I find it funny that my shrink refers to a specific work-related event of last year as “the trauma”. I mean, considering my childhood, my mother’s recent death and other serious, personal challenges of the past 2 years, it seems an odd thing to focus on as a trigger. But then yesterday: here we go again. I am looking at this latest bit of contention as a kind of work-in-progress evaluation to see if I have become stronger these past months. If not stronger, then more like a duck.

I slept all of three hours last night and am running on coffee this morning, but yes. I find that a lot more rolls off my back these days – whether that is a result of me growing or me being too broken to care anymore.

I am beginning to consider a third alternative as an explanation: I am finally learning to let go. All these morning meditations and evening shakti mat sessions, isn’t this actually the goal? Am I confusing this faint sense of emotional equanimity with “broken”?

Last week there was an article in the national paper about a woman who retired from television at 42 because she didn’t want people to see her ageing. The next day an older man wrote a lovely little meditation on ageing, referencing so many writers. He paraphrased Knut Hamsun, while keeping Hamsun’s archaic word: egal. I had to look it up.

Hamsun said something like: I find myself surprised by the joys that this advanced age has brought. My mind has never rested in such equilibrium.

I shared the article with E. and his first reaction was to wonder if that word egal implied indifference. It’s an interesting distinction: indifference vs. emotional equilibrium. It’s also a question common in Buddhist discussions I’ve listened to. So it is interesting to approach it again from this perspective.

I think the use of the word here is similar to the use of ambivalence, which seems to be losing its distinct definition, to feel two strong and opposing feelings about something, and is more often used colloquially to mean indifferent. As though a resistance against falling on one side or the other with a sense of righteous passion is a bad thing.

I have spent far too much of my life rushing to judgment. Defending myself from judgment. Most often from a place of insecurity. It hasn’t served me well. I am going to try to give myself permission to deal with a tempered ambivalence and equanimity in my thoughts and in my feelings. I am going to resist the pressure to pick a pre-defined box for my perspective on the things that happen in my life. No more, clicking in place and responding with predetermined and “appropriate” feelings – actions.

It feels somehow relevant that I was lecturing about Sartre’s No Exit and how “Hell is other people.” just this past week. This kind of Hell is just an illusion – a perspective – isn’t it?

I guess this is a pledge to myself: to unlearn how to respond to events. Triggers. Whatever one calls them.

E. walked Leonard with me this morning. The moon is still nearly full and somehow comforting. I love how the blackbirds sing so loudly in the dark. Home again, I made a huge breakfast salad with fresh chilis, broccolini, spinach, and the last bit of kale from the derelict greenhouse. Two soft boiled eggs and a splash of olive oil. More coffee.

This is self-care.

And now I need to go to work.

how I hate the word “journey”

Let us be quicker to praise than to find fault.
DESMOND TUTU

Every morning I sit and consider “Right View” – right defined as skillful. “Right Intention” – defined as skillful intention. Some days I am fully aware that it is an effort of self-improvement, despite my wanting very much to give up that particular effort. My determination not to be “on a journey” – but rather be here: just shifting perspective as the world changes.

For over a decade now the Christmas season has been marked for me by a party a friend and her partner host this time of year. It isn’t your typical holiday gathering of interlocked friends: there is a brilliance to their tradition of inviting a core group of weak ties, and each year a few new faces. It’s positively “urban” in its inclusiveness. And as someone who borders on recluse, I find it relaxing.

The food follows in a similar vein: familiar (though hardly “traditional”) dishes and deliberately introduced new recipes. Near the end of the evening every year, M. plays the lacquered white piano and we sing carols.

These parties may be the only parties I have ever attended without feeling a pressure to secure my belonging, or wriggle into tightly-knit cliques by way of an interesting anecdote, or tactical compliment/question. I still don’t know how to do that, and am comfortably past trying, actually.

But this year there’ll be no seasonal gathering around dinner table and the piano. I feel the loss, and am trying to re-frame the fact. I am pulling back to identify the loss, and to appreciate exactly what was so very pleasant.

We aren’t supposed to cling to the pleasant, but I don’t think that precludes seeking to experience it. And maybe for the first time I am observing my passive social life, not in terms of an area for self-improvement, but as a potential for creativity.

I suppose in the self-help jargon the word is “agency”, but oh what connotations come with that: productiveness and goals. Not for me.

When the world pulls apart as it has, I am noticing the spaces between. The loose ties, the fluidity of interactions. My perspective has shifted.

Loosening the weave
potential in every thread
ever-new garments