I have the unfortunate privilege of feeling everything now, instead of running through it by way of booze numbing. I am told this constant crying is “cleansing” and it is healthy. Perhaps. But I can tell you that it’s quite embarrassing to have the floodgates release like clockwork every time I get on a bus and turn on my ipod. You can imagine my jolt as I walked down the street at night, just minding my business lost in Bob Dylan when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I took my earphones out. Well, how cute are they. Two “Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” soldiers working for the Mormons. I think they call them Elders, even though they were about 18 years old. “Are you ok? We just wanted to make sure you were ok, because we saw you crying on the bus.” “That’s very sweet, thank you. But are you going to try to sell me on Jesus?” “No, don’t worry.” they laughed and I exhaled my frustration “I’m never getting married. What is wrong with people? It’s contagious.” I announced. “Marriage is a joke because divorce is always the punchline.” We parted ways and I took their pamphlet, politely.
Something about a moving bus always chokes me up. Ok, that and also the pain that is my broken family which is drowning in subterfuge, sewage and deception, mostly self-deception. It is a very sick system, and there is nothing I can do about it. I was crying for my family, the healthy system (or at least functionally healthy) of yesteryear. I suddenly had a vision of when I was 11 years old, riding a bike with my dad, just he and I riding up a hill at night in Hocking Hills. And he looked over, 100% present and told me how much he loved me. I think about the time when I was a small girl, and he would roll the toy car Transam down the length of the kitchen floor. Those days of innocence are long gone.
Then one day, I took a 737 to Los Angeles and I left my family. My dad looked at me with grave concern and said, “I’m worried about you.” “Oh, don’t worrrrrry!” I reassured him with a cavalier wave of the hand. “Now that worries me more!” he protested. And when I gave my one-way boarding pass to the stewardess at the gate and boarded the plane, I walked to the back of the plane to sit down. A man with a Texas drawl tapped me from behind and said, “You know I was watching you and your dad at the gate. You just ripped his heart out.”
I guess turnabout is fair play. You got me back good, dad. You got us all good. Alright then, we’ll call it a draw.
My tears come from the confusion around what is right and what is wrong. I don’t have any confusion myself, my confusion lies only around the new paradigm, and what I am no longer asked to or expected to believe. Suddenly, loved ones are changing the game to suit their own needs, like one might cherry pick the 10 Commandments in the Torah. Suddenly, anything that is difficult can be overlooked, thrown out the window or tweaked to serve one’s own holy purpose which is themselves.
Is nothing sacred anymore? Don’t answer that. Are we entering a new era where we are only supposed to be concerned with ourselves? Is the Age of Narcissism the natural offspring of the Age of Technology? It seems like the logical next step, and it certainly seems we’re already there. I guess I’m just getting the memo: Narcissism is the new black!!!
Am I being too “traditional” in my belief that in a marriage, putting the other person before yourself is the whole point? Is honesty, transparency and integrity at every moment, just a trend that went out of style with bellbottoms? Or can we just throw those archaic values out the window with the DOS computers? Is it written somewhere that when we turn a certain age we can, and we are actually supposed to tell everyone to F off. Is it “All bets are off when you turn 60. That’s when you start living for yourself and no one else but yourself.” I wish SOMEone would have clarified that in their religious text. “Do unto others as you would have done to you, unless you’re not feeling like it that day, in which case it’s ok, because neither did this person or this person, so everyone in the village will get used to it, and if they don’t, screw them!”
The Baby Boomers are really losing their shit. The whole world is going Loco. Really crazy…CaCa everywhere.
And now, for a bedtime story.
Once upon a time, a boy was walking down a dirt path. He took this path to school every single day and this path was a busy thruway, full of travellers. The village was small and the kind of tight-knit community where all of the parents and children were keenly aware of everyone else. Cooperation abounded. It was very much a tribal community. There was an old woman, called Gerty, who ambled along slowly with her cane. The boy on the path was a very sensitive and introverted boy, and he always noticed her. Everyone noticed her. Sometimes a mother would put down her sack of flour and help her up the steep hill, down to the other side, and then return to pick up her flour, going far out of her way. Many times, the old woman’s son would come with her on her walks, which was a challenge for him because he was young, fiery and impatient and had his own agenda of adventure. But he didn’t. Then one day, the son stopped coming as much, and the children started getting more careless and throwing balls back and forth in front of her path, forgetting she was there, then the mother with the sack of flour lost her child to typhoid, and became immobile, self-absorbed in her own pain and loss. The little boy noticed all of this happening gradually and became concerned. With greater fervor, he would run up to the old lady’s side as soon as he saw her she would smile, glance down at the boy and wink.
