"Serenity NOW!" ~ George Costanza, Seinfeld, Season 9, Episode #3, "The Serenity Now"
I was a devoted follower of Seinfeld during its original run from July of 1989 to May 1998. And I got the joke. These four main characters, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were petty, self absorbed, small, rude, insular.
Shall I go on?
Still, the show was hilarious. Try as they may the four major players on our weekly television stage couldn't carry out a truly noble act even if theirs, or someone else's life depended on it.
Landing in a jail cell as the final episode was an absolute brilliant plot denouement - the Universe exacting its perfect Karma upon the four. Most of us got it. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer didn't. And they probably never would!
Among my favorite episodes is "The Serenity Now." George's father Frank opens a new business and hires George and George's childhood nemesis Lloyd Braun as sales people. Frank ineffectually employs the phrase "serenity now" learned from a self-help recording by screaming the mantra, rather than calmly and meditatively breathing the words. George also adopts the phrase with drastically unintended results as does Kramer, who has a meltdown and destroys 25 computers he is storing in his apartment for George.
There is really no hope for these three. They are simply going through the motions. They'll never get it.
I laughed along with everyone else at these characters' attempts to become "one with" something. I also laughed at (Senator) Al Franken's Stuart Smalley character ("… because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.")
We all laughed. To this day when I see a You Tube of Franken's character I still go into hysterics, I can't help myself, even though many of Smalley's affirmations read straight out of the Al-Anon and other 12-Step playbooks. In a Seinfeld episode, in an Al Franken bit, it's funny. In real life, it can seem tragic.
This was the 90s after all. We've evolved, hopefully.
We band of brothers and sisters, we parents of addicts must learn to evolve beyond the platitudes such as serenity now, or the cynicism of a besweatered fictional character. What was funny might remain funny, but tragedy has us looking beyond sitcoms and Saturday Night Live skits for answers to progress along our journeys.
We must strive to approach REAL.
When first confronted by our children's addictions our reactions were influenced by our parental instincts to fix, cure and control. Sometimes interventions are necessary to cleanse, save a life or stop sudden downward spirals. Eventually the substance abuser must decide on his own to turn things around. The change usually does not come from the outside. The decision to be free of addiction must originate from within to be effective and lasting.
Our ability to allow our children to find their pathways requires a journey on our part that is fraught with its own perils and dangers. We may feel damaged and imperiled as we change the way we react, feel and live. It is foreign to transform from rager to listener, from a reactionary to a parent who might, just, possibly, THINK before she acts, before he explodes. We are fearful of this change.
It's hard, but true serenity has its own rewards. True serenity is catching. It's like a virus from heaven.
Suddenly people around us are drawn to us, not repulsed. Our responses to situations, to our unique position as parents of addicted children become as foreign to those around us as they seem to us. Our new behavior, uncomfortable and painful to embrace at first, becomes second nature.
We are becoming REAL. We are becoming the human beings the Great Creator, the Universe, meant us to be. And one day someone may tell us how calm we are and we'll smile, knowing we have come to this place just recently by travelling along a pathway to finding our true selves. We won't let them know we've not yet "arrived." This can be our little secret!
We become a beacon of light to family, friends, other parents beginning their journeys and perhaps even the children who brought us to this place if only the fog of the addiction could lift a bit for our new lives to shine through. Realness is something that cannot be ignored forever.
The Real may take a while or may never appear. Real is a progression. Real is an ideal for which we can strive. Our lives now, as real as they are may be improved if we stay true to our recovery journeys.
Because you know … we ARE good enough!
"The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him." ~ THE Velveteen Rabbit Or HOW TOYS BECOME REAL by Margery Williams | Illustrations by William Nicholson