Serenity is highly over-rated. Personally I have no use for it.
Seven years ago I was working day labor — minimum wage, hard dirty work — and living in a drunken biker’s shed. The bottom dropped out of construction, and I was let go. The whole industry was. I came into a meeting and said: “I just lost the worst job I ever had. It would be easy to be upset about losing my job, but I know my next job will be better. It has to be. It can’t be worse. I can’t get pissed off about losing a crappy job.” My soon-to-be friend/sponsor Glenn was impressed with my calm.
A week later I came into the same meeting and said: “I just got thrown out of Beast’s shed because I couldn’t pay the rent. It would be easy to be upset about losing my home, but I know my next home will be better. It has to be. It was the worst place I’ve ever lived. In the mean time I’ll just sleep outdoors.” Glenn was again impressed.
I lived in the woods for the next three months. I was the Buddha. I ate five or six meals a week, plus any McDonald’s that my friend Wendy brought me. I prayed. I meditated. I bummed some cigarettes. I went to meetings. I never worried about anything.
One day in this period, looking through a dumpster behind a thrift store [junk that the junk store doesn’t want] I found two books: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Beginners Guide to Buddhism. I read the first chapter of each.
Think and Grow Rich said that one thing is of paramount importance if a man is going to reach his potential: Desire!
Beginners Guide to Buddhism said one thing will put an end to spiritual growth and is the source of all of our humanly troubles: Desire!
I threw out the book on Buddhism.
They say that “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Glenn had been watching me from a distance during this period. One day he came to me and asked what the hell my problem was, why I didn’t have a job. I told him: “I can’t fill out that one little box on a job application“.
He said: “What? ‘Have you ever been convicted?’ Lots of people have Felony convictions and still get a job!”
I said: “No. The other one. ‘What phone number should we contact you at if we decide to hire you.’ I have no phone“.
“Huh. Never thought of that. So, I’ll buy you a phone. What else do you need?”
I made a list: a bus pass for two weeks (’till I got paid), two weeks’ worth of food (can’t do more than sit in the woods and meditate with an empty stomach)… He got them for me.
Clothes (mine were mildewed from the constant summer rain) were provided by a lesbian who dressed like a man. Nice clothes. Smelled pretty, too.
An interview was set up by a guy I’d done some work for once. He couldn’t use me, but he found someone who could.
All-in-all about a half-dozen people came together to get me an opportunity. It was a beautiful thing. I went on the interview and it really looked good. I came back from the interview and noticed…
My phone was missing.
I held the next meeting hostage. “I live in the motherfucking woods! Everything I own fits into my backpack! It has NEVER been out of my sight! I sleep with my arm through the strap! I have two phones in it that have no service! One I use for an alarm clock and the other has pictures of my kids! I have been carrying them around with no service for two years! I DON’T LOSE PHONES!!! God did this Shit! A half-dozen people came together to try to help me and now the JOB… CAN’T… CALL… ME!!! God Fucked Me! He’s telling me I don’t deserve any better than this! Fuck Him! He’s wrong! I deserve LOTS better! And He can KISS MY ASS!” I was foaming at the mouth!
When Glenn heard about it through the grapevine he was somewhat amused. He came up to see me. ”It’s a phone, Jim. It’s just a phone. I’ll buy you another one. We’ll get you another interview… By the way, I’m an atheist, and *I* wouldn’t tell God to ‘Kiss my ass’. It’s a matter of percentages: If He doesn’t exist, it doesn’t do any good to curse at him, and if He does… well… you’re pretty much screwed!”
He got me another phone and I stole a paper from a corner box the next morning. I found a job and called it. I interviewed the next day; it was telephone sales. I’d never done any kind of sales. I got the job, kept it for two and a half years, moved into management, the boss gave me a car, I got my son a job there… I guess you could say it worked out.
My point is that we — as a nation — have come to believe that we not only have an inalienable right to the “pursuit of happiness”, but a right to “happiness”. Tell your Grandfather that. Tell him that you want a job that makes you “feel fulfilled as a person”. Tell him that if you get depressed or feel anxious you should just take a pill. Tell him that when you feel uncomfortable the solution is to “remove yourself from the situation”. Do you think that’s the mentality the nation had when they went through The Great War (WW I, 1917), 1918 influenza pandemic, polio epidemic, the great depression, the dust bowl all in a dozen years? Do you think individuals were “serene” during that time?
Maybe Josey Wales said it best: “Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.”
It’s OK to not be OK. That feeling of discomfort is merely potential energy storing up, growing. The way to diffuse (or de-fuse) it is not to wish it away but to use it, turn it into kinetic energy. That’s why it’s there.
Looking at my situation, I’m pretty sure it happened just the way it was supposed to. I reached out my hand for help, and when I got that help I took off on my own steam, determined — DETERMINED, I tell you — to fix my situation. There was no point in God not letting me get that second job. With the first, I hadn’t shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted employment. With the second, I was so fired up I would have gone on fifty interviews if I’d had to.
I didn’t have to because I’d learned the lesson that was in front of me: “I deserve good things, and no adversity is going to stop me from achieving them“.
Maybe your God teaches lessons with love and rainbows, and all your troubles come from Satan. My God put thorns on the same plant as roses. I’ve got to go through one to get to the other. And He’s not above smite-ing a brother, either. Or smote-ing… whatever. He’ll put boils on your ass, too.
But what are you going to do about it?