I have always been envious of those people who have faced their challenges without exactly seeing them as challenges. You know the ones I mean: their house burns down and the television reporter says, “What are you going to do now?” and instead of bursting into distraught tears, they say, “Well, my goodness, this is hardly the worst thing that could have happened.”
And you stare at them, going, True, but did you happen to notice your house is burning down?!
Or the ones who are diagnosed with a fatal illness, and you expect them to shake their fist at the sky, and rage against the darkness that threatens, but they don’t. They say, “I have always wanted to go to Paris, and I think now is the time.”
WTF? You want to ask them, or I do anyway. Maybe they have an understanding with God; maybe they believe these things are the work of a supernatural deity with a perfect plan. Just because I can’t see why the hell God would burn down their house doesn’t mean they don’t.
I see them, and I would like to be like them, a lot of the time, but they always unnerve me a little. Their calm acceptance always seems unnatural to me.
Obviously my inability to understand calm acceptance prohibits my actually having any, which is why I’m not a Buddhist, no matter how much I would like to be one. (Calm! Serene! Accepting! Yes! I will have three orders of that!)
Maybe that calm acceptance is the consequence of perfect faith, and long ago I established that I have none, so then, perhaps, no surprise that those who possess it perplex me. I undoubtedly perplex them, too. If they could, they would find a quiet corner and gently put the question to me: “How can you be so blind?”
But anyway. I’m not like that. I don’t accept things, not readily, and not without a great deal of bitching about it. “In what universe,” I like to drawl, “does this seem fair?” And sometimes I talk to God (no, no, I don’t believe in Him, but I do have a lot to say to Him), and I’m like, “If You’re testing my faith, You already did that and I failed. Don’t You remember?” It’s easy to be a smartass with God when you don’t fear the repercussions. (Some days I like to piss Him off with, “This is Your best shot? Give me a fucking break.”)
Here’s the thing. If you’re like me, and not like them, it isn’t easy to find peace. It takes work, and after a great deal of soul-searching and anguish, you find a way to live with what is. It’s hard, and it hurts, and there are rough edges you don’t touch. But you make a peace, and you do not want to disturb it.
Oh you do not.
Because any peace can be shattered. You know that by now, because you’ve fought against the darkness enough times. You’ve chanted your mantras enough times. You’ve breathed in and you’ve breathed out and you’ve counted your breaths, every damned one of them. You’ve emptied your mind. You’ve asked for guidance and you’ve taken your medication.
And you’ve won your peace, dammit. You earned it, and you have the scars from the battle you waged to get it.
But it never ends, the battle for peace.
That’s the thing you forget for a while, during the lull, when you mistake the Christmas Day Truce for true and lasting peace. That’s the thing the people watching you don’t know, don’t understand.
And one day you wake up, and the Mongol Horde is howling at the borders. Crap, you think. Not the Mongol Horde again.
And you creak out of bed, and you look under the mattress for your sword, and you go out to meet them.
And the people watching you don’t understand. They don’t see the Mongol Horde. They thought all the fighting was done, and everyone was going to live happily ever after now.
They watch you strap on the armor, and they say, “I don’t understand. I thought you went through this already, I thought it was over.”
Maybe they feel betrayed; you don’t know. All you know is you will pay the price, over and over, until you draw your last breath, and maybe no one understands it but you, but the fight is hard and brutal and glorious. And you are never sure you will win it, but every time you do, the peace is more magnificent, and more terrible.