On Being Peace
Once the Dalai Lama went to visit an inner city school in Washington D.D. He made it clear to the press that he was there to visit with students, not with reporters.
One student asked how to create peace in a place where nobody else seemed to care or to want peace. The Dalai Lama's answer was, "Sometimes in order to create peace you have to shout."
To me this means that there isn't just one way to be peaceful. Maybe you have to shout for true dialogue or against the injustice of violence.
I think there are different ways of being peaceful at differing times. Before the invasion of Iraq Ann and I wrote a letter respectfully asking President Bush Not to invade, to think of all of the wounded veterans, Iraqi civilians, and the destruction of the country of Iraq which war brings. We took it to our Buddhist group or Sangha and left it on a table. When the time for announcements came we asked people to please read it and sign it if they agreed. Most of the group chose to sign it.
I joined silent peace walks against the war before it began and support caring for our veterans with respect now.
But today I want to write about more personal examples. Two years ago today my friend of 30 years and my house mate of 20, Ann, died. I am thinking about a choice we made together and a choice I made today.
I am more aware of my sadness this year than last. Most of last year was taken up with just coping.
In May 2007 I bought a small house, after my mobile home was made uninhabitable by the ice storm and Ice covered falling trees in Jan. of that year. I did not have a subprime mortgate and my credit score was good. We made all of our payments on time.
We spent thousands of dollars making that house livable, including fixing the basement so it was a usable room, where I kept my doll collection.
In Jan. 2008 a very unseasonable string of tornadoes roared through, rocking our house on its foundation and cracking the foundation, among other things. Our home insurance company was contacted. They did not watch the video sent them of the damage. The first claims adjuster they sent laughed, saying there were some people in another state whose homes had been flooded when they believed they were entitled to coverage, too. He said the foundation cracks were do to "ground water seepage" though it might have been the storm which took shingles off of the roof.
The "storm" also had blown water up over the three steps to the front porch, over the porch and under the locked front door, weting the wood living room floor. This was the first thing we cleaned up.
It was a long six month struggle. We hired our own engineer to look at the damage, we had an inspector from the Small Business Administration look at the damage. One said our assessment was correct, one said our assessment was most likely to be what had happened. The insurance company did not budge and our agent made the problem worse.
As this person had been referred to us by a friend we foolishly assumed we could trust the person. We said we were worried about the furnace being effected Eventually by the water which had flooded the basement. We said we were worried about possible mold.
This individual reported that our furnace was damaged and that the basement was moldy to the insurance company. These statements were not true at the time we mentioned them as concerns.
But they became true when flooding occurred in March 2008. All of the paper items associated with my dolls, boxes, stickers, certificates of authenticity, had to be stripped away from the dolls and pitched. Of course, this made them nearly worthless in monitary terms. Some had to have the setting jell combed out of their piled up hair so the hair could be washed and dried to save the doll. This, of course, also lessened their financial value. Now I am making clothes for them and planning to sell them.
I had a friend formerly mentioned in a blog post, Miss Alice, who helped me put together a list of the original value of the boxed dolls. The insurance company did not care. I also had to strip away cardboard packaging from small action figures. I went to Many internet sites to determine their prices while still packaged. Again, the company did not care.
It got to the point where either Ann or I were scrubbing down the basement with bleach once every three days or so. There wasn't enough ventilation to clear bleach fumes. Our agent had told us to use nearly undiluted bleach which burned the lung and a half I have. The physical labor of this work made Ann exhausted enough to be in bed for about two days after each scrubbing. She was in great pain.
After doing all we could, keeping endless logs of endless phone calls to people from the company and the state commission of insurance, we had a talk.
We were both physically ill and mentally exhausted. During out talk we remembered the Buddhist idea, "If you want peace then Be peace." We also both knew that health and time are two things no one can buy back, once they are lost. We decided not to continue sacrificing our bodies and mental health for property and money, even though we were in the right.
We found a rent house we both loved to move into, stopped making mortgage payments, stopped paying credit card debts in my name, (Ann had only one card, so almost all of our combined debt was in my name.) And began Saving up money, (of all the ridiculous things) to pay a lawyer so we could declare bankruptcy.
There was no way to pay rent, mortgage on a house we couldn't live in, credit card debts for repairs on that house which were made Before the tornado, and pay people to move us.
I was lucky in that the house went back to the bank in a "short sale" (where someone bought it for a lower price) rather than a foreclosure. But we went through contacting foreclosure help, as we did not know what would happen.
After exhausting ourselves we finally decided to "be peace." I lost all credit cards and have never tried to regain any. We lost the house. But we were happy in that rent house and I was able to take all unbroken dolls (I only lost three or so) out of the shelves where they had to be jammed and put them where I could find specific dolls once again. There was room to work and play in that house and yard. When Ann had to begin using a wheelchair, there was room for that too. We lived there until she died, two years ago today.
Today I did something as an attempt to "be peace." I was originally informed in writing that I might do with Ann's possessions as I thought best. I donated her disability supplies, clothing, dishes, art supplies, and other things to local agencies. I sent a lot back to her family, things which might have sentimental value like Christmas ornaments, pictures and cards, yearbooks, baby shoes, some art work, etc.
Now someone has changed their mind and may want all of Ann's art work. Originally, I had planned to sell my own work, matting each piece of Ann's visual art as I could afford to, then selling the art work, so I could purchase fair trade items made by people with disabilities wholesale. I had to decide what to do.
"Being peace" does not mean I necessarily Feel Peaceful. It means I make a decision to do what I think will create peace and then make a commitment to work through any negative feelings I have about my decision until I Feel more peaceful.
Sometimes you have to shout for peace, sometimes you have to hide people from your own family, as some people protected those who would have been killed during the genocide in
. Sometimes you have to risk your life or go to prison or cross religious lines as the Christian and Muslim women of Rwanda did to hold prayer meetings together. Sometimes you have to shame violent men into peace, as these brave women also did. Liberia
My choice is much less difficult, but still painful, as her visual art was a central way in which Ann expressed herself. We talked about most of the pieces she created.
In my case I have to give up something I wanted very much and not know the end result. I could either fight with the person who changed their mind, bringing hostility between Ann's family and friends and myself. Or I could offer the person who may take all of Ann's art work the chance to do so.
This is what I chose to do. I do not know what will happen. But I know I Won't end up in a long squabble with anyone connected to Ann.
I feel sad and angry. I protected Ann by putting in writing that all of my possessions were hers if I died first. She did not. But then I had dealt with cancer twice and knew closely that I will die.
I know Ann's art has the power to help others and to make them happy because I saw this when she gave it to people during her lifetime. Will it help the person who may take it?
One thing I had to learn is that if you have an emotional hole inside, things alone won't heal or fill it. Will giving Ann's work to the person who wants it help them learn this? Will more healing be done by giving up Ann's art work and my plans for it to one person or by fighting to keep it and spreading it around? I do not know.
All I Do know is if I let go of my end of a "tug of war" rope I leave the person at the other end free to choose what they truly believe they need and to then learn if they were right. Also, I know I am not beginning a new venture with a hostile action or one which will create anger and discord and hurt feelings. There hasn't been a fight about this yet, and now there won't be. This is all I can know. I will work through my own upset feelings because I am the one who chose this course of action.
For me today, this is "being peace."
I'm not sure I should share this, but I will, hoping it is useful to someone.