Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Life Is Beautiful

I don't know why, but I was thinking, today, about a recurring nightmare I had growing up. I was in a concentration camp, along with my mother and brothers. Then we go through everything that the concentration camp victims went through. The dream ends with us being shot, my mom and brothers first, so that I had to watch, and then after we were dead, we were dumped in a mass grave and covered with dirt. I know there's this idea out there that if you die in your dreams you'll die in reality. Where does that idea come from? I mean, how would anyone know that? Anyway, I died in my dreams, every time, and I'm still alive, so either I'm a psychological anomaly or I've debunked that theory.

I think I had that dream for years, because of the helplessness I felt by being trapped in a family, with parents who were abusive and neglectful. Kids are so helpless and need to be defended and when you don't have any control over your life, well, you feel like you're in a concentration camp, subjected to abuse every day. Once I grew up and started having control over my own life, after moving out of the house, I stopped having the dream.

Today, I started to think about that movie, "Life is Beautiful", starring Roberto Benigni. I thought about all the jews who ended up in the camps. They came from all walks of life, rich and poor, good citizens and bad, religious and non-religious and were all dumped into the same situation, together. And each person had a choice of how they were going to deal with the circumstance. Simplified down to black and white terms the choices were either to be bitter or to sustain hope.

Whenever we go through a nightmarish circumstance that seemingly takes all control out of our hands, especially if it's chronic, like being a migraneur, we have the same choice to make. Do we allow bitterness to poison our hearts or do we sustain hope? Whichever we choose comes from our character, value set and from what is within us. It's a conscious choice that we make.

I think bitterness is a very human emotion and the first one we choose when we become sick and have chronic pain. It's very natural to do that, because bitterness is easy. It's easy to be bitter. It's not easy to live in bitterness. Bitterness quickly admits and accepts defeat. Bitterness is a prison of our own making. It skews our perception of life and those around us. Bitterness is poison. A poison that creeps so slowly into your psyche that you hardly realize it until you are sick with it. It blinds you to love. It is the exact opposite of hope and a cousin to despair and desolation. You can't share bitterness. No one wants it. No one wants to be around it. It tightens around you like a python with it's prey, squeezing the life out of you, choking out love. But, Love is the antidote for Bitterness.

Choosing to have a positive attitude, an attitude of hope, is very hard to do when you're in those circumstances. It's hard to sustain the belief that your circumstances will change. It's even harder to sustain hope when you know that those circumstances are most likely not going to change.

I believe that sustaining hope is one of the paths to peace. How can this be? Hope is constant. It continues on and never ends, even if we die. Hope continues on in spite of the facts of our circumstances and is not dependent on them.

Let me explain it this way. Let's say you want to drink some water. If you pour water into a cup, it is water. If the cup that contains the water were to break, the water is still, water. The water spills on the table and the floor, but just because the container that holds it changes, it doesn't change the fact that it's still water. This is the same way with hope. It abides. But, the container may change. The container is not the water. Even when you clean it up off the table and the floor with a paper towel, it is still water. It's just changed containers, again.

Hope doesn't change because of the circumstances. Hope does or may change you. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It's not the belief that everything will turn out ok. Many people confuse hope with optimism, but they are not the same thing. Hope is the confident understanding that you are not your circumstance. If a ship at sea encounters a storm and is buffeted and tossed, does that mean that the ship has become the sea or vice versa? They are two separate things though at times it may not feel that way. I don't think that hope is a feeling. It is a verb, an action, a decision you make not to allow the circumstance to become you or vice versa.


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