Here's what I'm discovering in my old age: There is a whole huge ton of stuff you simply get to let go of in this world. Things you find annoying, things that are disappointing, things that are not the way you wish they were. You get to let go of all hope of being perceived a certain way, all hope of being “understood,” all hope of your work being recognized in the way you pictured it being recognized, all hope that your own personal plan for happiness is going to work.
I'm never much fired up by these people who have undergone a miracle conversion, who’ve had a vision, who’ve seen Mary or Jesus or God. Okay, I want to say, but THEN WHAT? How did your day-to-day experience of life change? How did your view of the world transform? How do you interact with your fellow humans? After twenty-plus years of prayer, action, and inner work, this is how my own world has transformed: I have a lot of opinions but I don’t ALWAYS have to air them. I’m still insanely triggered by petty slights, but I don’t ALWAYS have to let my hurt show. My likes often differ from yours, but I don’t ALWAYS have to point that out, thereby ruining or tainting your likes. I don’t ALWAYS have to be right, I don’t always have to have the last word, I don’t always need to over-apologize, over-thank, or over-explain. You can either find fault with every tiny thing--and trust me, I am a champion fault-finder, I am an expert fly-in-the-ointment seer--or you can say 'God bless us all' and move on.
People can sometimes mistake this for a kind of looseness, can sometimes take me for an anything-goes type, as happened earlier in the week. “You know what you’d be great at?” a new acquaintance gushed. “You’d be great at giving a Tantric sex workshop. You should take a workshop in Tantric sex—I know you’ve mentioned you’d like to be more vulnerable—and then you could give your own workshop!” I am possibly the last person on earth who would be interested in taking a Tantric sex, or any kind of sex, workshop but more to the point—unh-unh. “My sexuality is not up for discussion,” I told him. “That is not a discussion to which I am open, nor a discussion I invite.” Later I thought, If you want to work on being vulnerable, throw a birthday party for yourself. Throw your fear of rejection, of abandonment, of looking like an ass, of not being lovable, of wanting everything to be perfect, of wanting more than anything in the world to stay in your room and read out the window.
Interestingly, what allows us to make better boundaries, to be imperfect, to be vulnerable, is not “strength,” but humility. For years, I’ve read a dog-eared Xerox of the following every morning:
LITANY OF HUMILITY
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Imprimatur: James A. McNulty, Bishop of Paterson, N.J.
Another twenty yearsand the darn thing might actually start to take hold!