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Several years ago my daily meditation would involve an artwork, usually a painting. After finding one that caught my attention I imagined my self as part of the story, though, perhaps a peripheral part. One such work was the "The Friendly Visit" or "Friendly Call" by William Chase. By the angular lines that define the features of the woman in white - her left hand, the umbrella , the taut veil - it seems that Chase has captured an unfriendly moment in the "Friendly Visit." My attention was caught by the stairway reflected in the large mirror on the right. The stairs lead up to brightly lit room or porch or perhaps to the outside. On that day I thought about what would brighten my day an how could I move into the light.


The Friendly Visit by William Merritt Chase



Sometimes the question is not about which direction I should move in but can I get up and move at all. After Annie's death it was evident that Diane an I had not worked on our relationship much for 20 years and I, at least, couldn't move in a positive direction. Too many years of increasing negativity on my part. Resentment, hurt, anger, and anxiety. I could not untie the knot that bound me to my reactions. Whatever I had done in the past had not worked so many times that I could not see what might work, if anything. I didn't like it, but that's the way it seemed it had to be and being alone seemed the least painful. Under these conditions even a feather was too much weight and I often called in sick at work.


Unfortunately burdens are not limited like carry-on luggage is - although some passengers seem bent on exceeding all limits in how many they burdens they try to carry. I may be burdened my nature, or my situation, or a relationship that seems too much to bear. These burdens sap our strength and obscure our vision to the point that believe we are weak and limited in ways that are not so.


In one episode of the 2003-2005 TV series, Joan of Arcadia, the "old lady God" played by Kathryn Joosten, says to Joan, "Everyone has one part they don't like about themselves. You carry it around like a weight. The luckiest people are those that recognize that when it becomes too heavy they can set it down and that's when you see things as they really are."


One part? How about my whole life! Well even Joan recognized that her life wasn't defined by this jealous emotion of hers. She would have to know more about this part of her before she could set it down but now there was a little more light on the stairs going up.


When I went to Diane's place after she left I could barely stay. What I resented, was angered or hurt by seemed to inhabit the very objects in her cottage. The months that passed was a time of desensitization, a passive experience, offering no resilience I think in the end. It was still a struggle resisting the thoughts and emotions. I just reacted less.


Then I got it finally. I am not my mind or thoughts. When a judgment or conditioned reaction comes up, if I am present, I have the opportunity to release it as something I don't want to be. Allow it to float away. In the painting "The Friendly Visit" I can imagine pointy Ms White's companion in the soft comfortable yellow dress letting gossip and anger and judgments float away, never to be a burden on her peaceful demeanor.


For a long time Fr. Stan Fortuna's blues song, Lay Your Burden Down, was a favorite.


"Come on, lay your burden down.

He will lift you up to higher ground.

You will never know the glory of his face

until you let him into that deep and secret place."


Laying our burdens down or letting our judgments float away are only preludes - they remove that part of us that prevents us from seeing things as they really are, of being able to see, in the midst of difficult relationships, the stairs that lead to the light. After visiting Diane in the awareness that I am not defined by the thoughts and judgments that spring from my mind I thought, "Wow, that could change everything!"


Take Care



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