Peace and joy are elusive to survivors.
We have to learn and re-learn these types of experiences, cultivating the beautiful aspects of life as if we were students in school grasping a new skill. I’ve usually been able to be kind of a joy parasite (not to be confused with a joy sucker) who gravitates toward frollicking animals, playful children or any group or individual who is just laughing unabashedly. I watched and learned what this beautiful emotion was and then set out to mimic it. These situations always felt right and kind to my heart although in direct conflict with my upbringing. Kindness and love weren’t taught or shown but pathology and self destruction was handed out freely and often.
Survivors as a general rule haven’t learned how to play well or experience peace. If we did learn to play, what we were probably experiencing was destruction in action disguised as play; i.e. out of control drinking/drug/food/anger (fill in your favorite addiction or crazy shit here), driving recklessly, giving ourselves hearts and bodies to men that were undeserving of that sacred gift. So many behaviors were masked as “a good time” that it took decades for me to truly figure it out.
During my high school years, I usually found myself gravitating toward healthier families. I certainly can’t take credit for this action for it wasn’t conscious. But I’ve come to believe that living things; plants, animals, people will gravitate toward health and love and I base that belief on some serious reflection upon my past behaviors. I wanted a better life and in many ways, set out to get one even as a child.
One family I attached to had two parents, 6 children who were blissfully crowded into a tiny house with a tiny kitchen. Many families grew up in this fashion in my day, no one owned a McMansion or rarely had a bedroom to themselves. It was customary to share a room and even a bed with a sibling. And this was the way it was at C. J.’s house. She, myself and several other friends grew up in that tiny house; from junior high girls, into high school girls, to brides, then mothers and now grandmothers. We’ve buried parents, sent sons to war, survived cheating husbands and celebrated our re-marriages. We’ve lost touch and reconnected many times, rarely without missing a beat. They are my ya-ya’s, my sisters.
I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with C.J. It’s always an easy kind of experience to spend time with friend from long ago, who knows your stories and your quirks. We’ve transcended needing to explain things as we just know each other that well.
It was the usual agenda; yard sales, thrift stores, food, playing with the dogs and cats, naps, late night talks with the girls. Yeah, girls….56 year old girls. All the good things in life. My last afternoon was marked by C. J. hosting a dinner (and she’s a fabulous cook by the way) for me before I left for home. Her modest farm home was full just as her childhood home was and served as a playground to many activities that day. After an afternoon of swimming with the grandkids, I plopped myself (temporarily of course) on the living room couch where I soon found myself snuggled in and stretched out.
I can’t exactly describe what happened but whatever “it” was, I’ve managed to hold onto “it” for weeks, even sharing the feeling with other friends. Sitting on the over stuffed couch, I found myself sinking in deeply, letting my tension float away and began to absorb the energy of this household. The sheer comfort of the environment gave way to me lying down putting a throw pillow over my face. I became so relaxed and peaceful that I couldn’t resist the temptation to surrender. During the most blissful two hour nap I’ve had in a long time, I floated in and out of the commotion of the grandkids playing and eventually crying, the miffed off weiner dog’s continuous bark to get back into the house, doors slamming, the phone ringing, the parental and grand-parental units shushing the kids to be quiet as to not wake me and the most delicious smells of garlic and anchovy coming from the kitchen. It was a sensory delight. And it was heaven.
The more that the everyday, normal family life noise increased the more peaceful I became. A thought came to me as I grinned under my throw pillow; this must be what its like to be a part of a family. It was okay for me to relax, to feel peace, that loved ones surrounded me, even cooked food to nourish me after my nap. I recalled a long forgotten dream as a child to belong to a nice family. And that simple gesture on C. J. ‘s part became a truly, magical afternoon for me.
I left for home that evening, after my nap and dinner, accompanied by my yard sale treasures and fresh tomatoes from their garden. My most treasured gift was the lightness and peace that I felt.
During the 2 hour drive home, I think my heart actually smiled.
Photo credit: An’ Marie
To view other works by this artist, visit www.callmeanmarie.com