[Bella’s intro: In an email exchange, C. Riven Wood shared some of her personal experiences with me. I think she has some important insights and writes beautifully, so I asked her if I could post her essay here. Happily, she agreed.]
From the Bottom of the Heap to the Garden of Eden
By C. Riven Wood
His paintings were lauded; mine were dismissed. His opinions were sought; mine were hushed. His future was discussed and explored, every one of us wanting to support his success. My future was commanded: I was to marry and be taken care of.
All this changed in 10th grade. My history teacher introduced me to the idea that everyone deserved respect. I didn’t think about whether this included me (too hard!), but I realized it included my little sister. So, one night when I was babysitting her, I bit the bullet and treated her with respect. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was daring, unprecedented, and revolutionary in the hierarchy of my home (we hid the full power of it from our parents).
We have now been best friends for 43 years. We have grown together and in parallel. We have seen each other through three divorces and countless break-ups. Romance comes and goes, but we are partners in life. In fact, our relationship has more emotional intimacy than any of my romances had.
My 10th-grade teacher deserves thanks, but, ironically, so does my low status on the family totem pole. It was years of living without respect that made me receptive to my teacher’s message. My brother might value respect, but I committed myself to it.
This act was my first step away from the totem pole. I had tried to climb from the bottom of the heap to the top, not realizing that the top is a precarious perch. In my sister’s friendship, I discovered a garden with no heap to climb, no contest to win, no self-doubt to overcome. This pristine place within myself, where I understand that people are to be appreciated, not evaluated, is probably what the ancients meant when they said, “Heaven.”
My poor brother had much to lose by overthrowing the earned-worth paradigm, while I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
So I committed myself to respect and other holy qualities, then worked to ensure that my actions reflected that commitment. Surprisingly, this is a recipe for happiness. I once assumed that romance would bring happiness, but it made little difference. It brought rewards and it brought frustrations, but happiness has grown independently, beginning when I abandoned my search for happiness and committed myself to serving what I value most: respect, harmony, integrity, truth, health, compassion.
Now, as I read DePaulo, I am grateful to have fallen off the heap and stumbled into heaven. Although the false promise of happiness through marriage is a rip-off, I consider it small potatoes next to the con of being lured away from a better path: the path of bringing the intangible qualities we all value into our daily lives, the path of bringing heaven to earth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C. Riven Wood is the author of Spiritually-Assisted Emotional Healing.
Brother and sister photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 29 Jan 2012