Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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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.”

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Life.

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.

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Sick Kid

I feel sometimes when I visit Becoming Buddhist that I live a secret life. I log out of my other blog, and into this one, where I see all the posts from people I’m following in my life as a Buddhist–my secret life as a Buddhist–and I enter this space where I read about boredom on A Year of Meditating or enjoy one of bussokuseki’s gorgeous poems or appreciate the wisdom of Amanda Green, and I feel a little like I am not even at my own house anymore, where we have a sick kid and no one got up to meditate this morning because we were sleeping off two middle-of-the-night puking sessions.

Hmm.

This is something I think about a lot, this idea of trying on different costumes, different roles. It’s actually something I have felt my whole life. I was a pudgy kid, and when in my twenties I started dropping pounds upon pounds without really trying, until I became the objectively thin woman I am today, I felt for the first several years that I was faking thin. When I traveled around the world with Marc, it felt for a while like someone else was taking that trip. Someone bold, intrepid: not anxious, scared me.

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Me in Hawaii, 2012

Being Buddhist feels a little like that, like something I’m trying on. Maybe that’s why I feel the need for this secrecy.

But man this Buddhist stuff gets in your bones. I’ll admit: my practice has been crap lately. I’m tired, and getting up before Lex doesn’t always happen. A few mornings my “meditation” has looked like this: a sleepy me on the zafu, shushing the wiggly toddler in my lap, both of us ensconced in blankies since it’s so damn cold in Berkeley lately. I grab a nanosecond of mindful intention before the wiggles shake us towards breakfast and the start of the frantic day.

Nonetheless, I feel myself different than I was a year ago, slightly more able to pause in the moment as I just…exist. And, of course, struggling to practice mindfulness as I…exist.

Today I had a sick kid. I also had a boatload of work I wanted to do. The two were mutually exclusive. I stayed home with Lex and got no writing or professional development done; we watched a leopard documentary, read some books, went for a short walk, and later, miraculously, he let me do some sewing. He wouldn’t eat more than a couple pieces of toast all day, but his spirits were high. I felt sure he’d be back at school tomorrow and me, off to do the work I’d not done today. But at dinnertime he still hadn’t eaten more than that toast. And he had a fever. And was totally listless and couldn’t climb out of my lap. And I am seeing my work for tomorrow slipping away, too.

I long–or perhaps I should say, I strive, since that’s what this project is all about–to be someone who thinks, “Today I am home with my sick kid,” instead of “I will never finish my book at this rate!”

That will be my mantra for tomorrow:

I am home with my sick kid. I am home with my sick kid. I am home with my sick kid.

I am lucky to be able to spend the time with him, after all.

Maybe we’ll watch the polar bear documentary.


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The Ordinary Shape of Things

I love this blog. It’s so therapeutic for me, the anonymity, the format, the project itself. Though I’d had ideas that the shape of it would be purposefully linear, structured by yoga poses or sutras, instead it’s been much more like real life: random. I’ve come to accept this (look at me, removing attachments). In fact, since starting the mindfulness project two months ago, I’ve come to accept a lot of things. I seem to be handling disappointment, dukkha, and change better.

To wit: I gave myself a little pep talk in the car while driving to pick up my son from school yesterday, and I actually believed it. The pep talk went like this: “Just do the work, S. Do the work and something good will come of it.” The backstory to this pep talk is that I had just turned my attention back to my book, the one I hope to work tirelessly on this month, after a fall largely spent avoiding it for reasons logistical (I was working too much) and subconscious (I was avoiding it). The book inspires the following feelings in me:

  • I am intensely, joyously proud of it.
  • I suspect it might truly suck.
  • I think it is likely self-indulgent.
  • I am quite sure it will never get published.
  • I am sometimes hopeful that actually, maybe it will.

And so, as you can imagine, when I work on it–or even think about it too long–I get completely overwhelmed. Reminding myself to just take it bird by bird, as Anne Lamott might say, is a huge help.

What I hope is that mindfulness will enable me to just see the book clearly, for what it is. I opened this morning a query email I’d sent to an agent last year. I realized the way I talked about the book made it sound precious and sentimental. Actually, much like this blog, it’s messy, sometimes raw. I think two forces fight in my brain: “polished” or “good” must mean “perfect.” And “raw” means unpolished, unprofessional, and, above all, scary. I think I will have better luck with the project once I embrace its raw, imperfect, perfect beauty and decide how I want to portray it to the outside world.

For now, though, I am thinking about the ordinary shape of things, a phrase that came to me in the middle of the night, beautifully.