There Is No Loss

Things go wrong.  I saw that vividly today … for me and other people.  But it’s possible to see these deficits as no deficit at all.  Please locate a human being who just soars through their days, not a care in the world, no intrusions, no smallness aimed at them – just bliss.  No one that I know.  How I hold the challenges is quite the other matter.

Here’s today:

1.  I was on a bus full of kids, heading to see a play at a school a half hour away.  I was looking forward to the trip, sitting beside a child or two, seeing what they want to talk about.  I ended up squeezed into a seat with two boys who were hunched over for the whole journey.  Any guess about what they were looking at?  Apart from learning their names, the contact was non-existent.  I was sad.  Still, my life goes on quite nicely.  There will be many moments of communion before the road comes to a dead end.

2.  The play was The Beauty and the Beast, presented artfully by elementary school students.  Mostly, however, I couldn’t hear them.  The main characters had microphones over the ear, but the sound was muffled for me until late in the proceedings.  As for chorus members who had speaking parts – Good luck!  So I was missing most of the verbal stuff.  But the story kept unfolding in movements and facial expressions and costumes.  I was not bereft of understanding but I did pout a bit.

3.  One part of the set was a fireplace, and for some scenes the idea was to cover it with a dark sheet.  I saw a hand appear, intending to do a full covering job, but one corner was stubborn.  The stage hand pulled a little harder and the whole thing fell to the floor.  He or she was no doubt aghast.  After all, fireplaces don’t usually appear in the woods.  Still, the assistant was putting in maximum effort to get it right.  Life sometimes just doesn’t co-operate.

4.  Belle is the heroine and she graced us with a lovely voice in her first song.  Later on, as the plot thickened, she started coughing.  For a second, I thought this was part of the script, but alas that was not true.  The music swelled and I sensed it was time for a song.  I was correct.  Fear shot through me for her, and no doubt she was coming unglued inside.  But Belle held her head high and started in on the melody.  There was just one little cough in the verses.  What a champion of commitment and perseverance.

5.  Gaston was the dashing young hero, eager for the hand of Belle.  His compatriot was really funny.  At one point, this fellow retreated to the left curtain while continuing to deliver his lines.  Odd.  Only his head was showing.  I think his microphone pack was falling apart.  It looked to me that some enterprising assistant was making the necessary adjustments just out of sight.  Oh, the show must go on!  Soon Gaston’s friend was front and centre again, apparently unfazed by his sojourn on the periphery.

6.  Later in the day, I was on an internet call for two hours with perhaps sixty other folks.  If you wanted to share, you pressed “1” on the keypad.  I jabbed that sucker three or four times and the leader never called on me.  Lots of people got to speak – one guy three times!  Arghh.  What about me?  I went into disaster mode, but a half hour further on, with the help of the person I was paired with then, it morphed into no big deal.  Towards the end of the call, the leader called out my name and I spoke to the group as the big deal flooded back.  I got to tell my story.

***

All these imperfections, frustrations and abominations are what life often tosses our way.  In some small recess of my mind, I get that all is well.  We are meant to have these blips on the radar.  We are meant to be jolted, buffeted and humbled.  And hopefully we get to see the world as so much richer than the moments of despair.

 

Just A Word

In the early years of human presence on Earth, I was a kid.  I loved going to the matinée at the movie theatre on Avenue Road in Toronto.  It was a bit of a walk but I was young and strong.

Inside, a large waddling woman patrolled the aisles.  Fifty-five years later, I still remember her bellows:

LESS NOISE!

In recent days, I’ve been re-exploring Stephen King’s novella The Library Policeman.  I love how King creates such believable characters.  Poor Sam Peebles, a respected Junction City insurance agent, is about to be devoured by Ardelia Lortz, the town’s bewitching librarian.  He opens the front door, steps into the foyer, and is greeted by a large sign pressing down on its tripod stand:

SILENCE!

In my sixties, I’ve come into the world of Buddhist meditation.  In two weeks, I’m heading to the heart of Massachusetts for a one-month silent retreat.  I’ve been many times before.  Love and peace often surround me there.  Over all, we are embraced by a single word:

Silence

How is it that a human expression can hold such different meanings?  Every muscle in my body tightening.  And then an undoing, a sweet mushing of my structures, a blessed puddling.

Such a mystery, this life.  The agony, the ecstasy and the calm in which high and low seem irrelevant.  I’m for all of it.

Not Jake

The dear old Messiah will have to wait for another day.  I found out half an hour ago that I didn’t get the part of Jake in the play Jake’s Women.  I got off the phone and sat down in my man chair.  I’d been sorting through some papers and felt the pull to get back at it.  No.  How about grab the sports section?  No.  So I sat.  My friend Renato came into the room and I told him the news.  He wanted to talk.  No.  And I sat some more.

I’ve been so light lately but now the sadness weighed me down.  I wasn’t slumping exactly but I felt … compressed.  And then … there was quiet inside me.

I realized how hungry I was and decided to have some breakfast.  I didn’t want distractions from how I was in the moment but I needed to eat.  So I did.  Quietly, with virtually no thoughts about the director’s decision.  I committed to sit down with my laptop as soon as I was done eating.  And here I am, alone in my bedroom.

So, what’s true?  My mind flits to the upside – not having to memorize over an hour of dialogue, no rigorous rehearsal schedule, don’t have to worry about stage fright, there’ll be another play …  I let those thoughts do their thing and now they’ve floated away.  Sitting some more, this time with fingers moving over the keys.

