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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

when people you love hurt

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I have never known what to do when people I love hurt. Whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual, all I know how to do is hug, soothe, and cook. I prescribe what works for me: flowers, tea, chocolate. Cookies. Time spent watching birds.

It meets w/ spotty success, I confess.

And of course, as any Buddhist wannabe, I practice tonglen. I practice as my beloved Pema Chodron teaches: when my husband is suffering from his incessantly difficult knees, I remember how my own hands ache from arthritis, and how my own knees give out in the stiffness of early morning. I identify with his pain, breathe it in, and then breathe out peace. Comfort.

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I also make a nice pot of tea, and buy salted dark chocolate caramels. Not as good for my karmic profile, I know, but sooo tasty!

When my young girlfriend speaks of her few difficulties w/ her new baby, I think of when I wake up mid-sleep and can’t relax, over-thinking my life. I breathe in her anxiety — worried as she may be that she won’t be able to handle this new, infinitely complex job — and breathe out comfort. I also pick up Starbuck’s, in case she needs some added energy. :)

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Tonglen may be what best defines Buddhism to me: the desire to make the world better on a person-by-person, every day to every day, basis. And then practicing that desire: breathing in pain, breathing out comfort. As one source notes, it begins with befriending ourselves: noting our own pain, our own grief & loss & fear, and sitting with it for a moment. Then realising — on a bone-deep visceral level — that ALL human beings feel pain, grief, loss & fear. That alone is pretty amazing stuff.

But to move from that recognition to the desire to change this, to use our own dark places to heal those of others? How incredibly wonderful is that impulse?

Today, if you’re blue, or wondering how to help someone you love weather a difficult time? Don’t think. Just breathe. In< pain/ out> comfort. It’s really that simple.

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unexpected treasures

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This is a bat house. While this one isn’t the one currently in my garage, awaiting its move to Virginia, it looks much like ours will look in a few years: well-used, I hope.

As my beloved sorts through the oddments we’ve accumulated in our soon-to-be-empty storage unit, he’s found all kinds of wonderful things. Photos of me w/ my then-three-year-old elder son, standing next to the witch doctor in Kenya who told me I was pregnant w/ our 2nd son. Photos of my husband when he was very young, and even more handsome, if possible. :) One of my father sitting next to his father, the year we were married.

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He’s found a few books worth salvaging — not many — and this & that. But the bat house? That’s a true treasure.

Like most ‘treasures’ it has a story worth far more than it is. When my younger son was a small boy, his imaginary friend was a vampire bat. Yep — a vampire bat named Uncle Bat, who wintered in Florida. And no, I am NOT making any of this up.

Needless to say, we were bat-o-philes from the get-go. We read bat stories. We researched bats. We even joined Bat Conservation International, a global organisation committed to educating people on the importance -and harmlessness — of bats. It was only a matter of time before my son asked us for a bat house.

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The challenge w/ bats is that they scare people. And our culture perpetuates that myth: bats are horrible; they carry diseases; they get caught in your hair. They’re far less ‘horrible’ than rodents (that cute mouse? that little squirrel?), although they do in fact harbor some diseases. But we’re not trying to tame them and keep them for pets — we’re trying to use them to kill our mosquitoes (which also can be lethal) and pollinate crops. Like tequila? Thank bats — they pollinate that agave.dead bat 2

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So my beloved, his father, and our two sons set out to build a bat house from my son’s BCI plans for one. The four of them cut lumber, sanded, nailed, & glued. They read blueprints and they wrangled. And a weekend later? We had a bat house! And I have memories of three generations working together on a project.

Which we never put up… :(

I thought we’d lost it, actually — it had disappeared into that space where things you meant to do go, and then evaporate. Or compost, or whatever they do. But it reappeared! (Did I mention some folks think bats are magic?)

So here we are, at least 20 years later, with a bat house! And I’m not kidding: it’s one of the biggest treasures to come out of the dark hole of our storage unit. Because really? What’s better than the memories of Dad, the boys, & my beloved, all creating habitat?

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making friends with (at?) work

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Because of the upcoming move, I’ve scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if I was free for lunch. Sure! I responded — she doesn’t get to Tulsa that often.

I didn’t even ask what she needed, assuming there was something she wanted to discuss in person. In fact, she had a small gift for me for my ‘service.’ Note: this is a group of such nice folks that they don’t have to ask more than once for people to help out — the group is just that nice.

