15 November 2017

Loving kindness



I'm busy proofreading my book manuscript, so it can come out early next year as planned. Like my PhD thesis in the weeks before my viva, I couldn't open the pdf the publisher sent for the first couple of days, terrified of what I might find. Then, when I finally did have the courage and did open it, there were immediately a flurry of errors. Tautologies and repetitions and misspellings and statements that were demonstrably false. I tried to sleep, but sleep has been impossible this month — I go two hours and I'm up again. I know I should just eat, but I can't just eat because the number has been steady and I feel fine. I don't want to sleep anyway — I want to work, to confront this manuscript and sort everything out because everything can be sorted out.

After gnawing on the edges of meditation, I've finally gone all in, making an effort every day to get down on the ground, on the little bench I built for myself, and take a few minutes. At first it was ten and now it's twenty: I feel like it will keep going up the worse I feel about it. The moment when you kneel and you stop, that moment, is everything I could wish for. I breathe in and out and in and out and suddenly there is nothing. There is nothing for a moment, for one breath, and then there is something and something else and then something else and I have chased the silence off. This is nothing new in the experience of anyone who has ever meditated. I shouldn't be surprised by its acuteness, but I am. Every frustration I can't confront coming back again and again. People I love to hate and my petty grudges. Or if not them, then the things I like, the visions of grandeur. Or the to-do list. Or the future, the planning of the extension, the tiles. Or the children. Or Trump, the permafrost melting, my impending doom, all of our impending doom — Trump again of course, who could forget Trump. Or calorie counting and running and weight. A flood of things, of all my insecurities, over and over and over again until the timer and my eyes open.

My father was here this weekend and we didn't argue, were not even on the edge of argument. I attribute this to the cushion, to being down on the ground, but this is a falsehood, a vanity — my father has changed too and now we've come to the point in a paternal relationships where you put your defences down and realise that it's silly to fight about silly things, isn't it. I order beer over lunch and there's no reason to talk about Trump, about the permafrost, and why I am not raising my children to be terrified to me. Last year, I felt I needed to say something, to explain my position, but now I wonder what it matters, what can I say anyway that would make me feel better or feel heard or validated. The validation is already there, you just have to uncover it inside yourself.

One of the things you learn when renovating is the actual size of a space. Not what you imagine it to be, but what it actually is. The space where we are putting our new bathroom is small – 1710mm by 2350mm. That space is smaller than you think and when you start to insert bathtubs and toilets and radiators into it, it becomes even smaller. I had imagined it to be much larger, like you could have a separate toilet and bathtub, in two separate rooms. But of course, you can’t actually. There isn’t really space for that. The space goes up, thankfully, with the ceiling on the left hand wall when you look back going up to the height of the vaulted ceilings in the house, and I think this slope upwards will feel comforting in a way, when it’s finished. Like the space is small, but not that small.

As I comb through the Internet and look at the different possibilities, the space is starting to take shape too. The colours of tiles, which I initially was dispassionate about, started to be clearer to me. I like this and not that. I think back on different aesthetics I’ve appreciated over the years and how I’ve always hated black leather sofas and dark spaces. I do have an opinion, it's always been there it turns out. I can remember them from my childhood, weird memories like the neighbours who had the rottweiler and high chain link fence. Everything was black in their house and it felt like a cave. I didn't like it, did I. 

To be able to choose what you want to do with your living space is not something I suppose I would have appreciated as much when I was in my late twenties. There was no time between the babies, and the pregnancy, and the PhD. Everything was treading water. Now, I suppose I am more busy, but I have more more money and more security. Things are starting to come together, and the anxiety about the future was just my own general anxiety manifest in a particular way. As the anxiety recedes, it feels like things can be bought and I can relax. It should work out, it has been thirty five years of working out, after all.

Perhaps relax is the wrong word. I don't think I'm actually relaxing. I am sprinting on a treadmill, trying desperately to make fifteen kilometres in sixty minutes. I'm reaching as far as I can to have empathy for my students. I'm looking at the dishes that haven't been washed and trying to be better. There's more to realise, to think about, or try not to think about. Breathe in deeply again and again and again. Keep trying. You'll never make it, but keep trying. The sun is coming up anyway. 
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