Two days ago, my husband and I had a serious tiff. In the tense aftermath of the initial salvo, I actually packed up my pillow and blanket and slept in the guest room. It felt…wrong. As far as I can recall (it’s been a loooong thirty years) I’ve never done that before. Never deliberately moved out of the conjugal bed in anger. But I was angry. And due to the nature of the argument (at issue was whether everything/anything I said was valid or required acknowledgement), we had not talked it out or resolved anything by bed-time. I was nowhere near ready to not let the sun set on my anger. The quasi-apologetic kiss that would seal the truce and let the transgression slide, allowing us to share a bed in peace, was not forthcoming. And turning my back in stony silence to the warm body occupying the west side of the mattress was an adolescent drama in which I was too old to partake. So the guest room, it was.
Next morning, I felt foolish, but not foolish enough. I was still angry with the old man, still not ready to bury the hatchet when he walked through the door after work. I wanted so badly to leave a note, take the car, and head for a room at the beach to clear my head. I’d have done it, too…I know it. Except that husband had driven our only trustworthy vehicle to work. And I had a dentist appointment the next day before noon. Ah, how the mundane realities of life conspire to sabotage our more dramatic aspirations! Still, I was determined not to be present when the mighty hunter returned that evening. I spent the day stewing in my own juices, nursing my grievance. And, a half-hour before he was due to arrive home, I took off for…the library.
Why not put my pouting time to good use? I could do some research pursuant to my spiritual seeking. I wasn’t sure how much decent literature I would find on the subject, in our small town’s undistinguished library. It’s important for me to note that my mind was so half-invested in this task, that I left the house without even checking to make sure I had my library card with me. I desultorily scanned the catalog for a volume that might have relevance to my quest; and once I had the book in hand, I staked my claim on a chair near a window, so, with one eye on the state of twilight outside, I could gauge when I had stayed away from home long enough to prove my point. I was not actually committing myself to doing worthwhile research. It was simply as good a way as any to fritter away the time until I could make a dramatic, silent re-entry onto the home-front battlefield.
In the back of my mind, I realized that, once again, I was insulting the Divine by not putting my heart into my quest. I fully expected no return on my stingy investment of the meager, pre-occupied hour and a half I was willing to mete out because I had nothing better to do. But the universe is full of surprises, isn’t it?
The book I chose was a collection of interviews of Native American Wise Women. I’m irritated that the circumstances under which I unearthed this gem of a read have prevented me from remembering either the title or the name of the author. The book spoke to me, though; drove several points of light into the darkness in my soul. Outside, evening turned to a blustery, rain-drenched night. I knew I had to leave for home, or risk escalating the argument with my husband to a pitch I had not intended. Sans library card, I had to abandon the book. But I took the points of light with me.
"Love," said the first interviewee in the book. We were created to have love for all things—the earth, and all people. And respect. That is why we are in trouble now. Because we have no love, and no respect. How that spoke to me! All my life, I have been an emotional chameleon. I mirror whatever feelings are directed at me. If I am loved and respected, I return love and respect. But if I am hated, or dismissed, or ignored, or disrespected, I return those things…sometimes five or ten-fold. I looked at my life and realized that, no, I don’t show love. Or respect. There’s not a person in my life right now—husband, family, or friend—whom I have not felt disrespected by at some point in the recent past. And rather than maintain love and respect in my own soul, regardless of how I believe others have treated me, I have chosen to mirror the slights and hurts. They have become my life.
And, in a greater sense, the environment we all inhabit these days is poisoned by hatred and disrespect. It is next to impossible to reflect patience, love and courtesy while being bombarded by the fretfulness, hatred and rudeness that is our American society. From which there is really no escape, if you ever open a newspaper, turn on the television, listen to the radio, or…just walk outside your front door. Even so, according to this wise Indian woman (they call themselves "Indians" in the book…), we must love and respect. All creation depends upon us doing what we were created to do.
Show love. Have respect. I tucked those four words into my heart and took them home with me. And that night, I slept where I belonged.
Addendum 1/28: It occurred to me this morning that the card catalog at the library was online (duh) and I could access it from home. The book is Wisdom’s Daughters: Conversations with Women Elders of Native America by Steve Wall, published in 1993. I just ordered a used copy of it from Barnes & Noble.com for 5 bucks. It would cost me that much in gas to drive out to the library and back…