The DAZE OF OUR LIVES
On the solstice, I was in
I’d foolishly put too much effort—two weeks-- getting the right outfit for that wedding which was to be a Mexican fiesta, as though my clothes mattered. When inevitably friends who’d suffered through that mishagoss asked how the wedding went, I said “memorably, outfit fine” and dropped the subject, not only because I was ashamed to say I could’ve showed up in pajamas and it wouldn’t have changed anything. I had found out the young couple’s world went belly up a month before their nuptials when the bride took sick and turned out unexpectedly to be pregnant. She would not be able to work as planned, so they could build a nest egg. The husband, who’d already lost half his intestines to stress exactly a year before, would not be able as hoped to leave his debilitating job. They were drowning in a powerful current of events.
I drove back to
Even taking refuge in the dharma didn’t help. I heard this summer my teacher was sending in his stead one of his most precious monks and that, accompanied by a translator and another valued monk, he would be coming to the Bay Area in August. Help was needed arranging two days in
I wanted to scream, as the sitcom star in the Life of Riley used to say in the 1950s: “What a revolting development this is!” But the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning is a thangkha of Guru Rinpoche who reminds me that birth, death, frustration, greed and selfishness are not recent developments. The only new aspect of samsara is that I can see it. The eye of nexus is upon me.
This third viewpoint is supposed to be the automatic pilot that drives a person to revulsion for the ways of the world, and I admit it has done that to me, with increasing speed. But, I also have to admit, I’m still clinging to some of them, usually because familiarity can be a comfort in upsetting moments, and probably because, as Woody Allen once said, reality is the only place you can still get a good steak. Frankly, it’s the only place to swim in the sea, gaze at the moon and sit around a table with dear friends, which is why I thought going “home” to Maine for a bit of sweet summertime would make everything all better.
I was so desperate, it slipped my mind that love is blind. For starters, the decision to go away naturally triggered an enormous frenzy of packing, cleaning, coordinating on both ends. Just because I was trying to wind my property work down, every building I manage blew up: the elevator died, an apartment stack’s kitchen pipes clogged up into a major flood, the boiler conked out, the dry rot was so extensive we needed other bidders. I was running like a wind-up toy, while constantly yoyoing to Craig’s List to find someone trustworthy to take over so my plants didn’t die sending my karma to hell, and the credit card companies didn’t chase me into bankruptcy for being a day late. Very fast, I got cranky and snarcky about all this trouble eating up all my time, and it didn’t help my mood that whenever I looked at Guru Rinpoche, he silently reminded me it was just me myself and I who had unleashed this avalanche, simply because I wouldn’t give up my attachment to Maine. I could just stay put, and the stress would self-liberate, as the dharma likes to say.
I tried explaining to the thangkha that I had paid for a plane ticket that was non-refundable. I took it as a good omen that the next-to-last day I found a suitable tenant, although I now had to run around remodeling my apartment to lock up papers and valuables. I assured Guru Rinpoche as he eyed me scampering about that I indeed knew the story of how Patrul Rinpoche had thrown all his gold away in the rushing river so he no longer had to worry about anything. I asked him to cut me a little slack because Patrul Rinpoche didn’t have to protect IRS records, insurance documents and credit card numbers from ID theft. Finally, chanting “Karmapa chenno” I went to the airport, hoping that
When I got off the plane, the car rental people didn’t have the car I had carefully ordered. When I got to the house, I discovered I didn’t have the plug-in cord for my computer; I couldn’t work. When I tried to console myself by going to my favorite farmers market to get my favorite Maine foodstuffs, my favorite farmer wasn’t there; he was dying from asbestos he’d been unknowingly exposed to forty-five years earlier on a summer job. So I called a dear older friend to come have tea to cheer me up, but he couldn’t because he was on duty for our mutual friend, the usually indomitable Mariah who was apparently so eaten up by the loss of both her son and grandson two summers ago, she’d developed stomach cancer and had just been sent home to die.
There was no way to drown my sorrow because there was no water. It hadn’t rained since the snows stopped in April and the normally loamy ground I’d left perennials and bushes in had turned into the
I was freaking out because the sun kept right on blazing over 90 degrees in the barren sky as if nothing were amiss. I was so afraid to take a shower, I jumped into the channel and froze myself. I fussed with buckets in the sink to capture water that ran as I washed my hands or brushed my teeth so I could save the flowers dying outside. I am immensely foolish for flowers. I kept praying for rain and kept being reminded I wouldn’t be so tediously afflicted by this drought if I hadn’t planted flowers and had just stayed in
My major motivation to come to
The devastating news seemed to be in sync with whatever message the Furies were hurling, but it was such a definitive blow, I tanked. I cried in front of my fine new photo of Karmapa and demanded to know why he had abandoned me. How horrid had my karma been in my last life that I couldn’t have the one little thing I wanted most in this one? Who was it going to hurt if I had a book published? I made myself so sick over the rejection I had diarrhea the next day, which is extra fun when you are trying not to flush the toilet because you are going to run out of water any minute.
None of Fate’s nasty tricks seemed to disrupt the serenity on the photographic face of Karmapa. Seeing him as the still point of my churning world, it occurred to me that our lives must look from afar like an endless sitcom. Here a mess, there a mess, everywhere shit is happening. Doesn’t the prayer ask Chenrezig to save human beings from the suffering of excessive activity and constant frustration? Those deities in the Sambhoghakaya must be laughing their heads off, even in those cases where there are four of them.
Over July 4th weekend, I watched all the boats go up and down the channel, to and from the sea. There were families celebrating, but more than half the boats had only a lone guy in them, and more than half of them had a beer can and a dog for company. Most sped by with motors revved to the max, their extremely loud varroom creating huge splishsplashy aftermath in a clearly marked No Wake zone. Poor bastards, I thought as my dock rocked violently, trying to be fireworks so the world will notice their existence.
Everyday in the lineage chant I say: May I have no desire for honor and gain. So maybe, trying so hard to have my say in a book was me being a jerk too. I think, therefore I am: hear ye hear ye. I went to watch what we actually call fireworks and came back thinking those self-evident truths of the Founding Fathers are pretty much the self-evident truths of the Buddha too. All beings are created equal with Buddha nature, and endowed not only with the freedoms of human birth but inalienable liberty to pursue any and every delusion of happiness that squashes it. That at least is pure and perfect.
"Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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