I’ve been asked lately why the excerpts from my upcoming book have become erratic. Well, I’ve hit a wall, and rather than sit in stunned silence, I thought I’d offer this post as an update. There have been some pretty big bricks in my path. My dad died, and though we didn’t have much contact, or maybe because of that, it’s triggered all sorts of emotions. And I’ve been tripping over the end of my first post-divorce relationship, feeling like a heartbroken teenager. Like this line from an Indigo Girls song (yes, sappy songs from high school are always appropriate during a break-up): “there’s not enough room in this world for my pain,” I will just as dramatically say that there hasn’t been enough room for my book.
And then there’s the wall itself: ME. I started practicing meditation about 3 months ago and I wish I could say it’s been a boatload of bliss. Or even a gentle kick in the pants. Actually, it’s knocked me off my feet. My book, Real Time Wreck, is the story of a divorce and a life derailment, and ultimately about living in real time and being present even in the midst of pain. The problem is that I feel like a complete fraud writing about mindfulness, since more often than not I fail to live it. Meditating, combined with recent events, has pulled the rug out from under me. Being laid flat, I see things from a different viewpoint, which is certainly good. But I also see lots of crap, like dirt on the floor and wads of old chewing gum under the table. At times, I’m sorry I started this. I’ve felt cheated, like I was promised enlightenment and all I’ve gotten is an itchy, too-tight T-shirt that says ‘I Was Here…Big Deal.’
I’ve struggled with how to be mindful and present while writing about past events. How does NOW fit into the musings of a natural dreamer who loves to spin into fantasy? As a writer, I’m constantly creating the story of my experience while I’m still in the midst of it. As an example, I recently went to a movie with about 15 strangers as part of a Meet-up event. They were mostly single, older women and I found myself jumping to the conclusion that this will be my future – alone in my fifties, seeing movies with strangers because I’ll have no friends. The truth was that it was a lovely evening with perfectly pleasant people. Nothing more, nothing less. Like Byron Katie says, what was really happening was a woman was sitting in a chair. I was at a table, having a glass of wine and a conversation. And the minute I let go of my analysis and what this event “said” about me, I relaxed and even enjoyed it.
I credit meditation for creating that space. That’s why I keep showing up for it. Because even though there’s no instant win, the promise of a grand prize keeps drawing me in. It’s an envelope from the Universe that says I may have already won, and I believe it because I want to and I have to. But, I also blame it for uncovering an emptiness. At its best, the emptiness feels like spaciousness, possibility, pure potentiality. But how quickly the emptiness can morph into a sort of cavernous sound stage, where various characters vie for the spotlight. I’ve sat through dramatic performances by Grief, Loneliness, Obsession. I’ve literally squirmed in my seat pining for my ex-boyfriend, believing I won’t be OK without his love or attention. And feeling squirmy isn’t so conducive to writing.
One scene I managed to work on recently in the book is with my therapist, when I tried, rather incoherently, to explain to him why having my marriage explode was so scary. I told him about the song by Michelle Shocked where she sings “When I grow up I want to be an old woman.” It makes me think of the time I reminded my husband about a pet peeve I have: I hate feeling a draft on my back when I’m sleeping. My pajamas have to be properly covering my back and the covers need to be in place. Weird, I know, but I wanted my husband to remember this when I became old and feeble. I wanted him to promise to always cover my back. To me, the song is an ode to being simple, safe and content. Things I thought could never happen without a husband. Meditation has shown me the folly of all those assumptions. Because there’s always wanting. There’s always the desire for more. At least when I meditate, I see that the desires come, but they also go, and that the growing up isn’t something that happens someday, but right now, with every breath. And that I will be what I will be, without anyone’s help.
Actually, there may be one exception. When the help comes from a child, it’s always packed with wisdom. Another scene in the book will be a holiday concert at my kids’ school. I liken this event to meditating. The gym was packed, and my ex-husband had saved a seat beside him. I had no choice but to sit there, though I was still at the point where being in such close proximity left me shaken the rest of the day. This time, though, I just sat and focused on the stage, on the faces of the children as they danced by, on the smile that lit up my daughter’s face when she saw us. That night she gave me a drawing of a trophy. Underneath she’d written: Mom and Dad, you win the pris! Grate job! Ceap it up! What a great lesson for meditation and life: show up. Even when it means sitting in pain. Or staring at a blank page. The rewards will come, presently.