Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hitting the Lows

In this particular post I am just going to speak frankly and directly about my own life today, and exactly how I experience it.

Today, the stress of many months of travel, corporate demands, and other assorted stuff collapsed around me and I hit a low.

The moment was particularly striking, because my emotional state was collapsing, and yet other parts of me were quite intact and even in very good shape. The inner support was functional; there was plenty of good energy to feed me from the other side of myself, but it was unable to reach my ordinary emotional part, which sustains a great deal of my outer effort. I watched the external collapse take place at the same time that I saw the inner parts were quite all right. If there was ever a lesson in how separated we are, how partial we are, and how different our inner and our outer parts are, this was it.

This is reality. This is how I am. I am basically unable, no matter how hard I try, to keep myself together. The thread that connects the inner and the outer, which consists of a certain kind of attention, usually lies beyond me. When I am together, it is because of forces that are beyond my immediate control, and it is because I am offered support from places I do not command.

Coming home from work, I found myself driving north on the New Jersey Turnpike, in tears, admitting to God--in, I am embarrassed to admit, a rather loud voice-- that I do not know how to be or what is required in this life.

I do not know where I am, or what I am doing here. I need help.

It is moments of remorse and humility like this that hammer home the true condition of humanity. If we really look at ourselves and how we are, we see that we are nothing. Countless blessings flow into us, and we squander them, because we do not understand what has been given to us.

As these darkening clouds were gathering, I spoke to my teacher Betty Brown today. She reminded me that we all work under these conditions. She thinks that I take things too seriously, which is probably all too true, and that I think too much, which has always been the case with me. One of my other elderly female mentors advises me that I probably won't get over this misuse of what she called "my brilliant mind" until I have worked through it.

Betty is more pessimistic, pointing out that I will probably never get over it at all.

She may be right: I don't know how else to be. For me, these days, it is difficult to know what it means to relax and enjoy oneself in life. It seems as though constant work is required, and that constant demand is presented. That does not mean that there are no rewards or no wonderful moments. It does mean that the usual things that people do to have "fun" don't seem that fun. I live almost entirely for the moments when I see something more deeply, when something touches me inside in a place that cannot be defined, when I can smell the colors around me and the air itself is alive.

I don't call that "fun" -- but it is real, and having something that is real is much bigger than having fun.

Having said that, it's true that I am a jokester, a fool, and I do derive a lot of enjoyment from interactions with people where there is spontaneous humor. So, that is how I have fun, when I do have fun.

A RAY OF HOPE. I'm not totally clueless. It's not like people say I am a drag to be around. (Except for our boatload of teenagers. To them, I am a hideous tyrant who expects reasonable performance on ordinary tasks--clearly irrational, from their point of view.)

Conclusion: I'm probably not all bad. I just think I am.

I am sure that I will pick myself up from this mess and carry on. I always do. If there is one characteristic I have had as I stagger from one trench to the next, it is that I keep going.
Dutch people are stubborn that way. They don't know when to lie down and quit.

All those of you who are worried about whether or not you are "good" enough, don't worry. None of us are. As Oscar Wilde said, "We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

And gee, they sure are nice out there.

This Friday and Saturday, I'm attending a work weekend with my wife, which may interrupt postings tomorrow and Saturday.

One last note: redemption may be at hand. My 17-year-old son just brought me a plate of spaghetti up in the loft, because he knows I'm feeling low. How bad can things be, when your kid takes care of you like that?

Be well, until the next post- here's that thing I always put at the end--

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

1 comment:

  1. Lee,

    God bless.

    So often in my own pathetic life (far more than your own from my extremely limited perspective) I have to simply show appreciation and toast "the little things" to not fall into boundless despair.

    If only you could feel the love which your readers feel for you right now...their appreciation...the enrichment your work has given them...

    ...fragility is part of our condition. Life is hard. It's at times such as this that sometimes "Gam Ze Yeevor" (Hebrew for "This Too Shall Pass") or of course your Zen masters' "Not Always So" may be the only comfort.

    Take care.

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