My memory has always been poor. I’m assuming that is what can happen when people in your life rewrite your stories for you from early childhood. I was familiar with the term “gaslighting” before it became a buzzword a few years ago.

At least I think I was. I know I’d seen the film with Angela Landsbury when I was young enough to be deeply unsettled by her — or her character’s — sexuality.

I’ve moved so often over the years, time is vaguely divided in my mind into chapters of “where I was living then”. So those mornings, in that house, when the kids’ heads could still be nestled under my armpit I woke fully conscious and fully unaware of who I was. It only happened twice. Not two mornings in a row, but close enough together that I carried a seed of panic for months. I was then still statistically too young for early-onset Alzheimer’s. But I wondered, and sometimes still do if it was a glimpse of things to come.

It was such a specific experience, lasting more at least a minute, that I still wonder if experiences like these are the source of people’s belief in reincarnation. I lay perfectly still and “sorted through” my mind to find my gender, my age, my situation: oh, yeah, I have children, two — just tall enough to fit under my armpits in side hugs.

I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion during those lost moments. I was curious. At first. It felt as though I’d woke underwater and could see the light at the surface. But while swimming upward, I felt a growing fear that I may not reach the surface soon enough. What if I didn’t break through?

I’ve never talked to a doctor about these experiences. I figure now that I’d been dreaming. I’ve googled of course, but search results always mention “confusion.” I didn’t experience confusion. I felt remarkably clear, actually… just very far away.

I pull up these experiences now when I consider my meditation practice. Despite prevailing psychology theories, this is my conscious self detached entirely from narrative. Even the idea that this awareness was/is a dream-self is itself a narrative consciously placed on the experience.

In these moments the whole of my awareness was the “I”, watching the experiencing self — or in these two instances, searching for the experiencing self.

Swimming upward.

When I sit in meditation, I have to be careful. I have to guide myself to avoid hallucinations and other kinds of associative traps. I begin with the image of water. Blue (the air here is white*).

When I was small we would — or we did — camp in the desert and swim in springs. I remember once being tossed naked into a dark pool and feeling the cold current pushing against my feet, my legs, while the water around my torso was still and warm. I remember having the choice of where to put my attention.

I panicked. I kicked at the cold, I screamed: it got me nowhere.

I’ve found lately that there is a reason for pulling up memories. I’m beyond hope of uncovering objective truths, or even causes/consequences. I’ve given up on healing childhood traumas through memoir, but I’m convinced that it is possible that every incident tucked away — in sensual detail — in my mind is a metaphor for… everything.


*This is not at all in accordance with Buddhist symbolism, but it is in accordance with the Jæren landscape and relevant to my personal experience.

This Sunday didn’t begin with a Dharma Talk. Which was disappointing. I’d gotten up at 05.15 assuming there existed some unspoken agreement based on a pattern I’d noticed.

I went back to bed. Maybe that was lesson enough for today.

I’m tired. I’m still not convinced that the burden I’ve been carrying the past two weeks is actually gone, but yesterday I allowed myself to slip it off my shoulders – to set it down.

And today, I ache. My shoulders, my head, my heart. The load of “what-ifs” and “but-thens” in the corner of the room like a nest of snakes.

Once my step-father took me to the river to fish, and I wandered along the bank downstream until I stumbled on a log – nearly falling into a nest of baby moccasins. That moment: that “what-if” might have been the first hammered into my brain. “I shouldn’t have to tell you not to…”

What if I dare to wander? These are the worries I carry, the what-ifs that accumulate when one doesn’t wait to be told, doesn’t stay within the circle that someone drew to include you in their muddy little realm.

Aren’t these the worries we all carry? Premature guilt? Premature shame?

After I crawled out of bed a second time and had a cup of coffee, I sat down to work on this week’s meditation prompt – worries and restlessness. I started thinking about the H.C. Andersen story about the red shoes.

I think I have my own pair of red shoes. It is freeing to take this perspective – that all of this restlessness doesn’t come from within me, but as the result of my grasping at something I want so intensely, so simultaneously single-mindedly and absentmindedly.

I’m fine. I’m just wearing a cursed accessory. I have no idea if I am reading Andersen with a Buddhist perspective, but it is a perspective that makes sense to me.

I’ve never walked on coals, but from what I understand, it is simply a matter of not stopping. You walk as quickly as you can, while the perspiration from you fear helps provide a tiny barrier to keep you safe. If you stop? You get burned. I’ve known this for a long time:

Keep moving and consequences can’t keep up with you. Keep moving and you’ll slip through their fingers. States’ lines. Names changed. A driver’s license is freedom. A pressing deadline, a permission slip – hall pass – enigma.

We moved a lot when I was a kid. And that is an understatement. We once fit 4 lives into a U-haul. A drugged cat wrapped in a bath towel bit my ankles all along Route 66 (and then some) – then we crammed ourselves into an already-occupied two-bedroom mobile home: 4 adults, 3 children and a vengeful cat.

Every corner filled with snakes.

The drive to always look for something better carves a very deep groove in the heart.

Momentum. An object in motion stays in motion…
but the world is not a vacuum.

The eternity machine doesn’t really exist. Something is fueling the motion. There’s a guy in the back room getting paid less than minimum wage to keep the thing going – to maintain the illusion.

In Andersen’s Christian perspective, Karen cuts off her feet when she can’t pry them out of the cursed shoes. A sacrifice as payment for her sins. But I’m thinking, there must be at least fifty ways to take off your dancing shoes.

Right?

Isadora Duncun died when her scarf caught in the wheels of her car. It’s probably very unfair to Duncun that this fact now pops into my head.

I started looking for a new job again last week. I’ve been browsing the housing ads.
But it’s time to just dig in.

To go ahead and burn – to burn an ever-widening circle of my own in this damned over-grown field.