just a kids birthday party

You are minding your own business typing on your laptop and spacing out. Then bam! What the hell is that? Your body instantly shakes. You want to hide, but there is no table high enough to get under as you only have a coffee table in front of you as you sit in your favorite cozy comfy chair at the tea shop. The guy next to you sees you shake and says, “It’s just a kids birthday party.” You feel a part of you get angry at him, and you can feel the hot gaze that you are giving him. He offers his hand to yours, but you’re too much in touch with this angry part of you to take his hand. Another kinder part of you wishes you had taken his hand. This nicer part of you knows that he was just stating a fact to you without judgement, but the other angry part of you still fights this understanding, and insists on being a weenie jerk with a wall of silence.

You feel stupid when you realize it’s just a balloon popping from the birthday party in the next room of the tea shop. A river of tears comes pouring out of your eyes, and there is no place to hide, no way to shield it from the people sitting around you knitting as the set up is a series of comfy chairs around a coffee table. Someone asks, “What happened, hon?” You can’t answer because you have not yet found your words. Your words are floating around you like bubbles you can’t catch. You reach for your words and they disintegrate before they come out of your mouth as articulated verbiage. The lady next to you says, “Did someone say something mean to you?” Then the guy beside you says, “Balloon popping from the birthday party startled her.” Thankfully, his explanation lessens their attention on you. Everyone mercifully goes back to their knitting.

Your mind is still amped up and jumbled like a slew of cords that can’t be untangled. And just like Adam Sandler’s character who fought PTSD in the movie, Reign Over Me, you put in your ear buds and turn up the volume as loud as you can take it. You need the jolt of music to hit all your senses so that you can try to get out of this cloak of fear that will not come off. Coincidentally, when you hit play “Shake It Off” is what you hear. That’s ok, it’s just the song you need to distract you because you do need to shake it off.

My response

I’ve had something profound happen that I, unfortunately, cannot write about in any depth or specificity yet as there is still a great deal of fear attached to what has occurred. I’ve been experiencing abject fear since last week with this particular person, and it has come to a head.

By the grace of the universe, I am able to extricate myself from having this person in my life. Or at least I will be able to do so in short order.

I’ve spent the better part of the last few days dreading tomorrow when I will finally see this person since our last interaction. I’ve alternated between realistic and calm brain, and fearfully active brain. I’ve hiked, gone for walks, talked with friends in person and on the phone, and still the fear would not leave my being. I even resorted to watching a bad movie last night for distraction to no avail. The movie, You, Me and Dupree did not serve as a distraction for me, but that could be because I am a movie snob.

I woke up this morning with that fear that just envelopes me like a big heavy blanket thrown over me that I cannot get out from underneath.

And just so you know the bizarre way my mind works, here’s how I finally found some peace with this …

To distract myself I started reading the Kripalu catalog of upcoming workshops, and I found a workshop by Noah Levine scheduled for the upcoming fall season. His workshop is related to overcoming addiction using the Buddhist path as an overlay to the Twelve Step approach. I immediately looked up a YouTube video of a talk on Buddhism he gave at USC to see what he’s all about.

The following quotes from the talk, I believe, are the reason I came across this today:

“My goal is to meet every unpleasant experience in my life with love, with compassion, with kindness.”

“Compassion is responding to pain with kindness and love rather than aversion and hatred.”

I found myself listening to the entirety of his hour long talk, and I looked up others as well. Before I knew it a couple of hours had passed, but I noticed that I finally started to feel at peace for the first time in days. I finally started to feel like I could handle this difficult situation, or at least I finally feel hopeful that I can handle it.

I then headed out to the bookstore to purchase his new book, Refuge Recovery. Alas, though the bookstore indicated it was in stock I could not find it, and I was not in the mood to ask if it was shelved elsewhere. I then happened across Sharon Salzberg’s book, Loving Kindness, and I believe everything in this quest happened as it was supposed to happen because I opened up that book to find an exercise on contending with a difficult person. This was exactly what I needed.

I needed to read that compassion was tantamount to this challenge. The exercise advised to contemplate a good thing about this person (and in this particular case, that is not hard to do), and direct loving-kindness phrases towards them such as, “May you be free from danger, may you be happy,” Though, as the book advised, I replaced “you” with “we” because articulating the “you” was a stretch for me at this point. The author calls the compassion we send “metta.” It was surprising to find that I was able to do this. I thought of a couple of vulnerabilities that likely bring her suffering, and I was able to feel compassion for her.

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve no background in meditation or Buddhism. Let me be clear: I know nothing, absolutely nothing aside what I’ve gleaned from today’s journey. All I have is a great desire for peace with this person.

There is still some fear left in me, but I believe in peaceful interactions with all my heart, and that is all I want. All I can control is my response, and my reaction to whatever happens tomorrow. I am asking the universe for all the strength we can conjure for the best response.

a dream defunct

The idiot man who is your colleague means no harm in his intrusion of your personal space. He shoves his head in front of yours while he’s standing beside you. He’s stupidly trying to be funny. But he takes you by surprise, and your body starts shaking, and your head starts racing, and you’re off and gone.

You’re trying to find your way back, but the world is a blur. Desperately, you want to convince yourself that nothing scary is happening now. You tell yourself that right now you are okay. Nothing is awry. You just have a stupid colleague, that is all.

But the message is not delivered from your brain to the rest of your body. Your body rebels against your brain. It fights back, and insists that your brain is wrong. Body insists on never being wrong again. Brain has no chance in this fight.

Somehow, you get home. There’s a part of you that’s hungry, and there’s a part of you that just wants to die or sleep or both. You decide that if you’re going to continue with this life you need to eat something. The walk from your bedroom to your kitchen feels Herculean. You live in 860 square feet. The kitchen is seconds away from your bedroom, but it might as well be in another county.

You stumble your way into the kitchen, and you find baked bbq chips with a December 2013 expiration date. You then find slices of Gouda cheese. Great, a carb and a protein! A balanced meal will have to come another day. The chips are used as if they are crackers with the cheese. It would all be amusing if it weren’t for the fact that this is truly all you could muster for dinner. No lie.

You used to dream of a day when this madness would end.You used to think it was a dream deferred for another day. But, no. It is a dream defunct.