A Note for the Hopeless

Around the end of June 2020, Ben and I heard a group of people singing “Happy Birthday” outside our window. We live at the top of a fifth-floor walkup on 80th Street in Manhattan, and our apartment looks out onto hundreds of stranger’s back patios and fire escapes.

The first few nights we heard the song, we chalked it up to an enthusiastic Zoom call. But when we started hearing it every night–sometimes multiple times–we were bewildered. In a time when isolation stretched on for the foreseeable future, this imaginary group of revelers started to frustrate me. Why did they get to gather and sing when we were playing by the rules?

By the end of August, our metal and rust-covered rooftop had become our greatest respite from our overheated one-bedroom apartment. One evening, when the singing started up again, Ben carefully leaned over the edge of our fire escape and spotted a group of beautifully set tables and strands of decorative lights. “It’s an outdoor restaurant!” he yelled, “That’s who’s been singing happy birthday!”

No one was breaking the rules, no one was flaunting their social distancing. It was a small pocket of joy outside our window in the back patio of a restaurant we had no idea was even there.

The Tricky Part About Hope

In spite of this cynical misunderstanding, Ben and I have somehow held onto a sense of hope from the very beginning–perhaps foolishly. I personally gripped onto hope so tightly that it took months to get over my anger at others who hadn’t. Even when I spoke to my therapist on the phone–who is paid to ensure I am living in reality–I raged about the lack of trust and hope during such a traumatic time. Every time my positive attitude was met with a “But things will never be the same, ” or a, “Yeah, but we’re gonna suffer a lot before then,” set me on fire with frustration. This feeling, I admit, was unfair.

Hope–quite understandably after this horrific year–has been linked with irresponsibility. I get that. In many parts of our country, a hopeful tone is paired with a flippancy that this pandemic is not as serious as it is. It can be linked with denial, with a sense of–let’s face it–selfishness. But Ben and I never doubted scientists, we wear masks, and we intend to enthusiastically get vaccinated when our time comes. So where did our cautiously hopeful attitude fit in? And why did it bother me so much that we felt alone it it? And why did it take me a year to write this blog post?

Days and Days and Days

Until I was eleven-years-old, I grew up in a very dangerous part of Plainfield, NJ. By dangerous I mean our house was broken into, our family was threatened multiple times, and when we did move, we weren’t listed in the phone book (this was pre-internet). Eventually, we managed to move to the tip of New Jersey so far back in the woods that they’d only recently put up street signs.

The move–which happened on July 15th, 1998 (an anniversary I celebrate every year)–was my end to a metaphorical pandemic. Even as a kid, I knew deep down that Plainfield would end, I just wanted us all to survive to see the day.

When I tried to immediately embrace my new life in my new town, something felt severely off. Imagine driving an hour from your house and finding a town of people that had never heard the term Covid-19. They’d had a perfectly normal year. They went to school, won some achievement awards for good grades, joined a softball team, and regularly hung out with a group of friends. This was me moving at 11. No one else had been through what we’d been through. That whole time, the rest of the world had carried on while we’d remained frozen in time.

A large part of me throughout my teens and early 20s silently resented the people around me for not losing those years. I assumed–incorrectly–that they hadn’t had challenges and that my awful reality was the truer reality–the way the world “really was.” They were the naive ones. What I didn’t realize is that these people, these loving people in my life, were the “Happy Birthday” singers out my window. They were the distant reminders that joy had prevailed somewhere, even briefly, during my dark years. In the end, it was my college group of friends–who were not part of my childhood story–that helped me get to therapy and pulled me out of despair.

The trickier thing today is that we are all in the shit together. There’s no group of people living without the knowledge of our shared trauma. Our trauma has all been different–very much so–but I use the word trauma deliberately. My therapy journey eventually took me to a PTSD specialist in 2016. I never pegged myself as someone with this diagnosis because I hadn’t been in a major accident, seen combat, or been physically attacked. My therapist explained the concept of complex trauma–PTSD that develops over a period of time when the threat remains constant. It is better explained by professionals here. Not all trauma develops into PTSD, but in my case it had.

My work with this therapist made me realize that the way I’d been living my life was not the only option. I always knew this on some level. I moved, after all–life had “returned to normal.” I read all the self-help books, became a Buddhist, went back to Catholicism, gave up both, walked 500 miles across a country, but still, a part of my body was still in Plainfield.

