Ok Drowning Eye-To-Eye

I wrote to my sons, “Sometimes Dad likes a little encouragement too,” as a preface to a longer message I shared from a friend, of which this is an excerpt:

“I’m certain you’ve had conversations like this with them throughout their lives. I can picture you getting on the floor, eye level with them as toddlers, explaining things to them, asking them questions like, “What do you think about that, Gabe?” and listening to their thoughts and answers and theories and stories and imaginations and questions.”

Our youngest responded:

“I did bring you three cookies the other day🤷‍♂️. Sorry we don’t give you much encouragement Dad. I am very thankful for you.”

I replied:

I think it was 2007 or ’08 that the livingroom carpet which creeped into the diningroom was torn up and replaced with hardwood. Probably long before that, I remember passing out exhausted, lying on that carpet, and awakening to a quiet toddler, rearranging Legos near my face. Or two superhero figures soaring over the back of my head as I lay with a corner of my lips curled toward my twinkling eye.

Maybe I talked myself to sleep, or maybe I watched one of them act out their answers to my soaring questions, as I sprawled out with the carpet, at their eye level. And years before that, a son or I opened eyes, level with the other, as he lay on my chest rising and falling with each life-giving breath—in a bed, on a sofa, or on that same carpet.

How can this friend, whom I did not meet until a decade later, picture these things, merely by seeing me talk to today’s young men—toddlers then?

Two decades earlier, I sat on the top step in an apartment swimming pool while a foot away Joseph frolicked in the water like only toddlers can, breathlessly, with excited abandon, to peril oblivious. Feeling safe, unconsciously, under the gaze of his Dad, who remembers what happened next in slow motion.

Dad, standing in waist-high water a distance from the bottom step, mesmerized by his son’s joyous curiosity, watched every small motion as Joseph descended the steps with his eyes wide open throughout it all, soon standing on the bottom of the pool, the water’s surface ascended a foot above his head. He never closed his eyes, even after Dad scooped him out, sat on the top step, propped his toddler onto a knee, and they gazed squarely eye to eye, question in both.

Then Joseph grinned.

Dad giggled.

Everything ok.

Yesteryear and today. Whence my friend’s pictured scene. That’s how we make things, my sons and I. Even near drowning.

Everything, ok.

“Sorry we don’t give you much encouragement Dad.”



Not much.

Everything. Ok.

Neil D. 2021-01-14

Samson 45

Each time I stepped outside the lobby to smoke, he sauntered across the street from the park’s stone washroom building. I gladly gave him what I had. His face is beautiful, shaped such that a smile is its most natural posture. Eyes partly closed, but twinkling. His weathered complexion made it hard to guess his age. So I asked. 45. He doesn’t hear well, so would gently raise his hand to his ear if I didn’t shout loudly enough.

The shelter a few blocks over won’t admit him. “I’m not funded…”

“What brought you to Saskatoon?” His ex started sleeping around on their reservation. He traveled away: “I’m healing…,” he struck his breast tenderly. He’ll have to go back as the season turns. Too cold here, and he’s not funded.

I wondered if the fixed smile–as I perceived it–wasn’t also a wince from hurt carried constantly conscious. Inescapable. I don’t remember what I said that made him laugh and cough, but then I knew. It’s a smile. Surely it’s both. Pain and joy. Fear and freedom. Desperate, but content to be sharing a cigarette with a stranger. The stranger content to be too.

He raised his cap and massaged his brow, and I tucked my near-empty pack into his leather-skin coat pocket as I readied to depart, shouting, “For later…”

Negligent of my own soul this morning, I didn’t ask to be blessed. But I was.

One cheek rose higher toward a sparkling eye. “Oh…you’re an angel…” He high-fived me.

You are too, Samson 45.


Neil D. 2019-07-24

[Related: Green Shirt]

What kind of strength is weakness?

What kind of “strength” is the weakness that comes from suffering? The REAL kind of strength. It’s not a muscular or defensive (or even O-ffensive) kind of strength. It’s not from being a winner, of any game. It’s in a realm (“real”m) infinitely and eternally larger than infantile game-playing and falsely strong, winner, childish egos.

It’s the kind of fortitude and okayness that comes only from soaking up the outpouring from a ripped open heart.

