Lint-Trap 4/23/01: Serenity
I guess every writer writes primarily because of inner pressure. But it is so wonderful to get feedback, especially positive. I've exchanged several emails with a reader who mentioned that, as she is getting older, she is seeking more "Peace and Serenity".
I know a lot of people who are looking for this, or they say they are. And I feel I have a good measure of it, living in the mountains as I do. Funny thing, the people who say they are looking for peace and serenity are rarely the ones who make the trek (all of a 1/2 hour drive, for God's sake) up to see me. And when such a person does arrive, they often exclaim "it's so quiet here!"
The reader made me admit that I'm not interested in peace and serenity. At least not as a way of life. To me, life is a spectrum of experiences, with peace and serenity at one end, and intense intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences at the other (how many ends does a spectrum have, anyway). The Hawaiians believe that life should be lived with passionate abandon, with intensity. This balances and makes possible moments of true serenity, which the Hawaiians also do very well. I do believe it is possible to be passionately peaceful, to experience peace with the full intensity of your being.
It's much the same way that my weight lady is teaching me to get as much joy from the feeling of satiation as from the lessening of hunger. And to enjoy every bite of the journey from hunger to satiation.
A wise man whom I saw for therapy in my 20's once said "You know, people aren't really afraid to die. They are afraid to die without having lived." I took his advice, and did the scary thing many times in my life--usually, I ended up wishing I had done it sooner.
So I spent most of the day today as a volunteer assistant in a workshop that helps people reverse the effects of their early-life experiences. It was the first day. Some people were trembling as they came in to find their seat. When they were very young, their parents may have beat them or sexually molested them, or led them to think they needed to jump through hoops to get love, or that they were already, at age 3, a failure or a bad person. Their child's neurology was blown out by adult energy, often hostile, but much more than they could stand. They were deeply hurt.
And the biggest sin, the source of ready annihilation, was ever telling anyone. And they know that, just by showing up, they are taking a public stand against what was done to them.
They are scared beyond words.
At the same time, the relief to understand that they are not the only person on the planet who has suffered this. Their ready empathy with others. Their slow acceptance of this empathy from others. The trembling stops. Then the voices begin to be raised. They have taken their first steps on the path to freedom, which, like healthy eating, is really more a habit or a practice than a goal.
These are not people, more or less, who want peace and serenity. They have dated an married and divorced scumbags who recreated the conditions of their childhood. Many are more afraid of love and tenderness than of pain and anger. They want a life. They want to stop fighting themselves and give themselves to the world. The only problem is, they believe that if they do, they will die. It was probably true, when they were three or four or five years old.
So one woman was beaten by her stepfather, her high school and college boyfriends, and her husband. She had the courage to say NO, and lived without love for six years. She's met a man who treats her well, and loves her. She almost can't stand it--she is doing this workshop because the alternative is to leave him.
Another woman's father was a bit of a hippie, and used to go unclothed in the house. He stopped when she was 7 or 8. She mentioned this to a school counselor when she was 10, and her father was hounded by the state for 9 months for sexual abuse. They made him leave home for 7 of these months, and live alone--all his visits with his children had to be supervised.
When he finally cleared his name and moved back. He blamed his daughter. Publically and repeatedly. Her mother intervened, but he was implacable. The marriage collapsed and he left, leaving the country so he wouldn't have to support the 4 kids.
And she feels totally responsible for it all--his problems with the law, the breakup of her parents' marriage, her mother's resulting poverty. All her fault. At age 10. So she dates jerks who mistreat her, smokes, dropped out of school, even tried suicide.
Peace and serenity. From the outside, these folks may look like they would want it. From the inside, they want to really live before they die. Their own life, not the one their parents warped them into. I know that journey, since I have taken it myself. It is like moving from sepia to technicolor.
The joy I feel in assisting them in their transformation is almost beyond words. This is my third time assisting, and there is no better work on the planet. I Xeroxed 1900 pages of material yesterday to get ready for the class, and I would have done 5 times as much. I'm sure you will hear more about this...
Thank you for reading.