Mindfulness- the utter misery of being awake

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

Next to me Steve rolls over to bury his good ear in the pillow. He clutches the comforter and pulls it to his face to better create a cocoon.

He is not a morning person.

I have been awake for an hour but just like my husband I am not quite conscious. Despite weeks of morning meditation my first instinct is still to hit the mute button.

I have my phone in my hand flipping through the color coded screens in an attempt to distract myself from me. Earlier this year I removed candy crush in all of its incarnations in an effort to tune in rather than tune out. I loaded Duolingo and TED, I re-upped my subscription to Lumosity and figured that upgrading my apps would turn mindlessness into mindfulness. So far that has not proven true.

I have chronic shoulder pain. Most of the time I brace against it, hold my breath and create tightness from head to toe. There are some magical moments when I accept the pinch. When I breathe into it and allow myself to notice the feelings in full force. This always helps ease the pain. When I think I am protecting myself by ignoring what is happening in my body in fact I am doing the opposite, giving the pain the power.

Most of the day I rush through things to get to the next step. I brush my teeth for not quite the two recommended minutes because who has the patience for that. I tug up the bed covers too close to the pillows then too far to the foot and then back again like that time in 8th grade when I cut my own bangs.

I scurry down the stairs to make breakfast and race to unload the dishwasher before the water for my tea boils. I always lose. Always. And start my day as a labelled loser. Then I cram things into my back pack and speed walk to the coffee shop where I open my computer. And so it goes from there one step to the next rushing to nowhere from nothing all in an attempt to ignore whatever pain may be beneath my skin.

Just like Steve I create a cocoon, buffering myself from thoughts that might be painful and the misery of being awake.

But really it is only the crack in things that lets the light in.

So yesterday I took my time getting ready for my mammogram. I figured if I could stay in the moment while my boobs were being smooshed I really could be present for anything. I appreciated the warmed puke pink gown. I joked with my fellow waiting room lady about wearing the same outfit. I noticed how clean the hallway was and made myself a peppermint tea.

In the room I kept my breathing even as my armpit was impaled by a cold plastic shelf and my breast was flattened into a crepe. Because those are even skinnier than pancakes. Then it was over and I was walking home uphill in the 74 degree sun. I walked slowly to avoid losing my breath.

It is not so scary going slowly.

This morning I think back on my leisurely walk in the sunshine. Next to me Steve rolls over and opens his eyes just a bit and lets the light shine in.

Wondering what got me motivated to stay in the moment?

Parenting through naps and magic

a napping napper napsReading Leo a flier for Invention camp describing campers activities on Planet Zaq rebuilding their crashed spaceship he asks if camp is really on another planet. I can imagine the Mercedes symbol of the pie chart of his mind…equal parts hopeful excitement, fearful anticipation, and sinking realism. He is between these worlds still, magic and science and schedules and infinity.

Oliver rarely naps. Both boys, all three of my family members nap less than me in fact, but something was tiring this weekend, and while I went to the airport to pickup Granny Oliver fell asleep in my bed, ninja mask on.

He woke up enough to stagger to the couch, moan a bit and bury his head next to my legs. He wove between sleep and wakefulness for a bit. Then he was up. Displaying ninja moves, contrasting the merits of board games, and putting the finishing touches on his birthday wish list. That list at least remains fixed for now. Lego star wars, lego ninjago, and bey blades.

Today at indoor soccer I sat chatting with another mom on the bench. Oliver bumped his blue fleece clad self into my legs and I stretched my arms to scoop him up. At first I couldnt understand why his head was out of the reach of my lips. Then I realized. The cluster of friends waiting for soccer to begin. None attending to him in reality but always observers in his mind. My first spurned kiss. I felt…fine. I knew things would be different at home, at least for now.

I am trying to wake up. Like Oliver from his nap I am trying to wake up to live my life. The nap isnt unpleasant. In fact it feels easier than being awake. It hurts sometimes to wake up, all you want is the comfort of your dream state. And still I am trying to wrest myself out of bed.

Not all of my senses work in my dream state. It is like living as a passenger on a train, the characters, setting, events of my life seen through the window as we speed by. I can get off at stops, but it keeps moving. Always forward. Always with a destination in mind. As I type I realize tht I am right on top of the “life is the journey” (idiom? metaphor? saying?) Overused I guess. I hope the train has a really good dining car.

At its best it is liberating not to have a destination. From adolescence on I’ve been waiting to see where I would end up. As if it would happen to me. As if everything along the way was scenery.  We are all going to end up in the same place. We are born with no rupees and we die with no rupees.

In a mostly lovely 28 hour visit my mother broke a glass, a plate and a coffee press. How? First by being helpful. She did two or more rounds of dishes in little more than a day. Also by rushing. We are rushers she and I. Although part of being awake is realizing that we are not any one thing. Historically we look ahead. Arrive early for flights. Take off our seatbelts blocks before arriving home. Oliver too is a looker aheader. He wears his clothes for the next day to bed. (and yes, predominantly this is because he doesnt really ever change back when he did change daily he would change at night.) Once we wake up in the morning we are UP. These three generations of us, heads busy, up with the first light. We know what is coming next. We know what SHOULD be coming next. We have the train schedule after all.

