Do you know what I discovered about life this week? I don’t want to live past 89. IMHO, just like nothing good happens after midnight—nothing good happens after 89 years old either. The body takes a significant and rapid decline toward the check-out point in your 90s, and basically you’re just biding time on some slow-moving treadmill toward the exit sign. This thought process started when the heroine (my mentor) in my memoir, Monsters’ Throwdown, called me this week and said: “Hello Darling! I hope your book is selling well, because I just discovered I’m going to outlive my money. I never expected to live this long; I sure hope you can help.” Helping my mentor in the latter stages of her life is not an issue—I owe her my life. But it got me thinking about my own journey. About how much time might be left on the clock, and if given the opportunity would I use the remaining time properly. I’ve got a couple of decades before I reach her perch.
My main problem is I am at a loss with how to navigate that Zen-like state needed to traverse the next twenty years or so. My mentor has always been able to do so with much grace (think of her as a cross between Maya Angelou and Eleanor Roosevelt). She is the definition of inner peace. But I am not there yet. From time to time, I can be like a tilt-a-whirl ride that has broken off its bearings in mid-tilt and spun off into outer space.
It was with these thoughts rolling around in my heart and mind (mixed with a glass of mulled wine to ward off this freakin’ cold) that I went to bed last night thinking about living a wiser life—perhaps to dream. In my dream I entered a castle in the sky with a sign over the entrance that said: “Enter here, all ye who seek inner peace.” When I came across a large reception area, I went in, sat down, and picked up a booklet entitled, “7 Highly Effective Steps to Inner Peace.” When I opened the pamphlet, there was the definition of inner peace on the left and seven steps to achieve it on the right.
“Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being ‘at peace’ is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious.”—Wikipedia—the Free Encyclopedia
SEVEN STEPS TO INNER PEACE
Face your fears/Trust God
Choose wise companions/kick to the curb those that piss you off
Let go of worry and things you can’t control/Live in the now
Embrace gratitude on daily basis
As I sat there trying to fully digest this information, a stunningly beautiful brown-skinned woman engulfed in a luminescent aura glided into the room and stood in front of me. Her age was nonspecific, but she looked a great deal like Lena Horne when she played Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz.
Lena Horne as Glinda the Good Witch (The Wiz) Universal Pictures
ME: Oh, my God, has anyone ever told you that you are a perfect doppelgänger for Glinda the Good Witch?
REST: Yeah, I get that a lot. My name is Rest, and I’m really just your garden variety guardian angel. Why are you here? Is it to complain about the historic freeze that has engulfed your country? Because if you are, I don’t want to hear it. I am not responsible, and I’m tired of hearing you humans whine about something neither you nor I can control. My powers exist only in a limited capacity.
ME: No, but now that you mention it—I HATE THIS WEATHER! Talk about taking away any inner peace a body could muster. I’m fucking freezing to death.
REST: Well, look at the bright side—at least you don’t live in Boston, so let it go my friend and purchase an electric blanket! If I’ve learned anything about things you can’t control, you just have to shake ‘em off.
ME: That’s fine for you to say. You live in Heaven—in Perfectionville. Try living on Earth sometime and see how taxing it is. We bitches be crazy, and because of that craziness, I have real issues that block my ability to garner inner peace. I want my next couple of decades to be stellar. I don’t want anything to knock me for a loop.
REST: Okay, I’ll play along for a while. What else robs your inner peace?
ME: Fear of the unpredictable—the unknown. Haven’t you noticed how at any moment, at any time, you can be attacked by unseen forces (viruses, bacterial infections, ISIS, Ebola, home invaders, muggers, nasty-ass ex-friends on Facebook, getting killed for walking while Black, or much, much worse)? A couple of years ago, I got parasites from eating sushi, and I had them forever before I even knew they had moved in and set up shop in my gut. It was so disgusting. By the time I realized what was going on, three generations of them had been born and established colonies. If I can get parasites without knowing it, what else can get me?
REST: Hmm, fear of the unknown? I say shake it off! Deal with it if it comes upon you, but otherwise just ignore it. Why worry about something that you can’t see and can’t control. Poo-poo occurs baby. That’s life, and worrying about it will not keep the worms at bay. Now, you could stop eating sushi. Personally, I don’t touch the stuff because what self-respecting Black person eats raw fish?
ME: You really aren’t helping. Are you making fun of me?
REST: No, dear. But if you want to live the next couple of decades in inner peace with your surroundings, you must have a sense of humor. There is still so much you don’t know as a human that could kill you. Why worry about it? What else robs you of a quiet spirit?
ME: Anxiety over the resurgence of racism in the world to such a degree that we have another Holocaust or we roll back into another Jim Crow-type era and my kids are robbed of their liberty. Anxiety over terrorism washing up on our shores again. (Did you hear about the threats against the Mall of America? That’s where one of my kid’s lives.) And, oh, my God, our inability to let go of the worship of guns. That keeps me awake every other night. Recently, three beautiful Muslim students got assassinated in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by their neighbor, and we’re calling it everything except what the problem truly is: our obsession with guns!
