Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life

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Fear of Flying

As I wrote the title for this blog post I remembered how there is a tarot card in my Zen Osho deck called “Fear of Flying,” and I think, though I don’t have the card handy, that it has to do with fear of jumping into the unknown and the idea that all of us need to get over that fear in order to live.

But I meant it quite literally: I’m terrified of flying.

Beautiful, calming tulips...

Beautiful, calming tulips…

This is relevant because I’ve come to Boston to visit my folks for a long weekend and this afternoon, I have to get on an airplane. I am dreading it so much that I actually called to find an earlier flight, and paid $50 to change my ticket, just so I can get it over with sooner. I don’t know what about the experience I like the least: those hours upon hours crammed into a seat, the claustrophobia, the emotional piece of it—in order to see my family, whom I love and miss, I have to endure this experience—or, simply, my terror that the plane will crash. Suffice it to say I’m trying to be calm today…and it’s not working.

I wish this didn’t happen every time I have to get on an airplane, but it does. I meditated and did my yoga this morning, I’m doing my best to show up, and I’m feeling like a bit of a wreck nonetheless.

I’m wondering whether I need to stop thinking of “fear of flying” so literally. Maybe my fear of airplanes is related to my fear of jumping off into the unknown.

Oof, it’s a journey, isn’t it?

On a lighter and more fun note: I downloaded Insight Timer for my phone, and have used it to meditate the last two mornings. It’s so nice because I don’t have a singing bowl, and if I did, I’d want someone else to ring it for me. Insight Timer gives you these lovely bells to start and finish that sound a lot like the real thing.


The Valentine’s Dukkha

Happy Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Let’s just say I found refreshing this great post, “Snowed in with Satan,” on Momaste’s blog this morning. As soon as I read the title I thought, well, she and I are in the same hell. And I was right: we’re both wrestling with parenting difficulty, plus the accompanying guilt that comes whenever you admit that your child is anything less than, you know, perfect, world-rocking, amazing, a gift, a treasure.

This is a subject I adore and one I find tricky to negotiate. To wit:

  • A few years ago I had a falling out with an old, dear friend, because I complained to her (gently, I thought) about little things like, oh, being woken up at 5:15 every morning by my one-year-old. She told me I was “the most privileged mother” she’d ever met, and, basically, that my life was perfect and I should shut up. Ouch.
  • Having now experienced my own fertility difficulties, I understand a little better why it’s annoying for childless people who really, really want kids to hear mothers complain about their lot. When you want a kid that badly, you don’t want to hear how bad it is to have a kid. Fair enough.
  • On the other hand, raising a kid is really fucking hard, and I think if we don’t admit that, we do ourselves a real disservice. It’s like when, after nearly dying giving birth, and the trauma is so real you still have PTSD, a million people remind you that what counts is that you have a healthy baby. Maybe on one level that’s true. On another, it’s incredibly dismissive.

Things have been pretty traumatic at home. Lex is 3.5 next week, and I’ve heard that’s the apex of the terrible twos. Let us hope. He is argumentative, fractious, angry, and verbally abusive to his parents. I feel like our house is a toddler minefield, and Marc and I walk through it stepping into landmines. Bedtime, mealtime, transition time, bathtime, playtime, every time has its own set of challenges. One minute he’ll be sitting in our laps, loving; the next, he’s yelling “I’m going to kick you out of this house” and throwing something.

I don’t know which end is up.

This morning I woke early and realized I might just have a really nice day ahead of me: it’s the first morning in over a week that I have a little time to write. It’s Valentine’s Day, which I can kind of get into because I’m a very loving person. Lex has a long day at school, and I’m meeting two old friends for lunch. No plans tonight other than to stay in and watch this BBC TV show that Marc and I are addicted to. So I got up and did my yoga and had a long meditation session, trying not to think about all these things. And when I emerged from the zafu, I thought, I’m going to make waffles.

First I set the table. We had three Valentines in the mail yesterday and each of us got one at his or her place. I added a Hershey’s kiss. Marc and Lex slept on as I made tea and Lex’s lunch (I cut his sandwich into a heart shape) and mixed the dry ingredients and then the wet for waffles. I didn’t combine them, because I know that Lex loves to help me cook and I wanted to save something for him to do: mix the wet and the dry, stir in some frozen blueberries, eat.

Around 7:45 I went to wake up Lex. He was so beautiful with his sleep-matted hair and his little puffy sleep-face.

“I’m waking waffles, honey,” I said. “Do you want to get up to help?”

He murmured that he did, so I told him to meet me in the kitchen when he was awake and went back to get my tea.

Two minutes later, it started.

A banshee–what’s the male equivalent?–came running into the kitchen, screaming and kicking.

“I wanted to mix the waffles and you did it without meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” he shrieked.

“I didn’t, sweetie, I left it for you to do. Pull up a chair, let’s mix them together.” (Landmine! Landmine!)

“NO!!!!!!” he screamed. “I wanted to do the flour and you did it without me! I’m going to kick you out of this house! I’m going to pour uncooked waffles down your throat!” (That’s a new one.)