So this idea of moving back and forth between two worlds, Oliver in his literal nap, me in my figurative one, Leo in his changing consciousness feels like a more full description than the train metaphor. It feels more engaged.  The duality of two worlds may be twice as big as the train metaphor but it is still linear. Life is not linear.

Like the infinity in a finite space of my fathers scholars rocks life is never fixed. Our physical and emotional selves. Evolving. (crap I hate that word.) Our relationships, work identities, spirtual affiliations. Our realities change in slight and extreme ways all the time. But we miss it. We create one main storyline for ourselves, or maybe allow ourselves a range. This is still too limiting.

See you on planet Zaq.


ps. If you are wondering where all of this is coming from there are many answers. Here are two. I am giving a talk  (Wednesday March 13 7pm Pasadena) about my father’s collecting, which always makes me think about him and his eschewing of virtually all social norms. And I am reading.

A something- why socks are just socks and loathing is lacking

A wake. A live. A ware.

I have been cleaning out my life to make room to step away from it.

Before you start the private messages, texts and calls I don’t mean step away from it in any frightening way. I mean to observe rather than react.

This seeing myself, in my fatness, in my will powerlessness, in my entrepreneurship, in my parenting. It has lifted. Today. Today I am none of those things.  I am working to untangle my ego from it all.

Selecting socks this morning. I reached into the drawer. Instead of grabbing I felt each sock. I spent 10 minutes with the socks. I listened to my sock judgement. You are too tight. You collect pet hair. I realized that for all these years of my adult life I had allowed my socks to tell a story about me. The person whose feet grew with pregnancy, the person who doesn’t vacuum up pet hair and thus takes care of little, the person who doesn’t do laundry frequently. Without noticing it this 10 second sock selection has been an act of self damnation. You know what? They are socks. Some soft. Some mismatched, Some too tight. Now there are fewer socks, it was clear this morning that some of these socks would just never be chosen. So they are out. Which is neither bad nor good. Imagine that, that the act of getting rid of socks has the potential for me to attach some sort of positive or negative. The kind of person who has just the right number of socks is the kind of person I want to be. It seems humorous and absurd.

For three years I have been reading in my kids’ classroom (s.) What motivated me to do this? The chance to spy. I want to be on the inside and see how things work and have the teacher like me. Plus I want to be thanked for being helpful. Right now, today. I don’t care about that. In any case my selfish volunteering has gone on for a while but I noticed that this year I dreaded it. Really, every Tuesday I began to dread Wednesday morning. This week before I went in I asked myself why I dreaded it so much. And I admitted something that I had been repressing. I LOATHE one of the kindergarteners that I read with. Hmmm. It is so unexpected to have strong negative feelings for a 5 year old. But I do. Thinking about it with less emotion I realized that loathe (particularly in CAPS) is too strong. But I dislike him and I dislike reading with him. I noticed that before I went in yesterday. I chose to read with him first. My feelings didn’t change. I don’t like him. But my response to those feelings did. It was such a small dislike. So powerless. Really insignificant. Shine the light on it and the fungus doesn’t grow. Or something.

In any case I really enjoyed reading this week.

In high school I used to have friends that were “project” friends. And I’m sure the answer is no, it is not you I am writing about. He or she was a diamond in the rough (these perfectly complete boys and girls) that I would polish up with my verve, social capital, and particular psychological insight. I saw their beauty, but as potential. I was invested in the change and the outcome, they were a problem to solve.

The drive to connect, control, boss comes out with friends still. I see it now.

Having expectations, feeling that the other person owes you. This has been all over my work and social life. Inserting myself into the work life, decor, love life of friends. Feeling vital. I, just 2 weeks ago had business cards printed up with the phrase “do that”. Anna Rosenblum Palmer- opinions. Then the flip sides said things like: Yes! Or even: let me tell you…

It seemed so simple. People asked for my opinion. I gave my opinion. I had enough opinions to share. The cards were a wink and nod to what was already going on. Do That.

My feelings aren’t as strong today. I have them…dirty snow, cat pee, bill piles. I see those. I feel something about them. Somehow the power of the feeling is gone. Texting with a friend…one who started as a project and I now recognize as complete and completely without need of my intervention…I asked him a question about someone else’s business. (Literal business) He redirected me to that person. My first feeling was of offense. Why wouldn’t he tell me, I want to be central, in the know, I want him to feel like he can and will tell me anything I ask. I felt all of that. And then it just lifted. I felt it, I noticed it, it left. I’m glad I did, because the absence of the feeling 3 seconds later was made more sweet for it presence.

I was able to let go because my ego wasn’t in this business the way it might have been a few months ago. The way it WAS a few months ago. This is someone else’s triumph, as it would have been some else’s failure. It is hard to have your ego in someone else. So the practice is to set back from yourself. I am tangentially involved, and that is a great place for me. Shedding my central role. It is really about the tangents.

I have been practicing this with my kids for three years and with myself for 6 months. In just the past week I went to the zen center for the first time and began reading Anthony De Mello’s “Awareness.” I was prompted to read it when both the Sensei and Vicki from parenting class quoted from it two days apart from one another. Vicki’s quote I remember. Taking down the self help bible De Mello says it should have been “I’m an ass, you’re an ass.”

A something indeed.