By Amy Roost.
Jennifer Pastiloff’s work has inspired me to be more authentic in my own writing. Below is my bravest piece of writing yet. It will be published in a local newspaper on Thursday and they have the rights to it for 10 days afterward. I need to tell you a brief story about how it came about:
A young women (a former high school classmate of my son) was killed at 4am last Thursday morning when the car she was a passenger in was t-boned by a fire truck. An open container of alcohol was found in the car and the driver (who survived) was a 44-year old man. If you’re interested in the details, you can access it thru this link: http://www.pomeradonews.com/2013/06/20/one-killed-when-fire-truck-vehicle-collide-in-poway/
What disturbed me was not just the tragic end to a young woman’s life but the comments at the bottom of the article about the accident, essentially blaming the victim and showing great insensitivity toward the girl’s family.
This column was inspired by the reaction of some in our community to her death and it is dedicated to her memory.
AT MY WORST By Amy Roost.
At my worst I drove my car when I’d had too much to drink; I called my kids names; I had an affair.
At my worst I let my ailing aunt’s phone call go to voicemail; I yelled at a customer service representative for a company policy she had nothing to do with.
At my worst I drove without insurance; I tattled on my brothers; I brow beat an employee.
At my worst I gossiped about friends; I stole a rabbit’s foot from 7-11; I pretended I’d read a book when I hadn’t.
At my worst I didn’t brush my kids’ teeth for a week; I played hooky from work; I yelled obscenities at my husband.
At my worst I made my children late for school so I could stop at Starbucks for a coffee; I talked during a movie.
At my worst I drove with bald tires; I didn’t send a sympathy card; I got in the “15 Items or Less” line when I had twenty items.
At my worst I failed to pick up after my dog; I had an abortion; I went on vacation instead attending a dear friend’s funeral.
At my worst, I jumped a long line at a freeway exit ramp; I stole money from my dad’s coat pockets.
At my worst, I looked the other way when I saw a mother slap her child in the grocery store; I told a white lie for having missed a friend’s birthday party.
When I meet my maker, I’m sure I’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. Who knows, I might even be sent back for a “do over” or reincarnated as a tick? However, if she’s been paying attention, my maker will know that, at my best, I was loving, tolerant, understanding and kind.
Marilyn Monroe once told an interviewer “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” The same applies to me. My life is full. Full of mistakes. Full of love. Full of gifts. Full of catastrophe to paraphrase a term coined by the stress-reduction and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Full catastrophe living does not mean disaster–it means living in acceptance of the whole of life, saying yes to the enormity, the full range, of our life experience. There are major crises in everyone’s life. And, yes, there is death and disaster. But there are also all the good deeds and offerings that, along the way, add up.
There are fires and floods, open containers of alcohol in your child’s car and strained marriages. There are pregnancies that go horribly wrong and also children who won’t clean their room. Refrigerators that leak. Jobs that are menial and bills we can’t pay. There are lovers and there are lonely nights. There are crushed expectations. Melted eyeglasses. Traffic. Toothaches. At our best we respond well to these tests. At our worst, not so well.
Those who know me well, and who know that at my best I have contributed value, would never condemn me based solely on what I did at my worst, nor would I them. They would accept that none of us is perfect, we have all been at our worst and we have all been at our best. As such we are all human and works in progress. Hopefully, we learn from the worst growing in strength and wisdom. Hopefully, we can stop ourselves before condemning another’s worst and instead dance together through this full catastrophe–dancing each other, as Leonard Cohen would say, “to the end of love”.
Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.