I wrote a blog post earlier this year called “Lotus Flowers Grow in the Mud.” I recall quite vividly the rather gutwrenching emotional situation I was in at the time – even the walk I took the day the post came to my mind.
Lately I keep noticing how deeply crazy I am about music & reading – & if I’m to be honest about the lifelong influence of books & music in my life, it’s my father to whom I must give credit (& thanks) for these gifts.
Now, my father was a very …um… not-nice person. He was a very, very, very difficult man to deal with. I believe all of his wives/ex-wives & my siblings & step-siblings & half-sibling would agree with me on this. A deeply, deeply difficult - sometimes violent - man.
I would venture to say that my ambivalent (truthfully, mostly absent) relationship with my father has put a disproportionately large footprint on my personality, my life, & most especially, my relationships with members of the opposite sex.
Elizabeth Lesser said in Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, “In fact, it has been the gracelessness of my relationships with men that has broken, changed, and transformed me more than any other life experience.”(1)
Yikes. Has she been a fly on the wall in my life, or what??
I recall returning from a memorable trip to Malaysia in 2003, & how the overarching theme or lesson that emerged from that trip was how there are people who are very, very very difficult to deal with, yet who are, at the same time, doing quite laudable, wonderful things in the world.
“Lotus flowers growing in the mud,” as it were. I just didn’t have that language at that point.
It’s certainly an oft-recurring phenomenon in my life – noticing the astounding amount of “good” that emerges from people or situations or events that seem(ed) so bad.
In my post-Malaysia trip phase, musing on the experiences I’d just had, & noticing how much good work someone I’d encountered there (who’d behaved very….“badly” toward me – & not just me) was doing, I then began reflecting on my father, whose imprint on me (& not just me) was so … deep & painful – & I created a list of “good” things I could credit him with. The length of the list took me by surprise.
Dad was pretty rotten & mean – but his gifts of the love of music & books are certainly a precious & enormously life & joy-enhancing legacy in my life.
In the novel The Clock of Heaven (by Dian Day), the narrator observes, “Fire’s supposed to be good for the land. The seeds of things survive, get lots of sunlight. New trees sprouting like beanstalks in all that burnt earth.”(2)
Mud, lotus flowers & fires, hmm?
Kinda like fertilizer, all that … “shit” that happens to us…
P.S. One of my favourite quotations: “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Karen Kaiser Clark
(1) Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, Villard, 2005 (page 109, in the essay ‘Leaving My Father’s House’). You’d be a fool not to read this book, btw. Really. I've mentioned it on this blog about a million times - here's just one other place.
(2) Very moving novel, btw. I recommend it highly!