There’s courage involved if you want
to become truth. There is a broken-
open place in a lover. Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp
compassion in this group? What’s the
use of old and frozen thought? I want
a howling hurt. This is not a treasury
where gold is stored; this is for copper.
We alchemists look for talent that
can heat up and change. Lukewarm
won’t do. Halfhearted holding back,
well-enough getting by? Not here.
– From Soul of Rumi, by Coleman Barks
The adamancy of this poem is startling, when I stop to think about it. Rumi gives no quarter. “It’s all or nothing,” he seems to say. And a huge part of me agrees with him, trained as I’ve been in, and inclined as I am, to the practice of disclosure for the purpose of developing greater intimacy and deeper connections.
But, not so fast.
Not so fast for everyone, that is.
My urgency to “go deep” is not always aligned with your willingness to enter those waters. And there are times when I catch myself in a judgmental state for your lack of willingness to meet me there. This is the truth as I know how to tell it.
It is not a stretch to say that where my family is expressive, my in-laws are not. I am not suggesting that we ritually descend to the absolute depths at every possible opportunity, but we are practiced at getting to the heart of things in a very emotional way, productively or otherwise. It’s who we are and what we do.
My in-laws are the other sort. Lots of fun, lots of laughter, but a rather certain sort of even keel prevents the kind of emotional verisimilitude that pervades so many of my family’s gatherings.
Until this past weekend, that is.
In the very best way and in a manner, thanks to my wife’s genius, perfectly appropriate to her brood, there was an outpouring of expression on the occasion of her father’s 90th birthday.
We are blessed that Bob, at 90, is a healthy and happy man. This is quite a gift, for him and for us. Appropriate to that good fortune, Theresa invited all of those assembled (and many from afar) to write a letter to him of both congratulations and appreciation. Documents in hand, and immediately following a glorious prime rib dinner just two days removed from the Thanksgiving feast (I married well!) we sat around the dinner table and read to Bob our expressions of love.
The tears flowed. Generously, genuinely they flowed. From sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, and this son-in-law, they flowed freely and well. It was a beautiful and sacred space made possible by Theresa’s initiative and the willing participation of the assembled clan.
My point is only this: we dare not assume what is present in the hearts of those near us. We dare not assume their willingness or ability to express it. What we can only assume is that if we, if I, am patient and thoughtful and lovingly present, that the right amount of expression, in the right way, and in the right time will find its way to the surface and become a blessing that will never be forgotten.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.