Everytime I look at this picture of my beautiful little niece post para-sail ride, rising up from the waters of the French Riveria, I think, joy... pure joy. Now, she could care less that she is on a beach in Nice, France. That is not what has etched the look of bliss on her face. She’s joyful because she took a risk, overcame a fear and is savoring the by-product of it. Courage, faith, and accomplishment. Pre-parasail adventure, as she was being strapped into the harness, her little hands were shaking and I am sure her mind was whirling with “what if’s”. This picture is a great reminder for me. If I want to experience that kind of joy, I have to be willing to welcome change, keep an open mind, and put “myself out there”.
My life story consists of decades of abandonment, in many forms... parental, emotional unavailability, infidelity, and death. Scary stuff for me to allow someone to touch my heart and let them enter. But, thanks be to the blessed gift of a 12- step program many years ago, I have learned to take the chance and invite some folks in. Unfortunately, I am still learning discernment in WHO I allow to share my generous spirit and joy.
It is excruciating to have your heart broken into a million pieces by a man you have loved and trusted, only to have him tell you he doesn’t love you or want to be married to you any longer, after 28 years. Watching the melt-down of a dear friend, upon hearing that news most recently, left me few words of comfort in reassuring her that she would survive, and likely come out the other side of that dark tunnel, stronger, more assured and able to trust again. First, I cannot even begin to identify with the long-term commitment part. My track record in intimate relationships is pitiful at best. I am the “good for seven years gal”. My most enduring relationships (really) have been seven years... tops. In kabbalah, they have a term for your Achilles heel of sorts, parts of your life that you return to in future lifetimes to correct or change direction. It’s called your Tikune. I sense, as embedded as my cluelessness with the opposite sex is, this lifetime isn’t my first go around at correcting! I am hopeful this time, God packed an instruction manual in my soul in the hopes I would actually pick it up and read it someday. You know, a black and yellow study guide, Healthy Relationships for Dummies. I don’t know if I could tolerate another lifetime of repetition with my conflicting behaviors of neediness, false Independence, emotional unavailability, or excessive tolerance for the unacceptable. Or, the most damaging of all, settling for sloppy seconds. Basically, this is what I told my dear friend in the potential loss of her marriage. I said, “I can be there for you, love you, show you how to take care of you, but I am not equipped to pass out any advice on healing a relationship. Talk to someone who has been married for 25 years if you are trying to figure it out.” Clueless here...
What I can identify with are her feelings of devastation. I do know the icy shock of having your trust betrayed. That, I can share with her. I also know what it feels like in every one of my life challenges, to move beyond control, accept powerlessness, and surrender. The serenity that comes with not having to be in charge, is a welcome breeze sweeping through your soul. I know what it feels like to wake up one morning months after a loss and actually see the sun streaming in the window. I know the beauty and relief in finally viewing one who has hurt you so badly, as a wounded soul rather than an evil person, and being able then, to truly forgive. I can share all that with her too. Although, it’s sad watching my friend hurt, I know that sometimes those who bring us the most joy, will ultimately cause us the most suffering. So, what’s the trade-off? A life shut down from others, lacking intimacy, engagement, and love? I think not.. Not for me. Not anymore.
One of my favorite movies of all times is City of Angels. I discovered it after my husband’s death and watched it over and over again while wallowing in my grief and self-pity. The message it contained has stuck with me. Nicholas Cage plays the part of a guardian angel who happens to fall in love with a beautiful doctor (Meg Ryan). He wants desperately to be with her, as a human. He is told that God will grant this request, but he must recognize he will then possess the fallibility and the range of emotion that plague humans. He agrees to this and is happy beyond imagining, sharing with Meg Ryan the pleasures of being mortal. One morning, while riding her bicycle, she is hit by a truck and killed. The intensity of his grief and pain is unbearable and he is now experiencing the deepest anguish imaginable, questioning his decision to become a part of the human race. The final scene in the movie, Nicholas Cage is lying on the beach, a dismantled man. You see him surrounded by many guardian angels, the sunlight beginning to filter into the deep, dark places of his despair. He slowly rises and runs, full clothed, into the sea. As he splashes in the waves, he raises his face towards the sun, and a smile begins to tug at his cheeks. Feeling awe and delight, once again, savoring the memories and the moment, he raises his arms to the sky and laughs joyfully. He has evolved through the human experience. We cannot and will not ever fully experience joy without walking through some fear and putting ourselves out there, making a change, connecting with others, falling in love, trusting and welcoming whatever life holds for us. Joy precedes pain and pain precedes joy. Seems we can’t have one without the other. Great joy, involves great risk and being brave enough to open up the window again, and see what is there.