Quitting Smoking Episode 3 - Every Driver On The Road Is You
OK - it's been about a week since I tried to stop smoking with an electronic cigarette. Let me just say that my battery-powered-pleasure device (I'm still talking about the cigarette, you dirty minded trollop, you) is like the prettiest girl in school, who sadly has to go to "special" classes because she just can't understand fractions. It is sleek, glossy, high-tech...and a sad excuse as a replacement for good, old fashioned, southern grown tobacco. (I'm southern grown too, so there's likely a bias.)
So, I'm trying not to think about it. (puff, puff, electronic puff). What's on my mind instead is life. What does it mean, what are we meant to do here, and how do we end up meeting each other? Good questions, eh? Let me take another sip of Malbec, and let's discuss.
Sip. Mmmm. Hints of oak, leather and something...something...what is it? Lavender! OK, I'm back. Let's continue.
I was raised a Christian, but I always think of it as liberal Jesus worship, because the church I was brought up in was pacifist and creative, and even the most conservative amongst them would be unwanted in the Tea Party. But, the idea that a virgin begat the human form of a higher power was the story taught to me from my infancy, so that's where I start.
As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist, partially because of the Indiana Jones movies, but also because I was obsessed with the Egyptians. Their artwork, their monuments and the desert environment all intrigued me, but their Gods and Goddesses and their belief system about life and death was what truly fascinated me. The Egyptians led to the Greeks and the Romans and the Mayans and the Aztecs and the Incas. Then the peoples of Easter Island, the Norse lands, the Celts and the Druids. They had similar deities and there was so much commonality across cultures that I began to recognize global consciousness as something more than an idea. I started to realize the integrations of belief systems that have happened over the centuries as each is overtaken and traditions are adopted to help the converted drop their old religions and don the capes and hats of another, and began to wonder why some survived while others didn't. So many had thought that their way was THE way, just as we think that the system we are born into is the way. Which system is correct? And did a belief system surviving mean it was closer to the truth, or had we lost the true way through war and colonization while mock religions remained? Were any of them correct or, because a higher power created us all, were they all correct and was God, or Great Spirit, or Allah, or Jehovah, or Hecate or Cernunnos, or whatever you choose to call this power, simply sending down belief systems to different peoples in different ways so that they can best understand Him/Her?
These thoughts, combined with an understanding of scientific laws, like "energy can never be created, nor destroyed" made me wonder about reincarnation and the concept of soul mates and twin souls that are forever reborn and occasionally find themselves once again in the presence of another with whom they've shared a different life, in a different time. Why was I born in Virginia? Why to my parents, at this time? What was I meant to do and where was I meant to do it? I love where I grew up, but I always knew that my calling would take me somewhere else.
My childhood was Norman Rockwell-esque in comparison to so many I know. We ran around barefoot through the woods and played in creeks. And we had tall hills to sleigh ride down and warm, happy family holiday dinners. But, I always dreamed of something bigger and faster. I didn't just want to watch what was happening on television -- I wanted to be where it was happening, not to see it in person, but to be at the source of culture.
When I was around 6 or 7 years old, I had a dream. I was sleeping late, because it was Summer vacation. My mom was already at the office and my dad had started working in the yard, which he did daily. I could hear the starting and stopping of the raucous weed whacker engine in the distance as I lay staring at the ceiling, bathed in the sunshine streaming through my window, it's heat magnified by the glass. I was devastated. In my dream, I was in New York. I'd never been to the city before, but I knew enough from TV and the movies to recognize it, and obviously, to envision it in my dream.
I'd spent my dozing hours in Chinatown. The streets were narrow and lined with storefronts boasting all sorts of roots and vegetables. Chickens hung below signs written in Chinese. The air was thick and the tone grey, but lit from above as the sun peaked through the jagged edges of rooftops. I was alone, and even though I wasn't scared, I was a little nervous as to what I was supposed to do. So I got in line behind several adults waiting to place their orders at an old, weathered white countertop that seemed to tower above me. As I waited patiently, taking in my surroundings, I noticed a beautiful little dark haired girl, waiting with her parents ahead of me. She turned and smiled, like she knew I was anxious, and I immediately felt content. She was beautiful, not so much because of her features, but because she was like me - shy and childlike, kind and empathetic and happy to find someone else like her. We spent time eating and giggling and then she had to go. I loved her like an angel. And she loved me. And then, she had to join her parents on a bus home and I watched her board and the doors closed. And I woke up and I lay in my bed crying. I even searched my closet and under my bed, because it felt like she should have been there. It was as if I'd lost the most important thing in the world to me - something that was now out there waiting for me to find.
I don't often consciously think of this dream, but it has remained with me throughout my life - and here I am at 38, writing about it. It meant something. But what? I used to think I knew, but now, I'm not sure.
