Zen Limbo

Sort of on hold. Sort of. I realize no one’s stopping me from ‘doing my thing’, yet as host to two guests in my home it’s just not the same as truly being alone alone. And while I realize that in short order I will be enjoying an empty house, I am finding this final stretch of their visit something of a personal challenge. I have so much work to do, and it won’t get done until their visit is over. So for now, I wait.

We’ve finished our supper, and now I read to little Lilas on the couch as her mother visits in the kitchen with a friend. I realize I’m feeling some anxiety. There’s tension in my body. I do a check to see where it’s hiding; it’s something I’ve begun doing the past couple of years. It’s surprising how often we’ll walk around with a part of our body tenser than it needs to be. And you often don’t even know it unless you look for it. Throughout the day I’ll do a little inventory of my body. Check to see that I’m not tight through the shoulders for no good reason. Check to see if my brow might be unintentionally furrowed. When I find the tension I let it go, relaxing my body to its natural resting state. I do my check, and find my shoulders pulled together a bit. I let them out. Better. But still. Not quite at peace. I tell myself to get on with it. I love reading to children, and I enjoy doing it now, once I’ve scolded myself to get back to the business at hand. For the duration of the book I’m content, the child beside me is too, and all is well. But we finish the book, and a vague nagging feeling sets in. I want to be alone.

I really do enjoy having the energy of others present in the house. It’s nice to have a little one here too. And it’s nice to know there’s other business going on while I’m quietly reading on the couch by myself. It feels different from being the only human in the place. There really is something different between knowing there are people present – even if I can’t see them behind a closed door – and knowing that I’m alone in the house. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and as I sit comfortable on my couch, book on my lap, looking out my big picture window at the full moon outside, I ponder why this is so. Now mom and child are in their room. I look at the closed bedroom door. I can’t even hear anything. So how is it different? I don’t know. It just is. I imagine to myself that there’s no one in Elihu’s room, and immediately it feels emptier. Interesting. But for now, there are two people there, and somehow, even if it may only be in my imaginings, I can feel their presence. While it gives the place a homey sort of energy, and while right now we are all cozy here in our little house on this fine summer night, I have a hard time staying in the perfection of the moment. I crave an empty house.

I pull myself back. I tell myself to enjoy it for what it is. Enjoy having people here because in all likelihood I’ll be feeling quite alone one week from today. I know all this, so I’m able to relax. I find a bit more tension hiding in my shoulders and then let it ease out. Ok. This is a good moment. And it’s nice to have a full house. Ok. I’m present. I’m here, now, and it feels good. There, that’s better.

Or is it? I wonder… does my experience of the ‘now’ lose its zen-like integrity if it’s motivated by my desire for future ‘nows’?? Ironically, it’s those far-off nows that keep me motivated to stay present. I realize I’m a sofa-sitting Buddhist at best. My present nows do their best to sustain me, while my future nows beckon me forward…

Too Much

Is it me, or is time flying by faster than ever? Already over a month into the new year and there’s so much that I haven’t gotten to yet. Just too much to do and not enough time. It helps me to look back over past to-do lists in order to confirm that yes, I actually have accomplished some things, however in the ‘now’, as I sit here at my desk this very moment, stopped in the face of a daunting list of goals, it hardly seems I’ve completed one silly thing.

There’s no point to my listing all the many projects, tasks and sub-tasks; we all have our lists. It just seems that I seldom come to a place of completion. The list beckons me forward unendingly, and all the zen wisdom in the world about living in the now is just so much meaningless crap. Yeah, yeah, I know all we have is the now, I get it, but come on, just look at this list!! I mean, come on!

Are most of us like this? My ex used to tell me that my biggest problem in getting things done were all the conditions I put upon a situation. As in I must get A done in order to do B, making B ever elusive as long as A was at a standstill. I think he was correct to a degree, but truly, many tasks are linear, a process in which certain things must be done first. And so when A aint happening, B seems completely out of reach.

Often during my day I’ll feel a sense of ill-ease just hovering about me. In order to quash the sensation, I’ll try to identify just what the hell this vague nagging is about. The best I can come away with is that I feel I have real work to do which I can’t seem to get to because of all the life crap: the forms to be filled out, the papers to be filed, the papers to be retrieved, copied, faxed, notarized. Alright already!! Please, world, just leave me alone so I can teach, write, learn, enjoy friendships… please leave me alone so that I can live. Please, life, don’t require me to spend several hours of each day just waiting on hold, sending emails, filling out forms. And don’t get me started on laundry. Seriously, with housework added on to the pile, I’m amazed any one of us gets anything done. Really.

Lest I appear on an insane pursuit of the unrealistic goal of finding some peace with my life as it is, I would like to recount something that happened to me many years ago that proves a sense of satisfaction is not entirely elusive and can actually be achieved. I once experienced a moment of perfection. Not a meditative moment in which I finally felt what it was to be one with all, not a cosmic moment in which I existed only in the now – but rather a full-on, in-the-flesh, earth-bound moment. I remember sitting in my little Toyota Corolla, facing the brick wall of the dry cleaners in my beloved Rogers Park neighborhood. I just sat there for a moment.  I was feeling good. Wow. I realized I was completely happy. I was in love, I was healthy, I was picking up beautiful clothes that had been cleaned for me, I lived on the lake in a gorgeous apartment, I had two cats I loved, parents I loved, a career I loved, a car I loved. In that glorious moment, I felt on top of the world. And the thing was – the feeling lasted. It wasn’t just a one moment in time; it was simply a moment in which I paused to acknowledge it, to feel it fully. In fact, I rode the wave of that good feeling for several years. I had it good, and I knew it; I felt it, I lived it. The tasks before me were challenging but always surmountable, inspiring, educational. I enjoyed all that life brought to me. I did the things I set out to accomplish. I was doing things, getting things done. And I loved my life.

So. I do know, from experience, that there is an earthly, finite point at which things can finally come together. I think there should be a point at which one can simply feel that all is well – I don’t think it’s unrealistic. And because I’ve known it before, I’m keenly on the watch for it again. It will happen. For those who would remind me that ‘all we have is right now’ I would add sincerely that for the most part I do enjoy the process. I do enjoy most of the ‘right nows‘. Just this one not so much. But I’m not daunted. Please friends, let’s not any of us be daunted. Pain in the ass though it may be, we can do this life thing!

Yes, I know. Every journey begins with a single step. So today I think I’ll go for a good, long walk…