Most importantly, I couldn’t leave this trauma at the top of a mountain in Spain, I couldn’t leave it in a church, I couldn’t even leave it with a therapist. It took a long time to fully believe my world had changed and that the threat was not always waiting outside the front door.

A Complicated Ocean Metaphor

As I’m writing this today, even the NYTimes is admitting that hope could be on the horizon. We have vaccines, we have a president with a plan, and scientists are feeling hopeful. But what about us? I keep feeling like we’re all standing on the shore of hope–please excuse the long metaphor to come. Some have already swum out into the sea while others are on the shore yelling at them to come back. I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle, right in that place where the wave tries to pick you up but you have enough contact with the ground to still walk back.

If this had happened ten years ago, there is no question I would be on the shore. The weight of this horrific year would have proven my greatest fear–that things are “never going to get better.” That’s what depression and trauma love to tell you.

And yet, somehow, this time, perhaps because I’ve been in these waters before, I know we will be swimming again together eventually. It will just take time.

So, why am I finally writing this? Let’s start with why I am not writing this. I am not here to say that there is a silver lining to any of this. Fuck that. It was terrible. It can be terrible. I am not here to say that this pandemic is something that will be easy to get through or get over. We may never “get over” it in the sense that we think. I will never be over Plainfield. Instead, the experience for me has become a comparison tool.

Every now and then, I think back to the girl crossing off days on her bedroom calendar until the big move, terrified that something would happen before then that would hurt her family. Nowadays, even when I’m having a crappy day, I can think “Look at this! I have normal problems!” The world and all its flaws becomes much more vibrant.

When I hike the Camino de Santiago (something I talk about a lot on this blog), I spend most nights in hiker hostels or monasteries with anywhere between 5 and 100 people in each room. People snore, beds creak, and sometimes the air is so thick and smelly that you think there is no way you’ll be able to sleep enough to walk 18 miles the next day. But I’ve learned a trick. I think back to my trapped Plainfield days and ask myself if I’m trapped now. The answer is always no. The cynicism and frustration melt away and it all becomes a big adventure again. By this point, I’m snoring into the church rafters.

We may do that with Covid someday–perhaps not–but maybe. Maybe in a long line at the grocery store, on an over-crowded boardwalk, or when you’re tucked into one of the small wooden seats in a Broadway theatre. What was once frustrating may feel different, like a part of the adventure that was once taken from us.

Now for the reason I am writing this–finding hope after Plainfield took me 16 years. And honestly, the pain is still ongoing, it’s just far lighter than it was. But I moved through it with time, patience, therapy, and a lot of steps forward and backward. The people in my life that remained in the ocean proved that there was still hope out there somewhere–they reminded me that life could go on living when I felt safer on the shore. It helped me to see them, even if I wasn’t ready to join them.

We can hold hope and reality in the same hand. We can wear masks, follow restrictions, and be hopeful that things are improving simultaneously. And when Covid is controlled, we can feel fearful and relieved simultaneously as well.

I don’t have answers about what will happen in the next few months or years, but I can say there is another side to this pain and there is no rush in getting there. The voice that says “the world may never be the same” may simply mean that you will never be the same, and of course you won’t. I definitely won’t. But different doesn’t mean worse off, it’s just different.

I hope to be in the water most days, showing those on the shore that it’s possible to have hope. Other days, I may be back on the shore, safe in my worry. Wherever I am metaphorically, on my 35th birthday this October, I hope to eat at the restaurant outside our window and tell them all about how their singing made a difference in our lives when the world felt so far away.

The Third Time I Walked Into Spain

When I woke up in Portugal for the last time as a hiker, the aroma of brewing coffee wafted in from the common room. Someone out there is my true hero, I thought. The rest of the albergue was starting to roll out of bed and the familiar sound of backpacks being packed and teeth being brushed commenced.

My body hurt. I may have slept better, but things were really starting to ache. Your body waits for a weekend on the Camino, but it doesn’t come. My old ailments–a sore ankle, plantar fasciitis, a funky swollen knee, and hip that doesn’t feel screwed on the right way–began to complain.

Continue reading

A Quick Rant About Socks and Toxic Masculinity

I stopped off at a gift shop on my way home this afternoon to look at something small for Ben. We don’t really make a huge deal out of Valentine’s Day, but I thought I’d grab a card or something else silly.

There’s a company that makes these comedic socks — something Ben often wears with fancy suits. The women’s sized socks all said things like “I’m a girl, what’s your super power?” and “Busy making a F***ing Difference” (the one I wanted for Ben). Yay female empowerment and comedy! All good there.

