Today, my job has brought me to a maximum security men’s prison in upstate New York. I was one of six adults enlisted to transport seven at-risk students to the prison for an awareness program.
Five inmates, including three murderers, participate in an intensive training program before going on to teach delinquent students, to try to reach them, to encourage them to make better choices, to save as many as possible from themselves and the path of destruction each one is on.
Quite a charge, quite an undertaking. “Hopefully you’ll be able to save a few of them,” I said to the retired police officer who escorted us, as he exited the vehicle.
Yesterday, I made a comment in a public forum: “Sometimes, when trying to save the world, we fail ourselves.”
Rarely do people respond to my posts, but this one generated seventeen comments, some funny, and some I believe were generated from a place of disagreement with my statement.
Regardless of the intent or the interpretation, this comment spawned discussion, which reflected an awareness of, an interest in my written thoughts, which were really no more than a feeling I had come in contact with just prior to placing the post.
I believe awareness to be the key which unlocks a door to understanding everything in life. For when we are aware, when we touch what is inside of or around us, when we acknowledge it and give it attention, then, and only then, can we begin to recognize the impact it has on our lives.
After my husband’s last affair, I was mad. Not simply mad, though, I was angry and downright pissed off.
For a very long time. For years.
One day several months ago, as I was driving and thinking about components of the workshops I am creating, I thought about how mad I’d been.
I had most certainly thought about my anger many times before, I had acknowledged it and accepted it as part of my grieving and healing process.
I had also been a bit confounded by how this anger kept rearing its hairy little head. But I refused to let it get me down. I dealt with each occurrence, and moved on.
On that cold winter’s morning, however, as I traversed that daily route, a strange thing happened to me. I saw a fleeting image from the movie Eat, Pray, Love: Liz Gilbert’s medicine man, Ketut, his button-shaped face with his toothy smile, speaking the words “even make liver happy, Liz.”
Instantly, a twenty-four foot tidal wave of understanding roared into my life.
Despite its strength, it washed over me gently, and entered my being with compassion and truth and wisdom: even my liver was angry.
The powerful rush of those five words swept up all that spiny bitterness from my organ and carried it back out to the vast ocean from which it had come.
I felt it let loose like seaweed, felt it tumble out from my body, and roll across the sandy beach of my soul.
Now I, too, had a happy liver.
I had finally achieved success in abolishing my anger over my husband’s recent infidelity. A cursory acknowledgment hadn’t sufficed.
I had to touch it, to feel it, to sit with it, to be awareof it and give it attention. I had to love the anger. In loving the anger I had saved myself from a lifetime of living with it.
Yesterday, I recognized a pattern in my behavior, one that seems to be common among those who strive to help others: we tend to become caught up in other’s needs and do not tend to our own nearly as well; we often fail ourselves whilst trying to save the world, or tiny bits of it.
But if we can make ourselves aware of this tendency, maybe more of us can use it to save ourselves from that which haunts the deepest part of our being.
And maybe, just maybe as I close this story, one or more of the five felons who are fighting for the lives of those seven students—maybe one or more of the seven, even—will become aware of what sits in his or her liver.
Maybe in saving each other, they can save themselves…