From noticing with wisdom: You are still here. Your soul is a pool of strength that needs no sense of security or meaning from the small, imaginary world where the small, former you lived. But nothing about that smaller life was, or is, wasted. It is the birthing springboard of You being reborn into the fullness of who You was meant to be. Of You becoming more conscious of how enormous You is, and has been, all along. To have stood through all that, and still be standing.

You aren’t going anywhere, You. The weight of your suffering has planted You so firmly in existence and the real world that any forces which the old, small you feared will progressively evaporate as You grow in awareness that You ARE the unique You that creation has always needed for it to be whole and complete.

You do not belong to anyone. And you are realizing You do not even belong to your own self, even though you thought belonging to your self, and owning your shit, was a sign of strength. You belong to all of creation, just as it all belongs to You. You, still standing, belong here.


Neil D. 2020-01-06

New Year’s Ode To Mothers

Throughout 2020 I photographed from my back porch roses which bloomed from the same vine.
New Year’s morning 2021, I scrolled through these photos and the song “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” came to mind.

I searched for lyrics and discovered the origins of the song from ca. 1600 on Wikipedia.

Isn’t it true that in virtually every icon we have of Mary she stands serene with her arms at her sides, but palms subtly raised toward us, in case we are moved to fall into her loving arms? Contrary to gathering our attention, she stands placidly, without chasing or beckoning us, just waiting to be noticed, like a rose with beauty in and of itself, which we can behold when we are moved to notice.

My own mother, born in 1931, has lived to see 2021, and is 375 miles apart from me. Even at my age of 52, I cannot wait to fall into the comfort of her bosom which makes everything OK. Sometimes, when I’ve longed for that warmth but we have been apart, a thought of falling into the open arms of The Rose comforts me. My mom would never be jealous of that because she has always been ready in solemn patience for any child to fall into her arms, no matter how old or large—for my mom too is stand-alone beauty itself.


Neil D. 01-01-2021 (amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, grateful graduate of Notre Dame, “Our Mother,” regardless of today’s later gridiron outcome vs. #1 Alabama)

Searching for the word “compassion.” A two-person chat

Love is a mess of romance and compassion. Compassion can remain.

“Compassionate”… A word we struggle to apply to ourselves. Especially when involving romantic love and pain.

Romance can cloud our recognition of compassionate love within ourselves.

[December 26, 2020] {Nancy and Steve were at a support program with Gary. A few hours after, Nancy messaged Steve…}

Thank you Steve.

Thank you for what Nancy!??

🙂 For sharing your beauty, Steve, and just being with me today. I think you’re awesome, and I love you deeply, Steve.

Omg Nancy I felt like a train wreck today.
But thank you for accepting me.
Love you too, Nancy!!

So funny you sent that Nancy bc I am on the treadmill thinking about how I have nobody lol.
And then you remind me that’s just my head messing w me.

You are alone, Steve. Maybe you can let yourself feel it even more deeply. I think you’re onto something very enormous. And, I think, it’s… Steven.

I feel like Gary judges me, Nancy, and doesn’t understand.
So thank you Nancy.

You’re welcome Steve. You are welcome to all of me that I can give, Steve. And you deserve a lot of credit for helping me be able to give myself.

I’m not sure I fully get what I do for you Nancy but lol I am so glad I can help someone!!!!!!!

Nor can I myself put into words what you do for me. It’s too big, Steve. You are sinking into your beautiful soul of goodness. And it is too enormous to express in words, or to understand with the mind.

It makes me smile to see you struggle during meetings, Steve, unable to find words. I get some sense that this lonely, train-wrecked okay-ness you express is a consciousness awakening inside you, integrating the complex feelings you wrestle, into your “head messing with you,” and into the tender heart that binds you to the need for love that all the beautifully complicated people in your world demand.

To me it seems like the Steve who wants certainty re-meeting the Steven who can embrace uncertainty. That happens inside. Some people think it’s the ego surrendering to the soul. Maybe you are like Lizzie meeting Elizabeth— alone, which is why you wrestle between loneliness and the occasional feeling you tell us that you’ll never find someone or marry again. Maybe you are finding the more enormous you, and that has to come first, despite Gary’s judgemental impatience.

