Finding Meaning in It
by Anita Jung
They met on a rainy day.
Marlene was walking in a little village up in the mountains; the only noise was the rain failing on the leaves. The sound calmed her, as did the smell of the wet soil. The green mountains were presently taken by the clouds. Marlene imagined that she was in ancient China over looking a hillside with mystic potential.
People often said she was spaced out, but Marlene, herself, felt that she was just looking at the world in a less aggressive manner. Marlene was unconventional and an adventurer. She had a lot of compassion and she tried to understand and defend the weak. She held a hidden anger towards creation and its suffering, not understanding why some people walked over others and some possessed nothing of their own. The world was unfair.
Marlene had two children from two different men. Tara was 15. When Tara was born, Marlene was not yet ready to settle down or to give Tara much attention; perhaps she couldn’t give something that she never had. Her second child, Gabriel, was luckier in that he came 7 years later and Marlene was by then a little more grounded, although she often thought that it would have been easier to be a mother if a father would have been by her side.
As Marlene continued up the mountainside, she reached a small village that had a school and a church. A bell was ringing. Marlene saw a man from the back. Even without seeing his face Marlene, felt a pinch in her heart – a pinch telling her that this man would be important to her.
Erich was smart, visionary and charming. He knew how to speak to woman; he knew how to get their admiration even while yet other women were by his side.
Born after World War 2, he grew up in a Germany overwhelmed by shame and guilt – in a Germany with a fresh past he could not speak about. Suffering from the war, Erich’s father passed his accumulated violence to his sons. This situation caused Erich to run away from Germany as soon as he could. But Erich managed to transform this painful past into art; by sculpting he expressed his ideas, his ideology. He was the kind of artist to first think before creating. He believed the world was awakening; wars were over, women were rising, and slavery was decreasing. He believed this new generation would change the world. It was in this positive spirit that he had already brought five children into the world.
Things happened very quickly. Passionate love doesn’t wait for time or circumstance and as soon as they met, Erich left his family for Marlene. They loved deeply, but mostly they fought.
Marlene may not have been the easiest person for a man like Erich to live with. Marlene was reckless and spontaneous. There was never a feeling of security surrounding Marlene. This world, where anything was possible, brought out the worst from Erich. He was a highly possessive man. If Marlene spent some time with her children, Erich would make a scene. Marlene also had to hide her spiritual books because he was afraid to lose her to faith. He was afraid Marlene would find happiness on her own. Erich had always believed that he would live up to his own ideals, but he watched himself becoming more and more like his own tyrannical father.
Erich would take Marlene’s car and go see other women. Marlene would be overwhelmed by anxiety and fear and hope that he would come back. He would come back and she would welcome him. And they would love. They loved deeply, but mostly they fought.
It was winter, the mountains and the sky were a big palette of grey; everything was cold, dry and silent. They were living on the second floor of a tiny elementary school, and Marlene was giving birth to Anita. Gabriel was seven years old and was very excited about having a little sister. He was a very imaginative little boy and didn’t have much to do with the reality, but Gabriel already loved this new baby very much.
It was not the same for Tara. Tara hated Erich and this new baby only meant that Erich was going to stay longer. Tara was 16 and things were not going very smooth with her mother either. They would fight all the time. But Tara would defend her mother when Erich would be in a violent mood. Tara lived as if in a constant battle. If she wasn’t fighting against her mother, she was fighting for her. Tara felt she was the only one around that could see things for what there were, but could not do much about it. With Erich around, Tara felt alone, as if her mother was in a faraway, unreachable dark place.
One day, Erich left for good with one of his admirers. Not because he loved this new woman, not because he was no longer in love with Marlene, but because his present love was hell. Erich was smart enough to know that their relationship was destroying Marlene, but he was also afraid to die alone and he couldn’t see a stable future in their current condition. So Erich went for someone he didn’t really love but who would worship him.
Erich’s departure was a true relief to the three children. Their daughter was still a baby but this feeling of relief never left her.
Marlene, however, was heartbroken. She was drowning in sorrow. She didn’t know how she would raise a third child alone – third child without a father.
Marlene was back in India after 14 years and she felt she was finally back home. It was the home Marlene ran to every time she felt broken. There was no chance for Marlene to convince Tara to come to India; she was 16 and already ready to leave the family. It was Marlene, Gabriel, the baby girl and a suitcase full of baby food, traveling by themselves in India in 1992. Indians from the country were not used to westerns at this time, and a single woman with two little children dropped from nowhere into a small village was a complete shock.
They took buses through tiny roads of the Himalayan Mountains. The bus was driving fast. There was no space between the bus and the precipice and Gabriel was hiding on the floor convinced they were going to die. Marlene was blessed to be unconscious of the danger, knowing that they always made it.
Hot and humid, coconut trees were everywhere like a giant sea reaching towards the horizon, they finally reached south of India. They lived for some time with an Indian family. The house was made with coconut leaves, it was very small but the family welcomed them. They didn’t speak English so they communicated through gestures and smiles. It was near the Ocean. The waves were strong but it didn’t stop Marlene from taking the baby to wade in the waters. They were bathing in waters that seeped in past the big rocks. The beach was theirs, like a private paradise.
It was a few kilometers away that they met the mystic Amma. Amma was an Indian woman living in her tiny ashram between the ocean and the Kerala backwaters. She spent her time hugging or serving anyone who would come to her. For Marlene Amma was a Saint, she was attracted to her presence like a divine call of the heart. Marlene would come back to visit Amma over and over throughout the years. Theirs was more like a love getting stronger with time than a love at first sight. Marlene always felt protected, and felt that Amma was someone she could pray to, someone her heart could call out to.
Gabriel was a little boy and loved Amma forever after that. But it took him 20 years to understand how important Amma was to him. He first chose extreme and dangerous paths to find God. Whether because Gabriel was attracted to knowledge and magic, or because he wanted to be recognized by the father he never had he linked danger and spirituality within him. Unfortunately Gabriel ended up deeply abused and betrayed by those paths. One night while alone, troubled and feeling as if he had lost his mind, Amma appeared before him. She told Gabriel how to get out of his situation and return to his own children that he had left behind. At that moment, Gabriel felt Amma had never left him, and had merely waited all this time until he would be ready to move forward with her.
The baby girl never remembered originally meeting Amma, as she grew older. She only knew of a world that Amma was a part of. She could not imagine life any other way. Although Amma was her beacon, while living in the world the baby girl always felt apart from others and unsatisfied. She didn’t like it, but she knew that she also carried her parents’ pains and weaknesses. She could see that it was also the reason why Amma was in her life. Without their previous suffering, the three of them would never have met Amma. Amma was able to show them a different world – a world that was connected by unconditional love. This knowledge made the baby girl want to grow in her new found light.
Amma awakened within all of them, the desire to change. For this, they were forever grateful.
Finding herself step by step, while discovering the joy that is just waiting to be embraced.