Happiest Place on Earth

I remember being awoken from a sound sleep, on the eighth floor of the Hyatt hotel, on January 17th, at about 4:30 in the morning. Someone was shaking the shit out of me, it was 1994, the morning of the devastating Northridge earthquake. Larry, my husband, was sleeping in the other room with two of our children, Julie and Tony (This was pre Dante). I was in the living room on the foldout with our daughter Kelley. It was pitch dark when the room started rocking and rolling. Larry yelled, “Cheryl.” I thought the building was going down, I screamed “Larry.” This repeated a few times, “Cheryl” “Larry” “Cheryl” “Larry.” That was all we could say as the San Andreas fault furiously shifted in the wee hours of the morning. For two minutes we were jerked around like rag dolls. I fervently believed this was how it was all going to end. When the slamming subsided we moved the kids into the bedroom and turned on the news. I noticed the hangers in the hall closet were still swinging. This was supposed to be our first trip to Disneyland and now we’re deciding if we need to evacuate. Where the hell is my purse? It was a scary moment as the destructiveness of the earthquake unfolded on the news. Fires, collapsed buildings, and overpasses had already killed an undisclosed number of people. A minute or two after the initial quake we had a 6.0 aftershock. That was a bonus. The news anchor ducked under the table in the middle of her broadcast and so did the camera crew as the image on a the screen rolled precariously around the studio. We called the front desk and were told to stay put, the hotel was designed to withstand a 8.0 quake, although a bridge in the lobby had collapsed. I continued looking for my purse. We called Disneyland, they ran diagnostics on all the rides, the park was cleared for normal operations, and would remain open. I was having one of those out of body experiences. Disneyland was staffed for the holiday weekend and the ratio of guests to employees on that tragic day was one to one. As we walked through the castle gates into the “happiest place on earth” I felt disoriented with so much devastation happening just outside the walls of the park.

I feel the same today as I gaze out at this peaceful lake, all is quiet, and serene. I’m at my “happiest place on earth,” celebrating my niece’s birthday, but how can I eat, drink, and be merry when my neighbor is in mourning? “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” says Martin Luther King. We can do better but what does better look like? The world is not a massive Disneyland. Sometimes life just sucks. The bible says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) What if we truly believed that goodness would prevail even in the midst of despair. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.” (Rom 5:20) I see evidence of this happening all over the world especially during a disaster. Life is finite, it passes quickly, and ends abruptly. I say live as big as possible while you can. Don’t waste time on thieves who only know how to take. There are plenty of good people, grace abounds, and as a bonus we get to start over every damn day. Don’t lie to yourself in order to maintain some sort of status quo, only to realize years later, you where the one prolonging a shitty situation. When we clinch our teeth and just deal, we’re left with a sore jaw, and wasted years. We should never do something just because we think we “should.” Dump the bad job, find your “happiest place on earth,” leave the drama queens behind, and keep those life sucking thieves at a distance. Let’s ban the word “should” from our vocabulary. We can do better. The first step is to acknowledge the places where we’re broken and in need of mending. My moms standard counsel, “start small and work your way up to the big things.” I can let go of grudges, take better care of my health, and be generous of heart. We have fault lines, time to shake it up, change the topography if necessary, and see what arrises from the ashes. 

What is arising from the ashes of your life? 

For more distorted wisdom: Look Both Ways Before Crossing or I Find Myself Rising to the Occasion With Multiple Castings of my Old Self


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