Al Bundy Syndrome & Living In The Past
August 16, 2008
I just got back from taking my peeps to Canyon Ranch, which is the best place on this earth, where every single moment of every day was fresh and heaped with promise. “I can be a better me!” is the best way I can describe how this spa makes me feel.
“I will Sing! Dance! Floss! Travel!”
They use a magic ingredient in their food that makes you feel like you can have
anything you want.
Or it could be the abundance of flax seed.
Unlike most upscale spas, which typically make my B.O. smell worse,
my clothing look clownish
and my teeth more yellow,
Canyon Ranch has a convincing undercurrent of authenticity, so much so,
that almost ALL TWELVE
women in our group
the important part of the pilgrimage,
and it did feel like a pilgrimage,
a remembering OF who I am and why I was put here on the earth-
the important part was to get a fresh, new start,
to let go of who I thought I was yesterday
and to stop doing what I call
the Al Bundy thing-
living in the past.
When I go to Canyon Ranch,
I expect to have a few epiphanies.
Turning the microscope inward for a change
rather than focusing on the outward
(the wrinkles, the bunions, plantar warts, bifocals etc) always causes an opening through which new ways of thinking can occur.
Now don’t think I overdosed on St. John’s Wort
or took one too many Tribal Rhythms Dance classes but they have a magical Labyrinth.
A labyrinth is a path that is intricately and bewilderingly complex.
It’s shaped like a circle that reminds me of one of those kiddie puzzles
that come in a coloring book,
where you try to find your way out of the maze.
My friend Julie and I were chortling at the idea
of finding a meditative state
by walking round and round in a labyrinth
but at the very last hour of our trip,
we had our bags packed and we WERE BOTH
reluctant to get in the car for a three hour drive
as we were quite gassy from all the fiber-filled magic food.
we really needed to get outside.
So as we started our meditative walk through the labyrinth,
immediately,a radical sentence started to scroll in my mind.
It was “I had a very happy childhood”.
The sentence kept repeating, almost as often as my GI tract.
I am embarrassed to say that this idea had not occurred to me in a long time.
And my epiphany was that, yes, indeed
I’d had an idyllic upbringing,
born as a twin to a family named Love, into a hamlet of no more than 300 people,
all of whom knew and loved not just me but my whole family,
our dog Lassie,
our two birds and six (seven?) cats.
My Grandma Love lived next door baking bread and occasionally asserting herself too nosily into our life, or rather my mother’s life.
She was the non-funny version of the mother-in-law on “Everybody Loves Raymond”.
But other than that things were just perfect.
We didn’t have much money but that idea never occurred to me
as we always had everything we wanted.
And the reason I never look back and appreciate the sweetness of my childhood is because of the events that took place one unsuspecting day
when my sister and I were fifteen years old.
This one chunk of time seems like a giant winged thing that hovers in my memory.
Rosie O’Donnel says that every person has a story
that will break your heart.
This is ours.
My twin and I were offered a ride home from school with a friend who had just gotten her driver’s license.
Let’s see, it seemed like a no-brainer-
catch the late bus and be home in 75 minutes?
Or ride with her in her snazzy VW bug?
She was thrilled to be behind the wheel.
she took off like a bat out of hell
and in a moment that is burned forever more in slow motion on my brain,
she lost control of the car.
After rolling eight times,
we came to a stop in a ditch. The driver and myself stumbled away unhurt.
Pam was not so lucky.
Her back was broken and her spinal cord severed, among other injuries.
I’d like to say that she eventually was able to walk again.
But she never has.
Except in my head.
In my head she has.
That moment suddenly divided her life
and the entire Love family, for that matter, into
“before the accident” and “after”.
This year marked her 30th year anniversary in a wheelchair.
Does it help to know that she went on to college at Ohio State,
then competed her master’s degree in social work while living independently,
met the man of her dreams,
had a career and gave birth to two magnificent children who are now teens, the same age as my kids?
Well maybe not for us observers, but for her, that is the key part of this story.
Pam’s story is a reminder to me and to everyone.
To love what you’ve got.
To rejoice amidst all of life’s suffering.
No room for al Bundy in this family.
So now you know why I never looked upon my childhood as happy, because it was through the lens of this car accident that all my memories have been filtered through,
even though my childhood was a heaven on earth.
That one black minute in time changed how I perceive my whole upbringing.
And that one minute is also why I am who I am.
Pam is my idol, my reminder
that all we have is today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never arrive.
What we think about or dwell upon in our minds, whether it is agony or ecstasy,
fear or hope, has a direct correlation
with our human experience.
The more time you spend thinking about your mistakes or disappointments,
the more likely they are to happen.
The opposite is true as well.
Focus on your successes and dreams and watch them unfold.
How do we know what happens to us is good or bad? Maybe someone at Canyon Ranch knows,
but for the rest of us,
as Madonna says,
is a mystery.
The trick that my sister has used to survive and to thrive is to never ask why and to never look back.
No al Bundy moments.
This is my labyrinth epiphany.
Have I mentioned lately that I adored my childhood?