On the Disruptiveness of Festivity

(TIM Tam) Imagine if they'd thought of the KitKat slogan first: "It's time for a Tim Tam!" Pity they didn't.

(TIM Tam) Imagine if they’d thought of the KitKat slogan first: “It’s time for a Tim Tam!” Pity they didn’t.

It’s been a week of hits and misses. After all the fixing and mending in July, I started August thinking that the month would unfold with clockwork predictability and precision.

Of course, no such thing happened. For various unconnected reasons, faraway or long unseen family and friends have been dropping in (and will be dropping in) this month and wreaking pleasant havoc. While the reunions have been cheerful and festive occasions, they’ve also been highly disruptive and thereby exhausting.

(Just to clarify things before my faraway and long unseen family and friends start accusing me of misanthropic tendencies: my current career has me maintain a 90-hour work week without weekends. These circumstances don’t diminish my affection in any way—they just sap the energy required for its expression.

All of which is frankly another reason why I’ve become a staunch advocate of people staying where they are and not moving around too much—a topic I start talking about in my previous post. There’s far less urgency in dropping everything and rearranging your life if the people you need to see live just around the block—or at least live in the same metropolis.)

If there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s that some of the psychic work I did in July has actually begun to pay off. There’s been surprisingly little self-flagellation over the unwritten blog posts and missed yoga sessions and late night indulgences of Arnott’s Double Coat Tim Tam (a highly disruptive Australian present from my visiting older brother that dispels much of my end-of-the-day exhaustion). Maybe I just don’t have the energy to spare for the self-remonstration. Maybe I’m getting the hang of letting go. Or maybe, goodness gracious, I’m actually mellowing down.

Whatever the cause is, I’m simply grateful. Because there’s still two thirds of the month to go.



On the Pains of Departure

(SAILING Away) There's just too much of this going on. (Image sourced from hawaiimagazine.com.)

(SAILING Away) There’s just too much of this going on. (Image sourced from hawaiimagazine.com.)

Today, my little sister flies off to Hawaii.

She’s not going to be gone very long. Maybe just a year at most. But maybe because she’s my little sister, or maybe because it’s Hawaii, or maybe because “just a year at most” is a very real maybe (who knows what happens to little sisters in Hawaii?) there’s a heaviness in my chest that’s not the by-product of a recent asthma attack.

For all the work I’ve done in impermanence and surrender and letting go, the goodbyes still get me every single time. I know there’s Facebook and Skype and WhatsApp, but there’s an intimacy in physical proximity that can’t be replaced by overt communication no matter how deliberately arranged and meaningfully expressed. In my twenties, I believed in the power of overt communication—placed my faith in the ability of the daily call and the weekly letter—to maintain the bonds of affection. But the loosening of so many bonds (the loss of so many friendships to the erosions of distance!) have made me acutely aware of the limits of disembodied relationships.

We are painfully (but also joyfully) incarnate beings, and our connections are most fully lived in the flesh: in the coziness of mealtime conversations, in the silence of mutual preoccupations, in the camaraderie of shared space. There is, for lack of a better word, an intimacy granted to strangers who share the same train ride everyday that is not given to the most effusive exchangers of correspondence. The postmodern ubiquity of communication devices conceals the fact that a profound amount of human communication is, in fact, nonverbal, and that the warmth (and yes heat!) of our relationships is often generated from the friction of daily interaction.

So maybe I’m waxing philosophical as a way of dealing with my sister’s departure. (Scratch that maybe: I am waxing philosophical to avoid dealing with my sister’s departure.) But I’d like to think that this particular evasion has a point. Even if globalization and its attendant migratory trends make it practically impossible, I really do think we should move around a lot less and root a lot more. It’s just, I don’t know, better for the heart I guess.

On the Varieties of Resistance/Grace

It’s only halfway through the day, and already I’m exhausted by my resistance.

