Monday, March 29, 2010

the hokey pokey.

well, everyone has their story. Where we came from, things we've endured, what has happened to us along the way. This morning I would have sat you down and hunkered down for the long winded story of my “fatherless” childhood, parental ups and downs, ill funded education woes, ten years of working two jobs without being able to catch a break, being separated from my husband, leaving the only home i've ever known to move to San Diego without a friend, without a job; and year later no prospect of either. Etc. Etc. Etc. i'm sure you've heard it all before :)

i've been feeling jilted, being here. I've made a couple of 'buddies' but no one I would truly call a friend. No one I feel like I can really count on, or call on when I want to get out and feel good about my day. I've not been able to find work anywhere near what I had in Phoenix, and set out on the community college path for the third time, only this time as my main goal. I've been struggling with guilt: on one hand, hating my life even though i've chosen every bit of it. Feeling miserably lonely when my husband is not home (which is a lot) and subconciously resenting him for 'doing this to me'. You know, choosing to sell his soul to the government we so adamantly despised and repeatedly leave me while he wanders the earth trying every beer known to man. And the other hand, well, just feeling guilty for not being able to be truly happy 'following' him around like I promised myself I would. Feeling guilty for secretly resenting this life.

It seemed like all I could do here was bend over and 'take another one for the team'. It was one shot after another. Every time we tried to look up we got tripped up by something else bad that was happening to us. And then my husband got his face kicked in, and I was told to go to the hospital at 4am on a Sunday morning. Fortunately, his condition wasn't severe or life threatening, though it scared the shit out of me. Sitting beside him in the hospital, while he was still unconscious and unaware of my presence, I laid my head on the bed beside him and sank into a whirlwind of thought, and not-thought, and dizziness, and everything all at once. I caught myself walking myself through the story I read in my religions class about the Buddhist man who talked about mourning the loss of his wife. He explained that it would be disrespectful to the universe to hang his head in sorrow; that he didnt own her, and by attaching himself to her loss and holding onto that sorrow it would only dishonor life itself. And I tried to do that. And even though I had acknowledged my sincere interest in it several times, I realized how much the religions class I was taking really meant. And how this seemed to reset all of my priorities: my husband is alive, we are side by side, and nothing else really matters. Not a thing. And that helped me carry on for a while, helping him eat baby food and blending odd things into mush for him, taking care of him made me feel good. But when he was back to normal and healing well, it was far too easy for the both of us to get wrapped up in daily humdrum nonsense and get angry at the world all over again.

the professor i had for world religions was the only one who said anything worth listening to, in my opinion. it was like he reached in and grabbed a hold of me and in a room full of strangers began talking just to me. Like that oldie but goodie 'killing me softly'. As counter-intuitive as it may have been, I attached myself to him a bit, and really did go out of my way to attend his class even if I didnt take any other. It has been my favorite class of all the classes i've taken in my life, and his presentation and perspective has been the most meaningful.

as luck (mine or his lackthereof, haha) would have it, i became a 'fan' of his professional page on FB. many weeks later, there was a posting for a class he was to teach at The Unity Center, sort of an alternative, all encompassing 'church'. at the last moment, i signed up and off i went. My heart dropped into my stomach when I first pulled in and realized it was a large building in an industrial area (not very spiritual looking at all) and I had miniature waking nightmares of the culty christian churches that broadcast on 15 networks and exorcise gay minority homeless paraplegic down-syndrome pedophiles in front of a live studio audience. What was I getting myself into?

I walked in, ascended the carpeted stairs to the chapel room and was greeted by a nice looking man with an oddly soft voice for his body, and a nice lady who helped me initial the attendance sheet and grab a binder. The carpet was soft, like new, but that awful mauvey rose color that grandmas keep in their bedrooms in Miami. I sat up front so I could see, and then panicked at the thought that in such a small room professor might recognize me and freak out, thinking I was stalking him and invading his personal life.

i felt totally out of place. religion was never my forte. in fact when i was in the third grade, my friend asked me what religion i was and i told her i was a Capricorn... prior to these classes, i had stepped foot in church only twice in my life for anything other than a wedding. the first was when i was three or four and i visited my cousin's mormon church, where i attended her sunday school class and all we talked about was flowers (or at least that's how i took it when i was that age, when really it was about god's gift of life, etc); and subsequently made me stand up in front of a room full of strange kids and asked me to sing a song i didnt know (the 'who is new to this church' welcoming song, which i wasnt asked to sing at all, but it scared the crap out of me having to stand up in front that crowd - thanks for the next 25 years of public speaking phobia! haha) and i cried my eyes out. secondly, in gradeschool, i went to sunday school once with my best-friend-of-the-week because they gathered the kids afterward for formal dancing lessons, where we learned to ballroom dance with real boys; and i got to lead the bunny hop...

