Mr. Chawbridge and the Duesenberg

I had a dream last night. My partner Herb and I were at my grandparents' house. A man whom I had never seen before, Mr. Chawbridge, was on a riding lawn mower cutting the grass. Apparently he had been doing this ever since my grandmother's death in 1985. We chatted awhile. He asked about a car in his garage, a "Duesenberry", which belonged to my father. He implied that he'd like to have it as payment for mowing the grass all these years. That seemed fair, but I also wanted to find out the value of "Duesenberry" before giving it to him. Upon waking I started playing around with the dream. For one thing, I wanted to know what  a "Duesenberry" was. The classic luxury car was a Duesenberg. Duesenberry was an American economist who posited that poor people spend a higher percentage of their income on goods/services (the consumption economy) than do wealthier people, and even when their lot improves they continue to spend at a higher rate. Thus, according to his theory, improving the financial standing of the poor gives the overall economy a boost.

I also reflected on my grandparents, whose house always felt like home. I went there every day after school and spent most of my summers there. Dogs. Gardens. Building birdhouses. Amazing food. Board games. The memories are sweet and many. I knew I was loved and accepted there fully and unconditionally.

What about "Chawbridge"? Chaw... to chew. What was I chewing on? What was chewing on me? How was chewing or being chewed on a bridge forward? And what did this have to do with Duesenberg/Duesenberry or my grandparents? Or was all this just a meaningless response to our restless cat who was keeping me awake part of the night?

Dreams unfold one layer after another, deepening over time. One layer is that I'm returning to a safe place and am recovering my sense of happiness...ease...that it's all good...that I'm good. What had been chewing on me was a nagging sense that I'm not very worthwhile, in fact, that life itself is not good enough.

The bridge forward is sinking my teeth into how I felt when with my grandparents. They embraced every atom of my being. Around them I felt and still feel wealthy. LIfe's abundance, all that really matters, is in me, around me and overflowing. I am so full I can give without fear or resentment simply because it's who I am and how I want to be...and because I have so much excess joy, what else is there to do but share it?

The universe is generous. My grandparents were generous. I too am generous, or at least I cross a bridge into generosity when I practice gratitude...Gratitude for my talents, my joys, my unique ways of being magnificent and human, my flaws that on occasion prove useful, the blessings of people and animals who have touched my life, and for the Presence of a Mysterious Intelligence that communicates through winks, dreams, meows, and root beer floats shared with my grandfather on a hot summer day.

What have you been dreaming?

Stratego: A Poor Strategy for Life

My Uncle Frank came to visit my grandparents every summer when I was growing up. He and I would play games and cards hour after hour. I particularly liked Stratego, a board game in which two players pit their armies against each other. I developed a strategy that I employed every time, which almost always resulted in a win. Basically, it was a defensive posture focused on protecting my flag and setting traps in which the parts of my defenses that seemed weakest actually obscured hidden dangers.  I rarely went on the offensive, trusting that the way I set up my army usually guaranteed victory before the first move was even made. By the time my uncle figured out where my flag was, he usually did not have enough resources left to capture it.

Looking back now, I realize that I also began to employ this same strategy with life. Prepare thoroughly in advance, survey the board and plan for every possibility, control everything you can, and then trust that things will go your way because they should go your way. For the most part, this strategy worked well in school. (Isn't school essentially a prolonged board game?)

When entering the world of work, relationships and adult problems, however, this strategy simply did not work anymore. There were too many variables. No matter how hard I prepared and planned, the unexpected happened. Life turned out to be a Mystery that could be neither controlled nor understood.

Somehow this didn't seem fair. Why shouldn't life function like Stratego? If I did my part, shouldn't the world do its part and cooperate? Through all my hard work, have I not proved my worth and earned some sort of reward?

My resentful attitude reminds me of a character in a story Jesus told, which is commonly known as "The Prodigal Son". Both sons in the story are actually lost. The younger son wasted his inheritance on partying. The older son stayed behind on the farm as he thought a good boy should, yet he resented how his life was turning out. He worked hard every day, followed the rules, and was the poster child for responsibility, yet no one seemed to notice. No one even gave him a "like" on his Facebook page. Yet, his irresponsible partying brother comes home, and his father throws him a ginormous party. And the kicker: the older son stays out in the field all day working while the party is underway. No one even bothers to tell him about his brother's return and the shindig.

The father's words to him as he sulks in the unfairness of it all still resonate for me today: "All I have is yours already." This is the message the older son and I both need to hear:

By all this hard work, you are trying to earn what is already yours. You are innately worthy and beloved. No amount of strategy or work can earn what must be received as a given. Receiving your "belovedness" as a given, life starts to feel more like a gift and less like an imposition. A joyful balance of responsibility and freedom emerges. Yes, your brother needs to learn responsibility, and you need to learn freedom. Wholeness is the balance of both. And the balancing point is compassionate self-acceptance.

Life is far more mysterious, complicated and glorious than a board game. Perhaps the greatest mystery is that I am already worthy and forever ok without doing anything! Living from a sense of being irrevocably loved, that resentful sinkhole of compensating for the feeling that I'm never enough...that sinkhole starts to fill from the inside out.

I'm learning a new approach to this board game of life, and living from my "belovedness" may turn out to be the riskiest yet most rewarding strategy of all.

P.S. Beginning in mid-April, a new group will meet every Tuesday night to experience and explore together this mysterious freedom and "belovedness". For more information, go to: Tuesday Night Live.