“The last of human freedom: the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”
– – Viktor Frankl
Imagine that you live in your bathroom. Not the one with the Jacuzzi and the walk-in shower, but the smallish one – – maybe 6 x 9 – – with the tub– – it has to have a tub. After all, you need a place to sleep.
The only contact you have with the outside world are letters – – wonderful letters! – – Slipped under the door every so often along with your daily tray of food. And books – – glorious books! – – That also arrive, less frequently.
You get lonely sometimes, and depressed, after spending a few years like this on your own; but you console yourself knowing that you – – well, not you but your Soul or Higher Self – – have chosen this way of life for reason – – perhaps to learn something, grow spiritually, somehow, which is all your soul and Higher Self care about anyway (the bastards!).
You have plenty of time to meditate and exercise, plenty of time to sleep and dream, and way too much time to think about the meaning of life and your infinitesimal place in it.
But, all in all, you live the life of leisure, and countless people outside your bathroom would undoubtedly love to trade places with you (though maybe only for a while – – not more than a month or two – – a year? – – Yeah, right).
So life is grand.
Until one day the bathroom door opens and another person is shoved inside and no, unfortunately, it’s not a member of the opposite sex or anyone you might find attractive like that at all. On the contrary: just imagine the type of person you would least – – very, very, very least – – ever want to spend any time with, and this is who it is. (Apparently, your Soul and Higher Self can read your mind, or something, because they have chosen the most perfectly repulsive and abrasive personality to clash with your own.)
Being such a nice person yourself, of course, you try to get along. You take turns sleeping in the tub and on the bathroom floor, and you do your best to flush flush flush while on the John. But eventually you argue; and you fight; and then, bloody and bruised, you’re planning the other person’s death as you, too, start sleeping with one eye open.
So much for your life of leisure
But then one day, you remember a line from one of your books (glorious books!). It goes something like, “see your enemy as your teacher” or some such crap. So you start to question, to ponder: what can this asshole actually teach me?
Patience?. . . Tolerance?. . . Like hell! Well . . . Maybe.
Understanding?. . . Compassion? . . .
Generosity?. . . Selflessness?. . .
Forgiveness?. . .
And after six months of this daily – – moment – by – moment – exercise, the anger and hatred start to fade. And after a year, you notice that your sense of self-importance, your inflated ego, begin to take a backseat to something almost like – – – loving kindness.
You learn to listen and actually care. And, after another year, it becomes a habit.
“Ha!”, you say, shaking your fist at the bathroom ceiling. “Is that all you’ve got?!”
Uh . . . nope.
So your roommates are switched, now, on a regular basis – – each one worse than the last.
“How are people like this ever created?”, you think. And why?
But although life and the bathroom is no longer the peaceful navel – gazing and introspection it once was, it’s certainly not boring. And, believe it or not, you come to realize, it’s actually more enlightening this way – – because you’re able to put all you’ve learned from your books (all your glorious, glorious books!) on psychology, philosophy and theology and such, into common practice.
It’s one thing to read about facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, dealing with various unsavory people – – it’s another to do it.
So, you’re better off for the experiences, in the end, as difficult as they were at that time. And life in the bathroom, you figure, has made you a better person overall. (From what you remember of the outside world, it wasn’t always easy out there, either)
And in the end, finally, what used to bother you before, you can now laugh at – – the ridiculousness of it all.
So what if you aren’t actually living? – – If you won’t ever love again or do all those things real people do? So what if you won’t ever pet a dog or hug a tree or hold a child’s hand? So what if you never taste pizza or cheeseburger again? Look how much you’ve grown in other ways.
Right? . . .
Life in the bathroom isn’t for the weak- hearted; it isn’t for everyone. You’ve heard that many lose their minds, or. . . worse.
But you’ll carry on. Because at some point you realize that you’re making a difference, no matter how small: all these other people sharing your bathroom, for however long, are leaving it better off – – happier, more at peace, even more loving may be. And it is because of you, you think – – your example, your talks, or the books (the glorious books) you’ve turned them on to.
And then one day you have an epiphany: perhaps there is a way to reach even more people, those outside the bathroom door, after all you have paper and a pen . . . You can write letters. Or, maybe. . . a book . . a glorious, glorious book! One of your own.
Crazier things have happened.
Thank you all for your interest and caring.
Thanks for all the wonderful reviews online of Escaping The Wheel. Writing it has given me such purpose, and your enthusiasm for it has encouraged me to begin #2.
I appreciate it a lot.
Bye for now,