Divine Distortion: Part 2

THIS IS PART 2 OF A TWO PART POST. Click here is you haven’t read the first part yet.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

To pick up where we left off, I want to lead with another quick anecdote; I was left alone for a couple hours the morning after I was informed of the official pathology/diagnosis (which was initially much more severe than it is now), and when I realized I was in fact alone, I found myself starting to have my first panic attack ever because I was allowing myself to absorb the possibility of death. I really needed Amy, and someone had taken my cell phone away, so I couldn’t call her. Even when I tried to use one of the hospital phones, it didn’t work because they couldn’t make long distance phone calls (Amy has kept her Orange County phone number so she is technically still long distance). In a moment of utter fear and frustration I flipped the table of food that was next to me in my hospital room then angrily flung it against the wall and it actually felt pretty good to do so, but it didn’t satisfy what I was needing in that moment. All I knew is that I wouldn’t feel satisfied until Amy got there. When she first arrived though, she kept trying to tell me that everything was going to be okay, she sounded robotic to me. I finally broke down and told her that the odds of survival weren’t good. After I told her this, she started to breakdown herself, and it may sound selfish, but seeing my wife experience that grief made me no longer feel alone and I haven’t felt alone since then. I just needed that honest moment from Amy to know that my partner was with me in the trenches and that she was able to go to those dark places with me. Just simply knowing that has allowed us to now live fully in authentic hope. Hope is not a distortion, but can be for people who are in denial. In that case it’s not hope, it’s just shallow optimism. When Amy came into that hospital room that morning, she was in denial, she was trying to tell herself (not me) that everything was going to be okay. When we both shared that moment of grief together, however, we were able to align ourselves and commit to living in hope together. I will say, that even though we’ve been married for 4 years, that moment for me was when we truly became one.

Feeling alone is certainly something that is at the bottom of the depths of despair, and I know now that being alone is an absolute distortion, an absolute lie. The fact that you are never alone is a fixed law, just like gravity. I am never alone and YOU are never alone, no matter how grim life may feel. I can tell you that I personally would not be able to recognize that if it weren’t for the artists that I mentioned in the previous post but I can’t tell you that the same would be true for you (that’s up to you to help discern that). Please trust me that if you feel like you’re alone, then you’re believing a lie, and it’s time to dig yourself out of that hole and this is where the practice of “Divine Distortion” can be helpful.

To me, the meaning of “Divine Distortion”, is summed up in the scripture I posted at the top of the page. The hard truth is that we, as in all of us, (for this I can confidently use the plural form) view ourselves, each other, God, and life through a glass, darkly, or as is said in other translations, a broken mirror/lens. The first step in the practice (or discipline) of “Divine Distortion” is to accept that fact and in essence frame your story with that belief and understanding. Tell yourself or meditate on the fact that you or anyone else can’t ever have a completely accurate view of anything. That distortion is divine because it allows you to get out of the way of yourself and accept your own limitations and the limitations of others. As a Brain Cancer patient I am acutely aware of my limitations (and some days I’m even grateful for the tangible nature of those limitations in my life). But also in the midst of that humility you can know with confidence that the glass we all look through will be fixed some day and only then will you no longer see everything in a distorted matter. Accepting all this, can allow you to enter into your own life as well as the lives of others with peace and patience and love and all that other good stuff. The other part, in terms of the practice of “Divine Distortion”, is that you can live your life confidently and fearlessly by trusting that you are, in fact, fully “known” (and never alone). Someone bigger than you (our divine Creator perhaps) knows you better than you know yourself. In my case, it was that someone knew that things like music, literature, and movies (no matter the subject matter), could reach me and speak to me on a deeply personal and spiritual level. In times when I felt alone, those things were there to console and comfort me and it obviously takes someone or something to know that about me (because they’ve been doing those things long before I knew it about myself). My connection with Amy in that hospital room is another example of this as well. She didn’t know what I needed and neither did I; the moment happened in spite of ourselves. Yet that moment has defined our journey over this past year (and probably even our marriage). I honestly don’t care what you believe personally about any of this because I’ve been able to discern through my own experience (and even though I’m aware the glass I look through is broken, I can still see enough to say this with confidence) that YOU are also fully known. I know that someone bigger than you is looking out for you and knows you better than you know yourself, and I think that if you can ever take the time to meditate on that fact, it will help wipe away the distortion that comes from living in this world. In my life, that’s how I’ve been able to fix some of the scratches on that lens that distorts things, and if you find a way to do the same, I can guarantee that you’ll see that I’m speaking the trth.  And, if nothing else, I know that you’ll at least feel it, especially when you take the time to fully embrace this practice of “Divine Distortion”. A mentor of mine, who is a renowned neuroscientist, once told me that “there are other ways of knowing things beyond the tiny toolset that science has blessed us with.” He then said, “You and I are our own unique high powered receiver but the sad thing is that we don’t know quite how to operate it, and we probably never will, but the encouraging thing is that whatever created us certainly knows how each one of us works.”

