This Incredible Journey

Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. ~ Anonymous

This from a refrigerator magnet. Honestly, you just can’t tell where wisdom will rear its head. But I’ve needed to hear these words. After a month spent on the mainland US visiting loved ones, the chaos of city after city and traffic jam upon traffic jam has set my teeth on edge and lodged a scathing parchedness into my chest and lungs. Sandwiched in between asphalt and metal and glass materialize cool islands of serenity – greens and blues; pines, firs and roiling rivers – interstices of tranquility that punctuate the insane speed of civilization.

I live on a small speck of earth in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. And though it might be the perfect place for my husband and me, it doesn’t provide enough stimulation for most people, which is a good thing or we’d be overrun. Not a good look for a destination visitors retreat to, abundant as it is with moist, temperate air, clear warm seas, natural air conditioning in the form of tradewinds and a juxtaposition of rugged and soft, flowing natural beauty echoed poignantly in the hula.

But the question teases; irritates, even. While it’s easy to feel peace and contentment while nestled in the bosom of Mother Nature, to what degree can these qualities be discovered in the midst of bustle and mayhem? And is it necessary to gauge the measure of my personal progress by immersing myself in the thrall of commotion every so often?

If so, I’m afraid I’ve failed, once again. I retreat, hugging ribs racked with spasmodic coughing. My skin is drawn and dry, and grief lodges like a stone in my heart. Tears well up behind tired eyes and my voice echoes hollow, unsteady. Physical separation from my daughters who have chosen mainland living is a wound that has once again been both salved as well as scratched open (a Promethean dilemma if ever there was one). At this point in life, I observe people aging rapidly when confronted with inevitable losses and sadness. How can I continue committing to happiness while balancing this painful separation? I know the answer lies in detachment on many levels, but those who preach this most ardently likely have not given birth to human offspring. Or perhaps without realizing it, they have been forcing themselves away from their children in one form or another since those children were small.

As with all of life’s transitions, I trust there is purpose in the pain – that something new is awaiting birth within me. And so I strive for contentment without becoming addicted to distractions. I commune with nature, maintain a lovely home, cook, love my husband and dogs and ponder the imponderables of existence. And write. I write.

9 thoughts on “This Incredible Journey

  1. How sad and heartbreaking.You are not alone in this world of moving, exploring and seeking. All three of my children have chosen lives outside and away from our state, and it takes a great effort to get to see them and an even greater one to feel that they are part of our lives.

    So should I weep and wail? Cry and be miserable? No, I choose not to. It won’t help. I wish them happiness and satisfaction in the new lives they have selected. It isn’t part of the deal we signed up for, but the one we must accept.

    Feel better, dear Bela. Your writing is so beautiful.


  2. Aloha and thanks Ronnie. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    I don’t want to misquote him, but I believe it was in an interview I did with Larry Dossey who reminded listeners that our culture doesn’t do well with grief. We are expected to ‘get over it quickly.’ Anger is the most lingering emotion, and might well be the result of so much repressed grief. We humans are tricky subjects.

    That being said, I remember spending a month in Greece when I was in my early ’20’s. We spent a lot of time on the Aegean islands which were still quite rural. And I kept wondering why it seemed that all the women ever wore was black. In their culture and in many others, one is in mourning for months and even years when a loved one dies – even when a community member dies! And though the separation I speak of is not death per se, and while I do not ‘weep and wail’ anywhere near on a daily basis, I do acknowledge the pain of leaving and separation that seems endemic to our culture. (I did it myself when young, and remember wondering why my mother seemed so upset by it!) It is just the way it is.

    I certainly have always encouraged my daughters to be independent and to live their own lives. I have never, nor would I ever hold them back! I don’t demand or whine about grandchildren, don’t set down rigid rules or guilt trip them into staying close so I can feel their presence. I value my own freedom too much to want to rob anyone of their own. Nor would I live on the mainland simply to be nearer to them, though I have contemplated it and finally put the idea out of mind. It would compromise my own sense of well being too much at this point.

    Still these complicated emotions arise when we meet or part! These kids are part of me in a way no other person could possibly be. I have always been the kind who remains close to the bone – I don’t don masks or superficial personae. Never have. And the result of this is that all feelings remain more or less close to the surface. I live my life. I am an optimistic and lucky person. And I also acknowledge grief and sadness when they come along. Thankfully all feelings are fleeting – both the sadness as well as the joy! And so the Buddhist idea of nonattachment really is the path of least resistance that I try and follow.

    Thanks for giving me the impetus to express these feelings, Ronnie. And blessings to you!


  3. This makes me sad. I took my husband away from his parents. They’re in Australia and we’re in Canada. I know it hurts them and I feel responsible and guilty about that sometimes. But then, I met him in Ireland. Who knows where he’d be if he weren’t with me. I wish there were ways for everyone to have what they need.


