Happy Harmonious Birthright

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

happy-harmonious-birthright-chopraMy mom had asked me to vacuum at some point, and I’d probably just forgotten. I was fourteen and had more important things on my mind, like whatever was playing on KROQ or a letter that had just arrived from a pen pal or staring off into space, wondering if I’d ever figure out what life was really about. And then:

“DIAN MARIE REID!”

Shit. I knew I was in trouble. My mind raced as I stood up and quickly descended the stairs to find out why.

She wanted to know why I hadn’t vacuumed. I forgot, I said, and headed for the closet to get a late start on my chore. She said, forget it. All these year later, the details are murky, but as I attempted to plug the vacuum cleaner in or maybe as I had turned it on or possibly after I finished the stairwell down to the garage, she began her rant of how ungrateful I was and if I couldn’t abide by her rules, then I should just get out.

I had learned years ago to not question or contradict my mother when she was in a state like this. Not knowing what else to do, I went upstairs and packed my things. I didn’t know where to go, but I was tired of being on the receiving end of her random outbursts.

When I came back downstairs with a shoulder bag full of clothes, my mom was dumbfounded. How dare I pack a bag. How dare I try to leave.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs next to the front door in shock. But you just told me to pack a bag. You just told me to get out. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, I had simply followed orders. And then:

“If you walk out that door, don’t ever come back.”

I don’t know what possessed me to actually walk out the door. Maybe I was tired of her ultimatums and wanted to test her. Maybe I wanted to hurt her to show her just how much she had hurt me. Maybe I saw it as a chance to get away from Steven. Maybe I just didn’t know what else to do.

I walked out the front door, past the patio and closed the patio door behind me. I walked down a concrete staircase, across a driveway and up another concrete staircase. I walked past the pool, through the courtyard and stood at the front gate of the condo property. I opened the gate, walked through it, and down the street to the nearest bus stop. I sat with my shoulder bag full of clothes and I cried.

Not five minutes later, Steven showed up in his pickup truck, hazard lights flashing. Get in, he said. You’re not running away, he said. Your mother said to leave you if you were beyond the front gate, he said. This will be our little secret, he might as well have said.

I got in the truck and he drove me home, where no one in the house ever brought up the incident again.

::

There were many days and nights and incidents like this in my house as I was growing up. I thought this was what everyone’s life was like back then. How could I know otherwise? Until therapy went through my childhood with a fine-toothed comb, I had no conscious knowledge of what happiness was or when I had experienced it.

As a young adult I struggled with finding what happiness meant to me. Once I figured that out, I struggled with feeling like I was allowed to be happy. It felt selfish. It felt wrong. It felt unnatural.

What I’ve learned since then is that the more I experience happiness, the less unnatural it feels. The more I appreciate those experiences, the less wrong it feels. The more I share my own happiness and encourage others to share theirs, the less selfish it feels. And the more experiences we can all string together, the more harmonious this life feels.

::

Deepak Chopra says that it’s not selfish, but our birthright to want a happy, harmonious life.

Hell yeah, good sir. 

And so it is.

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