Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life

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I tend to write these blog posts in my head while I’m doing dishes, walking around, and of course, meditating (though I try try try try not to). These past ten days I’ve been tossing around ideas, little bits and pieces, but nothing sticks. I just sort of drift on. I’m able to focus when I’m working–I’m amazed at how much I have gotten done in the past month, writing-wise–but sometimes in life I feel not present. I’m meditating when I can, though it seems every rare morning when I have the energy to pop up at seven and get on the zafu that’s the morning Lex wakes up at seven, too. Then the mornings when I cannot get out of bed, he also sleeps in, and then I regret not having taken advantage of the extra half hour. (An aside: since he was born we have had this very slight symbiotic/sympathetic thing going on. It’s like he knows it’s a morning he should sleep in, since I’m clearly planning to.)

Today when I got up I decided I just had to acknowledge the reason for the sleepiness, and the drifting.

DriftingJelliesI feel really, really weird lately. And I believe fertility drugs are to blame.

Now, I am a pretty notoriously natural Mama. I cook almost everything from scratch, I take a slew of high-quality supplements every day. I don’t drink Coke or eat crap. This commitment is very much a part of me. In fact, it was a pretty big surprise to everyone when, during my brutally long labor with Lex, I huffed nitrous oxide from a mask and accepted the epidural. And trying to make numero dos has also made me decide to embrace the dubious powers of Western medicine. To wit: Clomid. HCG shot. Now, progesterone supplements.

The Clomid was pretty much fine, though I do think my slightly irrational behavior last week might be attributed to it. The HCG shot made me feel pregnant, which is bittersweet. But this progesterone, oof. I slept ten hours on Sunday night. Monday afternoon, I took an hour-long nap. And today I woke up with vertigo and nausea and couldn’t do my sun salutations. Over the weekend I tried to have a couple glasses of wine and the hangover was outrageous.

I don’t feel unhappy, I have to say, though the mood swings have been a little much. Last week I was crying one minute, and the next, I danced into the kitchen singing “Wishing Well” by Terrence Trent D’Arby, prompting Marc to ask me if I thought I was bipolar. (Not bipolar, just a true child of the eighties.) He and I are fighting all the time, but that’s probably his fault (kidding!). I don’t doubt my great love for him, or for Lex. I just feel kind of foggy, strange.

More strange, though, is that I have no desire to go off the progesterone. I take the pill, and wait. I think maybe my body feels like it wants it. Maybe it’s addictive. Who knows.

Ah, the mindful approach to fertility drugs. What does that even look like? This?


The Preschool Meeting and the Path

LeoLegsI often find bussokuseki’s blog posts gorgeous, but I wanted in particular to reblog this one, “The Spiral and The Path.” A man and his kids make a spiral in the snow, only to discover its impermanence. It’s a lovely testament to non-attachment and it was one of the few things I sat down and read fully, without distraction, on the day I saw it. I hope you check it out.

I loved the post also because in a metaphorical and oblique way it’s about the difficulty of being Buddhist with kids. I sometimes think if I didn’t have a kid, what a great Buddhist I’d be. I’d be so patient, so mindful, so calm. Of course that’s absurd: having a kid is part of what sent me down this path, and part of what sustains this practice, and so in that way, without Lex there would be no Becoming Buddhist. No great need for patience and mindfulness.

I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago, when things felt particularly dire on the home front. As with everything, that day passed, and another one arrived, then another. Then it came time for an all-school meeting at Lex’s school. The topic: ask a teacher all your burning questions about child-rearing. We were invited to submit questions anonymously; the teachers would each choose one to answer. I submitted one. It went along the lines of:

Do you have any strategies for dealing with kids who are argumentative, uncooperative, and unhelpful, rewarding “good” behaviors and discouraging “bad” ones?

I kind of cringe when I read it now.

The meeting solidified my feeling that—if I may brag for just a second—Lex goes to the best preschool in the entire world. Maybe down the line I will become jaded, but at the moment I’m astounded by how fully this school allows my son to be himself. It encourages his emotional, intellectual, and physical growth, and allows his parents to be involved in his education. For me, it’s like walking into a room every morning and knowing that despite economic diversity, different personalities, and probably philosophical disagreements, every parent in the room wants the same thing for their kid and wants to try harder to be the best parent they can be (I know, it’s so bourgeois, so Berkeley). So at this meeting, I found solutions to parenting problems that ranged from spiritual (“practice non-attachment and objectivity,” said one) to pragmatic (“there are two kinds of tantrums,” said another. “Here’s how you deal with type A…”). The last teacher to speak was Alyssa, Lex’s classroom teacher, and, wouldn’t you know it, she picked my question. Her answer was helpful, somewhere in the middle of spiritual and pragmatic, and I got some good ideas from her. But mostly I had this nagging at my heart the entire time she was talking. A voice came into my head, and here’s what the voice said:

You are not dealing well with Lex’s anger.

And I realized the voice was right. I have been scared of his anger, inconvenienced by his anger, annoyed by his anger. I have found it misplaced and confusing, so I have shut it down. In not so many words I have told him that his anger is inappropriate and has no place in our house. Because I have not always dealt well with my own anger, this realization scared me and made me want to do better.

When I got home, I shared my experience of the meeting with Marc. The surprising part was that I didn’t get more than two minutes into explaining about the anger before I started to sob. The tears felt like they came from someplace else, like they were moving through me; I sobbed and sobbed. I let go of all the difficulty of the past couple of months, with Lex, with the ectopic pregnancy. I realized how hard it has been to be a patient, mindful parent to a child who has tested my mindfulness and my patience at every turn.

I cried and cried and cried and cried.

The California equivalent of snow

The California equivalent of snow

And then you know what? I swallowed, and realized that the incredibly painful sore throat I’d had for a month was gone. GONE.

And I woke up the next morning remarkably refreshed and optimistic. And happy.

Parenting mindfully may be the most difficult thing I have done. At the end of the day, exhausted, practicing non-attachment feels like arduous work. Some days, reacting calmly to anger or rudeness takes every ounce of strength I have. Some days I really suck at it.

Lately, I am happy to report, Lex’s challenges to my Buddhism have been a little more pedestrian. Since the meeting and the cathartic cry, we have been better with one another again. I have been better.

Nowadays the great difficulty is getting up early enough to do ten sun salutations and sit for ten minutes before I hear the Thump! Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-shakow-Boom! that is Lex hopping out of his bed, bounding across the room, and throwing open the door to come find one of his parents. Often, I’m still on the zafu.

“Come here, Honey,” I might say as I pull him onto my lap and wrap him in a wool blanket. “We’re sitting quietly.”

The other morning the stillness was palpable. Lex’s warm body was the loveliest of meditations. Silence. Then there was a “pfffffttt!” as he let out this enormous morning fart on me and the zafu. We both paused, surprised; then he started to giggle uncontrollably.

Then I did, too.