Already as a relatively young person, I was totally outside of myself and my own life — a stranger in my own life. I didn’t have inside me a bright beacon with the help of which to navigate in my life. Instead, I reacted blindly to the impulses of the outside world. My goal was to prove my worth in the world as well as possible and get the acceptance of as many people as possible.
At that time, my pet peeve was Edith Bunker, the mother in the television series “All In The Family.” In my mind, she personified everything I feared and despised. I thought Edith didn’t have an identity or life of her own, that she hadn’t achieved anything in her life other than serving as a doormat for her bullying and suppressing husband, Archie. Did she realize or understand anything at all?
However, my mental indisposition and my will to be genuinely myself led me join a spiritual growth group to find my true Self. Even then, Edith came to my mind as a warning example: if I was to give up my own ego, my self, would I become like her, strolling around with my head tilted, with submissive eyes and my identity boundaries impressionistic and drawn in the water? Eventually, I understood that our goal was not to relinquish our psychological identity but to find some kind of spiritual self.
In the group, we let out all of the past that blocked and distorted the channel inside us. When we embodied our self for our own use more and more, every aspect of us was able to express itself more freely, and we were able to feel, touch and sense what was happening inside us. We learned to experience things as they are and we were more and more in the center point of ourselves. We learned to take our own space and all that we needed, and we didn’t apologize for our existence anymore. We weren’t bigger or smaller than others. We simply were.
I saw my own change clearly when, after many years, I began to watch the rerun of All In The Family. It suddenly dawned to me that Edith, the wife of a New York dockworker, actually was an enlightened soul. The quality which I had ascribed to being a doormat actually was a woman who did not react to all kinds of unnecessary and futile things. Edith saw behind her husband’s bullying and commanding behavior and understood that Archie really didn’t want anything bad for her. She was always able to see Archie’s actions as they were, and they didn’t affect her fundamental being or take away the foundation of her life.
On the whole, Edith saw things as they were and did not view them through glasses dimmed by childhood traumas or the buffetings of life. Very few things could hurl her totally out of balance, and she found a solution to every problem from inside of her, unlike her husband, who was completely at the mercy of his emotions and was only thinking how he could get the approval of others.
Edith did not submit unnecessarily if her true values, feelings or needs were violated. For the most part, life around her was constantly fluctuating, but that did not disturb her ability to function. She wasn’t bitter, didn’t reprimand her close ones, compare herself to others, complain or play tricks. She saw the good in everyone and treated people accordingly. She didn’t consider anyone as an enemy and she didn’t use anyone.
Edith’s love was never conditional or fickle; it was continuous and genuine. Underneath everything, she was able to be well all the time and she was able make compromises without risking her own well-being. Edith was satisfied with her life because she didn’t take it — or herself — too seriously. She was what she was and she didn’t try to be or look like someone else; she was natural, simple and modest in her own existence. And she was supposed to have achieved nothing in her life!
If I sometimes find it difficult to get in contact with my authentic Self, I ask myself what Edith would have done in this situation, and I get answers immediately. Edith was in herself, and she said and did what she believed deep inside her. In her truthful interaction with her surroundings, she never tried to raise or lower another person but just wanted to get to know the other person’s state and show her own state. Edith accepted every being, for she accepted life itself in everything.
Tolerance brings along the ability to fulfill one’s life in its entirety, when the meaning of life can be realized. Edith did not deny herself or her surroundings while fulfilling and realizing her purpose; she let life flow into herself. That is the greatest humility and surrendering to one’s own road. It’s knowing one’s own boundaries, the ability to listen to and respect oneself and one’s own values. It’s the ability to live in peace with oneself while walking down one’s own road.