The Russian proverb “one battered person is worth two unbattered ones” merits consideration. Are not those unpummeled by fate on the foolish side, lacking wisdom gained through the miracle of enlightenment that only a good thrashing can offer? At this point in life, when I have been clobbered so many times that it is borderline indecent, this statement makes me prized beyond rubies—a luxury item. Ah, just you wait. To undermine my ironclad logic, there is another old saying that states that less-dilapidated people bought in bulk are bargains—a penny a dozen on market day. How to reconcile the two? But this rude statement, with its faulty rationality and scandalous, camouflaged stinginess, is a fact unproven by science. Let us disregard it, since the research methodology utilized is questionable at best. In all fairness, the trouble of proving this hypothesis is rivaled only by the hassle of disproving it. I could be a sensible woman, though it would be nice to feel a little bit priceless.
Allow me to share a few highlights to justify my outrageous claim. The mighty former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the place where I was given birth to by my mother, unwillingly on her part, but that could hardly be considered my fault. I did not begin my life alone—Mother was there for the birthing, but that is as far as she would go. It was only a matter of time till I realized how doomed I was. So far, four developed countries on two densely populated continents have been listed as all-too-impermanent permanent places of residence on my lifetime résumé. I am still pretty young, you know; a big chunk of life is ahead of me, and who knows where the all-powerful winds of fate might blow me next, and what new adventures, exciting and hazardous, may be churning in their bellies? More strange cities. More strange faces. The predictable familiarity of the places I have been to, the allure of the places I have not. I intend to focus neither on the number of cities nor on the number of habitation units here, skimming over any applicable particulars as inconsequential.
Streaking through the abridged version of my life story would include a few life-altering situations, a handful chosen at random—conclusive evidence of my existence—such as two marriages (not bragging), and consequently, two divorces, one confirmed rape, several unceremonious attempted rapes (still not bragging), and one official death, which turned out to be a minor misdiagnosis and a temporary setback. Not my fondest memories. I would be happy to forget all these experiences, but no, no such relief yet. As Mother says, clucking her tongue, hands on her hips, “You’re so lucky that bad things cling to you! Ay-yay-yay!”
And ex-boyfriends and more ex-boyfriends traipsing through my life. I have run into all manner of relationship troubles—nothing to brag about, even if I was in the mood to brag a little. The root of the trouble? The gentlemen callers who charmed me and shared my bed were but salt in the wound, obstacles in my noble quest for my sole soulmate. Each one carried away a generous sliver of my heart, carved a hollow space into my soul, and only gave me fibroids, as they say. No, there is no end to how naïve a person can be. Nobody said living is logical.
Being a single working mother with all that it entails and keeping body and soul together on days and nights when the stars themselves were too tired to shine might add weight to my claim. By comparison, life and adventures in Middle-earth seem like a walk in a park. Though in the aftermath, I have a wonderful daughter, the best daughter a mother could ask for. If it is all the same to you, allow me to throw into the mosaic of minor nuisances my being homeless for a while and other stuff I cannot be bothered to remember anymore. What is done is done. And that is not the story I wanted to tell you. I mention all of this for the sole purpose of illustrating that I am one tough cookie, not for the dubious pleasure of getting it off my chest.
Long ago I noticed how much easier it is to go through whatever life imposed on me if I kept my ability to laugh at things—all sort of things, including myself. It is also true that I am terrified (like you cannot imagine) that if for some reason I did stop laughing for one moment, a terrible silence would commence, and in this silence I would have no choice but to glean how unbearable my life has been with its thousands of small and large disappointments, and then I might just hang myself.
There were days when in pulling myself from the edge of hell, it was tough to keep my head above the surface and not get sucked into the whirlpools of madness (not whining), when I was so stressed out that I would forget my name and home address. Ah, but in sleepwalking through those stretches of time, I would also forget why I should care about remembering such things. Perhaps not a bad thing, if only for the purpose of variety, when they were followed by a cavalcade of days to be endured through their monotonous tediousness—the endless, endless yesterdays. And then, interspersed among periods of utter loneliness, as a localized, pulsating vortex of energy within the universal field of consciousness, were—O glory!—intervals of a magnificent union with the same nurturing field, cozy and snug, when I felt the ebb and flow of life inside me.
If you ever thought this “universe” thing had been created for the sole purpose of giving you the finger at the worst possible moment, wait—it gets worse. Its plot is contrived to get you killed at the end. You will lose everything. All of it. One might get the impression that the gods (wherever they are), in pursuit of their own therapeutic relief, look for ways to toy with and complicate humans’ miserable lives to the point at which the business of living becomes an unending torment, ruining everyone’s nerves in the process. Me, I never found it amusing. Such a thing can push one into refusing to believe the reality of these horrible gods, thus repudiating the pleasure of their existence and, in this very act of denial, driving them to madness. How about that!
Gods or no gods, I thought it a good idea to forge ahead and enjoy life, adapting a frame of mind appropriate to such a journey, the bits of it that lay before me, all while ignoring two of Mother’s favorite sayings—“Man is a wolf to [his fellow] man” and “Prepare yourself for failure since it’s the only thing you can expect”—lest those words end up engraved on my headstone.
From the outset, there was an absurd consistency in my never being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, an endless string of chronic near misses. I have long since ceased to ask why. Let it be placed alongside the other mysteries of the world. Alas, Homo sapiens is a resilient animal. I have met more than my fair share of incomparable goblins, things that crawled out of the woodwork on moonless nights with a thousand eyes, and several angels.
