Today is the anniversary of the day everything changed for me. While I might think, I want to forget, it is not forgettable. Interesting fact, just not being afraid of remembering makes it much less powerful to remember. 33 years ago, I was raped and everything felt like it was ripped and thrown away.
Lately, I have been doing some work around happiness and the study of it. I wrote a grant for a fellowship with the Bush foundation—I have for the last few years been trying to understand what is the next mountain to climb– of my work. And what will inspire me to feel a higher reach and make more of a difference. The new technologies—vr and internet and all those technologies of communication that are not native to me seem like fertile ground to explore. Partially because it scares me and partially because I know there is power there to reach and use in a new way. I wrote a grant to try and work on learning about how the visceral power of experience can change behavior—specifically, how can we teach and learn the skills of compassion and kindness and hence boost happiness and social good.
So, I have been taking an online class—I teach an online class so I thought taking one would be a good compassion exercise all on its own. And I wanted to take a class that explored the science of happiness. Because I think happiness is very elusive and my instinct is that happiness actually matters—not in a silly I feel good way…but in a I can solve problems and connect with other people to solve problems and make a happier world way. And there have actually been lots of social scientists studying it. Seems so far that happiness increases the immune system, creativity and problem solving and affects the whole social structure. I was shocked and not shocked (because it has been my experience) that in the last 30 years there has been a rise in loneliness (people report 1/3 closer friends than people reported 30 yrs. ago, 25% of people report no close friends). There is a rise in Narcissism, there is a 30% increase of college students evaluated as above average in narcissism and with lower levels of compassion and social concerns than college students in 1979. And while the Pew study in 2012 finds a majority of people rate that inequality as the greatest cost to our society, we see much higher levels of excessive inequality. The top 1% of wealth have increased incomes by 278% and a modern CEO makes 110 times more than their lowest paid employee, up from 30 times more in 1979. Ok…so much for the facts of the science.
The course will unravel more reasons and ways to look at happiness and specifically kindness and compassion in developing happiness. I would like to do this work. It makes me feel energized like developing TVbyGIRLS did. It feels like the next step.
And today, it feels like a big step too—it has been 33 years of healing and owning and becoming—33 years of rebuilding myself from what really was a complete devastation of a 29-year-old me. I couldn’t vanish it or forget it and still sometimes mourn her and my loss but I am ok..no I am more than that. I am good. Today I felt happy standing on the porch of my house—with all its cracks and flaws and things that need repair—standing on the porch and looking out at the life in the chaos of my wonderful wild garden. The bees moving from basil blossom to blossom, the cardinals trilling at each other, the gold finches eating the hyssop seeds and the dog snoring.
Wild order wild chaos wild life.
I held good coffee with cream and the wind was really soft with a touch of tropical humidity from my childhood. I thought about my mom and the coffee and how safe I was. I was safe then and I am safe now. I am filled with gratitude and really, happiness to remember what I have come through. Happiness includes all of that—the loss and the fear and the guilt and the brokenness of some dreams and the sculpting of new dreams and standing on the porch with Shya and coffee and my safety comes from being connected to everything around me.
I invited the bees by not cutting off the basil blooms and they show me what safety is by their beautiful never ending activity. I let the green grow and don’t try to control it. I love its wildness and don’t feel any need today to weed or change or control it. It feels like standing up straight and I am home. And I have everything I need to be a part of the wind and the life. 33 years ago, I thought all that was not possible. I had been killed and thought I would never feel like I belonged again. I was very, very, very wrong. I am very very grateful.