but let me preface this by saying this is not really a 'church' I guess. Its not christian or jewish or hindu or buddhist. Although, perhaps its rooted in christian faith because, well, most of the western world is, and how can this exist without a root of some kind? This is transcending its roots, I suppose. Rooted in christian faith but aspiring for no particular faith at all. All encompassing, all accepting, which is probably why they call it 'the unity center'. This class is really about how to be 'wise' and by wisdom we are talking about lifelong 'being', being in the world in a way that flows with all the energies of life, living a righteous life, enjoying life, and being truly happy. Its about looking inward, not up (or down, or left or right, depending on what religious direction you choose). Its a 'path to self' kind of thing, but not hokey or new agey or crystal bally or any of that. And I thought it was the kind of thing I needed.

anyway, the class was great. I was surprised at how openly people were chiming in to talk about things when prompted (I was terrified to open my mouth, see the church story above...) and quickly realized that most of these people probably attend this church on a weekly basis, and being so small, probably all know one another outside of these classes, and they addressed the professor by his first name, which was far more intimate than I had planned to get in these sessions, and whoa... what have I gotten myself into? But it was great to be in a room hearing professor speak again, and even though I had heard some of the stories before I enjoyed them again just the same. And what he spoke about felt good, and I was happy to be apart of that again. When class was over, a few people milled around him to say hi so I darted out the door as quickly as I could. I wasnt sure he'd recognize me anyway.

and last week, the second class, the professor knelt beside me prior to class to say hello. that really made me feel at ease, as i wasn't even sure he'd remember me and i was sure i stuck out like a sore thumb in that room of familiar faces. but simply the fact that he took a moment to personally say hello meant a lot. i've really been enjoying the discussions, though i dont really partake, just listen, absorb.

but tonight... (class three) was different. i've been having a day. i mean one of those days, you know, the kind of awful days that make your life miserable when you're easily angered and agitated. Like the days I swore i'd never give into again. i worked last night until 10pm, and found out once i was there that i had been added to the schedule for today at 8am, when i had planned to be off and accomplish all my housekeeping and errand running, before a friend's visit later this week. after little sleep i trudged back into work carrying the rest of last night's work frustration, and it snowballed. i did some shopping afterwards for my husband's care package, and with it decided to replenish foods for the pets and a bit for myself, and spent twice what i had budgeted, and took up more time than i had wanted. so by the time i got home i figured i had just enough time to eat quickly, nap quickly, change clothes and run out the door.

but alas, when i got home i found the dog had drug the trash across the floor that i had mopped two days ago, full of used coffee grounds. i dropped to my knees to sweep it all back into the trash bag and decided to take it to the trash can outside before we went for round three (she did this yesterday, too... i know, shame on me for not taking it out before). so i peddled down the back stairs and toward the garbage can when the entire bottom of my paper sack fell out, and the pile of garbage landed in the center of the neighbor's driveway. so i threw out the empty bag, and went upstairs to get my dustpan and brush. back downstairs to sweep up the driveway (now being the third time I had swept up this lump of trash), and dump it all into the trashcan. back upstairs, i ate quickly, changed clothes twice, and sat to read a few moments of email in an effort to keep awake, because, now, i didnt have enough time to nap. i left the house ten minutes later than i wanted, to find an empty tank of gas. i hauled up the street to the gas station and realized i forgot my purse. thankfully, my debit card was in the car and i was able to use my last $10 to get me where i needed to go. i arrived with no time to spare.

class began as usual and i immediately calmed with the opening meditation. in fact, i felt like i could curl up and sleep. it was the most relaxed I've been for two days. probably since last week. we jumped in as usual. I felt totally distracted this time because I was tired and couldn't focus, but also because professor was wearing Birkenstocks. That was odd to me because I've never been taught by or in a meeting headed by someone in sandals. I then realized it was spring break and why should he dress up if he doesnt have to go to work? And really, why does it matter anyway? Because I have a weird thing about feet. Not an obsession, but I guess more like an anti obsession. I don't like feet. Even my own. I dont like seeing other people's feet, its sort of an intimate thing I think, even though I wear sandals all summer long. But whatever, that's me, not other people. Especially men. Weird in my head, I know. But THEN, the guy in the front row diagonally across from me took off his flip flops and was running his feet through grandma's thick mauve carpet, and yeah I'm sure it was super soft, but man – you're in a semi-formal public place. You just dont do that. But whatever, it doesn't matter, give it up, stop projecting your weird ideas onto other people, heather. Its nice that they both feel so comfortable they can wear totally open shoesies and run their little piggies through the carpet. Ooh, but now he's rubbing his feet on the leg of the piano, good lord will somebody please move it out of his way? Let it go, heather. Let it go. Redirect your attention...