Used by permission: John Cole ncpolicywatch.com, Cagle Cartoons
REST: Yeah, I hear you. You people really are nuts about the gun thing, aren’t you? Personally, I don’t see the fascination. And it doesn’t look like it is going to get solved anytime soon—possibly not even in your lifetime given the American proclivities.
ME: But if it doesn’t get solved in my lifetime, then when?
REST: Your children will have to solve it, I guess. I don’t mean yours alone, but the baby-boomers’ children in general.
ME: That, my dear Angel of Rest is unacceptable. And don’t you dare tell me to “shake it off or let it go,” or I’ll pummel your ass. I can’t let this go. I worry about my grandson growing up in a land where guns are so prevalent. I worry about my grandson, period! I’m frightened for his future as a young Black man in a land that has incarcerated more black youths than were enslaved on Southern plantations at the beginning of the Civil War. Did you know the modern American “for profit” prison system is being called the “New Slavery?”
While I’m on the subject, I am also dealing with anger issues. I’m angry that I spent 40 plus years in a conservative wing of Christianity that has become the back-bone of the Tea Party and is the force of racism coursing through the Republican Party. I’m angry that when people make racist attacks against our President, question his faith, and question his love for our country, that so few of the politicians and ministers who claim to be “Christians” stand up against the defamation of a good man. They don’t have to agree with his policies, but that doesn’t have to underscore their racist beliefs that our President—our first Black President—is the Anti-Christ and is leading us toward Armageddon. According to them, everything—from this nationwide freeze to the Seattle Seahawks losing the Super Bowl—is Barack Obama’s fault. Sometimes I am so ashamed to be a Christian, I could just scream. In fact, I’m seriously thinking of becoming a Buddhist who loves Jesus.
Used by permission: John Cole, The Scranton-Times Tribune, Cagle Cartoons
REST: Babe, I hope this doesn’t sound racist, but I think a Black Republican is an oxymoron. In any case, you’ve really got to tear up what that jerk Giuliani said—flush it down the toilet, and truly shake it off. Even in the angelic world we know that ol’ Rudy is just jealous (it’s eating him into oblivion) that he lost to the Black man in 2008. Rudy thought he deserved the presidency—after all, he was the only one so profoundly affected by 9-11—the rest of you were merely onlookers. The Angelic Corps often shake our heads at his irrelevance and stupidity.
Anyway, my child, I have an exercise that may help you find inner peace over the next two decades. (As to when you will actually check out for your own “Homecoming,” that is between you and God.)
Imagine that you are dying tomorrow. Of all the fears, anxieties, and worries you’ve told me about, which of them is out of your control, which of them is not a possibility of happening within the next 24 hours, which of them is something that is out of your sphere of influence and must be left to the next generation to handle, and which of them should you join with others to fight the good fight today. In all of it, embrace a spirit of gratitude, and thank the good Lord for all that you have in spite of all the Rudy Giuliani Neanderthals and ugliness in the world. May I suggest a book that might help? It is called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I haven’t read it myself, but I was watching Oprah the other day, and she highly recommended it for Nervous Nellies like you.
ME: I suppose I should thank you, my Glinda the Good Witch doppelgänger. That’s good advice. Speaking of books, I’m almost finished with my second book that deals with escaping Right-wing Christianity and becoming a born-again liberal. It’s called Fleeing Oz. I think once I get that book out there this spring, I’ll be able to “fight the good fight” with my writing. I want it to be to the demolition of the bigotry and intolerance of Right-wing Christianity what Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was to the abolition of slavery—only done with humor.
REST: Seems like a good idea to me. Remember, through it all: Live as if you were dying tomorrow, Sweet pea! Because we’re only guaranteed “now.” Gotta run. I hear it’s going to snow again tonight. I think I’ll head on down to Puerto Rico. St. Peter tells me that it’s going to be sunny and 85 degrees all week. See you when you finally cross over, kiddo. Good luck!
Used by permission: Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News, Cagle Cartoons
“I think it’s nice to age gracefully. OK, you lose the youth, a certain stamina and dewy glow, but what you gain on the inside as a human being is wonderful: the wisdom, the acceptance and the peace of mind. It’s a fair exchange.”—Cherie Lunghi
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”—Pope Paul VI
“Love and peace of mind do protect us. They allow us to overcome the problems that life hands us. They teach us to survive… to live now… to have the courage to confront each day.”—Bernie Siegel
“We are bombarded on all sides by a vast number of messages we don’t want or need. More information is generated in a single day than we can absorb in a lifetime. To fully enjoy life, all of us must find our own breathing space and peace of mind.”—James E. Faust
Quotations courtesy of www.brainyquote.com
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