On my birthday, I received an email from an old friend with this picture of us as kids. I am ten, and the two girls next to me are eleven. The children in front are nine. What do you think, did I fit in? This was my dilemna as a child. I was shy, yet I 'stood out,' so to speak.
It rained all day on my birthday this year. I went out for breakfast with a friend. We talk a lot about 'truth,' a very interesting subject. I came home and found this photo in my email. I spent the afternoon alone, embroidering to the sound of rain. I am enjoying the colors so much. This is something I used to do a lot in my twenties, when I was detoxing. I would go on long walks, and then spend some time either writing or embroidering. I liked Gerda Bengsston's botanicals from Denmark, and I still do. I'm wondering, why did I stop doing this? Well, I know the answer. Because no one around here thought much of it, and, as in my old childhood quest, I wanted to 'belong' - in Berkeley, where the word 'belonging' is probably some sort of anathema! But the reality of belonging is very strong. I've grown a little bit wiser about the whole issue, and am finding my 'belonging' more within, and in the context of my own life, which is primarily about my marriage to Gary, my work and my volunteer work, and my writing and other 'creative' activities, including the practice of self-knowledge. I'm enjoying the embroidery very much.
Anyway, I sat alone and embroidered to the sound of the rain and the soft crackling of a fire in our small wood-stove. In the evening, Gary and I walked through a light rain to a little bistro in the neighborhood and enjoyed a delicious meal, and a good talk.
A friend gave me an article on a new book entitled, "Happiness: A History" by Darrin M. McMahon. The article was good (Wall Street Journal, Sunday, January 21-22, 2006, Books Section), and here is my favorite paragraph: "The idea was not to shut out but rather to embrace discontent, setting aside any happy-ending hopes. The great Romantic poets mined the bittersweetness to be found in the depths of yearning. Nietzsche declared struggle itself to be sublime. Freud argued that an intimate acquaintance with our own anxieties can lead to a kind of mental equanimity. And existentialists prized precisely those aspects of life that seem an absurd waste. As for the letdown that follows a successful quest - Schopenhauer's post-achievement dissatisfaction, indifference and emptiness - classical thinkers seized on these feelings not as impediments to happiness but as portals to it. Such emotions, (according to) Virgil, Lucretius and Seneca in Mr.McMahon's telling, should prompt us not to stage yet further quests but to minimize our desires and plumb the pleasures of a simple life of retirement and contemplation."
I would have to say that in my life-experiment I have found these words to be correct. To be 'true.'
"As for the post-conquest sense that our best days lie behind us, classical mythology showed how a solitary achievement, even if long past, can suffice to give an individual's life its shape and purpose." I actually feel this way about taking care of my parents in their old age, and about working through my problems and our working through 'our problems' in our marriage. These may sound like fairly simple goals, but I have to tell you, it hasn't been exactly easy. There have been so many twists and turns on the path, but it seems as if we have found our way along our path pretty well so far. Things may not look the way I expected them to look at this stage of the game, but they look pretty good. So I guess we'll keep going.