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Peace in Pieces
“When you make peace with yourself, you make peace with the world.” —Maha Ghosananda
Working on my poem about peace unleashed a flood of memories. I realized there would be no poem until I wrote the following down. Thank you for reading along.
The last thing my mother said to me three days before she died was, “I hope you find peace.” She knew, you see, that the child she’d raised was bit out of the ordinary and had difficulty making her way in the world.
Adverse to people, clothing, and social niceties, I taught myself to read at four, spent the hours after dark immersed in Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, and Anna Sewell, and the daylight hours prancing around our backyard pretending to be a horse. I also knew when “things” would happen and once predicted that all our Christmas presents would be stolen. I chose to tell my parents in the middle of the night - leaping terrified and in tears into the middle of their bed at 3:00 am. To give him credit, my father believed me. He pulled his baseball bat out from under the bed and crept down the hall to the living room. The presents had not yet been stolen (that would happen three days later) so I got a spanking for lying and scaring them half to death.
I was not an easy child to live with. That much I know. I much preferred the company of animals to people, was hyper-sensitive to sound, and had trouble sleeping. By the time I was six, I’d had two major surgeries - a double hernia and tonsillectomy - required stitches three times, and convinced my sister to let me file down the bumps on the bottom of her front teeth (mamelons) with an emery board. Fortunately my mother put a stop to that plan in time, but she was too late to prevent me from cutting off all the hair on one side of my sister’s head while playing barber.
In school, I was bored out of my mind, had trouble sitting still, and drew on every piece of paper put in front of me (reading, writing, math, spelling, you name it). During recess, I could be found at the far end of the playground talking to ants whose company I much preferred to my classmates, who bullied me relentlessly.
In the end it was competitive swimming that threw me a lifeline. Here was something I could do alone, do well, and didn’t require me to gossip, put others downs, or join cliques. Water was my happy place, and the strenuous workouts tired me out so that I could sleep. But competition also instilled the belief that my self-worth was determined by how I performed, not who I was.
It took me many years and lots of therapy to recall me to my “Self.” My definition of peace grew out of this work - out of the occasional stillness I stumbled into through meditation and bodywork.
I remember trying to explain all this to my mother, who remained supportive if confused by the many difficulties I encountered in life. “We always hoped you’d become a dentist,” she’d say when she didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to help. “You’re so good with your hands.”
The last night I spoke with her, she abruptly stopped talking about the tasteless food she’d had for dinner and said, “I hope you know I love you.” There was a long pause as I swallowed back tears. “Of course I know,” I said.
”Good,” she replied, “I hope you find peace.” Then she returned the phone to its cradle and the call was disconnected.
Looking back, if I could change anything about that final conversation it would be to tell her how much I loved her - that I knew she loved me, and I was well on my way to finding peace.
Peace in Pieces
Peace is everywhere in pieces -
shards of pure tranquility
suspended in the brackish waters
of daily life.
Neither here nor there,
unburdened by before,
unchained from after
it’s accessible only by letting go.
Peace is your lodestone,
You are the wizard behind the curtain,
tugging gently on the strings,
the keeper of stories
only you can share.
When you tire of the games,
When people, places, names
are gray and grainy as faded photos
and the strings of your heart are aching,
step into a puddle of in between,
into the moment before the clock chimes,
the gap between neurons,
the pause between breaths,
the instant before the mind recalls its purpose,
and the grace of peace
is all there is. - Jena Ball
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Copyright 2023 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.