You and Gary have a very intriguing and long relationship that the rest of us can only sense from outside of it. He has a soul with its own deep and unique beauty, and sometimes he seems to be frustrated like you are moving too slowly and deliberately on your journey. That slowness doesn’t surprise me at all, given the sense I have of how vast the inner beauty is that you are discovering. Maybe I’m more patient because it sure feels like the unveiling to the world of the full Steven is worth ANY wait. It’s gonna be epic:)

Dear lord Nancy!!
I hope it’s epic!!!
I just feel the need to explain what I can’t. I don’t know why I am ok w what Jean did but I am.
I don’t know how the hell I am ok after anything I have experienced but I am!!!!

I believe in you, Steve, because I believe in God, and I sense God in your soul welcoming you home, back into your fullness, as you were made.

Most likely bc of people like yourself.
I am content in life for today. I have everything I need. Sure I’d like my house fixed up etc, but overall I have what most people never get and for that I am thankful.

And I think you and I have the same type of outlook on life.
Which makes us ok in a mess.

I wonder, Steve, if your OKness is authentic divine compassion pouring out of your soul. Maybe you understand how broken children of God like Jane and Jean can be, and I wonder if that is because you have sort of opened your eyes to your own brokenness.

I think it’s divine compassion, because from it flows forgiveness, almost effortlessly. That kind of compassion and forgiveness don’t dismiss what has been done to you, but “understand” it in a way that only a heart — and not a mind or an ego — can grasp.

And from what I can tell, what flows after compassion and forgiveness is authentic gratitude… a sense which can’t be put in words, that you “have what most people never get.” By the compassionate loving you extend to those other broken children of God, you are giving them what most people never get.

Dear lord yes Nancy!!!
Maybe that’s it!!!
You should be my counselor!!!!!!
I’m not ok w being treated like shit but
I can’t explain lol.

Maybe that’s… Steven. In his enormous fullness.

Yes! Can’t I just be ok… or good…?? lol
And why are you the only person who understands this.
I can’t change people or make them love me.
I can only be the best person that I can be.

I think there is definitely a kind of “mess” that is all in our head. But as we battle that idea, and try to convince ourselves that it’s all in our head alone, I think we get mistaken that all sorts of “messes” are only in our head. The most enormous mess is the mess of being human. The messy mixture of what is in our head, and what is in our heart. I don’t think we have to — or are supposed to — give up the messiness that comes from interplay between our heart and mind. We were created human, and humanity is goodness.

And let me be clear.
I know I deserve better than what Jean did to me.
I know that with all my soul.
But I am not perfect.
Nor will I ever claim to be.
I just want to BE ME.
Whatever that mess is at that moment or in that hour or day.
It could be taken away tomorrow so I’m gonna enjoy what I have.

The problem with my forgiving heart is that people do take advantage of it at times.

Yes, that seems to be my experience too Steve.
So what?
What they are hurting is not our enormous soul; I think it’s what our ego/mind thinks is our soul. It’s our human sense of right and wrong — of judgment — that gets so deeply wounded by people who victimize us.
That suffering MUST be real.
If a spark of God lives within us — our soul — we “know” suffering is an inseparable part of acting with authentic lovingness. We can’t love any more deeply than we are willing to suffer. I think there’s a pretty good historical example of this. His birthday was yesterday.

And don’t be such a silly dumb ass! 🙂
Millions, if not billions, of other people understand all this. But there are many more who are not yet ready to hear it with open ears. Maybe you and I have been willing to hear it, but have not been ready to hear it. It’s a very big deal. You – YOU, Steve – are a child of GOD. Now, pause for 20 seconds, and think about how passionate you are about loving your own children. There is a part of you in them. Think about how desperately you want to help Kenny’s boys right now. And now, think about how infinitely passionate God is about loving each and every one of his children. It is not so much a duty that is given to you and me (to show them that love from anything we can give), but it is a gift for us to be able to do that. For God to have chosen Steve and Nancy to pour out divine love from inside of themselves onto other children of God who can be much more alive if they can be OK with their imperfections. And, by the way, this is not something you need to aspire to. Something you need to achieve. Some goal you have to chase. You, Steve, have been doing it most of your life. Others have benefited from it. Now it is time for you. Your time. Benefit from God’s love that lives inside of you. It makes you OK. And, enormous.

I absolutely LOVE your words above, Steve.
And now, it’s time for this old fart to take a nap 🙂
To curl up, alone, with the arms of my own soul embracing me in a warm love shown best to us by the child whose birthday we celebrated yesterday. Can dreams be any sweeter?

Sounds perfect!
You should be exhausted
Sleep well and thank you!

Neil D. 2020-12-26