There’s a pool we used to be in all the time: the pool of universal, unconditional love.
Then we decided that there were things that couldn’t stay in the pool here with us. They were too sad, or confusing, or cruel. So we kicked them out. Then we tried to enjoy the pool.
Only now there seem to be constant problems going on over there, outside of the pool. So we find ourselves having to go over to the stairs, get out of the pool, go and fix whatever mess has come up, and then get back in the pool.
Ahhh, it’s so nice in the pool. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone else could come in, too? But they’re not choosing the pool, it seems. They’ve made their own, different choices. Well, we’ll try not to judge them for that… but why do they have to keep breaking up the party, making us get out of the pool to help them? Why aren’t they choosing the pool themselves?
And, to make matters worse, every time we get up out of the pool, we don’t actually fix these problems. It seems like there is always something trying to keep us from enjoying the pool. Our kids, our bosses, our mothers-in-law; God, people can be so stubborn! Can’t they solve their own problems?
It’s making us more and more unhappy now, every time they call.
All this time we’ve been thinking: getting out of the pool and helping them is what a “good parent” does. Keeping them company, outside the pool, is what a “good friend” does. We think companionship is what they need, we keep them company while they complain. We listen. We hold their hand. Then hopefully, they’ll come and get in the pool with us… hopefully.
Because lately, time not spent in the pool is really making us turn gray. We feel like we’re dying a little, every time we get out. We start thinking, “Even if they don’t come back to the pool with me, I’ve got to get back there. Excuse me, I really have to go.” It starts becoming a matter of life and death.
And so we run back to the pool. Sure, we feel a little less like a “good friend”… until we begin to understand that being a “good friend” might be different from what we thought. Maybe a “good friend” is one who stays in the pool, stays calm, stays contented, and simply doesn’t get out anymore. Somehow he “knows” that others will eventually feel that they, too, can come for a swim.
And sure enough, the more we stay in the pool, the more others come closer. And because we’re not getting out of the pool anymore – thus making ourselves miserable – we’re also nicer to be around.
With time, we start to realize that what make us leave the pool wasn’t the “others,” but only our limited ideas of what a “good friend”, a “good parent,” a “good son,” or a “good employee” is. Once that idea gets dropped, we get to stay in the pool forever.
And so does everyone else.