I’ve been slowly, unconsciously, and in some cases, unwillingly removing various influences from my life lately. Some little voice way in the back of my head is constantly asking me, “Does that serve your purposes?” and if it doesn’t, whatever it is goes out the window. I think the first thing that went by the wayside was my subscription to my neighborhood e-list. I decided I just really didn’t need to be involved in petty arguments about dogs, street repair, and other various goings on of the neighborhood and the City. It’s not that I don’t care about some of those things, but there are much more efficient ways for me to be involved in such things that won’t result in crazy neighbors writing to me off-list over some perceived offense. In short, I saved myself the offense of being involved in the soap opera, which is what it largely was.
Once that e-list went, it was easy to ditch any others, including the one for the larger neighborhood that encompasses my smaller one. It was even more guilty of being mostly concerned with lost dogs and what the exact protocol is to handle bird feathers, etc. I just.don’t.care about such things. Not anymore anyway, and clearly there are people who are already well-prepared to take care of such things.
The shedding of unwanted influences also extended to people, more than one of which have either removed themselves from my life or been removed by me as I’ve continued on my journey of being more assertive about what I do and do not want in my life. I don’t need judgment, first and foremost. I don’t need angry criticism, nor do I need self-righteousness. I’m in the middle of trying to STOP being those ways myself, and unfortunately that’s meant the deliberate and sometimes unwanted distancing of myself away from people who bring those influences into my life. I need a shirt that says “doormat no more”, because that’s really what’s happening. I don’t let people step on me anymore, and I suppose that’s probably really shocking to those who were doing it and are no longer allowed to do it. I’ve tried to assert myself in such matters as kindly as possible, but if someone’s standing on me and the only way to gain freedom is to push them off, it’s going to make them angry. There’s nothing I can do about that, and I’m having to be comfortable with that, as well. Pushing people off me and making them angry was a very dangerous thing to do for many years, and I carried the habit into adulthood. Now I’m trying to drop that habit, and I suppose I can’t be surprised when the odd person gets upset about it and tries to judge me for it.
My job in that particular journey has been not to focus on those who I’ve lost due to my changing, but to focus on those who have stayed, those who I have gained, and those who have applauded my efforts to be a better person, or who have even called me their hero for doing so. That one hasn’t sunk in yet, but I hope that it does in time. I have a lot of work to do on my self-worth, still, and the less I focus on the ones who don’t like me or judge me and the more I focus on those who remain and support me, the better.
I still have a great deal of trouble with going through life with the attitude of “be here now”, though. I still have to be in the world, to drive in it, to buy groceries, to deal with other parents, to deal with school administrators, to deal with a whole host of people and behaviors who are definitely NOT practicing “be here now”, and it makes it extraordinarily difficult some days. I live in a city with particularly bad driving manners, for some reason, and the other day those bad manners had me in tears for the short drive between my dojo and my home. Ten minutes, that’s all that drive is, and I was driving and crying before I even pulled out of the dojo parking lot after witnessing three separate incidences of stupidity or outright meanness behind the wheel. Granted, I was being sensitive that day and needed to eat, but it’s a good example of my needing to practice being where I am and remembering what’s important at any given moment in time. None of those people really mattered, but I still let their selfishness and lack of concern bother me. By the time I got home, I was in a deeply despairing mood in which I wondered what the point of anything was, if people couldn’t even drive from point A to point B without being murderously stupid to one another.
I even asked for guidance in what is probably a bad place: Facebook. Many of my friends tried to point out what is true, that it’s important to do the right thing no matter what everyone else is doing, if for no other reason than to go to bed and wake up in the morning knowing that I did the right thing. Then today I got a couple of pointers from the same place, one in the form of a very short video of Pema Chodron basically illuminating the idea that it’s better to wear slippers than to carpet the world and that it’s easy to do that by cultivating awareness in your own mind. I don’t know how to do that yet and I would do just about anything to know how. The other came in the form of a very smart friend’s blog called The Good Life in which he talked about how damned difficult it is for we Westerners to simultaneously live in the world that we are forced to live in while also trying to cultivate momentary awareness.
That rang so true for me, and I wondered if it is particularly difficult for parents. After all, “be here now” means just that: not dwelling in the past nor thinking about the future, two things that seem nigh impossible for a parent. After all, a good parent must always analyze past behavior to identify mistakes in order not to make them again in the future, which we are always thinking about so that we may properly prepare our children for it. How does “be here now” fit in to that? I do not know yet, and I imagine that it may very well be impossible to cultivate a pure state of presence and awareness, but I know that it probably IS possible to cultivate something else that has one foot right now and another foot everywhere else. Or perhaps it really is possible to cultivate that kind of awareness and still exist in the modern world while raising a child. I don’t know yet. My level of knowledge as it pertains to Buddhism and its base concepts is still as rudimentary as a child learning to draw the alphabet with a crayon. But I feel that there is something large that I am only beginning to be aware of, like a blind man holding his hands up to something very large and trying to figure out what it is. I do hope that my eyes are opened soon, or that my mind perceives what my hands only detect part of. The place where I am now I can only describe as limbo or purgatory, and I don’t like it here.