I have a strange preoccupation. It usually surfaces in group settings, like a Christmas dinner where people are being polite, but not really having a good time. Everyone just wants the party to break up so they can stop pretending to be happy, and go home. Sometimes it surfaces when I’m hanging out in a group of people my own age- maybe we’re passing the joint, maybe we’re talking about life. But often, if you look closely, there is at least one person in that group who is not comfortable. Often it’s more than one. Maybe it’s the girl who is chronically depressed. Maybe it’s the guy with the drug problem. Usually, if you look closely in any group situation, there is at least one person who is unhappy, who is not in their happiest, healthiest state. If we’re totally honest with ourselves, most of us rarely are!
In those group settings, when I notice the quietly bickering couple, or the anxious mother always doped up on pain pills, I often wonder: How would this scene be different if we could really come to life? What would it look like if all of our worries just dropped completely away? What if we just found out that we were in Heaven, that everyone we loved was perfectly okay, that all of our dreams had been granted, and that it was time to party? Eyes would brighten, smiles would light up the room, and the happy conversation would grow to deafening proportions. We would laugh hysterically, hug freely, and roll around on the ground. I would instantly forgive you, and a thousand years of stress would slide off your shoulders. You would turn to her and tell her that you’d loved her all along, and she would take you in her arms and kiss you! Can you imagine? What if we found out we were in Heaven?
My best friend recently shared with me a dream that she had. In this dream, she was at a picnic, on top of a beautiful green hill. Everyone she loved was there- friends, family, animals. In the dream she was flying, dipping down occasionally to join a conversation, or enjoy the food. Everyone there was happy, healthy, and laughing. We were having a wonderful time. This is what I imagine when I sit in a room and I see that one or more people are ill at ease. This is what I hope for when I have a conversation with some of the closest people in my life, and still, I feel a polite wall between us. This is precisely what I dream of when I sense the gorgeous potential between a group of people, but I see that it hasn’t yet coalesced into a happy, honest way of interacting. So. Let’s go now to Brigitte’s enchanted hill, and bring it to life!
It is a beautiful, sunny day. We are sitting on top of a huge, grassy hill, and there are beautiful fruit trees everywhere, shading us from the friendly, yellow sunlight. A stream wraps around the bottom of the sloping hill, and children play there, splashing water and laughing. Some of us have rolled up our jeans and waded out too, and are luxuriating in the feel of cool water running over our skin and through our toes. The sand at the bottom is silver and reflects the light, and there are little buried treasures there, like Easter eggs hiding in the grass. You can fly here, or you can swim forever under water without holding your breath. The grass is soft and plush, and you can fall asleep on it like a blanket. Delicious smells waft through the air, and every divine food you can imagine is here- blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate, fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob with butter and salt, shish kebabs, deviled eggs, and sparkling lime soda… There are hammocks strung between trees, with big pillows and favorite books lying in them. Laughter is everywhere.
Who would be there? Let’s put everyone you love in this place. Let’s put everyone you’ve ever loved, and everyone you want to love in this place. Who do you need to forgive? Put them here. Who do you hope can forgive you? Put them here. Put your parents here, dead or alive. Put your siblings here, and your best friend. Put your worst enemy here. Put your dog here, and your cats. Put your lizard here, let him sit on a tree. Let’s all get together and have a barbeque.
The best thing about this place is that everyone is well. Everyone here is in their optimal, most healthy, joyful condition. My dad is here. He is laughing his head off, leaning back in a chair with a Coke in his hand. He is listening to his brother talk, and Gary is just cracking him up. Belly laughs are rising up out of Daddy, and he is slapping his knee. He can’t get enough. His laughter is contagious. Now I am laughing, huge, hysterical laughter. It is so funny I go rolling down the hill and end up with my feet in the water, catching my breath. My mom is here, laughing with my aunt Debbie, and they are hysterical about something. Debbie is cracking my mom up, and my mom is responding with wholly inappropriate jokes that are making Debbie piss her pants. It is hilarious.
Brigitte is flying through the trees, dipping down occasionally to check on us. Her chihuahuas are wrapped around each other like yin and yang, snoring lightly as they sleep. Their sides rise and fall with their breath, and they are so happy in their little tree house in the sun. My sister is cracking lewd jokes to my brother, and he is shooting back cracks of his own. His knee has healed, and he jumps up momentarily and begins shooting baskets in the sun. He is lean, healthy and fit. He’s got a great tan 😉
I want you to imagine this, because I know that you can. Even in our “worst enemies” we can see redeeming traits, can’t we? I might hate that bitchy old waitress, but I’ve seen her crack jokes to other tables, and I know she has a wicked sense of humor. What about that guy you’ve held a grudge against since junior high? Maybe he pushed you over in your desk, or led a pack of bullies against you. And yet… you know that he is an incredible musician, that he can play an intricate song after hearing it once, and that he writes music that brings you to tears. What if you could suddenly, completely let it go, drop the bullshit, and have a beer with him? What would you have in common? Here in Heaven, I bet you’d have a ton in common!
Imagine that person in your life who is chronically sick. How does she look when she forgets about all that, and comes to perfect, vibrant life? I bet she’s gorgeous. What about that insecure guy who is in a perpetually bad mood? Let it all drop from his face, his shoulders, his body, and see how he changes. How is he transformed? I bet he stands up straight now. He is probably cracking ridiculously funny jokes. Imagine the person in your life who you most want to see well. Maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a friend. Who is suffering, who needs healing? Can you imagine them at this picnic, in their perfect, most prime state? See them as healthy as you possibly can, even if you’re creating it entirely in your mind. Maybe they’ve never been well. But I bet you can imagine them this way. I bet they’re laughing. I bet they’re relaxed, with a drink in their hand. Do you see what I mean? Let’s create a hillside Heaven, a place where we are all in our most optimal, healthy, happy state. I have an inkling, deep down, that this is what we’re evolving towards. I think that these are the kind of picnics, and dinners, and conversations we should be having all the time!
Meanwhile, back on that grassy hill. Joe is here, and my uncle John is too, and they are philosophizing at a table in the sun. John keeps slamming his fist on the table to make his point, and then throwing back healthy gulps of red wine. Joe is laughing heartily at his dad’s seriousness, which just makes John laugh back, and then continue to expound on the philosophy of Descartes and Aristotle. They are vibrant, happy, and alive. My dad has jumped up with his buddy Rob, and they are gunning the engines on two beautiful, sparkling Harleys. There is a lovely, winding lane behind this hill, and it goes on forever and ever. They are about to shoot out onto that lane, into the rushing wind, and ride, ride, ride, until they desire a slice of pie, or a laugh with their wife. And in that moment they want to be back, they are! In this magical place, anything you desire is possible. It happens right away!
I like to imagine this, because I know that it’s possible. I know that’s what we’re meant to be doing, I know that’s why we’re here. We are drawn to each other for infinite reasons, but perhaps the most important reasons that we are drawn to each other are because we can see these beautiful possibilities in one another. She may be using drugs and going down the wrong path, but you have seen her kindness with animals, and you know she is a gentle, gentle soul. He may pretend he doesn’t love her, but when she’s not looking, he watches her back with longing and love. What if we all came to life? What if we dropped our masks, completely, once and for all? What kind of party would we have? What if we had that picnic in the sun, our true, happy selves blazing forth? Wouldn’t that be nice?