When I went to college in New York and met my ex-wife, I thought about it. She was an empathetic brunette in New York and we clicked immediately, so I automatically assumed that I had fulfilled the vision I'd had so many years ago. Even though our romantic relationship was wrong for so many reasons, she had a huge impact on my life, so it's possible she was the one from my dream, and that we were supposed to meet. On the other hand, what if the little girl I met was just another me - one that I needed to integrate into my psyche - and that made me feel so content because it represented wholeness? Having had such a struggle with my identity, that's also a possibility. Or maybe, it simply represented what I wanted: to live where the world spun quickly and to be loved and to feel special. Regardless of the meaning, I know that my dream of New York as a child was a premonition and a view into what I was destined for - and where I needed to head to find the other souls that were necessary for my growth.
So, what are we to believe in life? Some people choose to believe nothing, which is their right. I personally can't imagine that there isn't something more intricate going on, and maybe I just don't want to let go of the "magic" that the belief in a higher power provides. Believing that whenever I think, something can hear me and that, no matter what, I am an important, integral part of some greater whole - individual, but united with a world of fellow souls - is very comforting and I just couldn't survive without the idea that anything is possible and that we each have a path set up just for us that we're trying to walk.
Someone once said to me, when I was having road rage, "Every person on the road is you. You're driving next to these people for a reason. Maybe they cut you off because they're upset and not paying attention. It's your job to understand them at this moment in time and make the way safe for them. And, even if they're just bad drivers, you getting angry just makes you a bad driver too."
And that pretty much sums up my belief system - "Every driver on the road is you." Every bit of love you give, you are giving to yourself. Every bit of anger you display is anger focused on yourself. Every bit of understanding you lend to someone is yourself crying on your own shoulder. If we are all part of one whole, then I would guess the ideal state for us as living beings on this planet is wholeness. How do you create a whole? You bind together a lot of individual atoms. What binds atoms together? Connections and attractions. If we are the atoms that make up that whole, how are we connected? Through love. You don't see people attracting others with hate, or resentment, or jealousy, or anger. People want to be with you when you exude love. Love can bind us together like nothing else.
What if you don't love someone - or simply can't love them? Maybe they've hurt you, and you don't yet see why it had a purpose in your life or that, in fact, they were simply hurting themselves, but since you and they are the same, it hurt you too? If you can't bring yourself to love someone, I believe the answer is to simply let them go. Don't even interact with them if you can avoid it, but don't hate or hold a grudge, because you are simply poisoning your own life. Instead, take that excess energy and direct it towards loving those you can.
People tell me all the time - "Jason, you need to learn to love yourself before you can truly love others." And, that's a very true saying. But I think it means something different than people think. It doesn't mean that I need to just love the physical "me" more, but all the "me's" out there. Everyone who shares the finite energy of this world with me, each of our souls burning and fueled by the same energy that has lit and moved our universe since its dawn. I have loved too many, too often, with too little of myself. By doing so, I have only denied myself love. But, I can't hold onto that too closely because to have regrets roots you in the past and to people you can no longer love in that moment. It keeps you away from those right in front of you, loving you as if you were them.
And so, another rule I live by is forgiveness. Almost every belief system that has ever been created shares the common thread that there is a way to salvation - that your mistakes can be forgiven and put behind you so that you can move forward with the purity you need to fully embrace yourself and the world. By forgiving others, you are forgiving yourself and recognizing that you too have weaknesses and that you have also hurt others in this world. If you are to be forgiven, so must they, because he is she and you are they and we are we.
For those of you who started with me at the beginning, this is now day two of the writing of this blog and I have switched from wine to coffee. And, as I often do, I am re-reading and editing and thinking about the spiderweb of tangents my mind creates and how these few paragraphs spiraled blindly out of the simple desire to not discuss my struggles quitting smoking. But, I'm realizing that these thoughts and topics came to me at a specific time for a specific reason and that my first thought was to share them with you, and through you, me.
If there is one thing I am going to try to do in this new year, it is going to be to forget about how well or unwell I am loved by others - to worry less, to be less sensitive and to let go of the fear of being hurt. Those feelings are keeping me from focusing on the love I have for those around me and, honestly, they drive me crazy and waste the energy that I have been given during this short lifetime. There are others out there depending on me, just as I am depending on them, so that we can all rise to the purpose for which we were intended. To deny you my love and time is to deny myself.
So screw worry! To the underworld with fear! Begone lost hope! Burn in the pits of despair ballet flats! (Sorry, just had to add that.) And to hell with wasted time. We won't always be loved, but we can always love. I have seen love, not just romantic love, but mere kindness, change someone permanently in just a few days. I have witnessed doors being opened and dreams being fulfilled from love. And I have seen how the smallest gestures of love have transformed normal moments to dreams I will hold onto forever. So, I love me, and you.
And, if you're having a cigarette, can you please think of me?