There are many varieties of this resistance—the manifold particularities are what we usually intend to convey when we use the word “resistance” at all, as in, “resistance to work,” “resistance to traffic,” “resistance to exercise,” and so on and so forth—but I use the word now to designate the fundamental sense of opposition that underlies all the specific instances and that expresses itself in a multiplicity of emotions from annoyance and irritation to avoidance and resignation.

Right now, I’m present to how much I’m resisting and all that I’m resisting (e.g., the day being half done, my to-do list being overpopulated, my thoughts being jumbled, the sky being cloudy, the coffee being over brewed, etc.). It’s a stifling, suffocating and overwhelming feeling—and very likely the ontological cause of my lungs being congested.

I’m also present to how much I’m resisting my resistance—present to how much I resent my restless and unquiet nature; present to how much I want a more placid, more steady and more cheerful version of myself; present to my general desire to be someone/somewhen/somewhere else.

And I get, from being in this space before, that all that I can really do is to ever so gently and ever so slowly release the resistance; to reassure my tired and defensive and aching self that it’s okay and that everything’s going to be okay; to remember that there is always grace—as abundant (thankfully) as resistance in its varieties and manifold particularities.

Just this being present to resistance is already a grace; just this being present to grace in its varieties and manifold particularities is already a grace.

It’s only halfway through the day, and already I’ve been rescued countless times by grace.

On the Labors of Breathing

(BRASS Elephant) Try lying down with one of these on your chest. (Image sourced from www.allergynorthtexas.com.)

(BRASS Elephant) Try lying down with one of these on your chest. (Image sourced from http://www.allergynorthtexas.com.)

I don’t get sick very often. At least not in the last five years. But when I do, there’s always a sense of relief under the surface misery: a sense that, finally, I can rest without having to manage the attendant guilt.

But now, there’s an elephant sitting on my chest, and the oppressive weight leaves no room even for relief. The illness expresses and magnifies the inadequacy I suddenly feel in the face of all my life’s demands: there’s not enough of me to do all the studying, teaching, writing, managing, supervising, cleaning, and so on and so forth.

So, yes, I don’t have enough resources or staff to live my own life, and the only employee sticking around is wheezing like Darth Vader on steroids. (Well, I am on steroids. For medical reasons. But I suppose that’s what they all say. The steroid users I mean.)

As with all crises, this present emergency simply indicates that there’s something I have to learn. With all the righteous indignation I can muster between labored breaths, I’d like to to insist that I do know what the lesson is—slowing down, smelling the roses, all those sorts of things—I just don’t know how I’m expected to live it when slowing-down-and-rose-smelling will require additional staff and resources. (Yes, there’s not enough of me to even handle any relaxing.)

So because I am short of answers (in the same way that I’m short of breath), I’m simply going to sit (tight) and breathe (painfully) and wait for the universe to do me a good turn. Not because I deserve it, but because I need it.

So this is me asking for a break, asking for a breather, asking for a blessing, asking for a miracle.

And now for the hardest part: waiting.

With bated, laborious breath.


On the Endings in Beginnings


It’s the start of a new month.

Not just any month though. It’s August: a month that’s always signified major and minor beginnings in my life (including said life).

Part of the beginning always includes a long, withdrawn (occasionally overdue) ending. My good friend Sarah—a gifted healer—once told me that human beings are energetically weakest right before their birthdays. This fact explains why I get sick around the end of July or the beginning of August.

So this is me starting the new month with a new inhaler (I’m on 180 micrograms of salbutamol as I write; my fingers tremble whenever they float above the keyboard). This recent attack could have been averted if I’d taken just a little bit more care of myself (Nurture yourself during this time, Sarah had advised me gently), but there was a lot of fixing and mending that I wanted to get done in July (see my July 18, 2013 post on The Ways of Things) and the material/psychic/existential maintenance took an unexpected physical toll.

Still, there’s no room for regret. It’s the start of a new month after all. And not just any month, but August.

So this is me: hoping, praying, yearning and trusting. Let a new month begin. Let a new year begin. May I meet whatever comes with equanimity and grace.