The MEN’S sized socks, however, all said stuff like “Adult in training” and “Selective Hearing Specialist” and “Olympic Sleeper.”

I literally do not have one close male friend or family member that falls into the stereotype of “lazy man who doesn’t care about anything but cooking meat and playing video games.” Of course I know those people exist. But why again are we encouraging this? Can we add “expecting nothing but the bare minimum from the male race” to the list of toxic BS?

Yes, they’re just socks and I need to pick my battles, but hear me out.

About a year ago, Ben and I were sitting at a small local distillery when we started chatting with a very corporate-looking dude at a bachelor party. We somehow got on the topic of travel and the guy said, “I’ve always want to go there, but my wife doesn’t let me do anything.”

…..I cannot stand this mindset. Not only does it say, “I’m incapable of making an educated decision by myself because it would require effort,” but also, “I haven’t taken the time to think about why my wife might be making that request.” Most importantly, it is lazy and resentful toward your partner. Regardless of gender, no one should be light-heartedly declaring that they are overly controlled by their partner to strangers.

So much to his surprise, I took him seriously. “Why not?” I said with a worried face. “Like anything? Does she know you’re here?” He was a deer in the headlights. Conversing with his wife about the subject hadn’t crossed his mind. Complaining about his wife controlling him was all he saw as an answer.

I hear this stuff constantly and the fact that it’s everywhere, even silly socks, is lazy. Stop it.

 

30 Rock Happy Valentines Day GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Stories We Don’t Tell

adam-marcucci-568047-unsplash

Photo by Adam Marcucci on Unsplash

When I was a teenager, my mom and I used to sit on the front porch as she’d tell me–usually with a touch of our family’s famous dark sense of humor–about her many brushes with danger. There was the time, while living in late-1970’s NYC, that a man followed her off the subway. When realizing she was alone and in danger, she began singing show tunes at the top of her lungs and acting so insane that she got him to back off. At least that’s the story I remember. I always keep that tactic in my back pocket.

Then there’s the date that went wrong. It all seemed fine until he pulled the car over and asked if she was interested in seeing his Vietnam knife collection that he kept under the seat. She rapidly talked her way out of that one–talked so fast and about so many things that he didn’t know what to do. And then he took her home.

The stories go on an on, each with a shared laugh (an empowering laugh) between she and I, along with a new lesson that I stored in my brain in case I someday find myself in the same position. On top of these, were all the stories of the 1980’s theatre world and grad school culture, directors being so terrifying with women that my parents later discouraged me from applying to certain BFA programs–where those men now worked.

In the 90s, my family went through several years of hell related to sexual assault. As it is not yet my story to tell, I will choose to remain vague. But I remember having a particularly dark thought at the start of it all while watching a NJ Lottery commercial. “Oh I get it, just the way you can win the good lottery, you can also win the bad one.” I was eight. For years, I became overly aware that I could win the shitty lottery at any time if I wasn’t prepared. I decided, wrongfully, that it was all in my hands, that I could handle these situations if I “trusted my gut” or knew how to talk myself out of it. If I didn’t buy a lottery ticket, maybe I couldn’t win.

Society, as luck would have it, backed up this idea. Don’t walk home late at night, always diffuse the situation with a smile, be careful what you wear. It’s in your hands. In 7th grade, they split up the boys and girls for a sex-ed talk. I learned a few self-defense moves while the boys in the next room, a friend told me, learned about contraception. Perhaps he lied. Either way, the message stuck.

Continue reading

Finding Organic Structure

Two fellow writer friends recently inquired about how my book was going. It’s a legit question—eight months ago I flaunted online that I’d written 85 pages of said manuscript before going totally silent about it. Since then, I’ve barely been able to look at it. It actually took writing 85 pages about my Caminos and everything that came before and in between to realize that I had no idea how to write a book. My lack of formal writing training has finally caught up with me.

No, I’m not waiting for some golden strike of lightning to show me the way to write this thing, or even for the possibly never-to-be-seen opportunity to go back to school. I simply don’t know what the story of my book is. What do I have? Two, five-week hikes across a country, a childhood filled with stories that would raise the hairs on the back of your neck, a year of trauma therapy, and all the details in between. Believe it or not, this does not make a story. It makes a very long journal entry. Lucky for me, I no longer have shame in sharing these stories. I do feel that I own them–I am ready to be my own narrator. So, that’s good.

