Monday, December 15, 2008

A Time to Be Impatient

WAITING FOR THE SUN: A Time to Be Impatient

Do You Suffer From Alfy Singer Syndrome?

December is the month where we are waiting for the sun to return. One of my favorite songs is by The Doors, Waiting for the Sun. Jim Morrison mournfully sings:

Waiting for the sun…Waiting for the sun…
Waiting.... waiting.... waiting.... waiting....
Waiting.... waiting.... waiting.... waiting....
Waiting for you to - come along
Waiting for you to - hear my song
Waiting for you to - come along
Waiting for you to - tell me what went wrong

Recently, I have discovered that I am an unhealthy 'Waiter.' I am often unconsciously waiting for the sun - waiting for things to line up, or postponing enjoyment until the good outweighs or eradicates the bad. I am reminded of Woody Allen's role as Alvy Singer, the neurotic romantic in the movie Annie Hall. There is an interaction between Alvy (Woody Allen) and his ex-girlfriend Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) at an outdoor restaurant. Annie suggests they go somewhere and have some fun. Alvy morosely declines:

Annie Hall: "Alvy, you're incapable of enjoying life, you know that."
Alvy Singer: "I can't enjoy anything unless everybody is. If one guy is starving someplace, that puts a crimp in my evening."


I think I have spent too much time suffering from A.S.S., the Alvy Singer Syndrome. Like Woody Allen's character, I have too often seen the world through the lens of ubiquitous suffering, omnipresent annoyances and the moments of darkness, "If one guy is starving someplace, that puts a crimp in my evening." The problem is that there is always some guy starving someplace!

And lest someone gloats over their superior optimism, consider our chronic obsession with waiting to solve Global Warming, to elect the right President, achieve the right body size or health, find the perfect church or job, purchase the latest fashions and construct the 'ideal' relationship. Our days can be ruined by stressing over recycling, bicycling, nuclear weapons, terrorism, and not having that Spring fresh feeling all day long. I am all for taking care of our bodies, solving international problems and caring for the planet, however, sometimes we are unconsciously spending all of our time waiting for the sun and focusing on that one guy starving someplace.


After the death of my son last July, my psychic journey took me a long way from the sun. I was in the dark Winter of grief. Everything was being viewed through the lens of my little boy being shot in the chest and dying in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. I have never known such darkness.

About four months after Jason's death, I was walking along the shores of Puget Sound, praying, crying and waiting for the sun. I glanced up and saw a stick-legged Heron gliding high above the water. He tilted his wings downward to slow his flight and regally settled onto the bouncing bough of a tall Douglas Fir. The setting sun was radiating a pinkish-orange hue along the horizon behind the bird. My heart spontaneously swelled with joy for this surprising moment of Beauty. Immediately I thought, "I can't enjoy this, my son is dead." I have spent much of my life thinking thoughts like that. But that day, something happened; I call it Soul-making. Something shifted. I don't know whether it was from my own subconscious, God or Jason's voice, but I heard an inaudible whisper, "When the Beauty is there, enjoy it fully. When it leaves, deal with the darkness. Both are always present, always."


I realized that I would never be 'whole' enough. Postponing experiences of Beauty could not wait on the salvation of my soul, the economy, or the earth. I often miss the Beauty right in front of me, or feel guilty for enjoying it. How often are we waiting for the sun?

Waiting for someone or thing to come along
Waiting for someone to hear our song
Waiting for someone to tell me what went wrong


When December arrived, I was compelled to designate the month as a time to stop waiting and to practice finding the Beauty, or to locate some Benefit in every thing, especially those things that are hard for me to find beautiful. For example, I really dislike television commercials. I do not like people interrupting my program, increasing the volume, screaming at me while jangly music plays over their inane babble, telling me what I lack and what I need while implying that I am stupid, unsuccessful and uncool without their product. I really get irritated! I understand why Elvis Presley once shot his television set.

But over the past two weeks I have consistently taken a breath, gone contrary to my first cynical impulse and sought to find the Beauty in each commercial. I really hate the Viagra, Erectile Dysfunction advertisements. Whenever those middle age guys start singing Viva Viagra like they are at Church Camp, smiling like an impotent man would never smile, and jumping on their motorcycles to roar off and have sex with their wives before the drugs wear off – I go a little nuts.

But now when I see that commercial, I think of actual men out there who have really benefited from these pharmaceutical love potions. After a few seconds of imagining some poor impotent fellow receiving help from that very commercial, I actually begin to see through the commercial and find the Good. The results have been fascinating as compassion and gratefulness replace annoyance and cynicism. I may actually continue the practice beyond December because it feels much better to seek the sun than wait for it to always come to me.

As we move back toward the sun this December, remember, "When the Beauty is there, enjoy it fully. When it leaves, deal with the darkness. Both are always present, always."

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