One day, the boy got very sick and was struck with a fever. He had been throwing up all night and was turning jaundiced. The boy’s father was distraught and feared for his life. But when he woke up the next morning and the boy’s bed was empty, he was gripped with panic. He ran to every house in the village, trying to track down his son until someone told him they thought they saw his small figure crawling towards the hill.
“Son! What are you doing? You’re very ill, you’re in no condition for such a climb.”
The boy was clearly struggling. He was heaving, dripping with sweat, frothing at the mouth, but resolved and determined to crawl to the entry point of the path where the old woman was to show up. The old woman appeared as the sun began it’s ascent and the boy summoned his strength and reached up for her hand. Everyone had forgotten this woman in the village. This quiet, observant boy had watched it shift over time. Slowly, people became more and more concerned with their own games, their own lives, their own agendas, chasing their own glory and happiness. He knew that he was the only one left in the village who still cared about her. His own father shook his head in disbelief that his son would push through such sickness and fever, just to walk the woman up the hill, and just as he was about to run for the boy to seize him and carry him home, the small boy grabbed the woman’s hand tight, looked back at his father and yelled:
“Helping this woman up the hill every day has been easy. When she became invisible to people because they began to think only about themselves, it was easier. The hardest day to help her though, was today, and that’s how I knew I had to.”
Suddenly, the woman lost 20 years on her face, straightened her back and lost her cane. The boy’s face was restored with color and vitality returned to him. His father started to cry. His son had learned the lesson of the village, when everyone else had thrown it away.
It is no great feat to love someone when we feel great love for them, ease around them, or even passion or lust towards them. The real challenge is to love someone when we are fighting every obstacle and stressor in life. The real challenge is to love when our demons rear their heads and we are left not only to face ourselves, but to love them in spite of ourselves, or self-inflicted sickness. The love that really counts, the real magical and valuable kind is given when we are so emotionally and physically bankrupt, that it seems that we can only manage to think of ourselves. When we don’t feel it, that is when we must give it.
Self-centered happiness would have kept the boy sick and could have left the woman beaten and robbed. But the boy ignored himself and put another’s happiness, safety, comfort above his own, knowing full well, that it would restore him to health. He didn’t try to help the woman. He did it. There was nothing complicated about what he knew he must do.
The ignorant village is rampant in today’s society. It is a society of flimsy words and narcissistic propulsion. Marriages are full of “trying” disguised by visits to marital counsellors (the equivalent of going to church to put on airs of being good). Many couples close their marital chapter with the grand pronouncement that they paid their dues by way of marital therapy, and now they get to cut bait. The whole time the word ‘try’ is protecting one from any responsibility for how they are actually treating each other or interacting the other 167 hours of the week that they’re not “seeking help.” You don’t have to be responsible for anything you ever did in the past or are doing now because you “tried.”
What many people don’t fully accept is that they will fall in and out of love through different periods in their marriage. I’ve witnessed it with a friend of mine. She was so close to getting divorced, even seeking the solution to her problem outside of herself and in others. Then she stepped back and looked at herself as the problem and focused all of her attention on the way she was reacting to him. She took it upon herself to refuse to see him as the problem and only see herself as the driving force of their troubles. She didn’t have to believe it of course, it didn’t even have to be true. And something magical happened. She fell in love again. He suddenly opened up to her again, rather than closing down out of fear that he couldn’t trust her. When she changed herself, he changed. Had she focused on him as the problem, they would have been locked into a stalemate forever. As trust grew, they became more affectionate after a long dry spell of fear, blame and mistrust. And that is marriage. Staying constant even when one is not “feeling” it.
Our human village is ailing from a Me-Centered obsession with “happiness” which is illusory and not lasting. The more people who ignore the woman walking alone on the road, the easier it is for everyone to do it. And that is how the family unit is being decimated, brick by brick, chasing after that ever-elusive phantom of happiness called Me, Me, Me, Me, Me and I, I, I, I, I. Unfortunately, the more we chase and chase this golden calf of “me” and “I” the more we realize, we’re just chasing our tail.