Forgiving the Hellish Existential Rollercoaster

I forgive my mind for being a cesspool of hellish, existential thoughts this morning.  I forgive my mind for being a cesspool of hellish existential thoughts this morning.  I forgive my mind…

Ahhhhh… Consider yourself lucky that you are YOU today, and not ME.  I woke up CERTAIN that today was gonna be a stellar day!  Swaddled in the sheets of luxury, I sipped my tea, decadently read my book, Commitment (the book exploring marriage) and celebrated feelings of relaxation, gratitude and wholeness.  Later, after breakfast, I charged into Mykael’s bedroom and announced what a great day it was destined to be!  And then, I guess I lost my footing somehow, because the next thing I knew I was writhing in the vicious, salivating jaws of an existential crisis.  What the hell?  How on earth did that happen?  I couldn’t stop thinking about what an immature soul I am, and how many more times I might have to live, as a result.  I can barely endure THIS life, let alone ten, a hundred, a million MORE lives.  Even if I take new vows of forgetfulness and innocence each time, still, the thought is WAY TOO MUCH for me to bear today.  And somehow I thought I could THINK my way out this prime real estate in hell.  But the more I thought, the more I felt hopeless, overwhelmed, starkly alone and terrified.

I guess now the trick is to simply step out.  Okay.  I’m willing to give it the old college try… but first, I just have to say ONE more thing… I know, I know, that is a dangerous proposition.  But it is important.  Really, I swear.  I was noticing my thirst for fame and fortune.  I live in this pathetic little construct of scarcity, where I habitually see the lack… lack of money, lack of love, lack of you name it… and I have this sorry little egoic plan for salvation.  Some day, somehow, I will become a famous writer.  I will feel fulfilled (some day) (maybe…) knowing that my books explode like frivolously ecstatic firecrackers in the minds of the masses, which in turn, explodes ME in a frivolous, ecstatic manner, and for this, I get paid plenty of money to lead a life of financial freedom, inspired philanthropy and continuous, playful expansion.

Not bad, eh?  See, my carrots really are the kind that can slice through glass… (I know, I know, that kind of carrot is spelled different…)  But then, a barrage of spiritual ideas about our desires being what binds us to this world of illusion, fear and suffering flooded in, and I thought, “fuck fame and fortune, I just want to be DONE here!” But then I started thinking about how pathetic I think renunciates are, when they don’t really feel INSPIRED by the path of renunciation, but they just do it because Buddha did it, and they becomes slaves to a dry, uninspired path of perpetual trying.  It seems so inauthentic to TRY and emulate a spiritual leader, as a cop out from blazing your own holy trail.  I think all great spiritual leaders courageously blazed their own trails (in cooperation with Missus Almighty, of course).  Remember in Herman Hesse’s book, Sidhartha… Sidhartha was following the Buddha for a while, so he had a chance to intimately study Buddha’s hard-core disciples… and they were all so pathetic.  They became robotic dorks, investing everything in some hope bound, conceptual twist to which they incessantly milked for every last drop of creamy, less filling dogma.

I am not knocking the path of choosing a spiritual teacher… But “better to do your dharma poorly than somebody else’s well”… Right?  So, here I am, fighting my dharma, because I just want to get off the ride while it’s still in motion.  Good luck, Athena.  That’s why I stepped onto the page with the sole objective of FORGIVENESS.  Because that’s about all a sistah can do, when she’s stuck on a horrifying, gut wrenching rollercoaster.  Forgive the ride.  Forgive myself for somehow BEING on the ride.  Forgive the ride operator, forgive my fellow riders, as we shriek and squeal and barf all over each other.

Speaking of barfing all over each other, Mykael and I got in a horrid fight on date night last night.  Naturally, we were at Boot and Shoe service.  And again, I was all stoked to have a fantastic evening, since we had not spent much time together at ALL for the past two days.  The glitch?  Well… have you heard that clever-assed saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments”?  Well especially after last night, I attest!  But the tricky thing about expectations, is that they seep in like a slow leak, a flooding basement, perhaps.  You might be upstairs having the dinner party of the century, all the while… and it’s not till the next morning, when you’re modestly hung over and you have a big mess of dishes still to clean, and you go down stairs and HARK, your LP collection is wet, warped and ruined along with all your photo albums full of photos of grandma and grandpa’s wedding day and their proud bathtub full of  nasty moonshine!

