Thursday, July 10, 2008
day two: in which i become enlightened
i'm reading the accidental buddhist by dinty moore. (isn't there a dinty moore stew?)
he makes me laugh. i love this book because the author doesn't take himself too seriously.
sometimes i think we as americans have been sold a bill of goods with all the buddhist material that is available to us now. i was looking at the cover of the spring rock, ca, retreat center catalog which shows an ancient statue of buddha draped with a creamy silk cloth in a natural setting with trees surrounding it.
you don't have to be a madison ave. salesperson to know they are selling "peace." plain and simple: peace. which of course comes at a stiff price. you cannot go to spirit rock unless you have a couple hundred dollars to blow on a weekend and you have your weekends free. which pretty much means that you have to be a yuppie to get there.
and i have fallen out of the yuppie class. i was kicked out to be more accurate.
and i feel the sting of it every day. i'm glad of it, really. i'm glad i'm no longer a yuppie, with the mindless pursuit of corporate lifestyles and comfortable suburban middle class existence as my goal. but i do miss it. i miss that feeling of never worrying over my bills. i miss knowing that i'll see my kids each and every day as they come home from their yuppie schools to my yuppie home. i even miss my mini-van.
but this road i'm on, though it is hard and has many pitfalls, is more exciting to me. and ultimately, i think it is more rewarding.
i would have never questioned repeating my parents lifestyles had it not been for my divorce. i would never have known about feminism, that gender analysis would make me value my work and my female ancestors' work and come to see my own unpaid labor in a completely different light.
yesterday, i was cleaning house and creating a lovely gift basket for my lover, when i came across a beautiful photo album my mother had made for me. in it were pictures of my family taken over a period of many decades. there was my young mother self with my precious babies, here in the swimming pool, there climbing a tree, here with my father reading them a book, there on the playground with him pushing the merry go round.
all of a sudden i was weeping. weeping for my lost father. where is he now? where is his spirit, so full of life and energy and fun? i was weeping for my little children, all grown up and too busy to visit me. i was weeping for my young self, who was about to be battered and raped and beaten and lose her children along with her faith and her belief that the world is fair. she's about to have everything ripped out from under her but she doesn't know it yet. she is sitting by my mother on a porch swing, smiling out at the world. what she doesn't know yet will just about kill her but she is just sitting there.
i'm weeping because i cannot go back and save her from it. i can only look at her, my self, from this end of it all, and say, i'm here. i'm here to take you away. i'm here to help you. i'm here to hold you.
i cannot actually look at pictures of my young self or pictures of my children when they were young without falling into PTSD symptoms which make me feel very strange. PTSD can grab you at the oddest moments. i know some of my triggers, so i know to put away old photos and not to look at old albums. but yesterday, i couldn't resist. i was missing my kids so badly. i wanted to see their little faces. i wanted to touch their round, baby fat cheeks with my mind's eye, lovingly gaze at them uninterrupted. i wanted to remember what their little arms felt like around my neck, hear their young voices laughing, singing, calling me "mommy," telling me they love me. i wanted to feel them here in my home.
but they're not here. i don't even know what continent they are on. they are world travelers with their father's considerable money always available to them. and they have picked up his habit of never planning with me till the last minute if they want something from me such as to come visit or to have me fly somewhere to see them in some event. i'm pretty fed up with it. i've lectured, i've begged, i've thrown hissy fits, i've cried, i've pleaded: please plan with me.
but no, they wait till the last minute to say when they're coming to see me.
i know this is disrespectful, but i'm left with accepting that behavior or not seeing them at all. and i think they've learned that they have this power over me. that i'm so desperate to see them that i'll accept them anytime, anywhere and make it work.
only twice have i ever stood up to them about this behavior: once with my son and once with my oldest daughter. it was over vacation scheduling. they had each waited till the last minute to plan the times they were coming to see me. (since their father took them from me over 10 years ago, all my visitation rights were denied by the courts; only their father could decide at his whim when they were allowed to see me.) and as it happened, with both of the dates, i had already planned something major. i had grown tired of sitting around at home waiting for them to come or call each holiday or summer vacation. so in a great step toward emotional health and self-respect, i'd actually planned trips for myself with a friend and my boyfriend. i was just heartsick when it turned out that the only times my kids would come were when i was going to be out of town.
but i decided to go through with my trips. what better way to send them the message that my time, just like their father's, is valuable. that i'm not sitting around pining for them, that i'm moving on with my life.
for a few months afterward, they both got better at planning with me when we'd be together. but this year, once again, my youngest daughter didn't plan till the last minute, a big trip she wanted me to take with her two best friends to see me in san francisco and then fly together to see my mom in nashville. so i was stuck paying for a very expensive full fare flight. but i did set my foot down. i told her she'd have to repay me the amount. she's almost 18 now with a job. it's time for her to get more responsible and to show some respect for my time and my mother's time.
oh, damn, it's so hard to be a non-custodial parent! it's so hard to teach my values to them in the extremely limited time i have with them. when we lived together i had each day and night to teach them values i hold dear: honesy, creativity, inclusiveness, social justice. but now i have a few hours every year. it's so different and still so damn hard!
and so, each morning or afternoon or evening, i sit and meditate. i sit and try to be grateful for all i have, for all i have become. i sit and try to just be in the moment, and not worry about the painful past which i could not prevent or worry over the future which frightens me so with it's looming financial crises. i sit. in the now, i sit. and i sit and i sit and i sit.
sometimes i feel more enlightened. sometimes i feel irritated. sometimes i feel my mind's "monkeys have ADD and need ritalin" as dinty moore put it.
but i sit some more and sometimes the monkeys quit throwing shit at me and others for just a few brief seconds and i find peace. it never lasts. it's always fleeting. but i enjoy it when it comes.
as i know it will, if i will just sit.