Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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On Realizing What It Means to Be a Grownup, or: A I Really Doing this All on My Own?

I’ve been having this persistent sensation the past couple of weeks that for the first time in my adult life I really understand what it means to be a grownup. This started the other day, lying in bed, when I had the somewhat stark realization that I am officially a person who has not and probably will not get everything she wants in life. Now, bear with me: this is pretty basic, I know. I mean, duh–no one fulfills every wish and dream! But, having been raised to expect that hard work breeds success, it was a bit of a shock to think that I might prove the exception to that rule. I wanted a second child, I wanted to own my own house, I wanted to have published a memoir. And, as of this writing, those three big desires are totally unfulfilled, and they weigh on me.

And, in one sense, it’s a lot to bear. We Americans, we love getting what we want. We educated, overachiever types, we expect to continue to over-achieve. I am no exception. I felt acutely the loss of the fleeting pregnancy that happened last month. I was hysterical when the doctor called to say that despite his initial optimism, my HCG levels were not increasing at all and I would soon lose the embryo. Ironically, right after I got this news I was walking to L’s school, sobbing on the phone with M., when I ran into the people who bought our house. They tried to catch my eye; we’d had a nice conversation when I met them earlier in the month; but all I could think was please, please, don’t remind me of my other hardships right now. That afternoon, we had an eviction notice in our mailbox. What a cluster of a situation it all was.

And yet, and yet. In the past couple of days, when I’m not mentally packing boxes or agonizing over whether the sublet we snagged from a friend is the right choice, and whether that editor at the major magazine is ever going to get back to me, I’ve felt a kind of clarity that being a grownup is not a bad thing–it just IS. My friend AJ and I were talking about this on Tuesday. He told me that when he was having a hard time at work recently, and they were trying to buy a house but it felt very stressful, that he had this realization that if he drastically fucked up, there was no one to save him. Sure, his parents loved him, and so did his wife, but at the end of the day, it was all on his shoulders. I’ve been thinking about that. About how that is true, and about how it’s profound, and how in most ways having the independence that is afforded to adults is a good thing. And that, even though it means dealing with life’s difficulties, which sometimes feel completely overwhelming, I would not trade it for some other reality.

Oh, and–oh wow. As I wrote this, I just received some really excellent news. News in the realm of, that major publication is going to publish an essay of mine. After I was completely sure that the editor had fallen off the face of the earth and was never going to return my emails again.

Sometimes, life is sweet.


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Growing Pains

I’m back.

After writing that post last week I felt clearer but also more vulnerable, a little raw, like I had revealed too much about my body and my desires and my self-absorption and my weakness. In case you’re wondering, I am officially not pregnant, TCOYF and its 18-high-temperatures-rule notwithstanding. It’s silly to feel betrayed by a book, but I do.

On Monday afternoon I was sitting on the deck at my friend Steph’s house, watching our children play nakedly in California spring sunshine, when all of a sudden I turned to her and said, “I am learning so much this year. It’s astounding.” When I said it, I could almost feel my head expanding, like a little brain growing pain.

I said this because I’d just had yet another revelation about the patterns I’m interrogating and trying to change this year, on this mindfulness journey. Context: A writer friend had offered to read an essay for me, and when she emailed, her response was simple and to the point: “I enjoyed your essay. I have some comments. When should we meet?” But all day I had been worrying that she wasn’t more effusive. What kinds of comments? Was there anything good in the essay at all? And as I revealed this paranoia to Steph on a sunny Monday afternoon my brain grew a little with the understanding that this is another of my unhealthy patterns that I need to change.

It seems I have this kind of revelation every week, lately. I notice so much more than I used to, or at least, I notice it and don’t let myself turn from it anymore. I can only assume that this is a consequence of taking the road to Enlightenment. But in the present, in the moment, it’s kind of a drag. I don’t want to be reminded of my patterns of behavior every week and realize how much they’re not serving me. I don’t want to feel so acutely hurt by an offhand comment from a friend that ultimately means nothing. Lately everything feels very weighty: the things Marc says, the times when we don’t connect, the coldness I perceive on the part of friends, my guilt over letting other friendships go, changes with Lex. These are things that a year ago I would have been able to turn from and ignore, or at least, not dwell so fully on.

I’m reminded of when I was a kid and told not to be so sensitive.

It’s occurred to me that, a bit like therapy, with mindfulness practice things might get more difficult before they get better. I say that because I do trust that the end goal here–if it’s not too anti-Buddhist to talk about goals–is to stop being attached to small hurts. But it feels as though in the short term I need to be MORE attached to small hurts. I’m continually surprised by this, and I’d love to hear from you if this is a phenomenon you’ve experienced, too.

I think I will look back on this year and remember it as a period of intense growth and learning. I just didn’t know how painful some of the growing would be.