I have been overwhelmed lately. Dealing with Barry’s sponsor’s impending death has created an internal emptiness I was not prepared for. Also, my computer updated itself, thereby making internet access impossible once again. I took it to the store I bought it at (because I had forgotten how to uninstall updates). They showed me how again and I also wrote down the key for my anti-virus software.
I went home and un-installed the last couple months’ worth of updates. My computer hasn’t worked this well in, well, months. I did not have a virus. I’m contemplating un-installing all the updates I can. Every last glitch has come from a Microsoft update, as near as I can tell so far. Every. Single. One. Wow.
Yesterday reminds me of a saying by a favorite Christian lady evangelist: once you’re in over your head, it doesn’t matter how deep you go. Life contains many things that a person has no control over, but much of the drama we deal with is manufactured for someone else’s profit. It can take some thought and discernment to figure out how much in life is inevitable versus how much we can avoid simply by making more conscious choices (like driving less when gas prices spike, or taking public transportation).
This is where simplifying one’s life clarifies issues. Getting rid of stuff has made my real needs so much more obvious. I can look at problems and see what I can and can’t do. Death? Not much I can change about that. Computer questions? Go to Staples. Too many commitments? Do some cancelling. Spider webs in hard to reach areas? Where’s the broom?
Impermanence is real. Security is not. Barry’s primary sponsor is on his deathbed. We just replaced the garbage disposal. You can’t rely on even the tiniest details. Anything you commit to is decaying already.
I’ve been thinking for the past few months about hospice: being a volunteer someday, using my listening skills, etc. I had no idea Dave would be so close to dying so soon.
The ironies are sharp. Barry was diagnosed with stage four cancer six years ago. Dave was diagnosed with cancer (stage ?) about a year ago. Barry was sitting next to Dave’s bed. Dave looked comparatively robust, even lacking consistent consciousness. Barry probably doesn’t tip the scales at 140 pounds anymore. This horrendously skinny person could outlive this bigger guy by a couple years. I’ve been emotionally preparing for Barry’s death for years. This has to be a shock to Dave’s wife.
Madison Avenue’s values are so empty. I can’t go online without seeing at least as many commercials as watching TV. For products that contribute nothing to people’s quality of life. The mask has been ripped off. What’s behind it? Nothing, as near as I can tell. Only the mask is “real”, hiding a hungry ghost.
The other day, I could not get online at the local café. The last thing I had done online was to “update” my computer. I think it erected some sort of firewall. To try to fix the issue, I “restored” my computer to basically undo the last significant action, the “critical” update. Voila. I could get online. In other words, the “critical” update made internet access, and therefore the usefulness of the laptop itself, impossible.
What is the lesson? I think it was Mark Twain that said something like, “It’s not what you don’t know that causes you problems. It’s those things you know for sure that just ain’t so.” To be functional, sometimes you need to undo some of the damaging things done to you, even and especially, by trusted sources.
I have been learning how to prevent and deal with trauma. We could all spend the rest of our lives trying to undo the damage done to us and others. Perhaps that’s what we’re here for today.
A few weeks ago, I wondered what it would be like to let go of everything. Perhaps that was a very bad thought to have. Last week, I started paying for my husband’s (and my own, because it is one and the same) grave marker. It is more than a little creepy to know that, regardless of where in the world I may travel, there will always be a grave waiting for me in Michigan.
Last night, I listened to a woman talk about her extremely depressed daughter and almost-as-depressed soon-to-be ex-son-in-law. She was distraught. She has empathy for everything and so it is all quite distressing to her. I told her about my grave payments and my own issues with impermanence. I tried to reassure her with the upside of impermanence, that her family drama was not endless in nature. It too will pass. I don’t know if she felt any better. Perhaps that is not the goal.
Letting go is so easy to talk about. Just try living it. Theory is one thing; making payments on your own grave marker is quite another.
Struggling with impermanence
I am really emotionally struggling right now. Yesterday, the cemetery called and wanted me to come in to verify some information for audit purposes. Okay. I also needed to get started the next phase of direct withdrawal from my checking account in my effort to pre-arrange things for Barry’s eventual demise. I started it last September so I wouldn’t be stuck paying for everything all at once. I did not know it would have this effect on me.
There’s no good way to do this. I am now on a two-year payment plan, paying $300/month. My first thought was, “That’s a lot of money per month. And, still, I might not pay it off before he dies.” My second thought was, “Omigod. What if he actually lives that long? I’d likely have to put him in a nursing home by that point.” I am stuck not knowing which is worse, him dying soon or him suffering for who-knows-how-long.
The last time I felt like this was when it emotionally hit me that he was going to get Huntington’s and that I needed to start working immediately. I had an outlet: I started working. When Barry got cancer, I was already enrolled in business school. I finished my MBA. Now, I have nowhere to go and nothing to lean on. I don’t want to try working with him going downhill and I cannot even imagine going for a DBA. So I am stuck at home, trying not to spend money. I have no outlet.
