Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Safe Harbor

"The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return."
Nature Boy by Eden Ahbez

Dr. Phil calls it your "soft place to fall." Home. Family. A relationship. The place in your life that is the emotional equivalent of a thick down comforter. No sharp edges. No sharp tongues. No judgement. Just love. Acceptance. Peace. And maybe hope.

It's so easy to turn up your cynical dial when this kind of conversation starts. More than once, I have rolled my eyes when I have heard Nature Boy performed at a jazz club. I mean, come on..."the greatest thing you'll ever learn?" Not Einstein's Theory of Relativity? Not Quantum Physics? Not a Mozart Concerto? Not an Emily Dickinson poem?

That's in my head. But my heart needs something else.

Growing up feels like a long walk through the desert, dodging prickly bushes that threaten to deflate your ego and puncture your spirit: harsh critics, nasty peers, jealous strangers. Frankly, I'm amazed that any of us make it out alive. We're not supposed to complain, right? I mean, we had a warm bed, a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs. What in the world do we have to complain about? Huh? What?

So...we spend the rest of our lives with our wounds, healing some, accepting others, and ignoring the ones too painful to consider. Launching ourselves onto the waters, we try our best to steer a sensible course. Lao Tzu says the best way to live is by letting the waves take you and to avoid forcing your way to either shore. But we usually ignore Lao Tzu and spend years grappling with a combination of our goals, fate, dreams, and ego.

If we're lucky -- or if we are wise -- we reach safe harbor. Where there are no more eggshells to walk on, land mines to avoid, emotional booby traps to dodge. Just a comfy spot where you don't have to wait for the other shoe to drop. It's OK to be. Just be. Ridin' the waves with Lao Tzu.

But even in safe harbor comes a little pain -- yearning for that idyllic childhood that you missed but you're not supposed to complain about. It's easier to see what might have been when you're in paradise. And so you try your best to accept it all and eventually stop mourning and revel in all that was (and is) good.

And that's what the Nature Boy meant. And he's right. It is the greatest thing. Ever.

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