John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XII

John Michael continues his series, reflecting on life and people encountered, with three new stories about dealing with accepting yourself, being compassionate, and doing heroic things.


Give Up Worrying

What we hide from ourselves is often completely obvious to others. I have a couple of jokes about my hair loss, one being, “I am not balding, I just have bald hairs,” but part of me still resists the truth of it.

I was talking to a friend at a memorial service and he mentioned most of us looked the same except for balder. I added most of us (except for him) were fatter as well. But in mind I was saying, You may be balding, good sir, but not I.

If we come out of ourselves and our own worry for a moment and look closely at the person we are talking with, it is fairly easy to see what is going on with them, be they happy, sad, angry, or worried.

Several years ago, I told my mom I thought she was tired of playing bridge. Bridge is a card game still popular with my mom’s generation. She reaffirmed I was her crazy son and that I was being ridiculous. She also has been vomiting for the last couple of years and takes some meds for nausea. It generally happens before she has to go somewhere, and I said it may be related to social anxiety or some agoraphobia. Again, I simply did not know what I was talking about.

She was hosting bridge yesterday at a downtown restaurant. As we were getting in the car she said, “I think I get anxious,” as if it was some kind of deep personal epiphany. She also said she was tired of bridge and that this may be her last time hosting. Again, she just came up with this herself. Now, I joke a little here, but my mom is the last remaining original member of a bridge club that has been around for over 50 years. So, breaking away from that is brave, and I am sure anyone would struggle with that.

What a blessing when we can give up worrying about appearances, accept ourselves as we are, and do the things we want to do. For my mom, that may be enjoying some peace and quiet in her old age while reflecting on the honorable life she has led.

Physical beauty is lovely, but a person who accepts themselves fully, be they bald, fat, handicapped, or even physically disfigured somehow, well, they shine with a beauty unsurpassed. I love you with everything that I have. I say it to God, myself, and whoever is in front of me. I am suggesting here that you love yourself with everything that you have. Love is something no one in the world can ever take from you.


Wanting Happiness for Others

I am stumbling over how to present what I want to say. Purple only, compassion’s color I suppose. Picked up a walking stick down along the Clearwater River. Fairly stout, but thin, comes up to around my neck.

So, I was wandering, you see, thinking romantic, poetic thoughts with all this spring sunshine and color bouncing against my heart. Losing track of yourself is how you stumble into God, was what I had come up with as I walked up to a drive-up coffee stand.

I said to the barista I felt like my life lately had sort of been tilting at windmills some, and I am not even sure that is the right phrase from Don Quixote. Regardless, she did not understand and so I used the word futile and she still was not sure what I was trying to convey.

Well, my cynical, judgmental mind was thinking, Just what in the hell are they teaching kids these days? As I was stumbling off, I was just soaking up the colors and thinking, I might actually try painting some dogwoods, and was daydreaming what colors I would use, Would I do it with my finger or use a brush?

That is when that purple only thought appeared in my mind. I have been stumbling and bumbling toward my heart chakra for quite some time. Fits and starts, fits and starts.

I have had a good book, good literature so to speak, rearrange my worldview at various times in my life, but to expect that other folks should be having a life like that is a little arrogant. Life gives us our lessons regardless of our pursuits and nothing has rearranged my worldview than being a hobo.

And I must say the feeling of kindness or compassion, that sort of wanting happiness for others and being willing to do something about it. The pull there is starting to be stronger than the pull of romance, sex, passion, and sense fulfillment.

So, I started in with my kindness mantra/prayer: To all the sentient beings, I love you with everything I have. Speaking of education and sophistication, I was mangling that word sentient so bad, my girlfriend at the time had to correct me in a fit of exasperation.

At some point when you see me, you will automatically know that I meant that when I say that. Even if you have never read Cervantes.


A Minor Hero Moment

I was thinking about the idea of a hero the other day. The idea of wanting to be a hero arose in my childhood. When I was feeling left out or when things were not going my way. I will do a very impressive and heroic thing to show these people I am worth something after all, was the idea in my head.

When I was a kid, I thought that maybe I was a pest in my family, more of a burden than someone they wanted around. Now I realize my family was just filled with their own concerns. Nothing wrong with that, but as a kid you want to feel close to your pack, so to speak. I remember packing a bag a few times and taking off in a huff of self-pity.

At times I have also felt barely tolerated by my friends. I am a bit flamboyant and maybe try and talk about feelings more than other people are comfortable with. So, I always question whether there is a welcome wagon where I go or if the wagons are circling. In the past, this has caused me to lash out quite a bit so as to punish my rejectors and detractors and to hide my hurt feelings.

Sometimes I feel like we are impossible as a people. Very little affection or tears are allowed. We are tough, safe in our defenses, but also starving for love and intimacy.

I also realize I may be the one keeping intimacy at bay in my relationships. I mean, how real is a person who is constantly trying to impress and charm others? I can’t keep my heart hidden forever, not from myself, not from others. I don’t know why this issue is up for me now, but just writing about it is providing some emotional release.

Also, after being molested, I thought something was fundamentally wrong with me, or that I had done something terribly wrong and that is why it happened. That may be why I struggle so with intimacy. Why would I show you such a flawed human being?

I believe it is possible to get from God, from ourselves, the things we want from others. I have made some real strides in my life just learning to accept myself as I am. Unconditional love. I don’t know what it feels like yet, but some of my heroes, Christ, Gandhi, and other saints, were put to death loving and forgiving those who were killing them.

I had a minor hero moment at the ballpark the other day. A man approached me with his eyes watering and wheezing heavily. He nodded that, indeed, he was not okay. The old shame-based me would have panicked and ran to get someone else to help him. But I just calmly gave him the Heimlich four times until he coughed up the obstruction.

It was actually a little humbling. For one thing, the guy was just incredibly grateful. Once the event was over, I mentioned it to a few people, but did not spend two weeks bragging about it to everyone I ran into: Are you impressed with me yet?

I realize that my writing about it may be a little ironic in the bragging sense, but there it is, my hero moment. I found it a little strange that it happened just after I was contemplating the idea of being a hero.

Many people, because of early negative messages, are never really comfortable with themselves. We either are always trying to self-destruct, as I have spent most of my life doing, or relentlessly trying to self-improve. To me, complete self-acceptance is the very best self-improvement.

I have hidden or twisted myself much of my life looking for acceptance from those around me. What will I be like when I fully accept myself? You too, all you potential heroes out there, maybe those who fully accept themselves and their love are the real heroes walking among us.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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