Now back to the Modesto trip (see part 1): The distortion at play with the trip was created by the differences in culture (SoCal and NorCal are practically different countries), the dynamics of family (families can be both our best friends and our worst enemies), priorities and expectations (a lot of times we do a poor job expressing these to one another), and finally, generational/personality differences (the one thing I always try to remember is that all of us grew up in different cultural/educational/familial contexts and experiences and by just making the simple choice to believe that every human being is unique and worth of dignity and respect then I find that that puts me in a healthier mindset). The simple acknowledgement that distortion is at play is a great start when entering a situation where there is the possibility of tension or stress. Amy’s grandfather and I enjoy having intense conversations every time I’m up there and when we talk, it’s obvious that all of the sources of distortion are at play. I personally believe that he and I have the exact same core values/beliefs but we have very different views in the ways that these beliefs/values should play themselves out in our lives and in society. A lot of that is because of the generational, educational, and cultural differences. Understanding that makes having a constructive conversation possible. Afterwards, we always hug because the area where we’re most alike is that we both love (and often crave) a good and meaningful conversation/debate (no matter the topic). The one thing we always talk about is how our wives don’t always understand that there is a difference between an argumentative and heated conversation and an intensely passionate one (in other words: both Amy and her grandma get concerned when we get “passionate”). Amy and I also knew that the weekend was an important time for the family and that due to the intensity of both the wedding and the potential birth, we knew that everyone would be on edge. Knowing that, Amy and I decided to temper our expectations (even though this was a rare opportunity for us to get away and relax) and make it our priority to just serve the family the best way we could. This simple act not only allowed Amy and me to feel an important connection but it also brought relief and comfort to everyone around us. For me, it just felt really good to be a help in this way because I personally have not been able to contribute much this past year (and I’ve struggled with the guilt of that).

To sum everything up, “Divine Distortion” allows the opportunity for you to take a proactive role in your well being (you can also tell someone with confidence who tries to tell you what to do…or judges you…to BUZZ off!). In the case of dealing with Cancer, the simple understanding that your doctors are limited in their perspective, although scary, makes it possible for you to not defer your well-being solely onto them and can take a more well rounded approach. Ultimately, I think that the point of the discipline of “Divine Distortion” is to realize that everyone is their own unique person (or high powered receiver) and that each one of us should strive to embrace that about each other and even more so ourselves. The key thing to remember though is that it takes discipline and practice to allow that perception to permeate your mind and actually see the world through that lens; meaning that for some of us it may seem like common sense, and if that’s the case for you then I would encourage you to be grateful that you see it that way instead of getting angry at people that may not understand that. In other words, it takes practice. At the end of our time in Modesto, Amy, StaceMom (Amy’s mom), and I (as well as other family members) played around with the Photobooth program on StaceMom’s new iMac. There are effects that “distort” the image when you take a picture. As we sat there and took goofy pictures, we laughed harder than we ever had as a family  (at least since I’ve been around) and created one of the best memories I’ve certainly had with them. The one thing that will always hold true to me is that in spite of how distorted things may get, Amy will always look cute and adorable (as evidenced by the photos below).

Much Love,

Alex

Please lift up Darrell Cain right now and his mom Jeanne. He is going through an experimental treatment for his stage 4 Cancer as I write this. He’s in his mid twenties and was about to finish getting his Master’s at M.I.T. when he was diagnosed.

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