So here’s my question: how do you really know what is the “right thing”? How can you be sure?
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where “the right thing” feels obvious to us. Help someone we love. Give to someone in need. Reach out to somebody who seems alone.
It seems so clear, doesn’t it?
But here’s the problem: we can never really know what other people are thinking. Even people we’ve known their entire lives. Even people we consider to be our closest, most trusted, most loved allies.
Even then, we can sometimes take an action that feels so clearly “good” to us, but which is met with anger, resentment and dismay.
What do we do then?
For me, having done something wrong out of a desire to do something right, I am at a complete loss. How do you apologize for what you felt, deeply and honestly, was a giving action? How do you get past the rage and resentment to explain what it was that you intended?
I don’t know.
What I do know, what I have come to believe, is that I have to trust my own intentions. I have to trust my knowledge about myself and about those around me.
Someone way smarter than me told me recently, “We can’t control how our messages are received. We can only control how they are sent.”
Sometimes the world is just a big pile of quicksand. You think you are on solid ground, and suddenly everything liquifies. Your footing shifts, your balance overturns, you find yourself sinking into that pit of quicksand.
I saw a movie once, when I was about ten. A man was chasing someone, and he stepped into quicksand. I can still picture it; the black and white image of the hero, slowly sinking into the sand that silently came up to claim him.
I don’t remember if the hero ever escaped. I only remember how horrified I was at the idea of sinking, sinking, sinking into death.
Now that I’m a grown assed adult, I feel like I have more secure footing. I don’t often fear the quicksand.
Because now I know what it is to be “grounded”. I know that I have roots that go deep deep deep into those parts of life that give us a sense of being anchored.
I have three adult children who love me, love my husband and truly love each other. What a secure anchor.
I have two beautiful grandchildren who love and depend on their parents. Who trust the love and support of those parents.
And who love and trust me almost as much.
What a truly deep and secure anchor.
I have siblings who love me and support me, even when we get on each others’ last nerve. And I have a Mom who tells me she loves me every time we see each other. And who shares stories of things I’ve done that have made her proud.
I am anchored.
I am secure.
I am married to my first true love. We met in (ahem) seventh grade, and fell in love by listening to each other’s stories and struggles. He’s been by my side every step of the way, through college, and grad school and infertility and babies and kids and teens and the empty nest.
He is “Papa!” to our best beloved grand kids.
I am grounded.
I am grounded because now, at last, after all this time….now I trust myself. I must be doing a pretty good job, because so many people I admire and love have told me so.
I am grounded.
In my garden, where I look at trees I planted two decades ago. When I look at the daffodils still blooming after all these many years.When I look at the new little walk that I crafted two years ago, and at the baby lilacs that line it’s way.
I am grounded.
My feet are firmly on this earth. My heart is firmly held by my love for those who still walk here. My soul feels the roots of the plants I’ve put in, reaching into the very heart of my soil to find life.
So you probably know that I’ve been on vacation with my younger sister. We just spent a week in St. Pete Beach, Florida.
It was perfect.
I know, I know. Gag me and all that.
But seriously. It was about 80 degrees and perfectly sunny EVERY DAY. We ate fresh seafood. We walked on the beach every morning. We collected (I am not kidding) about 600 perfect seashells. We swam and floated and splashed in the Gulf of Mexico for hours.
And one of the best parts for me was meeting so many friendly and welcoming people. I met some new people, unknown to either my sister or myself. They were interesting, funny, and fun to talk with.
I also had the pleasure of meeting some people that my sister has known for decades. That was very cool, because at long last I had faces to match to so many of her stories. And I was instantly welcomed into the “family” of her long time buddies.
So special. Such a blessing.
And I mean that. Really and truly! My circle has grown this week, and that is always a wonderful development.
But you know what?
The best interaction that I had all week was with a bird.
We were walking along the shore one evening, gathering shells and watching the sun set. We came to a wooden pier, stretching into the gulf.
As we looked out toward the setting sun, I noticed a beautiful egret fishing on the rocks.
I walked toward her, snapping picture after picture to capture her perfect white feathers in the light of the setting sun.
And then I noticed, further along, a beautiful heron. A great blue heron, standing on the railing of the pier. He was scanning the water below him, just as intent on catching his dinner as the egret was.
I slowly walked toward him, fully expecting him to take flight when I got too close.
But to my amazement, instead of flying off, he turned his head to watch my approach.
He was absolutely calm, watching me with his bright yellow eyes. As I held up my phone and started to take pictures, I swear that he lifted his head and posed.
He was regal. He was the one in charge.
He seemed, in a strange way, to be watching me as closely as I was watching him.
I could hardly breathe. I have never been so close to a heron! I have never been so close to a large bird.
He was gorgeous.
I kept moving forward, my phone help up in front of my eye.
The heron watched, but never gave the slightest sign of unease. His feet stayed steady on the post beneath him. His feathers were smooth, gray, supremely unruffled.
I took one picture after another.
Slowly, I moved past my royal subject. Now the sun’s setting light held him in perfect glowing relief. I took several more shots, unable to believe my luck.
And I’m not kidding. He turned his head, showing himself in perfect profile.
It was starting to feel a little bit surreal, standing so close to such an amazing bird, watching him in all of his elegant glory. Watching him as he watched me.
Finally I had taken as many photos as I thought I might need. I put my phone in my pocket.
For some reason that I don’t fully understand, I placed my right hand on my chest, and gave a tiny bow.
‘Thank you, sir,” I said.
And you know what he did?
I’m not kidding.
He dipped that magnificent head toward me, acknowledging my thanks and recognizing his own superiority.