I make people feel bad. I’ve lost friends over it, again and again through the decades. Over the last year or so I’ve begun to be able to admit this, to see it with more clarity, to begin to face it. Even as I move my pen across the page I am braced for the self-loathing, but it doesn’t come, not the way it used to. Sometimes it comes still in one big wave, trying to swamp me, making me clench in rage, wanting to die, like that last time Sable wouldn’t come inside, and I yelled at him from the doorway. He sat hunched over in the courtyard staring at me with his big green eyes. I felt it all then, how much I hated myself for what I was doing to him. It was the last time I yelled at him, something I’ve clung to in my grief. Thank god I stopped yelling at him in those last months before he died. Other things still trigger that wave, but the feelings are momentary now, and it doesn’t sink me anymore, doesn’t tumble me around underwater, sand in my mouth, unable to breathe. It doesn’t get all of me anymore. I think enough of me stays separate, watches from somewhere further up the shoreline, refuses to relinquish herself, my feet in dry sand now. I think little by little I’ve healed enough to not be taken over by my self-hatred, and that healing has let me begin to face the fact that I am mean to the people I love. I can turn toward that now, maybe even say it out loud, look at it in daylight. I can do this now without being pulled down by that dark, terrifying wall of water. May I keep learning to be tender to myself, so I can be more tender to all the beings in my life. May I let go of my remorse, all that damage, all that time lost, too. May I forgive myself. May I learn now how to make the ones I love feel good.
I make people feel bad. I’m mean to people I love. Sometimes I do it because I want them to take better care of themselves. Or because I want them to be present. Or because I want them to do the right thing. (Usually, if they aren’t acting out of integrity, they already feel guilty about it, and then I make them feel worse.) I don’t do it on purpose. I don’t want to hurt them. I get caught up in it, my pushing, my icky tone. I go on automatic pilot. I’ve done it since I was an adolescent, maybe even longer. I think over time, especially in this last year or two, I have begun to do it less often. But I don’t even know if that matters. One small moment is terrible for both of us. I remember being in the car with my best friend when I was sixteen. My hands were on the wheel, and I was screaming at her. Then I started crying. Even then I understood making her feel bad made me feel worse about myself, added heft and weight to my mountains of self-loathing. But I couldn’t stop. Just before my cats died I stopped yelling at them, found a way to be neutral, even tender. Now I have small moments when I manage to modulate the ugly tone in my voice, to not react badly to my mother on the phone. Not always, but sometimes I can stop myself. I want to believe one day I won’t hurt the people I love. And maybe saying all this is part of that, saying this and not hating myself while I do.
I love being in bed like this, all the windows and the sliding glass door open, my birds busy at their morning feeding, the mountains close and comforting, my tea warm beside me, sunlight on the blankets, knowing my writing time and my sitting practice lie before me. It makes me think maybe I could use this as a lure, as a reward, a way to become more productive in my day. If you get the essays graded, you can have a second set of writing and sitting practice today. A bribe, really. I moved these two to the very beginning of my day to mark their priority and to be certain they didn’t go undone in the course of endless busy weeks. It began as a commitment, an effort, and now it is a pleasure, a gift, even. It makes me wonder what other things might transform themselves. Dishes, sweeping, making the bed, taking out the trash, cooking–when I don’t feel the need to rush through them I don’t mind them at all, can even enjoy them. In fact, that may be the secret to this morning time, too. It is not that I didn’t already like writing, like sitting practice, but they didn’t have the pull of pure pleasure, like the appeal of reading a novel. So even though I enjoyed them, I didn’t long for them, didn’t reach for them in a busy busy day, didn’t always manage to carve out an hour or so for them like I would for a meal and a good book. But now that I’ve provided this time at the beginning of each day, there is all this room in them. Sometimes I have to be somewhere early in the morning, so I set my alarm. I might have less than an hour, their time curtailed. But most days, like not rushing through sweeping the courtyard or feeding the birds, I can take an hour, even a little longer, before I need to move on to my paid work. So I can let the writing come as it will, allow the sitting practice to unfold. And there is luxury in that. So these two things I know I want to do, these two things that are good for me, that might otherwise be “shoulds” smooshed into a too busy day, instead each morning before the busy-ness they beckon, lull, invite me to open my selves to them, filled with ease and promise.
On Saturdays when time allows I like to read the “Saturday” section of the L.A. Times and the weekly forecast on Astroblogick. My paper was still stopped yesterday, but I read about this week’s celestial events on my mini iPad. It looks like a busy week for the planets, and we have a full moon eclipse coming, too. But the part that fascinated me is that at the exact time of the vernal equinox, “the principles of duality . . . are temporarily suspended,” and that “being centered in this fleeting moment seems to carry a sacred significance.” It reminded me of C.J. Cregg on The West Wing determined to set a raw egg upright on the table during that moment (and succeeding only after the poker game had broken up and everyone left the room). I didn’t give it another thought until this morning. This week part of my homework for my mindfulness based stress reduction class is to record the details of one experience each day on our “Pleasant Events Calendar.” So last night I wrote about eating sushi. I was intrigued by the mystery of the event, the unusual feelings it evoked in me. It wasn’t until this morning I put it together in my head with my vision of the clock beside my bed when I began eating last night. It was maybe 20 minutes after 9:00pm. (The exact time for the equinox was 9:30pm.) I’d gone downtown, picked up an avocado roll with extra ginger on my way home. I took a quick shower, climbed into bed, lamented eating so late, and relished every morsel of my sushi. I licked the wasabi and gluten free tamari from my fingers and thumbs. I cringed and savored the heat in my sinuses. And after, I sat there gazing at nothing, the empty container balanced on my belly. I felt clean and clear. Relaxed. Satisfied. Calm. Soothed. For a moment I wondered if it was the drug of the wasabi. But now I think it may have been the exact moment of the equinox working on me, all unknowing. I recorded that I felt quiet inside, hollow but not empty (the duality suspended). I felt whole. Knowing or unknowing, these moments twice each year can only do us good, I think. Happy spring equinox, everyone.
I lay out my green yoga mat on the far side of my mother’s pool. It seems like the best spot. The concrete is level, the valley stretched out before me to the west. The sun is low in the sky, and I angle my mat so when I’m standing I’ll be facing the orange ball while it sinks behind the mountains. (True sun salutes, I think.) I begin lying down, stretching my spine, my hips. Yesterday was the first day I did my yoga in a long, long time. I was surprised my arms were able to hold my weight when I lowered myself to the mat from plank position. I was wobbly when I came back up to standing, but it didn’t matter. I was just so glad to be doing it again. Today when I get to the sun salutations, my arms are sore from yesterday and won’t hold my weight in that slow lowering to the mat. I have to touch my knees down, and still my arms hurt with the weight of me. When I am back on the mat, dropping my knees from side to side, I see a little bird on the wall near me. I don’t have my glasses on, can’t be sure what kind he is. He looks like he might be a flycatcher, but he stays put on the wall. I decide he may be a young mockingbird, even though he is silent. I slow my movements, not wanting to startle him. He tilts his head, seems to be studying me, strange being on the ground. He stays on the wall for the rest of my yoga, and I am touched and honored by his company. The moon is out, too, bright with daylight. I am fragile today, so the wonder of these two companions swells my heart. When I sit up after chavasana, the bird is gone. But I can still touch his soft, quiet peace. Thank you, little one.