A year ago, at a Thomas House potluck, I explained to F. how I usually don’t eat dairy, and then ate about six pieces of pizza. On our walk home, F. teased me about this until I laughed so hard that I had what I call a Kegels failure, though it was too early in our relationship for me to announce this. Ah, how far we’ve come; you’re not going to be hearing the details here. Anyway, F. proposed that in a year, we eat pizza together—on April 7, 2016. Who would have thought we’d still be together on Pizza Day? But we were, and so on the Saturday two days later, we celebrated accordingly, preceded by going to see Miles Ahead, which was absolutely, completely fantastic. Don Cheadle wrote it, directed it, and stars in it. I expect to see him get two Oscars next year, for best director and best actor. (Also, hopefully Anthony Lane will be in prison for giving it a lukewarm review in The New Yorker.)
For pizza, we had planned to go to F.’s favorite place, Chico’s, on Sixth St., and then eat outdoors, but it was raining, so we came back to my apartment and ordered from Marcello’s instead. Then later we got into a fight, which we like to do on any sort of milestone or special occasion. As always, we got through it, though cool feelings lingered through Sunday.
Last Friday I went to see Demolition, which was worth seeing, particularly if you like Jake Gyllenhaal. Also, there was a wonderful-looking kid in it, Judah Lewis. It was about opening to the people around you and being true to yourself at any cost. Beforehand, I was thinking about the chaplain who told me about doing spiritual direction and I was thinking of calling her back to see what that consists of, or even scheduling a session for myself to find out firsthand. What problems would I tell her about? Maybe about feeling worried about CPE, or about emotions seeming oddly inaccessible lately. (She said that the schedule was the hardest part of CPE for her.) I could tell from just talking to her on the phone for 20 minutes or so that it would be wonderful to discuss my problems with her. One thing she said is that she doesn’t see the task as being to eradicate suffering: suffering is what happens. It’s how we meet it.
But then I realized that I should be able to figure out how to provide spiritual direction, since I’ve been learning about it for 25 years, and since I’ve received it from quite a number of teachers—Howie plus all the teachers I’ve interviewed with on retreats. How have these teachers been helpful? By being fully present, by listening kindly, by offering encouragement, by suggesting specific practices: nothing too exotic. When I provide spiritual direction to myself, what advice is most helpful? To notice what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling physically and emotionally always apply. Beyond that, it’s tinkering with specific approaches or actions that might be helpful in stimulating whatever seems needed: awareness, compassion, trust, faith, bravery.