Expectations.  I had an expectation that we would have DEEP, satisfying, thoughtful, rich conversation over dinner.  And I was even prepared to generate it!  I had a few prizewinning insights and confessions that I was SURE would serve as a smokin’ kick-off!  But each time I spoke one… ummm… they would drift from my mouth like holy smoke and evaporate mysteriously into the shimmering ambiance.  Well, it didn’t take me too long to flood and nearly drown in disappointment.  But it wasn’t my own for long.  I did everything in my power to cram my disappointment down Mykael’s silent throat.  It started as an innocent confession.  I identified and then verbalized my expectation.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  T’was the recipe for a fierce spat.  (I seem to have an entire recipe book full of gourmet spats… if you ever want to whip one up to impress your loved ones, you know who to call!)

Intrinsically, there’s nothing wrong with my boyfriend having a quiet day, right?  Of course not.  But can you also see that it might sting me to share my innermost thoughts~ I had been cultivating this particular insight for more than… a day~ In my tireless contemplation of partnership, groping for the CORE of my desires, my commitment… I realized that I am nowhere near as good at unconditional love and acceptance as I want to be… and that our relationship is a fertile ground for practicing these invaluable, virtuous spiritual muscles.  I felt surprisingly shy expressing this to him… Because it made me feel vulnerable.  Then, to be met with silence stung.  But I kept stepping back in, sharing more of myself, giving him the benefit of the doubt.  I am patient, until, abruptly, I am not.

As soon as the fight turned from an accidental spark to full throttle, licking flames, he was suddenly more than happy to engage with me.  WHAT THE FUCK, I thought.  How fucking unfair is it, that he isn’t interested in meeting me in the space of my joy and enthusiasm, but as soon as we step into battle and bloodbath, he is right there, shouting back at me.  Meanwhile, I am feeling sick to my stomach and can’t bear to eat the gorgeous, artistically steaming pizza before me.  This pissed me off.  I pointed it out and then BEGGED him to stop talking.  He wouldn’t.  SO I shifted into eighth gear and DEMANDED with the full force of my being for him to STOP TALKING.  He did.  And instead he began to CRY!  “You are so mean,” he said in a voice of wounded, crumpled defeat

Later, outside the restaurant, he named me “the first person EVER to ‘make him cry in a restaurant’”… Can you believe it??!!  Do I get a medal for that, or a death sentence?  I’m still not sure.  What did I do while he cried?  I renounced eating, turned toward him and felt dumbfounded, helpless and sadistically comical.  He would not turn toward me.  After an eternity of those awkward moments, I turned away from him and slowly finished my slice of pizza and we left in loaded silence.

Outside we picked up where we left off.  I hate that.  The feelings (pain and rage) suck.  They feel humungous and threatening, and I always just want to run away and find a private place to bleed and nurse my wounds.  One of Mykael’s most KICK ASS strengths in our relationship is his commitment to getting clear and returning to Love.  Left to my own devices (if I was, say, dating myself…), I would do a lot more punishing, dramatic exits and private wound nursing sessions.  But Mykael doesn’t roll that way.  This is very healing for me.  So we stood outside the bookstore in the cool, breezy, waning evening and SOMEhow, miraculously, we found love again.  I was having a REALLY hard time letting go and forgiving.  WHY?  I think because I’m afraid that if I let go so easily, I’ll just be in a vulnerable position to be hurt again.  So the prideful, gleaming alternative is to hold on to the pain, glorify it, make it the most real and important thing.  Ironic, how holding onto pain is the ego’s remedial solution to not getting hurt again.

??????????

Mykael said he’d accompany me into the bookstore.  I still yearned go be alone so I could continue sulking, but this man was relentless.  His only commitment was to restoring connection.  Fuck, I wanted to fight.  But instead, I just gave voice to my resistance to letting go, and in doing so, stumbled upon some holy flecks of freedom.  He embraced me and I let myself melt.  God, it sure felt better to open than to fight for my right to remain closed.

Later, we had amazing sex.  Strange how that works.

I’m gonna find my way out of this crazy labyrinth… any minute now…

P.S.~ I feel SO much better after getting all this out on the page.  Peaceful and closer to empty.  Hallelujah!!!!  My hope is that you find something of yourself here in this poetic tangle of words and can love your ridiculous humanity more as a result.  Amen.

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Sorrow, Impermanence and Yearning

I’m still kinda disoriented from all the crying I did this morning.  I guess because I’m still not even quite sure exactly why I am so sad today.  There’s something so freeing about crying without such a concrete story about WHY.  And with that, Athena proceeded to launch into reasons… mostly in an attempt to find something previously unseen within herself.

