I remember it so clearly. I was in Miami Beach at the Sea Isle Hotel where I was the bartender of the pool bar. A storm had just blown through, and no one was in sight. I was standing on the side of the bar which overlooked the pool deck. But I was looking further out, to the ocean.
I asked myself, What is it you want?
Without a moment’s hesitation, I knew, Peace.
Searching for Better
My sister Janet, 75, told me this story a couple of nights ago. She was describing a scene that took place 50 years earlier. She left the family in Jersey City in search of something else. Something better.
We grew up in a middle-class household. My father was a life-long employee of the Jersey Central Railroad and a first generation Italian American. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school.
My mom came to America via Ellis Island. She was four years old when her family arrived from Austria-Hungary. Her family pulled her out of school when she was sixteen so she could work as a housekeeper to support the family.
No Peace at Home
My father didn’t know it at the time, but his beautiful baby girl was called to be a feminist and an artist. He had designs on Janet being a secretary who would eventually marry and have kids.
Their relationship was rough and tumble from the start. It did get better as they learned to accept each other for who they were, but only decades later.
There was no peace in the Paparelli household for Janet. She never measured up to my dad’s expectations. She never wanted to. Both high-strung and strong-willed, the only solution was for her to leave Jersey City.
Janet Asks the Ocean
Janet chose Miami Beach. She would find herself there, but it wasn’t going to be easy. There is no city far enough away from a bad, yet vital, family relationship.
So there she was at 25 years old with her whole life ahead of her, looking at the Atlantic Ocean asking for peace.
When she told me this story, she said, “When you ask for what you need, somehow you get it.
“It took me a long time, but I now have peace in my life. I discovered the only way to get it was to stop trying to control everything. Peace comes from surrender. It will all work out…and it did.”
When Janet told me this story, I experienced a great relief. I was happy for her. I was happy for me.
When she was suffering from stress, unhappiness or anxiety, so did I. Both of us brought those feelings into our relationship.
We love each other, but we are too often stressed at each other. She wasn’t quite what I wanted her to be, and I wasn’t what she wanted me to be.
Then one day, in a conversation between a 64-year-old brother and his 75-year-old sister, the tension melted. There was peace. We accepted each other. We are comfortable with each other.
No more control.
No more stress.
My sister is right. We must ask ourselves, What is it you want?
Why I Ask God
I shared with her, “This is why I pray. I believe God is in control of the supernatural and the natural. If I ask him for what I need, he will somehow bring it all to pass.”
I’m talking about the real needs we have. The soul-searching needs. The need to know God. The need to know we are loved. The need to love. The need for peace. The needs which make relationships everlasting.
Also published on Medium.