Thursday, October 23, 2014

Doing Something When I Needed to Do Nothing

Boy, have I had an interesting week. As in the purported Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times".

I am in France, teaching for two weekends in a row. In between, this week, I am out at a student/friend's lovely home near the forest of Fontainebleu. A beautiful, peaceful village; quiet, quirky home. I had mixed agendas - will I spend time working or resting or both? - but this is typical for me and I settled in after a few hours on the first day,

Tuesday. A nice walk in the forest, some good planning for my upcoming program on Shambhala Online called Write Now... Looking good.

Back in the flat, I diddled with some video on my phone,  trying to get talks uploaded and such onto my laptop. Learning Word Press in a new way, I was a bit frustrated, but moving ahead. In a moment of great efficiency, I emptied the trash on my desktop without realizing I'd somehow, accidentally (now I see it as ironically) put my most current folder, with above-mentioned materials for the upcomig class, etc, in the trash prior.

The folder's name? TO DO.

As I watched the trash empty much more than the single video I thought occupied it, I scanned my desktop, which I keep pretty clean. The gap, the missing folder, was immediately apparent.

It hit me right away but in waves. When I have done this at home (not often, but it has happened) it's no biggie since we back up regularly with time machine. But I've been in Europe for over three weeks and haven't backed up. I've done hard work on some essential projects, now gone. Hundreds of photos, good ones, of and on this trip, not backed up.

Deleting and emptying this folder was a small but reperable mistake, though I didn't know that then.
Here was the real mistake: I felt strongly that I had to DO SOMETHING.
THAT was my mistake, and I did it again and again over 24 hour period.

It was hell.
But to be clear, it was hell mostly because of how I handled it.

It turns out that doing something is in fact the worst thing you can do, if you accidentally empty your trash of important things. Even when your trash gets emptied, the material is still there, just earmarked as ready to be written over, as those in the know told me (once I finally asked them, PS why did I feel so alone and not ask anyone to begin with? Oh Panic.). As soon as you start doing anything - searching internet, saving documents, your computer haphazardly uses up those earmarked spaces as blank. So all my downloading of a "helpful program" (which, by the way, did warn me about all this if I'd slowed down to listen), investigating online, getting solace via Skype, all of it risked the chance of eating up what I'd emptied.

Perhaps because I am both Buddhist and a poet at heart, I cannot help but see this as a huge metaphor. My panic ate up all the available resources, including the ones I wanted to get back. The more I did (including recovering some extremely fragmented documents) the worse I felt, as if I somehow knew I should just stop. Now I'd say I did know, but instead I kept following the panic deeper and deeper into the hell of making further mistakes I couldn't undo.

Why did I keep doing things? Why didn't I stop, meditate, wait for help? My agitation was intense and inconsolable.

I cried. I ranted. I paced around the empty flat of my student/friend, out until midnight. Once I realized I had with me a USB key I could have used to not overwrite things I wanted back, I got even more furious with myself. I am shocked I slept that night.

Next morning I awoke with some hope - a dangerous drug in these circumstances - and an email from support at the program I downloaded. I practiced with my friend while the computer chugged away at her suggestion and I tried not to hope. But when I got to the computer and saw no change, I was furious. Weeping, lost, angry.

My internal fury hit its high and I went over and over and over all my actions in my head, wishing I could undo them. I tried to contact a recovery service in Paris, knowing it could cost me an arm and a leg. My friend - by now living with a maniac - suggested I do nothing.


But she was right, and it sunk in. I had done something, a lot of things, in fact, and it all got me up shit creek. If I waited less than a week, and didn't use my computer at all, I could get help at home for free or little cost.

I tried a few more routes of help - Apple stores in Paris with two week waiting periods, the recovery folks again, and finally lost steam. My engine of frustration dead, we went for a walk and I finally saw I needed to do exactly as she said: nothing.

So now I am plunking out a blog post on her French keyboard, and I have myphone connected to the internet for online things I want to stay connected to. I am teaching a writing weekend this weekend and technically do not need my laptop. I can now wait. I saw my choice at the end, once it was no longer a choice because my agitated was burned up: keep on this path and fry out, or stop; breathe, walk and let it go for now.

Today I went for another long walk in the forest. I planned for the weekend retreat beginning tomorrow, took some pictures, made up little French songs for myself. I have plenty else to do, if I need to do something. But my laptop sits untouched, in my bag, where I will leave it until I get home. Let's hope I can do the same with the shame-driven panic that made me insane for 24 hours.


  1. Oh sweetie does that ever resonate with me. Hope you can be present with the remainder of your time in France.

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    1. That is the most brilliant cautionary tale for when I next delete all my work. All the information about how to work with it is invaluable. Thank you!
      May the Dralas shine out from your shoulders this weekend.
      Much Lve and Gratitude,