Okay, maybe I’m not done with this subject. I’m having revelations all over the place. Thought I’d share the next installment.
Something is beginning to dawn on me. Well, okay, I’ve had nuggets of thoughts about this, but it feels like it’s starting to gel. I suppose it couldn’t really take hold until I was in it. Like when people say they know what it’s like to have children, and they tell you how to parent, but they’ve never been parents. I’m here to tell you that if you have no children, you have NO idea what you’re talking about and it’s probably best to leave well enough alone.
So, you’re probably wondering what my epiphany was. Maybe it’s not as revelatory as I thought, but here goes. I never really liked having to do everything in a time frame. I loved my work, most of the time, but having to get there early in the morning was never my thing. I like to sit for a long time, sipping my coffee, watching the birds, or laying in a bath reading my book. Not to mention that several years ago they changed the start time to an hour earlier. I was not happy.
On the one hand, I understand deadlines. It’s practically impossible to get anything done without them. There’s an entire, quite articulate and humorous chapter in “No Plot, No Problem” by Chris Baty, about deadlines, so I’ll spare myself / you the details about why deadlines are super important. The thing is, I’ve been struggling to get the simplest things done. I don’t care for paperwork, but it is, unfortunately, a part of life, was a big part of my job, and there are simply things that require doing. Knowing this, why did I put off 2 seemingly easy paperwork details for about … 3 or 4 weeks? Yes, I realize that many people procrastinate, but this was … ridiculous. I thought about it at least once / day.
I know, you’re probably thinking that the answers are obvious. I can’t get anything done without a deadline. I don’t feel like doing things I don’t want to do. I thought of all these things and more, and that’s when it hit me. Now, I could be right or wrong about this, but who cares, because answers only beg more questions, and isn’t that how we get to the bottom of things?
I just didn’t want to have one more minute of responsibility. I just didn’t want to be a grown up anymore. I didn’t want to be the only one who handles my life, day in and day out, without help, without support. I have been the one in charge, the person doing everything, all the time. Ever since my divorce. No! ever since my husband left town in the fall of 1994, I’ve handled things. No, maybe it has been since I’ve been an adult. After all, when he left, my dad was still here and he helped me with the kids, helped me with the finances, and was my emotional support system.
Maybe it’s been since my dad died, in November of 2010. Or maybe it’s been since he got really old and feeble and I had to get his apartment fumigated with a special clean up crew and get him into an assisted living apartment (and now it’s happening again with my mom). I had Zen then (my live-in boyfriend of many years), but we were on the rocks. He was helpful dealing with my dad, however. And with the kids before that. But the bulk of the financial power lay with me. I just wanted my kids to become good citizens and caring adults, and stay healthy.
The point I’m making here is that I’ve felt RESPONSIBLE for everyone, for everything, for a long time. Even when I take a vacation, it’s rarely on a beach with no stress. Come to think of it, the last time I did that was with George, my millionaire boyfriend, for a week each time – at Club Med several times, on a Mexican Riveria cruise, and upstate AZ in Payson. Just a week of doing Nothing. I’ve had moments of that, over the years, of course – but there was always the idea that I had to return to work, return to the daily grind, return to take care of someone or something. And sometimes I just didn’t any more responsibility.
And now, I’ve got that. There’s hardly anything I have to do. Sure, there are a few things I have to do here and there, but…what’s the rush? And with the added dose of, “I’m not walking much these days”, everything is a major effort. I mean, even just cooking and prepping food. It’s exhausting. So maybe that’s why I didn’t want to do that simple paperwork. I simply don’t want any more responsibility. I want someone to take care of me for a change. Taking care of students was a HUGE responsibility. There was so much to do ALL the TIME. And then, take care of myself. My house, my finances, my paperwork, and all the little or big things that just come up that need tending. This is my body’s cry for help. This is my body’s reaching out. Needing friends to come to me. Needing someone else to organize stuff. Coordinate stuff. Initiate stuff. Come up with clever ideas. I’m taking a break from life. Taking a break from doing, doing, doing. And yet, I’m sure the neural pathways in my brain and the emotions in my body is craving responsibility, craving something meaningful to get up and do, something, anything at all. But the other part of me is fighting it. Wanting to relax. Rest. STOP doing. So I’m teaching myself how to do that. I used to be good at it for short bursts. Weekends. Nights after a hard day’s work. Summers. But I was always planning in my head, collecting things from my travels to use the following year, running to my notebook to put ideas down. I wasn’t OFF.
And this … Nothingness. This is what Dr. Joe Dispenza keeps talking about – going into the NOTHING, the NO THING, timelessness. I’m working on going there in my meditations, but I’m simultaneously going there in this world also. It’s at once confusing and attractive. I’m becoming accustomed to nothing, to not doing, to living small, but then eventually, becoming so antsy I want to jump out of my skin. Today, I actually put a tad of makeup on, wore a dress, put on deodorant. It felt to good to get out. I’m wondering if my holing up like a monk isn’t the best thing, or is it? There are no distractions. When I get really bored in here, I do my jigsaw puzzle.
Jigsaw Puzzles; reverse engineering. Studying the details of a painting. Every hue and shade, the detail of a glass, the way a person’s arm reflects the light, the particulars of a wooden desk. Then, in a box of 1000 pieces, seeing a piece and saying, I know exactly where this goes, and it fits!
Jigsaw puzzles are one of the best mindful meditations. It’s like being an artist, but not having to make the art. It’s looking for hours, for days, at a particular piece, thinking I know exactly where it goes because the colors fit, the shape of the pieces fit, but then realizing, finally, that I’ve been looking at it upside down, or I didn’t notice that the piece has a fleck of green, and it belongs on the opposite side of the puzzle. It’s studying the nuances of a piece of art, or a photograph, so closely that I get to know every line, every striation, every variation in color. It’s the most intimate examination of anything I have ever done for such an extended time. It’s like being an entomologist and watching an ant colony for weeks, or being a botanist and studying moss. To the outside observer, the activity looks boring, perhaps agonizingly tedious. But to the puzzle doer, it is a meditation.
Okay. Another revelation of sorts. I’m studying with Dr. Joe’s methods of going into the nothingness in meditation, and that’s exactly what I’m uncomfortable with in my life. It’s the same inside and out. Internally and externally. I’ve always had this feeling that if I don’t make something happen, if I don’t look for things to do, or whatever it is I want, then nothing will happen. I’ll have no life. I had tastes of that when I’ve had no significant other (I currently do not). With no family in my own state, and people having their own lives, oftentimes on the weekends, I would feel bereft, lonely, sad, making shit up to tell myself everything was okay. Doing things to pass the time so it wouldn’t be so blatant, this aloneness. And then, I’d attempt to create my life, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I call it opening to opportunity, and isn’t that what we’re doing in meditation? But sometimes, it was too much energy to pretend. So I’d go nowhere. I was tired from the work week, so I chalked it up to that. And when I had time off on summers and long holidays, I’d travel. It would ease the pain of aloneness, distract me from the nothingness. Now, I’m supposed to be embracing it. I know I’m learning new ways to be and think, and I know being uncomfortable is how we grow. I know this intellectually, but sometimes, staying positive feels like a front, it feels fake. I’m not in a depression, just an underlying malaise, while I wait for life to return.