I am fortunate to have been granted a number of days drenched in sunshine, smelling of cinnamon-baked apples, sweetened by ethereal joy. My life has zigged and zagged this way and that, yet I heard my call to freedom—I will be eternally grateful for that. Oh but what it took to escape the dark and narrow prison of a mind…Sing praise to God that this elegant universe with its infinite possibilities will always be full of wonders, the world ordained and just (true, though it may sound like the opening pitch to an irritating infomercial).
My fellow adventurers, my wrinkles—an inevitable development—have been earned with honor. Though I was showered with the shrapnel of heebie-jeebies along the way, I have learned to look life squarely in the eye, and in either one. As I journeyed through time and space, experiencing the wonder of life to the utmost of my human abilities, it seems as if reason were away on extended vacation, odds are, in Hawaii. Ah, those beaches of fine, white sand—so dreamy, so inviting! A permanent move to a galaxy far, far away—too far away—is also a probable event, a possibility I had not even considered, but it might explain things.
I feel obliged to add that I suffered some bruises, scratches, and dents along the way, navigating the minefields of my lot while life smacked me in the face, and—as if to relieve the boredom brought on by the monotony of repetition and to experience some diversity—in the belly and somewhere else. I will not say where. The whole experience was deflating. And yet…and yet, in general, so far the signs of wear are still invisible to the eye—what a mercy—and my complexion is not grayish yet. Ah, but nothing lasts forever. Looking back, the background for those unquestionably educational events was predominantly blurred. What started as a speck of double-stringed DNA proved durable enough, and now look at me fly…unless you talk to my mother. The heart is big enough to love, lose, and love another time to lose again. What a unique vehicle, through which the cosmos can experience itself, I am! What a marvel.
Despite the fact that I was brought up a convinced atheist in the overpowering shadow of Karl Marx’s famous statement that religion is an opiate for the masses, I came to believe in spirits. To begin with, this nonbeliever stance was something I had been persuaded into rather than adopted out of real faith. Besides, theological beliefs can be dangerous too, and have been known to start a few wars, far more than those initiated in pursuit of all-engulfing, everlasting love, though not as many as for opportunistic conquests of someone else’s land; but, you know…a few. How many lives were sacrificed on altars of implausible ideas that had to be abandoned later on! So being an agnostic is not without its advantages.
Like everyone else heading for the inescapable grave to rot and disappear forever, blissfully unaware that such satanic things as Abaddon could exist (with its vaporous shades of tar pits and boiling mud, and ghostly epicene shadows of human black mold), I never worried about the whole concept of being burned in the scorching fires of Hell. Ah, the sweetness of ignorance. As it is said in Ecclesiastes 1:18, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow”—so true.
On the other hand, there is nothing to avert the looming disaster should it be discovered that yes, there is indeed a place where alleged sinners are burned for the duration of eternity. No redemption, none. Something tells me that a written note from my current therapist would not do me much good, even if it states I should be excused from such unhealthy activities, justifying it with the simple fact that none of my actions are ill intended, but that my being subjected to a case of bad parenting propelled me onto such an unfortunate path, and that I am really, really sorry.
It is a damn shame that neither the existence nor categorical absence of such a place of damnation can be confirmed at this point in time. I should look on the bright side—there is nothing I could do to rewrite my past or change anything within it. It is what it is, so I should take a liberating lesson or two from a clever bunch of Zen Buddhists and, after exerting a considerable effort, erase the bits driven by worry from my mind.
While being transported forward in the winged chariot of time, I have learned that life is not about the past or the future—it is about the ride. One thing is certain in life, and that is death with its icy tooth—the unopposable inevitability of it—followed by decay, like it or not. Yes, everything turns to ash. Death. Decomposition. You might have heard it before, but I think some things are worth repeating. The statement, which declares impermanence with its slippery hold to be the only permanent and reliable thing in this creation, is the sort of statement that might generate enough of an invigorating shock to make anyone stop and contemplate it for a second or two, before the frail echo of this utterance itself will die and quickly be forgotten. Oh, you know…
With this acknowledged so that it will not curdle into another brown lump on my conscience, consider yourself adequately warned. If I were to risk being annoying by taking the liberty to share what I have learned so far, it would be this: Blind to the future as we all are, be true to your sense of self. Is not the unsolicited advice the best or what? Ah, the sacred journey that is life, to be measured in memories squirreled away. One day I will embroider “Bloom where you are planted” on some lucky pillow, in a satin stitch in cheerful colors. It came to me in one of those fleeting moments of absolute clarity that comes within the few short intervals between prolonged periods of insanity and confusion—is not lucidity marvelous!—articulated in an intimate way in a velvety baritone. If you had heard this persuasive, oddly disquieting voice, you too would have believed anything it whispered in your ear. To whom, to what did it belong? I wondered.
I try to keep my eyes and ears open. Look what crossed my path the other day—a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin written on my daughter’s Yogi tea bag: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Says it all, yes? So for what it is worth, here is my story. As a former free-roaming spirit who is earthbound for the moment, undergoing the hustle and bustle of being enclosed in the denseness of a physical body, forced to deal with the frustrating limitations of an ego, and who can also glimpse at will the vast spaciousness of the spirit within and thus looks forward to unfathomable escapades in the future, let me welcome you into my world. Welcome! And, by the way, I am delighted our paths have crossed.
Shall we dive in?
© 2015 Sophia Delanner
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