I picked him up to try to comfort him, to discuss it. He flailed, he kicked. I told him again to pull up a chair. He did, then threatened to dump the waffle mix on the floor. I carried him into his room and tried empathy: “You really wanted to mix in the flour, huh? I hear you. Do you want to do it next time?”


“Well, the flour’s already done I’m afraid. Do you want to come mix them now?”


“Okay,” I said. “Then I am going to go mix them myself.” And I did.

At which point Lex came running into the kitchen again to start tantrumming all over again because he had decided he’d wanted to mix them after all. Again he threatened to pour the waffles on the floor. Kicking, screaming, yelling; it was now after 8:00 in the morning and no one was dressed, no one had eaten, no one had showered, no one was happy.

Marc woke up. Pissed off at me from something that happened last night, he didn’t say a word to me. He picked up Lex and talked him through the rest of the tantrum–thank God–but then when I put a waffle on his plate he walked out of the kitchen to take a shower, ignoring it, me, the Valentines on the table, the tea, the mess.

So I ate the waffle myself, thinking, if someone sent me ONE one-way ticket to Hawaii right now, I would be really grateful.

I know there will be days like this; lately, there have been a lot of them. I think I used not to take personally Lex’s moods, but lately, I do. That strikes me as risky; one of the most basic things you need to be as a parent is stalwart in the face of your children’s arrows, because we all know they will sling them again and again. But maybe because of the grief I am feeling, and the worry, I just don’t have it in me to be stalwart. Lex likes to talk about how things are hurting his feelings. Mine too, I think. Everything hurts my feelings these days! And it takes a lot of energy to give and give and give–to take his feelings into consideration at every turn–and have him never, ever, think about mine.

I know he’s three. I know this is developmentally appropriate. I won’t lay this trip on him. But here, I need to just say that it hurts. My. Feelings. Too.

I am holding tightly to this Pema Chödrön quote:

“When you wake up in the morning and out of nowhere comes the heartache of alienation and loneliness, could you use that as a golden opportunity? Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart? The next time you get a chance, experiment with this.”

Yes, I am experimenting with this.


Feeling the Life Force

A fellow blogger named Natalie followed Becoming Buddhist, and when I went to read her blog, I discovered the site of another woman who recently suffered an ectopic pregnancy. I instantly felt oh, pity and understanding and sadness for her, and if you’re reading, Natalie, I send you lovingkindness and white light for your loss.

I noticed that Natalie had a poem on her blog. The poem expressed this huge grief, and ended with a line to the missed baby to the effect of “Mom and Dad will always love you.”



I sympathize, but my feelings about this loss are very different than that. That could be because I’m ardently pro-choice, and I see all the ways a baby could not come into this world. Or maybe it’s because I have a kid already, and to me that blastocyst that went with the tube was not, yet, something to love. It was an idea, a beautiful one, but still that: an idea. It made me think how much easier it is to lose a pregnancy at seven weeks than it is at 13, at 27, at 39. I know two people who lost pregnancies that late, and several who lost them about halfway along. That loss must be indescribable. This one is…different.

But as the days go by, I can’t tell if it’s getting easier or harder. For a while, the feeling of being so happy to be alive took precedence. Then the rude awakening–I wrote about this last time–that there are still bills to pay, memoirs to write, children to rear, bathrooms to clean. Life does, as they say, go on, and when you step back onto that Tilt-a-Whirl you nearly get thrown off with the shock of it (okay, I’m being super dramatic now). I went through an angry period; I’m sort of in an anti-social phase. And now, I’m also terrified of what else might happen. I spent Saturday morning in the ER staving off a potential complication of the surgery (I’m fine) and I found a painful lump in my left breast last night, which is terrifying me. We all have colds. My mortality, my fragility, seems to dangle in front of me, and with it, that opposing and equally irrational feeling: nothing bad can happen to ME; it already has!

But anyway.

What I really wanted to write about is my dreams. Since I got out of the hospital, since no longer being IV-dripped a cocktail of saline, anesthesia, morphine, anti-nausea meds, antibiotics, and Vicodin every day, my dreams have been full of creation. In them I play my guitar and sing; I was a backup singer for the Rolling Stones the other night. And there’s tons of sex, I won’t reveal any gory details, don’t worry–but just the idea of sex. And while I don’t write in my dreams, I wake up thirsty to sit down and work, so ready to get to work.

A collection of some of the fertility talismans that are scattered around my house.

A collection of some of the fertility talismans that are scattered around my house.

At first, with all that sex, I thought the universe was giving me a sign to try to make another baby. But I think, more, that I’ve been feeling life force, chi, prana, spirit, brio. I think my dreams are revealing to me what’s important and what’s vital: connection and creation.

I’m happy to be alive.

And also, quite close to the surface, at times very depressed. These things seemed at odds but you know, they’re not. I suppose you can be both happy to be alive and sad about the state of your life in the same breath.

I’m practicing again, in my achy-boned way. Marc’s been poking me in the morning and mumbling “go meditate.” This makes me laugh.

But off I go.