Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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Why Are Blessings So Hard to Accept?

I’ve had such a wonderful few weeks. On May 17, my spring semester ended, and I turned in final grades a few days later. Lex’s school has been in session the whole time, which means, yes–my somewhat harried usual 15-20-hours-of-work-in-20-hours-of-childcare (and grading on the weekends) became long days with no grading to do and no kid to chase around until 12:30 or 3:00 p.m., sometimes 4:00. Sometimes, during these breaks (I get two long ones, and one short, per year), I can’t concentrate, and I fritter away the days worrying about the missing paychecks, but for whatever reason I fully embraced this break.

I:

  • Fulfilled my goal of sending out my memoir to at least 3 agents a week (my general goal was 5 submissions a week, of the memoir, of essays, whatever)
  • Finished up and sent out one essay
  • Drafted and polished another, and sent it out, too
  • Blogged
  • Figured out Twitter (insofar as one can do such a thing!)
  • Lazily graded the papers and exams I needed to for the other school where I teach very part-time
  • Got caught up with my preschool chair duties
  • Cleaned my house
  • Read some books
  • Cooked some good food
  • Meditated
  • Relaxed and concentrated on my IVF
  • And, today, went to yoga.

Formal yoga classes have left my life sphere in the last year or so. This started as a logistical issue; I couldn’t find a teacher I particularly liked, and all of the classes were either too long or at the wrong time. Then I decided that I’d rather save the money for a house (in these parts $16 per class is a good deal–oof–and a tiny house costs $650,000–double oof). So I began just doing a little yoga at home and the occasional 20-minute video here and there, which, actually, is pretty sustaining (try it!). So when I decided last minute today to hit a lunch-hour yoga class with a friend, it felt indulgent, exciting, and just a little bit like…a guilty pleasure.

Ah, guilt.

A little reminder that sits on the kitchen cupboard at a friend's house

A little reminder that sits on the kitchen cupboard at a friend’s house

At the class, the teacher talked about the concept of wounds, and how we heal from wounds by seeking out experiences that fulfill needs we missed as children. Some of this didn’t make sense to me; I of course have my wounds, but the ones the teacher was referencing were not ones I feel I need to address, exactly. Nonetheless it got me thinking about ways that I hurt–that we all hurt–and how those same hurts come up, again and again. And my experience of being in that class–feeling an inexplicable guilt because many of my friends were at work; my husband was at work; I was paying someone else to watch my kid while I was at yoga; etc etc etc–was compounded by the realization that one of my wounds is this inability to accept the blessings in my life without feeling guilty for them.

Put another way: why, when I have the chance to go to noon yoga, or morning meditation, or take a nap in the afternoon, why do I not think, wow, what a lucky, blessed life, that I can do this? and instead go to, you’re such a privileged little shit, you who only works part time and gets 12 weeks off a year. You suck.

This kind of guilt has pretty much plagued me my whole life. Call it white guilt, or privileged guilt, or just plain-old guilt, I always feel guilty for the good fortune I have had and conflicted when things are really going right for me, like I don’t deserve it.

Interestingly, this revelation dovetailed with something that happened yesterday. A writer friend told me she thinks I need more “mystery” on my writing blog, less an air of “Oh God I want to be published so badly” and more of an air of “I have so many irons in the fire, so much great is happening, look at me.” At first, this unsolicited advice really hurt. It made me feel I was doing something wrong. After, it made a little sense. It made sense because she reminded me that a) a prestigious publication has an essay of mine right now and is deliberating; and b) a prestigious literary agent is looking at my book. Both of these things are true! They’re flattering! It’s great! BUT, I am also the type of person who feels that more than likely neither of those great possibilities will pan out, and, I guess I am too superstitious to assume they will.

Now I’m a bit muddled. I think what I’m getting at is that it feels difficult to accept that blessings are all around me, and that, well, great things could happen for me and do happen for me and that I’m very lucky and I don’t need to feel guilty for having time off or good fortune or the ability to go to yoga sometimes. And, on the other I hand, nor do I need to feel less than authentic when shitty things happen to me.

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May I be open to the joy and happiness in my life. And may you, reader, too.

 

 


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The Infertility Dukkha

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a bit of a tough weekend. Pulling one of my Osho Zen Tarot cards for myself on Sunday morning, I got the “Turning Inward” card, which felt appropriate since Saturday I definitely shirked most offers to hang out, be social, or do much of anything besides be home, quiet, and mourn a little.

I have been pulling the Zen Tarot cards for myself all along in this fertility/infertility journey, and while I guess if you held a gun to my head and asked me whether I really believe in tarot I’d have to say no, I nonetheless adore those little cards because they always seem to remind me of something concrete, grounded, and real about whatever illusory situation I turn to them for. And occasionally, there is some magic, as when I asked last spring, “when will I become pregnant?” and pulled this card:

DSCI0196Can you see? It says “Patience” underneath a photo of a pregnant woman. I nearly fainted when it came up in my hand.

But that was months ago, and since then I tend to pull cards like “Turning In,” cards that are reminders, sure, but not exactly…magic.

And I could do with some magic. Friday we went to the infertility clinic. The news? Not great. Not many eggs; eggs getting old; eggs not being released with enough oomph. The technical name for all of this is diminished ovarian reserve. Or as I think of it: old lady syndrome. The doctor wants us to begin infertility treatments after Christmas.

Oh, dukkha. Blessed be for Marc, who on the way home initiated a tough but concrete/grounded conversation about our good fortune. “I want this to happen,” he said. “But if it doesn’t, we have so many blessings already.” I nodded and agreed through a few tears. He is right, of course.

My challenge, as usual, is attachment. I wanted so badly to be able to just make a baby, the old-fashioned way. Without all this soul-searching and medical intervention and acupuncture and mindfulness and whatever else it will take. It once felt so simple, the possibility, like something that could just happen naturally.

“It could,” said the doctor. “I would not be shocked.” But she didn’t sound too optimistic, either.

I will say something positive: mindfulness helped me in that appointment, and afterwards. It helped me to remember to take every step as it comes. And mindfulness has helped me move more gracefully from Saturday’s grief to Monday’s more expansive thinking about infertility treatments, about blessings, and about pausing to think and make decisions instead of rushing headlong in.

Lex is being extremely cute this afternoon, in that way that mischievous, spirited three-year-olds are cute (he is sitting on the toilet singing “this little light of mine” at the moment). A bit ago he came up to me on the couch and threw his arms around my neck.

“You’re super cute right now, Mom,” he told me.

Talk about a blessing.