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Not to mention it’s a great cause. And no, I’m not going to name them; it’s a violation of their privacy.

They had a very cool mug for me, and wanted to pick my brain about some upcoming stuff they were considering. Not to sound insecure, but this is a bunch of very smart men & women, and to be asked to contribute in any way is a huge honour, at least in my book.

Again — I don’t think I’m unconfident. I know I’m fairly bright, and that I often think outside the box. Which isn’t true for all academics. And that’s probably not a bad thing — we don’t need as many odd dreamers as we do folks who can follow directions. I CAN follow directions, but like w/ a recipe, I’m always wondering, but what would happen if I did this? Or added this? Or…? 

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It’s a problem in some environments, I assure you. But it never has been for this crew, who made me feel welcome from day 1, and refused to accept my tentative (& immediate!) resignation, when I said I couldn’t really see how they could use me. Nope: they taught me to see strengths I really don’t think about having. Creativity, sure. But really? Who needs poetry at work? It turns out, though, that what powers poetry is a creativity that’s also useful in many brainstorming sessions.

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My dear friends insist they miss me, & that they were glad to see me. Plus,  on a day when it was all I could do to roll out of bed & shower (this  achey summer cold is sooo kicking my butt!), what a nice treat to walk in to a cool coffee house and have someone buy me a cold drink. AND bring me a present! Who could ask for a nicer afternoon break?

As I left, they were interviewing someone to join the ‘family.’ I didn’t stay — it wasn’t my place. But I wanted to tell him: you do realise — these are just the NICEST folks? And that if you accept this job, you’ll have friends as well as colleagues?

I figure he’ll find out soon enough. I did. :)

 

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temper temper

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via google

I’m probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don’t believe it!

Sheesh.

Give a guy a cold, a fever, too much work, too many things to do, and he plotzes. Loudly, w/ a LOT of casualties. Women? For the most part — and I realise I’m generalising here — they ask for help, juggle, push through, or go to ground. They normally don’t punch the person next to them.

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I say this as the mother of sons, the aunt of nephews, the happily-married-for-decades wife of my beloved, and teacher of many.

Here’s the deal: men evolved to erupt: in action, in fierce protection, in defense. It’s hard-wired beneath a relatively thin veneer of communal cooperation and politesse. Women evolved to collaborate, not to go rush mastodons.

As a card-carrying feminist mother, I swore my sons would have dolls (they did — could have cared less), Hasty Bake ovens, other gendered playthings. They wanted guns (not allowed in play form – they made them from Legos) and books on poisonous spiders. Now here’s the catch: so did I, as a little girl. So I’m well aware that generalisations should never become stereotypes. But I think we ignore our biologies at our own peril. Those times when my beloved would ask (very carefully, from a distance) if my ‘hormones might be running’? He was correct far more often than not. That’s biology, as long as he doesn’t use that as an excuse to ignore legit issues.

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via wikipedia

via wikipedia

(He almost never did.)

Biology isn’t destiny, of course. It’s predisposition, or predilection, or an easy four-lane instead of the off-road scenic route. We don’t HAVE to give in to what we’re programmed for. There are so many examples of this I probably shouldn’t even bother going here, but a few come to mind: decisions to stay single, not to have children, not to have biological children, to remain celibate, to live in solitude and/or silence. None of these would serve the species well biologically — they almost certainly aren’t, in other words, hard-wired in. They’re conscious choices we make, according to our contemporary lives, needs, desires.

Like not punching the person next to you when you’re upset. That’s another good one to cultivate. Just sayin’…..

Previous Posts

when people you love hurt
I have never known what to do when people I love hurt. Whether it's physical, mental, or spiritual, all I know how to do is hug, soothe, and cook. I prescribe ...

posted 4:45:33pm Aug. 04, 2015 | read full post »

unexpected treasures
This is a bat house. While this one isn't the one currently in my garage, awaiting its move to Virginia, it looks much like ours will look in a few years: ...

posted 1:15:47pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

making friends with (at?) work
Because of the upcoming move, I've scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if ...

posted 5:49:17pm Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

temper temper
I'm probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don't believe ...

posted 12:36:21pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised
I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, ...

posted 1:52:52pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

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