Friday, June 08, 2012

You Say My Name Like There Could Be an Us

On Monday I did my cooking, and Tuesday was a tour de force of errands: first by bicycle to the dentist for a cleaning, to the endodontist for a quick X-ray, to the eye doctor to pick up prescription sunglasses, to Macy’s to buy some stuff, and to the library to return books. Then by foot to see my mental health professional, to the dry cleaners to pick up my duds, to LabCorp to have a soupcon of blood drawn, and on to Howie’s.

Howie spoke about letting go, which is a phrase that always arouses a faint anxiety, even if there’s nothing I can think of that needs letting go of. Let go! You mean, experience loss? That sounds very not fun.

Howie said that the only reliable refuge is the nature of our own minds, that the very awareness through which we perceive this or that—whether pleasant or unpleasant—is the Buddha. He shared Poonjaji’s quote: “You need the past and thoughts to suffer. You don’t need anything to be free.”  The person sitting next to me remarked afterward that he had found Howie’s talk “abstract,” which I could sympathize with. For the first 21 years I heard Howie say this kind of thing, I wondered, “What on earth is he even talking about?” But now this strikes me as concrete and literal, as very usable information.

I had the world’s most low-key 50th birthday. Tom, with whom I might have gone out to dinner, is away in Sacramento for a spell and C. was at a poetry event, so the blow-out celebration consisted of taking a shower, feeling tremendously sleepy, and receiving phone calls from Margaux, and David and Lisa. David and Lisa also sent a card, thus proving their excellence as friends once again. They were visiting Lisa’s parents at the time, so the signatories included “guest stars.” Lisa’s mother wrote, “Aging has its rewards. Be happy!” I liked that a lot. (David wrote, “Dude! Where did you park your forties?”)

I received some unwelcome news via phone this morning and hung up and noticed I felt sad and scared, which I feel quite a bit lately. You know, not for any particular reason or anything. Why, relationships are easy! However, extremely pleased to report that I’ve gotten so much dad-blasted practice with this lately, it’s getting noticeably easier to work with. I reminded myself to feel, not think, and asked myself repeatedly, “What do I feel?”

Being of a responsive nature, I told myself forthrightly and immediately, “Sad and scared!”

Being also of a helpful and investigative nature, I then asked myself, “Where do you feel that?”

“Here. And here.”

And, finally, being of a kindly and optimistic nature, I assured myself, “I’m positive that you have the ability to be with this feeling.”

Every time I started to think, “Here’s what needs to happen here. I’m going to do this, this and this. I’m not going to do that, that or that,” I caught it and told myself, “That’s the imaginary future. None of those actions can be taken or not taken in this very moment. Tell me, what do you feel right now?”

Then I went for a walk. It was such a beautiful day. I felt my feelings and mostly didn’t venture into the imaginary future. I appreciated that the very awareness that allowed me to distinguish one feeling from another is a dependable refuge—it has inherent qualities of peace, space and freedom. I even found that “let go” had a much more appealing ring to it than usual. It sounded positively musical and delicious, not gloomy and arduous. Let go!

When I got home, there were no messages on the “answering machine.” This is like the voice mail aspect of an iPhone, but three dimensional in nature. It occurred to me that if, hypothetically, I did happen to have some sort of troublesome relationship and if, hypothetically, I found myself unwilling to continue in it, I might start to see that non-blinking light quite often, which has always been more than enough to cause me to rationalize away any problems: “Oh, well, it’s not that bad! Why, a good thing happened not a month ago!” Because: potential pain. I won’t be able to stand it if I feel sad or scared.

Well, I’m now positive I can easily feel sadness and scardedness. And you know how it feels to feel sad and scared? Besides sad and scared, it feels kind of good, at least after a while, because it feels good to steady the mind upon an object, even if that object is itself unpleasant. And it also feels good to have a conscious experience of being aware of something, whatever it may be, because the nature of consciousness is peaceful and joyful, as can potentially be experienced by anyone.

The longer I walked and the more I felt, the happier I became, and was finally so overcome by gratitude that I put my hands together and bowed, just there on the street, that holy spot.

When I got home, I listened to previews of Adele songs on Amazon. (The title of this post is a line from an Adele song.) Then it occurred to me: “Wait, could this possibly constitute wasting time?” But, no, it didn’t, because this is another thing Howie (more or less) said to do: appreciate Adele. I ended up buying four songs: “Rolling in the Deep,” “He Won’t Go,” “Right as Rain,” and one other, which I heard about five times in a row, and by the last time, I was sobbing my heart out, tears dripping down my shirt: “Melt My Heart to Stone.” Good song. Howie was right, as ever.

In the evening, C. and I walked clear to Ananda Fuara and had a very leisurely and agreeable dinner.
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