“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” ~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
It’s been two months since my job ended. Since then I have tried to bring the structure of my working life into the vast abyss of my unemployment. Somehow I fill my days with errands and small tasks that must have gone uncompleted when I was working. That and I watch a lot of bad TV. I’ve become mildly obsessed with doing everything right – working out 5 times a week, cooking a variety of nutritious meals, using up all the produce in the fridge before it goes bad, getting the best price on bananas. At the end of the day I’m often not sure what happened. But I feel exhausted.
By filling in the time, I haven’t really been dealing with the fact that I’m confused and uncertain and scared. I guess I have felt this way for much of my life. Like a lot of people, I want to understand the meaning of life, the meaning of my life. To find a way to live that makes me relatively happy and also makes the world a little better when I leave it. I have tried on different personas to see how they fit. One of those personas involved drinking – the wine-savvy dietitian, the friend who was always ready for a cocktail. Before I quit drinking more than 5 years ago, it seemed that alcohol had become so intertwined with my very personality, I wasn’t sure what would remain in its absence. As it turned out, that wasn’t who I was at all.
Since then, and especially since I began to practice meditation, the question of who I am has become all the more poignant, scary, and unclear. As I unraveled the layers of behaviors and habits, there seemed to be less and less there. And yet I have felt more and more myself.
The other day I was standing on the corner of 60th and Lex waiting to go down into the subway. It was raining and I was on the phone with my meditation instructor, who was telling me not to be afraid of my confusion and lack of ground. As often happens when I hear something that feels purely true, I had tears in my eyes.
During the next few days, I realized that the things I’ve done in my life that have felt the most important – falling in love, working on myself in therapy, rebuilding a once-shaky relationship with my parents, quitting drinking, even writing this blog – I’ve done from a place of utter vulnerability. In each instance, I felt I had bottomed out, in a good way. That I was out of rationalizations, that I could only listen to my heart, take a risk, drop expectations, and see what came of it. I never knew how these things would turn out. It’s only in retrospect that each feels momentous.
So perhaps my confusion now is not something to shake or beat into submission. Perhaps, if I allow myself to feel its full weight, its bottomless-seeming depth, it will allow me to see what I need to see.
I love your blog so much. “As I unraveled the layers of behaviors and habits it seemed like there was less and less there. And yet I have felt more myself.” This is gorgeous.
I am sorry you are in this groundless place – I know it well. It’s where we all live all of the time but we are only aware of it sometimes in crisis. Your vulnerability is such a gift to us. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you, Pamela. I’m flattered. Writing and practicing is helping. Your kind words are taken to heart.
It seems, to me, that drinking or not is not the key issue. Perhaps it is all just a puzzling contraption. Everyone has their own path. I am here at a bar, observing couples and those who want to couple, and I wonder why, as smart and inviting as I am, that I am still alone at the bar with no one to talk too…
Your vulnerability is beautiful to me, and also makes you my kindred even though we have never even met. I am serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, coming to the end of my two years, and I reach for things daily to help me be the strongest and most loving person I can be to myself and the locals I live and work with. This post helped me remember not to be scared of my vulnerability, of my confusion, of my anxious “not knowing” how everything will unfold in my life, and in the lives of the Africans I am leaving behind. Thank you.
Thank you, Jasmine, for your comments and for what you do. We’re always in some sort of transition, right? Wishing you all the best.
Taking refuge in The Three Jewels means resting in the Three Jewels!!
Thanks, Bill. I’m working on it
I’ve been through many “seasons” like the one you write about, for various reasons. Divorce, loss of job, loss of community, loss of parents to death by long-running and cruel diseases, loss of spouse by an act of violence. I am constantly finding myself being dragged into an abyss of change. While my entrance into the abyss is caused by an external event, my reaction is a natural one – one based in looking for a safe haven, regaining my footing, for being understood, for filling up sometimes lonely and frightening hours. While unbalancing at times, it has been a source of profound spiritual growth for me. I continue to have hope that it all happens for a reason. I believe that my “job” is to see the reason and do the best I can to grow from the wisdom I obtain from the “going through.”
I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Sixty and Single Again.
As Enzo said, in the book “The Art of Racing in the Rain”, “That which you manifest is before you.” Everything that you described IS the journey. No place to go, no place we need to be. We are already there. Doubt, confusion, fear, takes us out of that. Instead of pushing or shoving our emotions under to keep ourselves from understanding their nature, we instead need to embrace them and see them for what they are: barriers to our true self, which is, as we know, no self at all. Emotions and constantly giving in to them lead me directly to that glass of wine. I so admire your 5 years alcohol free.
Thanks, Lee. I think I’m just starting to realize what you said is true. This IS it. Nowhere to get to.
Very brave to expose your soul and vulnerability.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
I felt uneasy and restless when i retired from 37 years of diplomatic life – there was no financial compulsion to work, yet the uncertainty what next persisted. THEN came retirement and i suddeenly found that i had won the most precious thing that life has to offer – FEE, ENDLESS TIME – much more valuable than say winning a lottery for a million dollars! With this unexpected new found wealth, in the past 10 years of total freedom from anxiety about my next posting (except when they persist in dreams), undesirable bosses etc etc etc and the greater freedom to use this wealth as i please and when i please i have set about doing all the things i dreamed of – rearing budgrigars, breeding rare siamese fighting fish ( to my wife’s horror), recreating a defunct museum in my city ( today the best in India!!), working on sound and light shows at monuments at my city, writing a book on the Hindu scripture the Gita, launching it at a great literary festival in my city(Jaipur) – first edition actually sold out – working on a heritage law for my region, working on a book about my ancestry (yet to be published), writing poetry and now venturing tentatively into the world of blogging. Every morning i wake up looking forward to something new, excited like a kid – with all the time in the world i get the sense im short of it – gives you a sense of how precious it is even in abundance! All my work is gratis – no charge – which makes my joy unrestrained and fulsome – and when those working hecticly, as i used to do in service, ask sceptically of a retired gentleman now 72 – hey how do you pass your time, my reply is sir, im busy without business