payment of $250 for an internet service he hadn’t even used yet. I know this, because the conversation was conducted at volume, in detail, between demands for the children to sit down and be quiet, using some colourful language. Then someone else phoned him, and he explained he was on his way and couldn’t make the train go faster, and was planning to be there at five in time but had been held up thirty minutes by trackwork, which was out of his hands. All this time, the kids giggled, and laughed, punctuated by silences which followed his tirades of frustrated anger. As time went on, it became clear this wasn’t simply some hot-headed bogan taking it out on his kids…this guy was doing something very stressful (ever taken three kids under ten on a long train journey?) and was having, as well as that, a very bad day.

My head was saying, get the hell out of here. A young guy brushed past him and touched his leg, eliciting another tirade of expletives. I thought, if get closer, and say the wrong thing, this guy could start swinging. But my guts were saying “Get closer. Wait for an in.” Are you crazy? I don’t want an in…I want an out. But I couldn’t do it. So at the next stop, I pretended I just got on the train and sat three seats away from them.

Last week, there was a huge controversy in Australia when vision taken on a phone of a woman in a verbal rage on a train over a seat – on this very route, in fact – went viral on TV and the internet. Everyone had an opinion about the woman and what should’ve been done about her rage-filled racist tirade on a crowded commuter train, other than film it, which is what everyone actually did. I don’t know what I would’ve done, but I hoped I would’ve offered her my seat, then stood between her and the subject of her abuse, well, that’s what I like to think I would’ve done. And here I was today, in this incredibly gut-wrenching situation thinking, here’s the chance to see the King, bring the King, be the King. What are you going to do, Jo?

God – I have no idea. Give me an in, and let’s see what happens.

A second later, one of the girls says, “Daddy, I’m thirsty.” “I don’t got no water, I didn’t have time to get water. You’ll have to wait until we get to Sydney.” I know that’s two and a half more hours away. I remember I have a bottle of water in my bag with one slurp out of it. Here’s my in. I take a big breath, grab the water, and head across the aisle. I drop to my haunches, look the guy in the eyes, and in a quiet (trembling) voice, I offer my water for the girls.

He stares me in the eyes for the longest second, like he’s trying to decide whether to haul off and punch me, or thank me.

He thanks me.

I smile. I tell him I can see and hear he is having a very bad day. He tells me he is taking the girls to Sydney to meet a child services worker, and has to be there by five pm. I say, wow, that’s stressful, and you can’t make the train go faster, can you? No, he says, he looks like he might cry. His voice is low and his eyes are on mine. I turn to the girls and ask them their names, they giggle and tell me the longest most impossible-to-repeat back names I have ever heard. I gasp, and tell them I had no idea I was sitting so close to real, live PRINCESSES. Where are their crowns? Do they have glittery gowns on under their jeans? They laugh, their dad relaxes. I tell him I know how hard it is to take little kids on a train, and he’s doing a great job, and his family is beautiful, he must be so proud. I touch his arm and smile. I feel as though I am about to shake to pieces.

It’s almost my stop. I tell the guy I think he can refill the bottle in the rest room downstairs, and ask the girls to kiss their fairy friends for me. I go. The carriage feels filled with light, like fairy glitter is everywhere. I am crying and trembling when I step onto the platform. I don’t know what happens when I leave. Oh, God, bless those little girls. God, help them never to forget the King loves them, sees them, knows them.

And may that dude know he is not alone, he is doing hard things, and he is seen doing them, and is respected, because I know what it’s like to feel like you are doing very hard things and nobody knows, or sees, and when they do, they only see how badly you’re behaving, or how wrong you are, or what a monster you’re capable of becoming when you’re stressed. I hope he feels seen, heard, and noticed for who I feel he really is under all that anger and emotion and frustration. Because he is us, and he is me, and you.

See the King, hear the King, be the King.
Love, Jo xxx

How to facilitate world peace via social media. You’re welcome.

Dear passionate debaters of controversial topics on social media, and their patient, long suffering friends and family,

Here’s a little advice for free. When conflict arises, injustice flares, ideologies are questioned and foundations rocked, there are two ways people respond.

They jump in and get involved in trying to resolve it, posting things on Facebook, disagreeing, losing sleep and composing long diatribes with one finger on their iPhone whilst swearing and grinding their teeth.