It was Mykael’s birthday yesterday, remember?  Well, he spent the day with a broken heart (I guess mostly because he isn’t where he wants to be in his life).  The birthday boy had been dreaming of an afternoon mushroom trip at Tennessee Valley beach in Marin… but a large, unsightly monster began to nibble voraciously at the afternoon.  We planned to leave at two.  Two came and went.  Then three slipped inconspicuously through the cracks…  People often say that Mykael is the perfect man for me.  Sometimes I agree.  But sometimes I think it’s fucking nuts to be with a man who tends to be as emotionally volatile as me.  We both embody the quintessential artistic temperament.  It can be intense.  I often find myself wishing that one of us was more “normal”… you know, stable, balanced… in our next lives he can be an accountant and I’ll be the milkmaid!  HA!  Needless to say we drowned together in indecision and heart ache and ended up just going to Whole Foods for a loaf of bread, six cans of coconut milk, a jar of crunchy, unsalted almond butter, and Mykael got himself this cute little chocolate chip cookie sandwich with chocolate ganashe in the middle. (Why is sugar such a compelling substitute for love and happiness???)

By then it was four thirty pm… What in the heck to do?  Since we were close to the gym in down town Oakland, we decided to go for a quickie rock climb.  Life according to Athena= when in doubt, move your body.  Felt good.  At least in my world, the invisible, heavy weight became slightly less debilitating.  Then we went to dinner at our new favorite restaurant.  I’m gonna let you guess… That’s one way he and I are compatible~ We both have the creature of habit gene, and like to really get intimate with a certain place, the people, the food… we mostly order the exact same thing every time.  And strangely, we most always agree on what we fancy to put in our mouths.

When we landed at Boot and Shoe Service, our fragile psyches seemed to be spreading their wings, poised to take flight.  How could they not?  Even in the still vibrant six thirty pm light, the candles flickered, promising romance and enchantment.  The restaurant bustled with beautiful humans, both the servers and patrons.  At the time, I didn’t realize it, but the overflowing basket of fresh, shiny spring onions impressed themselves heavily upon my mind.  I can see them so clearly right now.  I’ve noticed this new trend in the super hip, shi-shi restaurants… you know, the ones that use local, organic ingredients… where the wealthy-ish, self proclaimed “foodies” go to get their munch on… I’ve noticed that the trend is to display the fruits and vegetables du jour in showy baskets and bowls right out on the counter that divides the cooking area from the dining area.  It’s like a little altar to the food.  I like it.  Boot and Shoe does it.  Brilliant idea to let people behold the innate artistry of the food they are about to consume!

Suddenly, I realized, uh-oh… we are about to eat pizza and drink wine (only a dinky glass, but still…) and then, since when it comes to eating, Mykael can be such a dog, he’ll eat whatever is in front of him… he’ll fill himself to the brim with carby, doughy ness.  Then we’ll get home and he’ll be an immobilized lump and be too comatosed to make love.  I tried to be tactful and gracious and even inviting as I expressed this concern.  I was delighted when he said I could delve out his portion of pizza!  Chicka-chicka-bowm-bow!  The night just got even better.  I was in the mood for lllllove!  Yeah!  But then came dessert.  Boooo.  We ordered the chocolate cake (come on, you can skip dessert any other night, but…) and then, since it was his bday, they gave us a bowl of Strauss vanilla soft serve with olive oil and sea salt on the hiz-ouse.  Damn, it was SO delicious!  Would you ever think of eating [vanilla] ice cream with olive oil and sea salt?!  You should, because it was heaven on a stick!  Anyway, I totally lost interest in the boring, dry cake as a result, so Mykael polished off the whole slice plus a bunch of ice cream and my heart winced and crinkled.  I thought if the pizza didn’t sink his ship, all this dessert sure would.  Enter pouty Athena, stage left.  The littlest thing can flip my switch.  I’m not quite proud of it, but more fascinated.

