A Serenity Garden FFS
I live in a house in Van Nuys with three boys, one dog, nine chickens, and 40,000 bees, so even the idea of being “nestled amidst the calm” of anything frankly is a little out there. (There are times when I’ve yelled from behind the toilet door, ‘Leave me alone. I’m allowed to be in here. It's my biological right. It’s part of the Geneva Convention!”)
And that’s why I found myself wanting a Serenity Garden. (I know, I can’t believe it either. I’m from Cumbernauld.)
But, you see a Serenity Garden is an “indoor or outdoor space where you grow a couple of plants - trees if you can- and maybe some flowers. And in this tranquil place, you can kick back from the world and daydream, or meditate, all the while being nestled amidst the calm wonder of Nature.”
And ever since I heard that, I’ve bloody wanted one.
It could have been argued that I already had a quiet space where I could cut myself off from the world and contemplate - but Serenity Toilet doesn't have the same ring.
Anyway, one day I came out of my office after quite a harrowing session with a story client. In my day job, I work to help people uncover the stories of their life: sometimes to write them, other times just to help them understand them. Some people have really really tough things they're dealing with, and that particular session had been a corker. Afterwards, I'd stood in the backyard making myself breathe slowly, trying to dampen my rage, staring at the sky waiting for the Universe to explain how when it comes to pain, loss, and difficulty, the cards don't appear to be dealt out equally.
Mark, familiar with the pose, had appeared from the kitchen and asked in a low tone, “Are you alright?” To which I replied, “No. I need a fucking Serenity Garden.”
He understood. So we built one on a wee patch of garden. Roses. Some succulents. A bay tree. A wee citrus tree. And a little fountain I got off Craigslist for $50.
It’s lovely. And it is serene. But it’s not called a Serenity Garden. It’s called, “The Fucking Serenity Garden,” and that seems to suit me better somehow.
I curse and swear. Sometimes it’s because I’m angry. Sometimes because I’m sad. Or because I’m surprised, or amazed, or happy too. I would say for me that the word, ‘fuck’ is probably the little black dress of vocabulary - there is not an occasion to which it doesn’t quite fit.
I’m aware that I'm meant to be ashamed about that, but I'm fucking not.
If I said, “Oh duck,” it would be fine. People would smile knowingly at the naughty word I could have said, but cleverly avoided. I would be considered witty rather than uncouth.
And it’s literally just one letter difference. The fact is, depending on which consonant you pick up either side of the letter e can determine whether you have a filthy mouth or a basic understanding of ornithology.
Of course, there’s a time and a place and everything. Like I wouldn’t use it at my kid’s Parents’ Evening or at a 5-year-old’s birthday party. I wouldn't write it in a piece of ‘family entertainment.’
But if I’m talking frankly with you, there’s a pretty good chance an F-bomb will slip out. Not because I want to offend you, not because I think it’s big or clever, just because somewhere in my psyche it is the little black dress of vocabulary.
And I know that it’s not for everybody.
There’s a lady in Scotland who comes to shows of mine so she can hate them - and I’m not even kidding. During the show she’ll sit in the audience and tut when I swear. Sometimes she’ll mutter phrases like “Your mother would be disgusted if she heard you talk like that” which wholeheartedly assures me that this woman really didn’t know my mother at all.
My mother wanted me to talk from the heart. To be honest. To see the joy in things. To laugh. To challenge myself. She didn’t love that I used the f-word, but she wasn’t that keen on me bleaching my hair either. My Mother and I were good.
Anyway, I don’t know how many times this woman has come to see my shows - but definitely a few. My heart always sinks when I spot her angry face in an audience because I have to be mindful not to pick on her or to single her out. My mother tolerated my language but she was uncompromising on the need to be compassionate and kind.
During one show, I found myself wondering why anyone would repeatedly pay to come and see a performer who annoyed them so much. Like, did she think I would improve? Evidently she has a story going on in her head that I’m not a party to. For that I am glad. I don’t really want to hear her story. I expect if I did, I'd be standing out in the backyard raging at the Universe about unfairness. I am sorry she is not a happy person, but she does not get to dictate who I am.
Sometimes this woman will complain to my face after the show. More often than not, she’ll complain to someone else, maybe grab a hold of an usher, or announce something loudly at the bar. She tells everyone she is very disappointed in me. I haven’t the heart to tell her that I too am often terribly disappointed in me.
But not for fucking swearing.
Look, I’m not saying there aren’t some words that don’t make me wince. Collateral for example. That’s not a word I like. You could even change a couple of consonants in there and it’s still not going to improve. It’s a bad word. It says bad things.
Armed. I don’t like that either. I try and cheer it up in my head by thinking of it as being defined as an octopus doing jazz hands and that seems to help.
Offensive - I don’t like that either as an adjective or a noun. Offensive is, as it clearly states, offensive.
When I hear all three words together in the same sentence, well, that’s enough for me to beat the retreat to my Fucking Serenity Garden and try to nestle amidst the fucking calm.
It’s developed a bit since we first built it. The bay tree has grown and is now taller than me. Roses bloom in shades of red and pink and peach and white. The wee citrus tree is considering bearing fruit, and a small patch of lavender attracts the bees. We’ve moved the $50 fountain to another part of the yard, and it’s been replaced by a bust of Julius Caesar someone gave me as they wanted rid of it, and I’ve spray-painted it gold.
But it’s not always perfect. Periodically, someone in the house may call out, “Arthur is peeing in The Fucking Serenity Garden again.” And I may look out the window and tut and shake my head. And I may notice that Arthur actually looks like he’s smiling while he’s doing it. And I may comment loudly how “that sort of stuff wouldn’t happen in a proper serenity garden.” And then I shrug, and I chuckle, because me and that garden are both a long long way from proper.
Till next week
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