What does it mean when I say to myself “I am Jake”?  I don’t know, but I am.  In my heart, I celebrate the humanity of Jake.  He’s happy, sad, angry, loving and momentarily crazy.  He’s all that each of us is.  How about if I don’t nix any of that out of my life, if I let in the fact that we all hurt?  And if my neighbour is suffering, can I allow their pain and simply sit with them?

This doesn’t seem to be sadness now.  I’m very slow and quiet.  The experience of “not chosen” is common to all of us.  I feel my energy moving towards all the human beings I know and all the ones I’m just meeting.  This doesn’t feel like suppression.  Maybe I’ll cry later.  Hey, maybe I’ll laugh later.  (Oops.  I just laughed!)

Here I am, alone in my bedroom.  That’s fine for the moment but my place is out there in the world, loving and having other people laugh with me.  Time to go.

Perfect

Now that I’m back in London, I’m rediscovering my worldly life.  I found out on Saturday evening that I missed the St. Mary Choir School Christmas concert.  It was last Thursday.  But today from 11:00 till 1:00, the Chamber Orchestra and Grade 8 carolers were performing in St. Peter’s Basilica and I was going to see them, hoping to say Merry Christmas to the kids I know.

Sudden update:  On Saturday night in Worcester, Massachusetts, I looked at the St. Mary’s website and found this concert.  It said “St. Joseph’s”, not St. Peter’s!  (Sigh)  Sudden all right, because I just figured that out as I was typing.  Eighty-four days of almost complete silence and I forgot the name of the church.

You know the rest.  I showed up at St. Peter’s, expecting to see legions of uniformed students climbing the steps.  No one there.  And virtually no one inside.  Maybe ten folks praying.

I felt a twinge of sadness.  I wouldn’t be seeing these children before Christmas.  But only a twinge.  Peace descended.  I sat down and meditated to the strains of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, sung through CD in the lofty heights of the sanctuary by a boy choir.  And then more lilting songs, given from far away to the warmth of my mind.  So quiet.

After the meditation retreat, I’m very quiet inside.  There seems to be space around each cell of my body.  The moment of the moment is entirely sufficient.  There’s virtually no leaning forward towards some “better” spot in time.  The choir sings.  I think of the kids and wish them well.

Just as it is
Fine by me

Now, and Again Now

Here I sit in my man chair.  Will I lean forward, hoping for a fine result in the next moment?  Will I turn away from current pain, not wanting it to continue?  Or will I just sit, letting whatever’s here be here?  I like that last choice.  So let’s see where the moments take me.

1.  I’m looking at Jody’s face on the cover of the third proof of her book.  I’m happy.  She looks great.

2.  I’m listening to my breath.  No wheeze.  No coughing.  On one level, that’s good.  On another, it’s just breathing.

3.  I’m closing my eyes.  My belt is tight against my stomach.  Some discomfort.

4.  I’m closing my eyes again.  Eyelids very heavy.  Thinking of my bed.

5.  Hard for me to type with my eyes closed, me not being an ace touch typist.

6.  I hear the oven doing its groinks, as the chicken works its way towards edibility.

7.  I look at the poster of Jody on the wall, her in her wedding dress, beaming.  I smile.

8.  I think of Thursday, when I’ll get into Hugo and set off for Massachusetts, and a nine-day meditation retreat.  Another smile.

9.  Oven timer goes off.  Excuse me, I’ll be right back.

10.  Can’t smell the chicken because of the cold.  Sure looks good.

11.  I made myself a cup of tea – Cinnamon Spice.  The cup overflowed.  Sipped it down a bit.  Hot on the lips.  Wiped up the spill.

12.  The house is silent.  So am I.

13.  I feel my breath catch.  I recognize it as the body showing me a pre-cough.

14.  Breathing smoothly again.  Happy.

15.  I ask myself, “Will I be well by Thursday?”  Strangely, I see that I’m fine with both a “yes” and a “no”.

16.  I notice the PVR humming softly.  I notice that I don’t like the sound.  Oh well.

17.  I think about whether I will ever again have a partner in life.  I hope so.  But I know it’ll be okay if I don’t.

18.  I rub the rough patch on my forehead, and smile when I see that I want my body to be perfectly smooth.  Good luck on that, guy.

19.  I look at the statue of the Buddha that sits on the hassock nearby, facing me.  A companion for the last three years.  Feel bad (a little) that I can’t sit that way.  Happy that he’s here.

20.  I miss Jody, and my eyes dampen.  Oh, my dear wife.

21.  I realize that Jody’s coming to Massachusetts with me.  My eyes are still wet.  Thank you, my dear.  “You’re very welcome, husband.  You and me.”

22.  No sign of a cough.  So thankful for that.

23.  I remember that I haven’t saved any of this post yet.  Do so.  No judgment.

24.  I worry about not writing a post every day.  And I just watch the worry.  It’s okay.

25.  25 seems like a nice round number, don’t you think?

***

That was about half an hour of thoughts bubbling to the surface.  I’m so pleased that I didn’t get stuck ramping up the goods and bads into fullfledged drama.  But “so pleased” sounds like a pretty high energy “good”.  Guess I’ll continue to watch my thinkings with good humour.  A lovely thing to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon.