Monday, January 22, 2007

"Wait for me underneath the water"

from "Water" by the Sugarcubes (Bjork's old band), Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week!

We received 6 inches of snow yesterday, capping off last week's little forays into deep winter - 2 inches here, an inch there. It was necessary - occasional days were a sunny 50 degrees, but mostly it was a kind of dour murky barely freezing occasionally raining tell-me-again-why-this-isn't-seattle-only-colder kind of winter. A friend and I left a Shambhala Graduate level early, due to the horrendous amount of snow and fear of facing it at night. I was home so surprisingly early from these monthly weekends in Milwaukee, and it was really nice - came home, spent dinner with Erika and Aaron (home from a trip to Mexico while I was gone, and now engaged to be married!), and then trundled over to D's in the snow to watch Firefly.

Preceeding all this slow bliss though was a weekend of serious internal aggression. Or not so serious, but I took it rather seriously at the time. At the end of the weekend I had a conversation similar to one I have been having a lot lately, with birdfarm, with D., with Erika, about how if I am panicked, anxious or stressed out, it feels like I am working, getting things done. I finally realized the reverse last night, lying in bed next to a sleeping D, still a bit wound up from my weekend's aggression overload, that if I am *not* anxious, et al, I *don't* feel as if I am getting anything done, to the point where when I do work that doesn't feel stressful (like actual teaching) to me because it feels natural, I feel guilty, as if I am getting away with doing nothing for something! This can even happen when, for instance, finishing up my WCATY class this last week (it's done! yay!), I am way ahead, doing all my prep ahead of time and have time to relax - I worry that I must have forgotten something, because in all that space, I have, ironically, remembered absolutely everything. The thing I have usually *forgotten* in that case is to be stressed out! Ha!

In 2005, when I went on my first real retreat (the writing residency at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT), birdfarm gave me a series of photos encapsulating our tendency to see ice and think it will stay frozen forever, forgetting that ice is made of water, and will melt. It is the nature of things to change, and both the sometimes seeming curse and the real grace are embodied in this. Becky reminded me of this this weekend, discussing depression and how we have to really feel it again and again to understand that we are not always happy, that most people are not always happy, to touch on our humility. It is not a punishment "You haven't understood this yet so here it is again", but a reminder to relax into the process (birdfarm's water or moons). For some reason I really heard this, though this teaching has come to me many different ways from lovely friends or buddhadharma, and I was able to relax into the undue amount of aggression I was feeling all weekend. I was still tense, but not tensing against the tensing, and I could see how I have spent much of my life this way, again, somehow believing that that, in itself, is work, and that work will somehow redeem me.

Hard, long lesson, but clarifying. Very clarifying. And good timing - I am going back to my old place of employment today - Rainbow Bookstore - for the week, on pay, to help out during textbook rush. This is particularly poignant because it was in leaving Rainbow for teaching, and in the meditation practice I was just strengthening in at the time, that I learned how I do this, making non-work into work by stressing about it, making up for some sense of inadequacy by worrying about things all the time. Becky said last night of her job, to paraphrase: "I rush around the whole time and if I stop rushing I worry I am not really working". This describes how I felt at Rainbow almost all the time. The key thing is that not only could I see then what I was doing, but also that it wasn't Rainbow's fault, as much as I might have wanted to blame them or one particular person, but *my issue*, and as I was about to become self-employed, I should go about owning that, so as not to be totally surprised/insulted/overwhelmed when I would pull the same tricks in the future, alone, at home, preparing classes.

And this foresight has lead me to here - where I am beginning to see the depth of the aggression, which is so human, as natural as ice. And I sit and sit and sit and it melts. It could take - can take - all fucking weekend, but eventually ice turns to water, and flows again. I woke up this morning and Erika was overwhelmed - home from vacation, she was sick at the end of the trip, and she has a lot of work to do. I looked at her icy face and I understood - she's not mad at me, I'm just going to take the dog out and give her some space. I came back and there was a big thank you note to that effect to me. I felt like I understood better what she needed because of the whole experience of the weekend. We wait for each other underneath the water, and when it melts, we can flow together, even if there are still pointy chunks on top.

Shout outs to Morgan, Erik and Marijka, who all recently pointed out to me that they read my blog, and even though they don't comment, they like catching up with me here. Thank you for letting me know you are listening in! I promise to come in more often.

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