“O FRIEND! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold.”
I have been pondering this verse from Baha’u’llah for some time now. Every morning, I say it and think about it. I look in my heart, and I see way more than love. And this thing about “affection and desire” What’s that about?
I only remembered part of the verse, because that’s how I’ve seen and heard it. I was looking it up for this post, to make sure I got the words right, and found this at the end: “Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly.”
Now, I remember reading that part before. But I hadn’t put the two parts together in my mind. I have mostly thought of the last part as the possible justification my ex-husband and his family have for “eschewing” fellowship with me. I must be one of the ungodly, in their minds, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to “justify” making sure my children want nothing to do with me.
But today my mind took a new spin on it. The two parts really need to be together. If you’re going to only plant roses, you’ve got to get rid of the other stuff. The friendships we have with the “righteous” give us love, comfort, acceptance and encouragement. Relationships with have with the “ungodly” make us feel worthless, resentful, jealous, angry, shameful. And it’s not really so much about the people, but about what those relationships plant in our hearts. People are people, and everyone is both made in God’s image, and has foibles and wobbles and warts. There are people in the world who will do selfish, immature things in an attempt to project themselves from hurt. We have the entire spectrum of responses available to us, from compassion and tolerance to self-hatred or revenge. I knew this at one time, long ago. I wrote a song about it. I’ll post it another time. But here I am again today, railing at the injustice of it all. I am angry. So apparently, I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd, and it’s time for some weeding.
In my last post, a friend commented to me that I may need to separate physical from emotional suffering. I responded to him, and in that response had an epiphany. I intended to write: “Where, oh where, does the belief come from that when I feel pleasure, everyone is happy?” What I ended up writing was “when I feel pleasure, others feel pain.” That was when I hit the nail on the head. I have long believed (not cognitively, but emotionally) that my pleasure, my joy, my contentment and success, will bring others pain. The symptoms of this belief are thoughts like, “I can’t paint right now, the kids will want my attention immediately, so I can’t do something that I loose myself in,” or “I don’t play music right now because I can’t focus on it without interruption.” Or how about the number of times I feel I had to manipulate the situation to get some time to myself? What it all comes down to is that I hold myself back for fear of inconveniencing others with my “selfishness”.
When I began looking at this reality, I fell into a two-day funk. I felt trapped. What was holding me there? Society’s expectations of me as a mother and woman? My own? And why the hell does it matter? Even now I struggle with it. But the belief has been cracked now, and I’m starting to see past the facade of ‘acceptable’. Acceptable to whom? My only standard should be the Divine Standard, and no where is it written that we shouldn’t give our best effort to our talents and faculties. What I have read counsels excellence, not mediocrity. I’m not talking about neglecting my children in favor of my artistic pursuits. I’m talking about setting boundaries around those pursuits so that I can throw myself into my work whole-hardheartedly, and with my whole mind, without worrying about whose needs aren’t being met. These boundaries are more internal than external, though I do require some external “walls” and scheduling to help ensure that our families needs don’t conflict. But I need to give myself permission, and then set “thought” boundaries. If I step over the wall into motherhood, or home-maker, or wife, while I’m working its the same as answering a call from my daughter’s kindergarten while I teach a class. I don’t do that. Whatever it is can wait for twenty minutes. If I give my employer and my students that consideration, I should give my art the same.
So I’m weeding the garden of my heart. Out go the self-defeating thoughts of “not good enough”. I will no longer give the “ungodly” rent-free space in my mind. “I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life…I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me.” (If you’re interested in the full text of that prayer, here it is.) I want to plant the rose of love in my heart. I want to cling to that nightingale of affection and desire. So I am now seeking fellowship with the righteous. Come check out the garden, if you like roses and nightingales. Maybe we can help each other yank those weeds out by their roots!