Or they back off and retreat to someplace quiet without any technology where the status quo isn’t threatened and nobody is swearing at their laptop.

If you’re a jumper-innerer, don’t worry yourselves about the ones who back off. Just do what you do best: hash it out, get moving, do something, just get on with it. Backer-offerers will make you a cup of tea when it’s all over, thank you and probably be pleased in the long run something was done about it. Don’t bother trying to recruit jumper-innerers from your backer-offerer friends and family. That’s like turning dogs to cats. It ain’t gonna happen. Just have your debate, and get home in time for dinner.

If you’re a backer-offerer, please try and remember those jumper-innerers are not doing anything wrong, just because they’re noisy, combative and unable to put up with things they see as wrong or unjust. You know full well all the fuss will die down in time, and they’ll be grateful there is someone sane and cool to fall back on. Don’t tell them to shut up, quiet down, get a life or get off Facebook and do something constructive. Just do what you do, and wait it out. It’s all gonna be cool again real soon, just the way you like it.

You’re welcome. World peace facilitated. Next problem?

JO xxx

Don’t drive angry.

Funny how the simpler your life gets, the more clearly you can see the things you do. You used to do them without thinking. Now, you do them and think, “What the hell am I doing that for?”

Point in case: being angry.

Today, I woke up, and the day was still and overcast. Nothing stimulating written in my diary. Got busy with a few jobs I needed to attend to. Over time, I became frustrated with those few things I was doing. Then, while I was being annoyed at the grey day, and the small stuff, I remembered a few big picture things I’m in the habit of worrying about. Then I started thinking about crappy things that’ve happened in the past, things I hope don’t happen again. But might. But probably won’t. But they might.

So, with my dashboard, windscreen, sunroof and rear view mirror totally obscured by things not even really here, and which I can’t do anything about, I proceeded to get angry.

I flicked stuff around my desk. I sighed. I wondered why nobody else was closing the door, letting the dog in or out, worrying about how much milk is left, what we’re having for lunch or why nobody is buying our car.

It escalated, and before I knew it, I was well and truly angry.

Ben asked me stuff and I grunted without expression. I didn’t smile. I stopped myself from being animated and responsive. I chose not to see any joy in what I was doing. We drove to the shops and I decided to sulk and act as if I was consumed with thoughts of big, important, looming emergencies *obviously* nobody else was concerned about. God, you people. Can’t you see how much trouble we’ll be in if the bad things happen? Why don’t you choose to feel it, like me? Why don’t you act powerless and small and helpless too?

Can’t you see I’ve chosen to be angry?

Then, I saw it. So clearly, it was like blue sky fell down from the rainclouds and smacked me in the snout.

I’ve chosen to be angry.

I. Chose. This.

I could’ve chosen not to worry, be frustrated, act small and powerless. Because that’s what it is – an act. I’m not small and powerless. I’m not really afraid. Not of the future. Not of having no money. No, not of anything.

I’m not scared. I’m just tired.

When you’re weary, when you’re exhausted and worn out from being enthusiastic and prayerful and mindful and positive and the holder of dreams and creator of your destiny, you get a little testy.

I don’t need saving. I just need more sleep. And possibly a multi-vitamin.

I was angry, and it was my choice. I wanted someone else to carry the burden of seeing things as they really are and everything I want them to be both at the same time, so I tried to get someone to switch places with me by convincing them I can’t handle that kind of pressure.

Of course I can’t handle it. My God, what am I, Eckhart-fricking-Winfrey?

Settle, petal.

Don’t drive drunk, tired or angry, little spiritual sojourner. When all the glass in your astral-minivan is clouded by driving rain, dirty fingerprints, boring scenery or the faces of leering doubters, pull over, get out and go lie under a tree for a while. Have a break. Stretch your legs. Don’t get mad – get an extra degree of detachment. And a piece of fruit, while you’re at it. This is not a crisis, extistential or otherwise … it’s just a bad day.

And a bad day, is not a bad life.

Anger is the resort of the tired, not the under-resourced. Angry people think they are running out of time to prove what they need to prove. Those who don’t need to prove anything don’t get angry. They get a great nights sleep.

And so does everyone else.

Anger is a choice. Unchoose it.

Love, Jo xxx