    1. Stephanie, it sounds as though your husband made the decision, but you feel a bit responsible because you’re from Canada and he ended up there. I can certainly understand that. And you’re right! Who knows where he might have ended up otherwise? And so on we go, eh – trying to balance feelings about this and that and moving along in our lives. It’s a strange thing, to me anyway. I’m such a feeling person, it’s hard to move away from emotions, and so writing, for me, gives them an outlet.

      I too wish everyone could have what they need. Although I do give a nod to adversity as being the only way we humans grow in this life. Wish we could pick and choose a bit more! :*(

      On a random but perhaps not so random note, a friend who house and pet sat for us while we left for a month reminded me today of a quote in one of (your fellow Canadian writer) John Buchan’s books, which I plan on ruminating a bit more on, as it really rang true for me on so many levels: “It’s a great life, if you don’t weaken.”

      Thanks for commenting!


  4. Do I hear a “ah ha” moment and realisation here, Bela? As you discover the balm of taking responsibity of what is around you rather than immersing in self pity and thoughts of what could have been.

    I have scarcely come across folks who could match you in the use of words and the ability to paint such awesome word pictures. Every time I read you, I come away with new visions and possibilities. Thank you!



  5. Shakti, it’s interesting that you’re not the only one who has interpreted what I said as somehow exploring or addressing a kind of self pity. This is and was not at all my intention; rather I wrote and write to express feelings themselves – nothing more, nothing less. And I write ‘in the moment.’ That moment may pass more slowly or quickly, depending. Or it may reemerge – often attended by other sensations and feelings. In my view, feelings just ‘are.’ I am not at all a self pitying person, though I am a deeply FEELING person who expresses joy and sorrow with equal facility.

    Of course I ‘understand’ (back to intellect rather than feelings) the futility in ‘crying over spilled milk’ and never seem to dwell on ‘what might have been,’ as I realize there is nothing productive that can come of it. But I do reflect. And I do acknowledge what emerges in the way of bodily sensations. For me (and after years of working on people’s bodies in a healing capacity), I know these sensations are best brought up and out rather than to lodge in the body as seeds of disease. Enough buried tears can turn into bitterness and absesses; enough buried anger into cancer. And so, as I say, I write.

    Thank you so very much for your kind words and thoughts, as always. You are one of my favorite thinkers and writers on WordPress, and I hope you know that quite well by now.


  6. My mom, in her late 80s, used to say, “I raised you kids to stand on your own two feet and be damned if you didn’t!” 🙂 We spread out like fans and mother became an avid letter writer.

    My observations, Bela, are from working with Seniors. I’ve watched them make decisions about where to live once they can no longer manage their own residence. Most often, the ones who are happiest have chosen a residence in a location that gives them the freedom to enjoy their old, but long standing friends, their preference of lifestyle, their favourite activities in familiar surroundings and a doctor who treats them like they are human; not a condition.

    Families are so busy and transient that it’s the friends who offer the company. Some would end up with appointment calendars and black belt naps so they could keep up with the activities on it.

    The mantra we heard whispered amongst our residents was, “May they come often, but, please God, not for long.” The “kids” don’t know unless parents tell them.

    After all, as kids we’ve never been as old as our parents so how could we understand? Mom was a communicator and it’s only as I grow into my later 60s that I’m beginning to catch on.

    I like the Buddhist approach, too. But then I have no children. I get to be the listener for the friends who are half killing themselves being the perfect grandparent or perfectly responsive aging parent.

    I hear that strong thread throughout this post – one of being true to yourself. Bravo.


  7. Wow, Amy – thanks. And well met.
    You’re lucky to work with independently minded seniors, as I’ve seen too many in the thrall of prescription-land behaviors – out of touch both with themselves as well as others. Sad.
    I love my girls and we (my daughters, husband and myself) are fortunate to enjoy one another’s company – not for role playing or distractions, but as fully formed spirits in flesh who share some unique characteristics. And so it is with sadness that I contemplate most of my future hypothetically spent away from them, but you are absolutely right – I cannot compromise my own integrity just to be closer to them. The longer I am away from mainland US life, the less I can relate to what I perceive as absolute chaos. The pace of island living seems to suit me just fine.
    Blessings, and thanks for taking the time to comment!


  8. Bela, I am hoping you are feeling much better after expressing these thoughts. I too ask similar questions to myself. My parents live in my hometown which is a small town surrounded by villages. But me and my brother are now living in two different places. We hardly get to live few weeks with her. And my parents are also not that much comfortable adapting to city life. Somehow now we all are habituated to this separation.
    Thanks a lot for sharing these thoughts so beautifully. As always your words are again powerful and beautiful!


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