I’m a little obsessed with The Path.
Last night before bed, I read a few pages of When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodrön. (Disclaimer: no, I am not in love with Pema Chodrön. Yes, I read other things.)
Marc climbed in next to me.
“God I love Pema Chodrön,” I gushed. [Okay, fine. I love her. Busted.]
“Because, when I’m having a difficult time, she always calms me down.”
“Because she validates your feelings?”
Not exactly, I said.
I explained to Marc that lately, I’m feeling a lot of conflict in my life. Mostly, this conflict comes from a happy thing: inspiration. I’m inspired, lately. I’m inspired to revise my memoir, I’m inspired to send out my work. I have an idea for a short story. I have an idea for an essay. I wrote a poem a few weeks ago, after a long hiatus. I have so many irons in the writing fire, and it’s terribly exciting.
The flipside: I don’t have the time to do all the work I want to do. And I’m still getting rejections in the mail, sometimes twice a week. And I’m still wrestling with questions about who I’m supposed to be: a fiction writer? Poet? Memoirist? All of the above?
And I’m still asking myself: am I any good?
And I’m still jealous of other people’s success.
And I’m still obsessing about turning forty this year.
And I’m still trying to get pregnant. And I still have a kid who loves and needs and challenges me.
And it’s still tax time, so I’m worrying about money.
And all of this adds up to me feeling like I’m probably doing something wrong.
But Pema, and Buddhism in general, teaches us that all of this—noise—is an illusion. It’s not a message of “this is human, and you’re normal to feel this way, sweetie!” No. The message is that this is all part of the path. Life is about suffering, dukkha. Life is about struggle. There will never not be struggle or difficulty. I am not doing something wrong; there is no wrong. There is just life.
It’s so hard to articulate, and I’m not sure I explained it to Marc very well. But when I said, “It’s almost like Buddhism teaches you to look at your life like a movie. It’s happening—all that struggle, all that difficulty—but you don’t get involved in it. You just accept it. It’s just The Path, and you just keep walking down it. So in a way, none of it matters. It’s supposed to be exactly like this.”
“Wow,” Marc said. And I thought, yeah. Wow.
It’s enormously comforting. Was it supposed to be? Why didn’t I find it sooner?