So, it’s been awhile since I posted. After the non-stop posts of February, I took a hiatus which ended up being a little longer than I planned. Thanks for your patience!
the past week I was riding along on tour with my friend’s band. I got the whole week off work and we had dates in DC, Philadelphia, and New York City. A number of unexpected problems the day before we left almost prevented us from even leaving town, but we were finally on the road Sunday afternoon and made it in time for the first show. Everything was going fine until the van broke down about 20 miles into Maryland. After a couple hours standing in the heat on an exit ramp and a couple more at a mechanic, there wasn’t any other choice but to try to get back to Richmond. They ended up renting a van to make it to the rest of their tour dates, but with all of the instruments there wasn’t room for non-essential people like myself.
Talk about a buzz kill. I had the whole week off work and didn’t really feel like going in, but I didn’t want to waste vacation time either. I ended up taking a day road tripping to visit a friend, and spent a lot of time with another friend who’s moving cross-country really soon, so it wasn’t a total waste.
I’ve been using some of my downtime to re-read one of my favorite books, Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. It’s half memoir, half introduction to Buddhism in a practical, everyday language kind of way. I found chapter six to be hitting home pretty hard, because even though the ideas he talks about aren’t anything new to me, they’re so easy to forget!
See, it was hard not to think all week, “I’m supposed to be in Philadelphia right now!” or “I’m supposed to be in New York right now!” Things don’t always go the way we plan, though, and there’s very little we can do to change that. No matter how well we planned the trip, a myriad of factors well beyond our control were all occurring at the same time. My friends dealt with the situation and found another way to get where they needed to be; I dealt with the situation and accepted that my vacation wasn’t going to go the way I thought it would.
In chapter six, Warner talks about landing his dream job in Japan, only to realize that once the thrill wears off, it’s still just a job. He writes:
We always want to believe that somewhere there’s a perfect situation, if only we weren’t barred from it. But that’s not the reality.
We always imagine that there’s got to be somewhere else better then where we are right now; this is the Great Somewhere Else we all carry around in our heads. We believe Somewhere Else is out there for us if only we could find it. But there’s no Somewhere Else. Everything is right here.
…there is always some kind of exchange. Even breathing is a matter of exchanging one thing for another – carbon dioxide for oxygen, old breath for new, death for life and life for death. Nothing lives in any other way. When you get right down to it, most people’s idea of paradise involves the equivalent of somehow just inhaling and never breathing out.
…Suffering occurs when your ideas about how things out to be don’t match how they really are. Stop for a second and look at this in your life right now. It’s important.
Nothing can ever live up to the fantasy we build up in our heads. There’s a reason that the word “ideal” is essentially “idea” with an ‘L’ on the end. The idea that our life will be perfect or that we’ll achieve some superior, eternal happiness if we just do X, Y, or Z is a dream that is a recipe for disappointment.
This was a concept that ended up being really helpful to me while I was in recovery. While I was in college I studied a lot of eastern religion, and my introduction to all of this was rather perfectly timed with my recovery. It occurred to me that anorexia had never made me happy. I would have moments where I would feel good about myself, but it was usually conditional to the flawed criteria anorexia had set up for me and it never lasted.
That’s because no amount of weight loss ever really changed anything in my life that mattered. The ‘goals’ that anorexia gave me to chase after weren’t anything but distractions, and the more I chased after them, the further they led me away from what was actually important. Conceptually, I think this is one of the most important things in recovery – learning to see things as they really are and meeting our difficulties head-on.
The last time things didn’t go your way, how did you respond? Was it in a healthy way, or was it hard to accept and move on?