Monday, November 7, 2011

Let It Be Me


I’m often completely astounded by the complexity of life.  After several phone calls yesterday I stopped for a moment and looked out at the changing leaves and just caught my breath.  There is so much going on, so much strain, so much chaos, so much turmoil.  My friend texts me “It’s cancer,” and my breath stops short.  Then a call, “He lied.  He did fool around with her.”  I’m aching.  My nephew posts on Facebook about a little girl he knows in Brazil who has gone missing, probably trafficked.  The kids wake up all night, sick with colds.  I choose my clothes, weigh my body, look at myself in the mirror.  I just look like a regular old mom.  You wouldn’t guess what’s in my heart right now.  It’s amazing what a heart can hold.  You can name any person I know, and I can tell you about the stone they carry.  A lost job, a new business, a strict diet, a volatile boss, a longing for love, a longing for freedom, a longing for feeling.  

I used to panic when things would go well.  I was so afraid of the other shoe dropping.  I was so afraid of the unknown pain that was just around the corner.  When I attempted suicide all those years ago, it was fear of pain that was the reason.  I just didn’t want to feel it.  The fear hurt too much.  

And now, with my life so utterly sweet, I have so much more to lose.  I have so much more possibilities for pain.  When you love people so immensely, you risk a pain so deep.  I should be in absolute panic. And, admittedly, there are times when I’m sure someone I love is going to die.  I’m still breaking the old patterns.  And one of those old superstitions is this idea that if I think about the possibilities, if I hold them in my heart for a moment, then they won’t happen.  I know it makes no sense.  I know it’s ridiculous.  It’s been an unconscious behavioral pattern for so long that it’s very difficult to break.  But I’m working on it.

I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Uncertainty is uncomfortable.  But it is also part of the very fabric of the universe.  There is no way, no matter how many different scenarios I think up, that I can predict what will happen.  And, even if I do hit on the truth of my future, there is no way that thinking about it will at all prepare me for what is to come.  I’m here now, that’s all I can do.  I’m getting better at being here.  I’m so much more resilient and pliable than I ever anticipated I would be.  I think the practice of being present is actually starting to become a way of life, as is exercise.  

But I’m also horribly erratic.  The middle road is much more difficult than it sounds.  As humans we seek stability, equilibrium.  We want to find the ground.  I want to find solutions.  I want answers.  I want to do something that matters, that makes a difference.  But when you look around at all the things you cannot control, it feels impossible.  How can any amount of volunteering affect the lives of the 27 million slaves?  Are we just swimming upstream thinking we can help all those children being trafficked?  How is there any sense?  How is there any solution?  What can I possibly do to help them?  The world just feels too big, too complicated, the pain too overwhelming.  And I completely suck at maintaining consistency.  

But then I get another text from my friend, “Thanks for checking on me,” and I think that maybe I can make a difference.  Maybe all those little decisions, made in love, add up to something greater.  Maybe my life is good right now so that I have the strength to help carry other people’s stones.  Maybe my role is to help them find a place for their worries.  Maybe I’m a wall builder.  

People often think of Buddhism as a self-centered path.  I grew up being taught that it was entirely self-focused.  I grew up with the teaching that believing in Jesus was the only way to receive grace, to receive the peace that seems incongruous with being human.  We’re imbalanced, horrible people.  The Christian perspective is that the world has fallen out of favor with God.  In order to get back to holiness, we need an external grace granted to us.  There’s nothing we can do.  And I really, really understand the beauty of that story.  I love the idea of being forgiven and all of it being okay.  

But I tend to look at it the other way.  Instead of a broken system needing a fix, I think of the chaos and uncertainty and pain as part of the nature of existence and the root of the solution.  By training to be present, by sitting with my pain and learning to accept uncertainty, I’m becoming a greater asset to my fellow man.  It’s not out of selfishness that I pursue awakening, it’s out of love.  It’s not to achieve some sort of perfection.  It’s not to achieve recognition or be thought of highly, even by myself.  I am in a constant pursuit of peace by staying just where I am, rotten thoughts, fearful tendencies and mediocre love all included.  

It sucks, I’m not going to lie.  This road is painful.  That’s why they call it the way of the warrior.  And I have so far to go and so much to learn.  I’m a white belt in being present.  But I’m at peace.  I know peace is actually every step.  I have a place to come back to, an understanding that lets me rest in the chaos.  

I was listening to Ray LaMontagne sing “Let It Be Me” yesterday, and I felt this sort of melting.  Yes, let it be me.  Pema talks about sitting with your pain and thinking of everyone who is dealing with the same thing.  You imagine yourself taking on all of the pain so that they don’t have to feel what you feel.  Let me be brave.  Let me be present.  Let me hold the uncertainty and the pain.  Let me do the work so that I can be the wall builder, the stone carrier, the strength.  

Let it be me.

2 comments:

The Pioneer Queer said...

words can merely express the emotions I am feeling in my heart! HEATHER you are AMAZING!!!! This post literally brought me to tears, you are aware of my current situation and the struggles I am dealing with (and the rest of the world can know them too if they follow my blog)... The best way for me to sum up the way I feel, In 10 years if I am half as wise, grounded, spiritually in tune, knowledgeable, productive, loving, caregiving, truest and bluest of friend like my friend Miss Mintings, I will die a happy queer. I am still waiting for my Marko and My twins and children but I want to be as close to your path as possible...

I love you man, and truly mean it. Thank you for this post and all the other countless things you can accomplish in your busy life--you're the shit dude!!

Susanna Shapiro said...

Amen to that!!

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