In the past, when I won a prize, published my work, or had a book accepted for publication, expectations rose, but things did not always go well. It reminds me of my teacher, Swami Satchidananda, who often said, “make no appointments and you will have no disappointments.” Disappointment, I have noticed can sometimes lead to bitterness.
I do not consider myself to be a bitter person. When my American Sabbath school teacher called me “a martyr for my religion,” I did not connect with what she was talking about. I was not aware of holding resentment for the brutalities I experienced as a child born in Europe during the last world war.
The problem with bitterness is that, for me, it became like a secretly poisoned drink where the bitter taste could not easily be detected. Eventually, I realized I was bitter about two books that had been accepted for publication but didn’t make it through to the final process.
I was also bitter about the sense of failure I had regarding my teacher, who after learning about a poetry prize I had won, congratulated me warmly, as if he had always know I would do him proud and said, “Write, write…publish.” However, I felt for some years I was not able to live up to his words of encouragement.
One of my favorite poems that personifies a personal experience of going beyond negative patterns (such as bitterness) in Wife of the House is “Lila’s Love:
Gazing beyond plank and beam
beyond floorboard and frame
of self she twirls
to the core of eucalyptus
On the other side of bitterness, I discovered joy, especially, joy as a great healer. Recently, I heard a conversation and could not help but respond:
“Are you happy?”
Happiness is nothing
to be about; joy is
I am grateful these days to be aware of how unacknowledged bitterness, resentments and disappointments can create an atmosphere of insecurity and a lack of fulfillment. Joy, on the other hand, is free from all such contractions.