05 December 2017

Bloody Minded


When I fall down, particularly when I'm running at night, I feel both old and young at the same time. It happens once a year maybe — I misstep and if I'm lucky, I roll into the fall and the momentum isn't absorbed entirely by my wrists and hands. I fall and am there on the pavement like a child and wondering who's seen me. There are so many cars passing, you assume someone did, but then again, the drivers of the cars are so self-absorbed normally. Normally, they don't see you, do they. I pick myself up quickly and walk it off, until I feel like my body isn't actually hurt anywhere and I get back my pace, back into my normal gait, not the gait of an old man, but a man on the precipice of not yet being middle-aged.

The fall tonight resulted from a lack of focus and being preoccupied with getting home in time to meet my daughter and waiting for a phone call from a courier whom I had waited on all day and who never came. It was a metaphor for my day. Meditation, I had hoped and indeed felt for a moment, would be a kind of magic bullet to soothe through this particularly madness. The antidote, I've been saying to people: it is the antidote to Evangelical Christian thinking, to the Protestant Work Ethic. A way to calm down, which seems to the thing that everyone has said to me the last ten years or so. Slow down, calm down. Of course, none of this has happened, there has been no real magic, particularly because meditation, it seems, doesn't really want you to slow down. Meditation wants you to take in the moment, to be in the moment, but that moment can be any moment. It can be all kinetic energy which you take in without thinking of the past or future. It can be toppling over yourself on the pavement and the pain when you scan through your body and wonder if you'll be able to get up. That's what it is, isn't it — the present without the past or the future, whatever that present is.

On Saturday, I drank too much and ate naan and bowls of cereal in the middle of the night until I just went to sleep to get away from it. Then I ran and ran and ran on Monday, again the pilgrim whipping myself. The same cycle again. I'm not any happier, not that one would expect to be any happier from just sitting and thinking about one's breath. I sat in a meeting on Friday and played with a string of beads, nine beads that the kids had been given in Malaysia, and I counted breaths and thought about multiples of nine. But then suddenly I snapped at someone who was being unreasonable about a student. That fierceness of my father — biting his lip and reaching out for Mia who is being so damn loud — just under the surface. No, of course I haven't changed, it's all there still, looking for a moment to come back out. All my angry words in my mind, the things I don't have the courage to say to my kids or my wife, but which I can shout in my mind like a coward. It's all just under the surface, like the fat man, the seven deadly sins, the Evangelical doubt, the white drama.

My knees stopped bleeding after a half hour or so and Mei came home and I went to the shower, feeling the pain of the fall and the phantom bloatedness from Saturday and the urge to count out calories even though I am not counting calories. Certainly, the moment does not want that from me, I thought looking at myself in the mirror — this very moment doesn't care about what I ate three days ago. The moment wonders what is more ridiculous than wanting to be 700 or 800 grams lighter than a week ago. Why hang your happiness on that, on anything, the moment wonders — on what your wife or kids might say or not say. No, the moment is just the awareness of pain — bloody and miserable in my attempt to no longer be miserable and doing my best. Not doing my best. Doing what I can, what I can manage. One hundred and eight breaths again this morning, one hundred and eight moments broken down into different multiples of three or nine or eighteen or thirty-six. I can breath in and out just this once. I can manage that.
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