The gods of felicity

You may think that I’ve mistaken my title and perhaps meant to write “the felicitous gods” or “the god’s felicitations” or perhaps even “felicitations from the gods”, but no I am not even pretending to be a messenger from the gods delivering tidings of good hope and great cheer, etc. etc., nor cautionary reports of doom and gloom…I know what happens to the messenger—so please don’t consider paying any attention to that man behind the curtain (in this case I would be the man behind the curtain, but since there is no message from the gods here—feel free to take the curtains down and make antebellum dresses out of them or disregard them altogether). At any rate, I meant my title and here’s why…

I have this little game I play with my sister on occasion when she has gotten to the point on one of her own misguided pursuits that I have reached my limit of human endurance and assume the state of a regular christian martyr. For several years it was at this point that I would revert to my inner-child, 12 year-old response of throwing a fit and perhaps a punch or two to bring an end to the inane choices I was witnessing. Finally, when maturity and good sense (of course on my part) became the norm and not the exception, I moved towards a solution to my fit throwing. Often it was humor, or even just letting off a tiny bit of steam to relieve the pressure. For a time these two ideas have joined forces in the form of a prayer to god, right in the moment, right out loud. Now because this auditory prayer was not the proposed relief from the religion of my youth, and in fact seemed sacrilegious at times—I completely relieved myself from the guilt of my blasphemy by changing my “dear god” or “dear lord” prayer into a foreign language—then you see it sounded so cosmopolitan and pious at the same time that it was certain to be recognized for what it was—an attempt at levity to lighten the mood.

And so the “deus” prayer was born—this being portuguese for god and pronounced “dayoosh”, (not to be confused with doosh–a topic for an entirely different day altogether) one could not help but giggle at the reference. My sister and I immediately joined forces to see who could out pray the other when our frustrations became unbearable…when she asked for the 50th time if I would please help her clean out her closet, it was only a prayer to dayoosh that would calm my internal fuming beast. And when I had told her 50 times the right and proper way to organize her magazines—dayoosh swooped in to save the day…as in “deus, please bless my sister to learn the right and proper way to organize her magazines as only an amazingly trained organizer like her big sister can know, please bless her to see the folly of her ways with these madcap piles all over the bathroom, bedroom, even the kitchen. Heaven knows such piles are certainly the devil’s playground and we all know her ultimate goal is to be received into your warm embrace, if only taking a detour from time to time through the embraces of a few real “devils”. She might reply with her own emboldened plea at this time…”deus, please bless me not to strangle my blatantly brown-nosing sister to within an inch of her life. It is clear to me and I’m sure to the gods that all her praying is an attempt to ingratiate her way into heaven while we all know she has her own devilish pursuits and must be thwarted from her overly bossy and controlling ways”.

These prayers went on for a while, allowing sisters to coexist with minor altercations, but not extreme blow-ups for quite some time. It seemed deus was truly smiling down on the two of us and healing the deep wounds that only 12 year-olds can inflict. But then our prayers began to fall flat, they somehow took on the essence of “phoning them in”, our repentant spirits became muddied with the tone of the prayer and repentant tones often turned to holier than thou proclamations and our friendly interchanges soon soured.

At this point a healing gem of majestic proportions presented itself in our dilemma. Harking back to a time when things were kinder and gentler, my sister had long harbored a guilty pleasure for the show “felicity”—a drama of the 90’s based on a young woman in college seeking the lessons of life and a boyfriend to boot. My brother became aware of her penchant for oversentimentalized drama and gave her the box DVD set for her birthday. She immediately became a bit kinder and gentler herself. It seemed that the almost fanatical pace she had set herself for watching the entire 4 year series was reacting with her psyche as some kind of a drug and she was calmed and cheered by the stolen hours of guilty viewing. She was not alone in her viewing as she often turned the series on when both my brother and I were around—we became ensconced in the surreal existence of felicity, the heroine who went against her parents wishes to leave Stanford and move to NYC to a fictional university to pursue an art career instead of medicine and a boy named ben. Ben who personifies the concept of existential angst, had a rough upbringing with a drunken father and while any woman would love to take this man-boy in her arms as if he were james dean, the “devilish” pursuit could only bring unhappiness in the end. Noal—the dorm resident who befriended and then romanced felicity with his quirky and neurotic behaviors and finally, Javier, felicity’s bespectacled (in the manner of elvis Costello), homosexual and Hispanic manager at the Dean and Delucca where both felicity and ben slaved to make ends meet to pay tuition at their fictional college.

On the few occasions that we all watched the show together, we would laugh and cajole as one new crisis after another presented itself in the lives of these college mates. The phrase “we all have our issues” became a stand-by for us in respect to the unerring constancy with which the characters took turns in the dramatic limelight. It wasn’t until we had completed the series and I caught my sister starting to rewatch it immediately “just to refresh her memory” that I realized the impact these characters could bring to our lives. And so it was that I recognized the prayers to deus were unfair, we asked so much of just one deity, it might serve my sister and me if we spread out our requests, never abusing just one god, but allowing the “demigods” of the world of felicity to apply their healing balm to our most troubled interchanges.

So now when I have been asked just one too many times, “should I wear the boots or the heals, boots or heals, boots or heals” or “do you like my hair up or down, up or down, up or down” I utter a little prayer to felicity…”dear felicity, please bless my sister with the surety of a hottie college senior, to know which shoes will best accent her calves, and whether or not hair up or down will make a difference in attracting just the right looks from maybe even the other drivers on the freeway”. I’m sure you can immediately spot the wise choice of using multiple recipients for my prayers—the greeks clearly had this one figured out long ago–create a pantheon of specialized gods who can each one send specific intervention and blessings and allow for more “face-time” if you will in an already busy god’s life.

My sister will often reply in kind “dear Javier, please be kind to my sister, impart to her some of your amazing management skills—teaching her both how to accessorize the coffee counter with seasonal mugs and to keep all the quarreling employees happy with their tips for the day. Help her to know how to bring this wisdom into her tiny life and find a path to complete her own day’s tasks all the while learning that it does in fact matter that you wear the right shoes with the perfect belt if you want to learn to be complete in and of yourself”. Prayers to ben and noal will appear at the appropriate times as well depending on need and “the issues” that we all have.

And so our sibling issues have truly reflected such a concentrated effort at good will. All the blessing of each other to spot our own problems and cast out the beam in eachother’s eyes removes the focus from the nerve grating moment and casts a golden hue of humor and whimsy into what can become unpleasant interchanges. I offer this technique to those of you seeking a way to heal the difficult moments of any relationship. Select a constellation of powers that will do well in your environment, it might be politicians, sports heroes, maybe even car salesmen—imbue in them the power to intervene on your behalf when prayed to…out loud and in front of the offending other for which you intend the intervention to occur. Suddenly the power of the stuffed-up emotion is immediately relieved, the “other” in your relationship is made immediately aware that some disagreeable step has been taken, and the two of you are freed to speak of the elephant in the room with humor and sidestepping to relieve the pressure and identify annoying behaviors.

One cautionary note—do not allow this form of pious therapy to become a passive-aggressive attempt to control another. Allow it to serve you both in its purest solution—as comic relief and revealing the psychic or psychotic underpinnings of your “other” to shed light on how best to inform if her hair should indeed be worn “up or down”