A Little Secret From Gertrude Stein To You

Picture yourself caught up in one of the latest natural disasters. The tornadoes in the Midwest…the typhoon that swept the Philippines…the earthquake that ravaged the Caribbean. Our instinct is to grab hold of something, anything, that is solidly fixed in place.

Same thing is true when caught up in human disasters. The breakup of a marriage…the loss of a job…. the death of a child….a Holocaust. Lately, however, even the usual ground-zeroes in our life are no longer holding. The economy — flipping and flapping in the winds. National security — with every new terrorist plot, you wonder. Government? schools? religion? Not a one seems to be standing firm.

So where do you find your solid ground zero from which to stand strong in the eye of each new storm?

A good therapist is likely to help you explore your deepest strengths which exist even when and where you may doubt them. The simple fact that you have reached this age and stage means you are a survivor in the best sense of that over-worked word. You made it this far, which clearly demonstrates you have what it takes to survive what’s still ahead.

I’m no therapist, but I am by this definition a survivor. Whenever I reflect on the unchanging ground zero beneath my feet, I keep remembering something Gertrude Stein wrote: “We are always the same age inside.” That simple but ineluctable realization appears to be the way she weathered the storms of her life and times. Somehow sensing and knowing that contrary to all the accomplishments and aging and anxieties outside, she remained the same soul inside. She always knew herself.

I’m only guessing in Gertrude’s case, but in mine I’m more sure. Persistently knowing that I am always the same soul I have always been — regardless of when where and how I am currently working my way through the storms of life — this fixed point of reference is my Mount Ararat.

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