Sunday, March 14, 2010

when things fall apart...

...I feel like dogshit.

Sigh. This is going to be one of those personal posts, a revelation that I am indeed a human being, complete with warts, histrionics, bad temper, evil thoughts, tears, fears, helpless anger, and ridiculously faithful hope.

Beware: ramble ahead!

When I consider everything that I do, want to do, and set to myself as a goal, it occasionally crashes over me with an intensity that steals my breath and paralyzes my mind. I've been thinking lately about time management and quality of life. For me, much of my goal-setting revolves around my laptop and the world to be found online.

That artificial yet remarkably, achingly human and real place captures more and more of us. I don't think that's a bad thing, necessarily. But like anything, it can be used as a balm, an escape, a refuge from the present moment and place in which we actually live and take up physical space. Many, many people feel an overwhelming need to escape from life, to run and hide, duck and cover. Life can be horrifically brutal, cruel, unfair, and just terrifying. (And this comes from someone who has never lived in a war zone, never experienced true poverty, never been violated or brutalized.) Escape is something we often seek mindlessly.

Lately, I've been reading When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön. I'd heard her name for years, had friends who read her, had met her, aspired to Buddhist ideals and beliefs themselves. Months ago, I found this particular book in a used store and picked it up, knowing that someday, I would read it.

Now is that time.

When do things fall apart for us? In a universal sense, it is when we cannot cope or even assimilate, let alone accept, what is happening around us, “to” us, through us, from us, within us, from those we thought were our closest confidants and champions but who then seemed to betray us in the most soul-ripping manner possible.

According to Chödrön (thereby, according to Buddhism), when things fall apart is the most amazing, real, authentic time of our lives.

Much as it is very difficult for me to admit on occasion, she's quite right. Every time my life as I know it has fallen apart, the most shining truths have made themselves known to me with a sharp clarity that at first blinds, and then illuminates. And those were truths I no way could have seen or believed without the jaggedly painful experience of having my heart gouged and yanked right out of my chest, my soul attacked and battered, and my ego destroyed by a single uncaring glance.

Pain in the neck, that sort of thing, isn't it? But it's the way it is.

Partially in reaction to my recent falling apart, I have, of late, used my online communities as methods of escape, release, validation, liberation, commerce, time-sucks, focus, drive. None of these things are inherently “bad,” I don't think. But they don't necessarily always allow me to live my life out loud, in the moment, exuberant and free and HERE. Sure, often enough they do. People are real online! They are intimate and emotional. They invite us into their lives, reveal to us the microscopic details that create them and their days. I have experienced many genuine moments interacting, or merely “lurking,” in and with my communities.

And then, I shut off the laptop, turn off the ringer on the cell phone, walk out the door and right into my right here, right now life. Weather, smells, sounds, sights...the glorious, amazing, shocking, gorgeous physical world. And although that life is what I often tweet, chat, blog, talk about, it's also real life, which I believe can never be truly explained online. Real life: gritty, dirty, full of mistakes and recriminations, exposing the real me, not the me I present myself as being in my online universe. I like to think these two me's are the same, of course, but anyone who spends enough time in the online world knows that, as with all else, it's about presenting a face of you that does not always include the base realities.

My grandmother, my Babcia, of whom I'm written about here before, is back in the hospital. She has been in and out of them for years, but most especially the last 16 months. She just got home from another hospital stay the other night, and then scared my mom and aunt badly enough again that the doctors said to take her back to the ER. My grandmother has gone back and forth from basically unresponsive, to aware, to unresponsive again. Will she be awake and aware and alert again, "permanently," whatever that might mean? I really don't know. Is the whole situation around her, is she, a part of my real life that doesn't make it into my public persona, my public face? Yes. Because it is gritty, and sad, and not what people necessarily want to hear. And it is terribly personal, and a story that I cannot claim as my own; it's her story, even though it affects me also. But it's also a very human story, no?

Then there is my life here, at home in Utah. My gritty, sometimes ugly, sometimes cruel, sometimes painful, always real life here. In one of the most beautiful spots on Earth, no less! This past year has been one of tremendous learning for me. Things I believed to be real and true turned out to be false, full of lies and anger and indifference that covers a pain so deep I don't know if it will ever be realized and embraced and thereby broken free of. And this was from someone else, not from me, yet it affected me so strongly that I am reeling still. Things did indeed fall apart for me! Am I grateful? In some ways, yes, I honestly am. I like the fact that I am more involved in my online world. I like the fact that I am committed more to my writing now. I like the fact that this latest falling apart of my life here has caused me to go deeper, to read things like the Pema Chödrön book. This latest instance of when things fall apart forced me to become just that little bit more real and compassionate. Just a bit, but I'll take it.

And in some ways, I still seek escape. Of course, I will ultimately soldier on and all that. I refuse to hide forever. I refuse to shirk the world, my life, my loved ones, my goals, myself. Even when it seems much easier to simply yank that old wool right back over my eyes.

I guess all I'm saying is, I'm still here. And I am grateful for that, no matter what it means.



LauraJean said...

Love you!!

Julie Trevelyan said...

Thanks, Laura. :) Love you too.