But as I mentioned in my post on Tuesday—I have a pile of memories, stories, and lofty themes that could make endless books that I sure as hell wouldn’t want to read. Maybe someone would, but not me. I’m not putting down my experiences, I just haven’t found the proper way to honor these memories yet.

So how do you do that? The last chapter I read in Natalie Goldberg’s book dealt with finding organic writing structure. Instead of depending on the 5th grade essay structure—roman numerals and all—she suggests that a writer must find some way to structure their writing that works for them. For her, this came after decades of writing with little structure at all–as I’ve been doing quite unsuccessfully. When she did find something that worked for her, she was finally able to sift through that pile of thoughts living in her writer’s mind.

One of her journaling tactics—and eventually her writing structure—comes from jotting down phrases, sights, stories and anything that inspires her throughout her day into her journal. When she sits down to write something longer, she writes one or more of these at the top of her page and sees what comes out within these ideas. This allows your brain to ramble within a theme, it brings out the actual story you need to write—opposed to restricting yourself to the jail that is linear memoir writing.

I’ve done this bunch of times on this blog—my birthday month of stories, the acts of connection series, and even a list of Camino stories that fizzled out. But perhaps my structure has been too tightly held—too much pressure to create something interesting every day. I could, for example, move through the Camino towns as the inspiring word at the top of the journal page. I could try to tap into where my mind lived while walking through each of these little Medieval towns.

So yes, I have 85 sing-spaced pages of gobbledygook (did you know that’s actually a real word? And that I’ve been saying “gobbledyGOOP” my whole life?).  Anyway, what I wrote is not my Camino story. Perhaps it’s all the “this is what people will want to read” crap that I needed to write first.

I do feel a bit like I’m starting fresh, but this time, I’d like to at least be prepared. As I continue to write about not writing, I welcome any book, blog, or class suggestions for those also in this strange boat.

Perhaps one day I’ll look back on this post and say, “How nice! I had no idea I’d eventually write the darn thing.” Who can say.

For now, I’ll go back to sipping my cup of coffee in a bouncy plastic chair outside my favorite coffee shop where I currently sit. The guy next to me is mansplaining college courses to his–daughter? niece? friend?–even though she knows way more about the whole thing that he does. I’m dying to cut in to tell her that she doesn’t have to decide what to do with her life yet, and that no matter how much she plans and trains in one subject, she may still end up sitting in a coffee shop chair trying to recreate her artistic career at 31. But perhaps not.

Learning to Write Again

Yesterday, I spent my afternoon painting two old adirondack chairs that we found on a curb in Cape May while on vacation. Frustrated with my writing, I hauled my grouchy self to Home Depot with a hoard of feisty gardeners and purchased outdoor furniture paint, some gorilla glue, and a whole bunch of sandpaper. For someone who doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing, the chairs don’t look half bad. I’m writing from one right now, rickety, gorilla-glued armrest and all.

My paid writing life seems to alternate between weeks packed with work and those with ample time to work on my non-paid, personal writing. I am currently having a slow week–hence the chair painting. I also made a cake and some really fancy-pants iced tea. Have I written anything I’m proud of this week? Negative. But look at that Santiago cake!

The one productive action I made toward my writing this week was to pick up one of Natalie Goldberg’s books I have yet to read, Thunder and Lightning. She begins the instructional collection with a harsh warning and a bit of regret. Her most well-known book, Writing Down the Bones, was one of her earlier publications, and now she wonders if she naively damaged those that she encouraged toward a writer’s lonely life. With the start of this book, she cautions her reader. “Know that you will eventually have to leave everything behind, the writing will demand it of you. Bareboned, you are on the path with no markers, only the skulls of those who never made it back. But I have made the journey and I have made it back–over and over again, I will act as your guide.”

Though her earliest book continues to provide guideposts for my writing, I can’t blame her for my questionable life choice. I’ve had a nagging narrative playing in my head since I was a kid. I even remember–during a particularly tense ride home in my parent’s car–planning to open my future book by describing the lightning storm that grew in the distance above the soccer field across the street from our house. If only I knew how to write anything past that.

It wasn’t until my first hike on the Camino did my writer’s voice have enough time and space to speak up and be heard. I’d hoped this second Camino–the one I completed last summer–would spark something new in me. Instead, as I whined to my husband last night, I’m left with a jumble of thoughts, piled in the middle of a room like a haystack, and I have no idea how to sort through it. Perhaps the older you get, the more discipline one needs to figure out what the hell you really want to say.

