Puzzling It Out

‘Don’t run away/ it’s only me

Don’t be afraid/ of what you can’t see.’

‘Dead Man’s Party’, Oingo Boingo

My father sent me a card for my recent birthday, enclosing a letter containing some of his truths and wishes—one of which was that I would ‘be able to make the arduous journey back to complete reality.’ He also admitted he has never understood what fascination Ireland holds for me (that makes two of us, at the very least), as well as some other things, on the order of how much I have hurt people with things I’ve said and written recently. He compared my words to knives, knives that once finding their targets, cannot be un-thrown, leaving scars difficult to erase. I love that Dad could speak his truth to me like this, for it took a lot of courage to send the letter—then I realised, with a start, that he always has spoken his truth. It is I who is learning what my truths are; I am the one learning to speak them, not him.

I must admit, though, I felt sad to be so misunderstood by my father. How can I convince him I’m okay? I wondered. Oho! Alarm bell! Listen up, Jen! A Teacher has shown up! So, because I felt something other than happiness on reading my father’s words, I immediately begin enquiry into whatever had struck that chord of fear, doubt, sadness, or anger. I know now there’s a lesson for me there. In this case, it took sleeping on it to find the underlying beliefs, and find a metaphor that works for me. I hope it works for you, too, but if it doesn’t, that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m the one learning here, after all.

Our truths are like puzzle pieces, handed out randomly to each of us. We not only do not have all the pieces (for everyone on earth, living or dead or unborn, will get some, too), we have no idea what the big picture is. However, we ache to have this Big Picture. We can’t STAND not knowing, for some reason I cannot fathom. Thus, we take our little pieces and construct, from those few, a complete picture. Then we operate from that ‘reality,’ making all our decisions based on it. Soon we are unable to tell the real pieces we were actually given, from those we made up. The brain is very, very good at its job, and that’s its job—to find evidence that supports our construct of reality. Further, we cannot see what we do not believe.

We then go through life trying to find those people who have, from the sound of it, collected the same pieces, and have made the same reality as we did! (Perhaps that is the reason Ireland appeals to me; I’ve found more people here whose world puzzle looks like mine.) However, this is all illusion. No one else has the same pieces. No one. If there is one Great Truth, it is that there is no one Great Truth. It is the sum of its parts—those little scattered pieces we, in error, take to be the whole thing.

When we brush up against someone with an entirely different picture, and that person insists on its reality, we choose one of several options. We may ignore them and go back to the people with the same picture; we may arm ourselves and fight for our reality; we may even succumb to someone else’s reality, believing ours to be rubbish. I’ve learned a new option now, and one that doesn’t require any devastating emotions, painful stories, or self-denial. As soon as I feel resistance, as soon as I feel defensive, I’m full of joy, for I know I’m going to find a made-up puzzle piece or two that I can discard. Maybe I’ll even find one of the originals I was given.

The reality is that we all have different pieces, and they’re all valid. They’re all real, and it doesn’t do us any good to deny other people’s reality pieces. It seems to me that all sadness, anger, and suffering comes from denying the pieces of reality others hold. Instead, we can welcome those who are willing to share their pieces with us—especially the ones that don’t fit our world view. They are the most valuable of all, because they’re the only ones that can help us detect the false pieces in our own construction.

This is where our families come in…our children…our extended families. For some reason, there is a Great Myth out there that because we were born into the same family, we must be alike. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We were all given different pieces, remember, and family members—if we’re brave enough to keep in touch with them, which I wasn’t for a while—are in an ideal position to teach each other. Because of the Great Myth, we come together for various holidays and whatnot, right? Be honest: Aren’t there family members you dread seeing? Aren’t there folks at that Thanksgiving table you only see at that Thanksgiving table, because you don’t think you have anything in common? Maybe you don’t even like spending time with them? And aren’t there also family members you know you would be friends with, even if they weren’t family? They teach you, too; they teach you about the best parts of your Self, the qualities that allow your innate happiness to shine through.

Realising that family members are our greatest teachers changes everything. No longer are their words like knives, their actions hurtful; I realise I have no need to fear. Words—Truths—can never hurt me unless I choose to have them do so, and I don’t choose that any more. Every person I meet, every single one I email, or talk to, or visit, or bump into, is my Teacher. You, reading this, are one of my Teachers, and I thank you for that. Thank you for what you’ve taught me, or are teaching me. I’ve noticed that those who have the lessons I need keep appearing in my life, in the form of one person or another (it doesn’t have to be the original) until I learn the lesson, until I see which pieces of my puzzle are pure fantasy. Once I learn the lesson, the false pieces become very obvious; they just fall away. (One of them is that I can only be happy in Ireland, for example. Not true. I can choose to be happy no matter were I live.)

I suspect there have been persons privileged to see more of the completed puzzle, if there is one, than others—Buddha, Christ, Mohammad, Ghandi—but like the astronauts looking at Earth from the spaceship, it might not be possible to see the whole thing. Why? Because they’re part of the picture. God is Reality, in my view, and thus comprises everything and everyone. As a mystical Muslim, you…and you…and you…and that tree outside my window…and the bird chirping merrily nearby…and war-torn Afghanistan…and Hurricane Whatever…represent a piece of the Great Puzzle, God itself.

But that’s just my picture. Yours is different, and I’m glad you share your pieces with me. I wonder if I’ve travelled so much because I was searching for more pieces. I wanted The Answer to Everything. I’m getting to the stage where, instead of inserting your pieces, or rearranging my picture, I’m just letting the puzzle break apart. What’s left are my truths, and those few are more than enough; I shall speak them; not because you need to hear them, but because I do.

One is that I had tumours—malignant ones—for nearly four years, and they are now gone. I didn’t have surgery; I didn’t have chemo; I didn’t have radiation. I lied about being healthy for several years. This is my truth. If this bothers you, if you feel defensive about it, or you think I must be nuts, I invite you to explore your Big Puzzle. What part of it does my truth ruin? Do you have the courage to find the pieces you stuck in there? It’s perfectly fine if you don’t, you know. I love you regardless of whether you believe my truth or not. And I know you love me, too, or you wouldn’t share your truth with me.

I have found that I am less and less bothered about seeing the big picture any more; perhaps it’s because I’ve realised there either isn’t one, or it’s so big, I can’t possibly see it.

I prefer seeing it peace by peace, as it is presented to me—by you.

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