We walked home the scenic route through the rose garden. (Maybe we could burn a little of that excess sugar and make some room for sweet lovin’)  Exploding rainbow blossoms, recklessly full, patiently wide open as twilight began to lure their petaled innocence into her dark belly.  Birds sang a melancholy dirge to the inward folding of this day, which will never be lived again.  Already slipping back into the pit of disappointment, once home, I got an e-mail from E*.  He told me that he felt himself closing off to me.  That sitting down to write to me, he mostly found himself staring blankly at the glowing screen.  Reading this, my already heavy heart sunk below my inner horizon.  Then Mykael and I climbed into his bed and he confessed that he felt energized enough, but he felt all this pressure to perform, which sucked for him.  Yeah.  I can see how he would feel that.  And honestly, I’m sure that if I was feeling strong and generous and unattached, I probably could have opened my heart and my body and spilled gratuitous lusciousness all over him and inevitably gotten boned immaculate, like I yearned to be… but instead I opted to respond to his confession by remaining pouty and disapproving and distant.  Ladies, learn from my mistakes.  This behavior might feel satisfying in the short term, because you get to be indulgent, impulsive and gloriously RIGHT… but in the longer than seven seconds term, this addiction to pouting and punishing and staying closed SUCKS.

I fell into a downward spiraling trap, imagining that our sex drives are sorely mismatched and if we stay together forever, I am destined to a life of perpetual sexual unfulfillment.  Sure seems like it these days.  In the beginning of our relationship, he wanted to have so much more sex.  Now he mostly wants to cuddle.  I haven’t even hit my sexual peak yet.  This thought sent me to hell.  How on earth will that work?  I can’t stand feeling disappointed and sexually rejected so often.  It fucking blows.  But certainly not even remotely biblically… unfortunately.  Did they have such a thing as blow jobs back in biblical times?  The Christians would say no, but the pagans would put their hands in the air and say “whoop-whoop!”

Anyway, we fell asleep together in half baked openness, but with a thick, filmy residue of bummer.  I hate going to bed aching.  Because inevitably, I wake up aching.  I felt so sad that he was so disheartened on his birthday, and even more sad that I couldn’t just make myself, my desires, attachments, needs disappear for the day and just be for HIM only.  On top of that, I’m reading this book, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, by Huraki Murakami, and he describes some very graphic world war II brutality in it, such as a man witnessing another man be skinned alive, and soldiers being ordered to kill all the carnivores in the zoo.  I read it first thing in the morning and I probably shouldn’t because I feel it all way too deeply, which only exacerbates all the other aching I partake in.  Woops.

It just seems like there is no way to reckon with the perpetual imperfection of human life.  No matter what, seasons keep sweeping us along.  Not just the biblical seasons, I mean life and death on every level, in every moment.  Impermanence.  Hope.  Tragedy.  Revelation.  Yearning.  Today in A Course in Miracles, the lesson instructs us to marinate in gratitude.  Sigh.  It’s a good day for that.  There is so much to love in this life.  ESPECIALLY in the face of such startling impermanence and imperfection.

Spirituality According to Athena

I have so many random, straggling voices inside me that are competing for the spotlight right now.  I’m not quite sure where to start.  Okay, the Nigerian man who I wrote about not too long ago… the one who was on the road (paved with dangerously sharp beliefs) to being a priest~ he was at Gaylord’s this morning with his elevenish year old son.  He introduced me to this big little person who looked both bored to bits, yet teeming with rich inner life.  The boy has lighter brown skin than his dad.  It is the color that is just the way I perfer my coffee, the immaculate ratio of milk to espresso.  Warm, rich, brown.  Milky enough to be decadent, but strong enough to have flay-vah!  Anyway, soon after the friendly introduction, they packed up their stuff (mostly dad’s gaggle of books) and said goodbye.  It MELTED my heart when the boy said to me, “You said your name’s Athena?”  An eleven year old is NOT obligated to remember this stuff or care!  So when he said that, my heart burst into an applauding peanut gallery of flaming tickle.  I asked him what his name was, since I hadn’t caught it the first time (I had my headphones on).  He said “I.K.”  I asked him if it was short for something.  He said yes.  I asked if I could know what that is.  Again, yes.  Then he spoke such a weighty, strong, African(?) name.  Please forgive me, but I have already forgotten… since it was a name I had never heard before.  I repeated it twice and looked in his eyes.  What a beautiful being he is.

