Earlier this month I recounted a passage from Pema Chodron's Comfortable with Uncertainty. It drew a parallel between a fisherman shaking his fist at an empty boat which crashes into his and the futility of railing against events and circumstances for which blame cannot justifiably be assigned.
That passage has been staying with me in succeeding weeks, helping me to release a number of petty irritations, for which I've been truly grateful.
I'm also grateful to the woman in my spirituality class who pointed out that all of the large photographs (on loan from me) which adorn the office in which we meet are pictures of ... you guessed it, empty boats.
Of course, all those boats are tied up, and reflecting quietly in calm waters. Which probably tells you something about why I take those pictures -- and why they continue to appeal to so many people: perhaps they are about hope, and peace; about the longing we have for the empty boats that crash into our lives to be save, manageable, and under control; for the waters in which we pass our days to be calm and smooth.
But of course it doesn't always work that way. And for all my calm and equilibrium these past few weeks, I was appalled to discover how quickly my violent temper surged when our dog decided around midnight last night to begin growling and scratching at our bedroom door. Our children had a late arriving guest, and the dog (who is a very protective sheepdog) was determined to go out and barkingly, fiercely defend his territory.
It turned into a huge battle of wills -- he is very much an alpha dog, and determined to have his way -- and though I was eventually able to keep him contained I ended up losing a lot of sleep and struggling with some not very admirable impulses about how I might permanently end the battle for control.
It's disturbing to see how quickly we can set aside all our hi-falutin notions of grace and calm when something precious of ours is threatened (in this case, sleep, which has been in short supply lately). And I confess I didn't like myself very much while I was snarling at the dog.
But that's the deal, isn't it: to learn to love even that which irritates or embarrasses us; to find the largeness of heart to accept even the grumpy ugly parts of ourselves.
Some days it's a bit of a battle. I just keep reminding myself that even the dog is a bit of an empty boat: he's pre-programmed to behave this way, and there's not a lot (if anything) I can do to change that: we've certainly spent a lot of time working on that over the years! And the truth is, I love him anyway. Most of the time. Surely I can grant myself the same consideration...