yawn, read ahead, listen intently, yawn even though i don't want to and its really not a sign of boredom. think 'sure, this all makes sense and i need to study it more'. The lecture portion of the class closes, and professor prompts everyone to chime in with reflections, personal thoughts. I amaze at how much personal information these people are just throwing out there and who really cares? We're here to listen to professor's information, not your life story. I get annoyed at other people talking so much, but then someone said something that really knocked me over. and i don't even remember what it was exactly.

no no... i remember now. professor was sharing his day at Costco observing people eating lunch together, taking care of elderly spouses, disabled children, etc. he was pointing out how beautiful it was to watch people take care of one another and enjoy life in the face of so much struggle. It made me think of my husband, how much I miss him, how I had taken care of him when he needed me, and even now he and I would take care of each other like that – if we could only be together. How i'd almost take that situation in a heartbeat, because at least we'd be together. And I began to get weepy, so I put my head down a bit and just listened.

Then a woman spoke up. Her comment had to do with choosing to be happy, not asking 'when is my happiness going to come? when is it my turn to be happy? when can i catch a break?'  and it came from the exact women i rolled my internal eyes at because i thought she shared too much. then i wanted to hug her. she shared a story about her husband [I think – my head started spinning and it all gets a little fuzzy here] catching a virus on an airplane to europe that immediately began to deteriorate his brain and cause his inability to create any new long term memory, causign him to lose is livelihood as a chemist or somesuch important academic mentally-challenging field like that. and i thought, wow, i've been so selfish.  yes i've been separated from my husband for three months, with still two months to go. yes, i have been miserably unhappy in san diego, extremely lonely and resentful of being here. yes, i have envied every woman that walks within a quarter-mile radius with a baby in tow. yes, i have envied couples walking hand in hand, bickering over which lettuce to buy - how dare they waste any moment they have together when there are two people (ie. Me and jm) who really love each other and are half a planet apart...

really? who am i to insinuate that anyone else on the planet is wasting anything? especially when it has been me all this time wasting myself, and my chance to be happy in this town, in this moment, in this life. it brought me to tears. It was like I was hit in the face with a shovel, cartoon like, vibrating my skull and letting out a reverberating ddddddooooooonnnnnnnngggggg.

i couldn't help it. tears started to roll down my cheeks and i tucked my head down so no one would see. after a moment or two i reached for a tissue in the seatbox in front of me and wiped my chin. then my nose. then a minute later i finally wiped my eyes. you know, playing it off. Alergies, right?

It was exactly the breakthrough I needed, it was what I needed for all of this to sink in. I'd been hearing all of this information, all of this insight, but not listening. I had been thinking about it all, but not feeling it, not really absorbing it, living it, breathing it. at that moment everything I had been carrying around lifted away (well, a good portion of it anyway) and I felt like I finally introduced myself to ..myself. I suddenly felt connected to everyone in the room, and the air became clearer, lighter, sweeter. I could breathe again. How foolish i've been.

When we left, as I started down the stairs, I could smell Spring long before I reached the door. It was the perfect mix of blooming deserts after a cleansing rain, crisp and cool night air, and the salty-ocean in the distance. I felt renewed. And now I might have it in me to get through the next 63 days, and focus on hawaii again.

...'and that's what it's all about!'

2 comments:

Carin said...

Wow, Heather, your story is so uplifting. I had a bad weekend myself, and I thank you for reminding me that we all have burdens, and some of ours are actually pretty darn light when you look at the big picture. I am so glad you're taking that class! I also found my Buddhism class in college was my absolute favorite (and I was an English major!) Hang in there. I know too how hard it can be to make friends in a new city, and it takes time, but you can do it. I now have friends scattered all over the country, but I am always making new ones! You're a cool chick Heather and you'll pull through this rough patch.

Fury said...

Amen!
Not that I walk my talk in every moment, but "choosing to be happy" is IT. I'm struggling with that lately, re-reading all those words that gave me that push before in hopes I can get another push...maybe a giant kick in the ass, actually. I belive in putting your hopes, wants and wishes out there into the universe. I've lived the results, but when you get down in a hole it's so hard to get back up. It reminds me of reaaly bad times and the fear grips me like Death himself and I shut down. I'm afraid to open one eye for fear of seeing more bad than I can handle. Then I remind myself that I lived thru the fear, (temporarily it seems) defeated the fear and had the life I wanted for a minute. I can't figure out how I lost the grip except that I started looking "forward happy" instead of "now happy." It's a constant internal struggle as you know that the pessimistic, can't do, blood runs in my veins. But i'm trying.
Ha, basically what i'm getting at is that I'm so happy -now and forward- that YOU found IT!!! It makes my whole existence smile. YAY FOR YOU!
xo