Anyway, I’m writing this post about not knowing how to write–one of many on this blog–to simply break my writing dry spell. When I was a kid, theatre was my true love. It was communal, celebratory, full of parties and rituals. Now, I am the only director, cast, and stage manager of anything I want to create–a true blessing and a curse. I no longer have to wait to be cast in something. It is my responsibility to put down the paintbrush, ignore the cake recipe, and simply write–even if it’s garbage.

But at least I picked up a helpful book today. And at least I received confirmation from a wise teacher about the ache that plagues each writer. “Now that you have been warned, let me also say this: if you want to know what you’re made of, if you want to stand on death’s dark face and leave behind the weary yellow coat of yourself, then just now–I hear it–the heavy modern doors of the cloister of no return are cracking open. Please enter.”

SaveSaveSaveSave

On The Other Side of Oral Surgery

Pain meds + iced cream + ice sculptures

Last night, I broke down crying over a slice of bread because it had seeds in it. Man, was I excited to try that bread, it was supposed to be a victory lap after three-and-a-half days of very successful healing. But I’m not supposed to eat seeds yet, and this bread turned out, had seeds. And that was the end of me. I fell into a pit of self-despair as I poured myself another damn bowl of soup.

Obviously, the break in my emotional dam was not really about seeds. This has not been a good few months. When I got back from the Camino in August, I developed a white spot on one of my gums next to a crowned tooth. As someone with unexplainable dental issues since childhood (one of those issues being a debilitating fear of dentists), this spot sent me into a panic and a slump. As a child, I ate the same amount of sugary junk any other 90s child seemed to eat, and yet my friends came out with clean bills of health from the dentist, and I did not. I didn’t get it. I brushed, I flossed, I used that mouthwash where you squeeze the bottle and it fills up the cup on the top. As an adult, I’m borderline obsessive about my teeth. I was excited to work from home so I could brush my teeth more. I’ve nearly completely cut out sugar and I’ve looked into acid reflux. And so I linked my oral health to humiliation and the inability to do something right. It must not be enough, I must be doing something wrong. No one else talks about tooth issues, so it must just be me, right?

Back to August:

Continue reading

The Camino List!

I woke up this morning with a new sense of hope. It is the first time I’ve slept soundly through the night since last weekend, and I’m sure it was partially due to the fact that I was finally able to eat somewhat normally yesterday.  I’m still unable to get back to hiking training, but I feel less like the room is spinning every time I exert myself.

I am also beginning to fully process that I indeed only have two more weeks in a full-time, traditional office setting.  I’ve been counting down my return to the trail for nearly six years, and more recently, obsessively counting down the months and weeks.  This trip represents far more than a career change and “vacation.” It is the end of a three-year push to pay off a mountain of debt, to figure out a new lucrative, freelance career and lifestyle, and most importantly–to learn how speak up for decisions and ideas that truly make me a better, more complete person.

But with joy and realization, comes the inevitable travel anticipation–the total “holy crap moment” that accompanies leaving your comfortable bubble and doing something rather terrifying.

And so to both celebrate this morning’s new-found sense of hope, and to recognize my underlying terror of returning to this physical undertaking of hiking 500 miles, I have begun mentally making the “Camino List of Awesome Stuff”–a list that will keep me going through my final 15 days.

Things I’m looking forward to on the Camino

Continue reading

A Time Capsule of Anger

I try to avoid negativity and anger on my blog.  After all, it’s published online for all to see, possibly forever.  But to be truthful and straightforward–and to recognize the physically and spiritually difficult trip I am leaving for in two weeks–I will respect the crappy feelings as well as the good ones.  So if you are–understandably–not in the mood to read a rant, do not feel bad about moving on.  This rant is for comparison for when I return in August.  It is a time capsule of sorts, here to look back on once I have found some distance.

 

 

Recently, I’ve found that the same people who tell you constantly to “take better care of yourself” are the ones that will also go out of their way to point out why you aren’t working hard enough.  I’ve spent the past four years in a work and family-related “assistant role.”  I’m the “dependable one,” the one that doesn’t get angry, the one that reads all the details and explains them to others with a smile, the one that orders the food, sets up the wedding, puts everything in place.  I am thanked constantly for it–which I find very kind. And yet you know what would be kinder?  A hand when I ask for one.  Since last summer, I’ve been mysteriously sick.  I have bouts of terrible stomach problems, landing me in bed with no energy, barely able to eat for a week.  My joints hurt most of the time, my muscles involuntarily twitch–luckily not enough for anyone to see if you don’t look closely enough.  I am tired and foggy, and feel most days like I am moving through  a physical and mental swamp.  I have asked for space but am rarely, truly given it.  I am told to rest and then called to assist an hour later.

