The most accurate word to describe the times we are living in is despair.
There are those people who can continue without noticing the darkness inside of them. Even they are stumbling. The children are feeling despair. Very little for them to do about it. Days come and go. Rain falls.
I notice the children’s despair because when I am around them, they look at me and their eyes say take me away from this. Being able to communicate with children without saying a word is a gift I’ve had my whole life. Sometimes the blessing is so great I forget about the bad part. Sometimes I intervene inappropriately in their lives. In public places if I see parents yelling at little children, I always try to distract the parents and I always try to complement their children. It’s too hard for me to listen to abuse and even harder to see despair.
Now there is so much abuse everywhere: in the offices of politicians, In the center of the central banks, on the stock exchange. In the center of the Pentagon, underneath the ocean that is so angry, the ocean can’t control itself anymore. The moon is flying around like a saucer. Sea creatures meet up and roll their eyes. The forest animals have afternoon tea just for a break. Pine needle tea. Try it.
Last night I had dinner with a friend and asked her how she thought it would all end. I think we are on the same page. People say, live each day as if it’s your last.
I realized today that I might know what that means, finally.
I remember vividly the exact moment when I became aware of “others” in my play world and everything changed for me. I could no longer get lost in my own fantasies about my doll house children and their imaginary worlds and I felt awkward and sad and I didn’t know how to move into a world where I could be both myself and also be a person interacting with the world. I was self-conscious and sad and depressed as a child and I attribute it to this moment when I was no longer living for me but living for an impression of me for others.
Now as I approach old age I often notice I feel unmoored and without a purpose as there is no one to be accountable to. When I was working I had a place to go and people to see and a job to do. I have always been motivated by a desire to accomplish tasks and feel rewarded and purposeful. Recently ,I have spent long days thinking I was passing time without understanding what I should do..
People say things like “Seize the day” or “Stay in the moment” which made me feel worse as each moment seemed empty. I had no idea what I wanted to do all by myself. I have a disability so I am unable to volunteer for long hours or go to faraway places. I have to rest most afternoons which makes me feel lazy and indigent.
My family have their own lives so I can’t expect them to fill these empty hours though I would like to see more of them. It’s easy to feel alone though I have many wonderful friends.
I feel despair.
Today, however, I felt freedom which was scary and also exuberant.
I’m not sure I’m ready for freedom because I was thinking in a few years I would be floating off to the next life. Sometimes I feel as if I am in art class and they’ve given me a large sheet of paper and many different things to use to draw. Everything looks so perfect and clean and the implements are unused .There is no eraser. I am supposed to pick up one of these tools and create some thing from inside my mind. The trouble is I don’t know what’s inside my mind anymore. I’m not sure who’s opinion it is. I’m not sure if this is a path I want to go down.
If freedom looks like a blank sheet of paper I’m not sure I want it. It’s too late in the game. I finally learned that everything I want is inside me. I thought the thing I wanted the most in this life was a loving companion, but that hasn’t happened so I find myself moving on without a lot of remorse. I don’t feel that it will happen, and so I have stopped expecting it. In fact, I stopped expecting anything. It’s incredibly liberating.
I find myself stating exactly how I feel at all times. When things hurt me, I speak up. The other night I was out to dinner with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while and she asked me how I was doing. I started to recant the saga of the last few weeks to her, and when I paused briefly, for a moment, she immediately launched into her own life and what was going on. She said she’s experienced something very similar. She didn’t acknowledge what I had been saying, nor did she allow me to finish.
I find that this happens often. People don’t really want to listen. They hear someone else tell a story which reminds them of their own story so they don’t listen to the other person or support them. They just launch themselves into their own story. It’s so interesting to me.
It’s incredibly beautiful when people do listen because the silences while you are taking in the words are filled with meaning and tenderness. It’s extremely difficult not to want to jump in with your own experience, but we need to train our brains to just sit there in a holding pattern with our ears like saucers and let the words come in. Let us reflect on the words of others. Let us hold the words of others.
Not wanting anything allows you so much more space. When I was working at Berkeley, I posted the Buddhist sins on my bulletin board. Once in a while, one of my students would say what does grasping mean? It was really interesting to me to try to explain what it meant because now my explanation would be so different. Instead of explaining it as a verb of action, I would explain it as giving up the expectation of receiving things.
The gratitude practice may be good for some and I think it’s a good idea but on the whole it’s not that good for me. There are a lot of things that happened to me in life that I am not so grateful for, and I would give anything to have not have happened. You can’t make up for the loss of a loved one through gratitude. nor can you make up for painful behavior from other people in your life. What i no you can do is make little steps towards building a safe place to be when you get older and have to stay put. And you can start to narrow down what really excites you in your life and try to fill your time with more of that.
I watched a crazy new series on TV this weekend, and the first episode was on life in Finland, where people are considered to be the happiest on earth. The three most important things to the Finns are animals, nature, and family. Most of the time I have two out of three. I’m gratefu because my mother used to say. “Open your eyes and look at the sky.”