It’s so funny how the inevitable is so painful. That’s why we avoid it at all costs. In reality, the only thing worse than doing it this way is to have to do it while emotionally overwhelmed, dealing with grieving family members, etc. It’s not like, if I wait a week, any of this stuff will be discounted. The earlier I deal with this stuff, the better. But none of this makes me hate it any less.
I chose the grave marker and decorations, which perfectly express the two of us (a little bulldog above his name facing a little cat above mine). It is so cute. Still haaaating it.
Sailing on the Titanic
Posted on 20 April 2013 by Buddhism Now , http://buddhismnow.com/2013/04/20/timeless-and-time/#more-5822
“We can just give all our attention to the time-bound thing, the conditioned realm. This is what materialism does. It’s always sorting out, rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, trying to create perfect societies out of ideas, perfect socialist systems—communist systems, democratic societies, common markets, economic markets. We can create ideal societies with our minds, based on the highest principles, the highest morality, and the very best of the best. But in terms of experience, life is never like that; it’s like this—changing….
Observing the nature of suffering is the first noble truth; the second noble truth is the cause of suffering; we realise the cessation of suffering; and that is the realisation of the unconditioned reality that we can turn to. We can notice and awaken to the deathless reality which is unlimited, timeless, immeasurable, desireless. The Buddha said not to reject the conditioned realm, not to say, ‘I’ll have nothing more to do with it. I’m only going to pay attention to the unconditioned.’ The point is, we can’t actually do that because conditions—the body and the karma we have—are so strong. How do we relate the conditioned with the unconditioned, therefore? We reflect on the way it is by paying attention to it—it’s like this.”
We all sail on the Titanic. It’s just that some of us realize it and others don’t. Why doesn’t everyone understand that? Sometimes, it is the illusion of youth. I remember being a teenager. Teens have zero sense of time. If they feel good, they think they will feel good forever. I was suicidal and could not imagine things ever improving. The frontal lobe of us humans does not fully mature until the person is in his/her early twenties. Youthful stupidity can be fairly easily forgiven.
The problems I have run into in the religious world have usually revolved around long-term issues. I look down the road and reject short-term solutions because they generally create more long-term problems. The last church I went to was filled with elderly people and their view only seemed to go as far as the next six months. When you have a twenty-year mortgage, such thinking is pure folly. I have even read of how some Buddhist communities are having problems due to their aging congregations. Some of the people actually have to sit on chairs to meditate (due to increasing inflexibility of their knees)! Oh, gasp! (My own knees will probably never do a full lotus position.) This is new to American Buddhist communities. They could take a few pointers from American churches that have wheelchair ramps and other elderly-friendly accessories.
It is obvious that some ships will sink before others—unless we live in serious denial. But all ships will sink eventually. The wood rots, the plumbing rusts, etc. Our bodies are not capable of living indefinitely. Whether one believes in reincarnation or resurrection, the point is the same: we get new bodies. No one wants to keep their current model.
The smartest organizations take care to keep their flexibility. I know one New-Agey church that worships in a Korean Presbyterian facility. They have maintained services by not having to maintain a physical structure and all that goes with it (insurance, taxes, maintenance, etc.). This is huge, given Michigan’s crappy economy. By knowing what their mission is and having their priorities clear, they can adjust the how to maintain the what and why. The road to failure is paved with illusions of permanence, well-intentioned or not.
“One should never look at anything distractedly for no reason. With concentrated vision always look about with a resolute intent.” Awareness — If I manage to restrain my mind, by Acharya, originally by Shantideva, Posted on 5 April 2014 by Buddhism Now
That is a ridiculously difficult command, intentionally so, I imagine.
But I like it. It takes some of the randomness out of life. I look around and see so many people just out of control, acting and speaking without thinking first. It is so easy to respond in kind to stupidity and insanity, but having unconscious conversations with unaware people can lead nowhere good.
Anything beyond a polite “please” or “thank you” requires conscious intention. Part 2 of the article says, “Whenever the desire to move or say something occurs, first examine the mind and only act when it is firm and still. Should attachment or a wish to express anger be present in your thoughts, then do not budge or say a word: remain like a piece of wood.” Random thoughts may come, but they are not to be acted upon.
The best motivation for behaving carefully I have found is when life ups the consequences of subconscious behavior. For example, gas prices here just went back up to $3.99/gal. I have no choice about some driving, but that which I do have some control over keeps getting scaled back. I just got an oil change with a few other services to keep my car going. It hurt financially, but I intentionally take good care of my car because Barry and I are so dependent upon it. To not do so would be disrespectful of Barry and myself. Someday, I will have the freedom to decide things only for myself. Until then, how I deliberately care for myself and Barry determines both our qualities of life. Randomness in my actions creates reverberations that are not harmonious.