It was a hot day today, and Joseph had several nosebleeds. He freaks out when his nose bleeds. I don’t know why it’s so terrifying for him — but there is a lot about Joseph that I don’t understand.

In this particular freak-out, Joseph screams; he cries; he grabs huge fistfuls of Kleenex and fiddles madly with his nose. I encourage him to lie back and he fights me as if I’m trying to drown him. If I use some force to get  his torso down on the bed he thrashes his legs wildly up and down, crying, crying.

As I work with my child, trying to simultaneously calm him down and stop his nosebleed, that quote from Byron Katie pops into my mind:

No one has ever been angry at another human being; we’re only angry at our story of them.

I have major stories about Joseph. This blog is full of my stories about Joseph. I get mad and sad and scared and anxious because of my stories about Joseph. In many ways, they run — and sometimes ruin — my life.

Here I am, trying to help a kid whose nose is bleeding and who, according to my world view, has blown things way out of proportion. There are reasons to panic, I figure, but a nosebleed is not one of them.

Then I let go of my story and hang out with him in his discomfort. I don’t really want to be present with him, because then I, too, have to be uncomfortable. I have to feel, in part, what he’s going through — ride out the fear and terror with him.

The first time I went to India I was with 51 other spiritual pilgrims. From our comfortable, air-conditioned bus we’d look out at the city buses and see Indian people sitting nine to a seat (lots of lap-sitting), along with chickens, sweat, dirt, food, babies — the whole swirling mass of humanity. I felt separate but also somewhat superior, watching them from my cocoon of safety.

My stories about Joseph are like that air-conditioned bus. When I see Joseph from there I am looking down at him from a safe place. I am protected. I am better than him.

Eventually my Indian tour ended, and I went from air-conditioned buses to city buses, hanging out right there in the muck of humanity. You know what? It wasn’t so bad. It was — fun, kind of. I remember the woman who, finding no seat, held her baby out toward the back of the bus, silently asking someone to hold it for her. A man held out his arms and took the baby.The woman turned around and never looked back until it was time for her to get off the bus.

We wouldn’t do that in America. A complete stranger holding your baby in an overcrowded bus? Never. But that’s the kind of thing you see when you ride in the city buses of India.

It’s out of the comfort zone, for sure. Way out. But I really see the value of getting out of my story and into the reality. Just sitting there with Joseph as his nose bleeds and as he screams — not fighting it, not wishing it was otherwise. Trying to assist him without trying to fix him. Letting him be just the way he is in his own perfection — because it’s only my story that says he’s not.

Life is messy. But if it’s true that God sees us in our perfection — if, in fact, God has no stories about us — then every time I can do that with Joseph, I am seeing the world from God’s perspective. I am touching God.

I want to know the mind of God, Einstein says. Everything else is just details.

Me too, Albert — me too. So bring on the nosebleeds, and I’ll work on being right there in the muck, in the mess, and embracing it exactly the way it is.

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