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.

—-

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

 

 


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Sorting It All Out

Since my surgery a week and a half ago, I’ve run through the gamut of emotions, not to mention aches and pains. But I have not meditated even once. I know, I get hung up on the practice–but then, it is a practice. One I’m not doing, despite many hours at home and even a good chunk of alone time.

My tiny, tiny scar--and the weirdness that is stitches, dried blood, and glue in my belly button. The camera, and then some instruments, went in one of these incisions, I'm not sure which.

My tiny, tiny scar–and the weirdness that is stitches, dried blood, and glue in my belly button. The camera, and then some instruments, went in one of these incisions, I’m not sure which.

My daily resting place has moved from the bed, where I was fairly ensconced until Wednesday of last week, to a sunny spot on the couch. My father-in-law asked me yesterday what the “rehab plan” was. I said, “you’re looking at it.” I take a short walk every afternoon, I get up to pee or make myself food when no one else is around to do it. I can now take a shower with no fear of passing out. Marc drives me everywhere we need to go (not many places). My parents have left. Lex keeps saying, “Are you better now, Mama?” and the other night, when I was crying, he asked, “Are you doing okay, Mama?”

This may make it sound like I’ve been quite depressed, and I haven’t been. I’ve been amazed by how upbeat certain moments have felt; when you go to the brink and come back, there’s a certain joy to be found in things like fresh-squeezed juice, smoked salmon on toast, Netflix on demand, a good book. But I also feel in the last 48 hours like maybe the emotional piece is starting. I have been wondering whether my butt is still on the couch because I’m actually exhausted or because I just don’t want to go outside, get fresh air, run into anyone, think about whether I want to try again, any of it.

You know what’s weird? When you start wishing you were back in the hospital and you had to do it all over. Marc said maybe it’s like prison, you get out and then part of you wants to go back in. I don’t think that’s it, exactly, but nonetheless this healing phase, this almost-better phase, is much tougher, emotionally, than when I was hopped up on Vicodin and nauseated and the knowledge that I could have died was very fresh in my mind. Today I faced the boring realities of a Monday: calling to get out of jury duty, checking in with my work, arranging playdates for Lex. It’s kind of like life continues as it was, only I got spun off the axis and landed somewhere…else.

I guess I am hiding out.


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Mindful Resolution #2: Enjoy My Kid

I’d be lying if I didn’t say this one is a little hard to write this morning, since yesterday goes down in the annals of bad days with toddler. I never thought I’d have a kid who would say things to me like, “You’re the worst Mumma I never wanted!” (the grammar and syntax are astoundingly difficult to figure out, when you get down to it). But there you have it. From the moment I picked him up from preschool to the moment I left for meditation, he acted like a drunk, abusive husband, berating me for my inadequacy (then begging my forgiveness) while I tried in vain to get him to stop bursting into tears in utter despair and, clearly, exhaustion.

Gretchen Rubin talks a lot about enjoying her kids. Like me, she knows that there is always one voice in your head reminding you, “they’re little for such a short time.” On the other hand, she knows that as the mother of a toddler, you experience a roller-coaster of emotions almost as up-and-down as theirs, which is to say, in one day you might feel joy, confusion, despair, boredom, happiness, nostalgia, longing, and sadness. They’re little for such a short time, you think. Then: Thank God.

“What’s the most difficult thing about parenting for you?” I asked an old friend, who had tried for over two years to get his wife pregnant before they went through a very intense and drawn-out adoption. “Probably the mind-numbing boredom,” he said without missing a beat.

Rubin says, the days are long, but the years are short.

(Modest Mouse said it slightly differently: “The years go fast but the days go so slow.”)

Maybe because I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever have another toddler, lately I’m bringing more loving-kindness to the days with Lex. (Okay, okay, I’m lying. My behavior turned distinctly un-Zen around 6:30 p.m. yesterday.) I’m trying to enjoy getting down on the floor and playing more. I’m trying to bring compassion to his very un-Zen moments. I’m trying to remember that an hour after I was the worst Mumma he never wanted, he kissed me and said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best mom I ever wanted.” And that the night before, we’d had one of those ornate, chatty, sweet bedtime tuck-ins that was absolutely magical.

Resolved to to enjoy my kid.

Resolved to enjoy my kid when he’s like this…

…and like this.