Because when the “helpful girl” admits to being chronically sick, or additionally just sick and tired of being the only go-to person in a community–the contradictory people come out of the woodwork.  Now that I have admitted “weakness” by speaking about my health issues and expressing a passion to move on to a different career, they descend, pleasured to find a scapegoat for anything that can be pinned on the “girl who helps everyone, but messes things up because she desires a life change.” They are the finger-pointers, and only in the privacy of their quiet moments do their fingers really just point back at themselves.  Common phrases include, “Maybe you’re not eating healthy enough.” “Why haven’t you seen the specialist I suggested–that’s why you’re sick.” “You disrespect your anxiety because you won’t take anti-depressants.”  “You probably just need to stay more positive.” “Everything will be fine, just keep doing all the stuff your’e doing.  Oh, and take it easy, you’ll make yourself sicker.”  Or there are the career-related ones: “Some of us can’t choose our careers over having a family.” “You might as well give that artistic thing a try when you’re young so you can come back to this when you want to have kids.” “How does your husband feel about this?”

I know these are projections of their own issues; I know all the logical reasons why this shouldn’t get out of my skin. And yet all of the practical, psychologically friendly pep talks I’ve given myself in the past several months have done nothing to keep my anger, frustration, and bitterness at bay.  I do not like who I am right now.  I don’t like how I respond to people’s needs, coworkers questions, or family expectations.  I knew my anger had over-boiled when the other day, while walking into Trader Joe’s, I became resentful toward the automatic door for not opening right away when I walked my cart up to it.  It’s a shock to everyone who has named me the “calm dependable girl.”  Because right now, I am not that.  I almost yelled at a door in public.

At the same time, this weird wave in my life has shown me that my frustration has significant outside sources, and is not something I’m imagining, or need to “just find a way to get over.” Yes, I need to build up my defenses against the occasional misunderstanding, but no, I will not carry on to simply be the girl who everyone thanks for cleaning up the work they don’t want to do themselves.  I was recently told that I should expect less of people so that I would not be as disappointed when they did not treat me with respect.  What a terrible way to view those around us–that we should expect less of everyone?  Not take their word as truth?  Assume that they will not come through?

I am writing this rant as a reminder for myself when I return in August from the Camino.  I am angry and tired. I don’t sleep a full night because I wake up feeling sick, tense, and angry.  I wish I was better at blocking out the anger around me, especially when it is wrongly directed in my direction, but I will also not settle for expecting less of people.  I will continue to expect that those in my life will strive to be true to their word and kind to those around them, because I am striving to do the same.  I am not a saint, I am no indestructible event planner, and I am not (nor should I be) expected to do everything with a smile on my face.  Yes, I may continue to be disappointed by others–and in this state, I may disappoint them–but I will not lose faith in humanity just because I’ve hit a patch in my life when I feel walked on.

Here’s hoping I look back on this with some peace in a few months.  Until then, I’ll be home sick today, hoping I can eat again.

“But that doesn’t make it okay…”

Cloe Ridgway via Unsplash

Just before leaving the house this morning, I flipped open a book by Pema Chodron that I’ve been slowly reading.  I specify slowly because it’s a breakdown of an eighth-century text called The Way of the Bodhisattva by the Buddhist sage Shantideva, and most of it takes some time to process.  I usually have to be in either a very concentrated or spiritually depleted mood to focus on the densely packed text–and then take a bit and walk around with it throughout the day.

Well, this morning, I was the latter of those two–spiritually (and in this case, physically) depleted.  As I hoped, the book’s message was exactly what I needed to read in that moment.  Not only did Shantideva talk about the damaging and purposeless effects of self-resentment, but I was also reminded of Pema’s tonglen meditation method–or, the process of breathing in someone else’s vices, and breathing out peace.  In this practice, you are fully experiencing someone else’s anger, hatred, confusion; recognizing it in your self; and breathing out peace for both parties. It got me thinking about a dilemma I’ve had during this rough time.

Continue reading