I have a minor bone to pick on this topic of names.  WHY do most people act so helpless and ignorant when it comes to calling somebody by their real name, just because they have not heard it before???  So many people with regal, profound names end up going by “JJ” or “D”, just so that they don’t have to deal with the ignorance and laziness of the masses.  Names are important to me.  They are sacred vibrations that evoke Being.  Different is good!  It is unique.  But then I suppose there’s the layer of being a “minority”… which seems to be a source of shame for those among us with darker skin and names that take a few practice repetitions to pronounce.  What do I know?  I’m just your garden variety, lower middle class white girl.  What do I know about living in a white man’s world?  Some, but not as much as others…

Anyway, I bring this up, because I hope maybe you’ll become more aware of your laziness (I’m not talking to YOU of course… I’m sure you are wide awake and considerate…Mostly I am speaking to those other people…) and consider making the effort to pronounce someone’s real name, witness them in more of the fullness of who they are, and watch them become more vivid and fully alive!

Which brings me to the topic of being KNOWN.  That is one of the most profound gifts that another can offer me!   Yesterday Mykael and I threw our frugality out the window for the evening and went to eat at Boot and Shoe Service, the hella artisan pizza place on Grand Avenue.  This was only our third or fourth time there together.  We nestled next to each other on the bench seat at the front of the restaurant, facing in to the bustling ambiance that I consider top notch.  The mood unfolding from inside me was relaxed, satisfied, appreciative.  When life inside me is so easy, I consider this Grace, because so much of the time I seem to be engaged in hot, heavy battle with invisible forces within myself.  Praise it all!  I sat, blissfully smooshed between the wall and the man I choose to walk along through life with, nibbling big, buttery green olives, sipping a Sangiovese that I would not order again and generally enjoying the privilege of being out in the world on a waning Wednesday.  As we hungrily awaited our pizza, I thought, about how I’d have to be sure to ask for some olive oil when they brought us our steaming, doughy beast.  But I didn’t have a chance, because when the waiter delivered our eight slices of heaven, he also set a little white dish on the table and said, “I heard that you guys like olive oil with your pizza.”

I guess I’m pretty easy, but my heart burst with sticky sweet glee.  HOW ON EARTH DID THEY REMEMBER THAT?!?

At Taste of the Himilayas, they have our order memorized.  Yeah, the palak paneer is so good… and the garlic naan, so perfectly tender and savory… the chai so simple and decadent, why would we bother branching out?   And they know too that we love tamarind sauce, so sometimes, but just *sometimes*, when it’s an especially auspicious day, they bring us an extra large receptacle of the tart, sugary sauce!  Back at our old stomping ground, Fonda, too, they memorized our order and we got to sample the textures and stories of life as it unfolded through our waiters and waitresses.  To me, this is highly profound; creating relationships with the random spray of characters that God places along our otherwise mundane-assed paths.  Look another human in the eyes, give a sincere shit about what they have to say, where they have been and where they aspire to go, and life shifts gears from your basic olde 3D version to some profound, richer and more unabashedly loving dimension!  (infinityD?)

Generating kindness among what could otherwise be construed as a garden variety stranger is a sublime facet of being alive.  In fact, I’d even go so far as to call it, “spiritual”.  Since I have started blogging, I have also begun to explore the oceanic community of fellow bloggers.   I do searches on subjects that I, myself like to write about… just to see what other people are thinking, feeling, saying… “Spiritual” is one of my favorite searches.  I find that many voices are grappling with the question of what “spiritual” really means.  I appreciate this.  And as I read through the twist of musings, they all seem so bloody complicated.  Does it need to be so complicated?  I mean, don’t we all agree that life as we know it in this universe boils down to energy?  Pulsing, vibrating waves of energy?  This continuous invocation of OM singing us all into being?  How can this phenomenon be anything other than SPIRITUAL?  In my opinion, we needn’t divide the things of this world up into categories of “spiritual” and “not even close to spiritual”… Matter is dense, relatively slow vibration.  Condensed spirit.  Ask any scientist.  And while you’re at it, ask them if most of this world of matter in which we so staunchly believe isn’t mostly empty space.  Go on, ask ‘em… I bet they’ll give you a self satisfied, enigmatic smirk and say, “Yup, you bet your rigid britches!”

So if it’s all a big, saucy, spirit soup, then maybe the term “spiritual” is a word that can be used to convey aspects of ourselves and of life that testify to the soupy truth of who we are and what we are made of.  I like that.  And to me, connecting with other people, forging simple relationships founded on warmth and kindness, making the world a more connected and joyous place is a highly spiritual facet of existence.  In this existence soup, all life is interconnected and interdependent, so acting in ways that acknowledges and celebrates this truth is like WAY spiritual.

May you be blessed with the simplicity of sharing kindness among “strangers” today!

Amen.