Stay

Oh god, I want out so badly. There’s a person I can’t stop thinking about, and ice on the ground, and my relationship with my dad is difficult, and I feel impotent and alone, and I want out. I wrote an email to the guy telling him in detail how I was never going to speak to him again – it was full of power and hope and blame; it was full of drama. I have spent the last two days mostly in bed, shivering with the cold, dwelling on self-blame, and now I have the will to cut somebody out of my life, forever, in order to feel powerful again. In order to gain something that feels like control.

I’m going to throw myself into my practice, and give up on the whole idea of being in love. I will shroud myself in the robes of an urban monk and meditate two hours a day and spent all my free time at the local meditation center, and I will be free again.

But it’s just more drama. So, I can cut myself off from a friend and a whole group of friends, and can I feel powerful; but for how long? How long before I find some new shiny person? How long before a life thrown into practice becomes boring; how long before spending my free time volunteering becomes tedious? How long before I act out from my loneliness and rage at the person I am rejecting today?

So my finger is hovering over the “send” button on that email as I wonder whether it’s all really necessary.

When I learned about meditation, and started studying the qualities of existence, I had a moment when I realized that Buddhism is something I can fail at – again and again – and still keep coming back. Just like meditation, whenever I find myself in never-never land, I can simply come back when I am ready to do so. And there’s no blame, no accusations of back-sliding, no threat of damnation. I don’t have to know stuff; I can be completely wrong and do everything completely ass-backwards, and it will work out.

But that doesn’t mean I should give in to every impulse to run away. Maybe instead of having to come back I can stay. Maybe just for this moment, I can hold back on the email telling off yet another person who seems to have abandoned me. Maybe just this moment, even as I’m forgiving my friend who I feel so much hurt towards, I can even hold off on the text message forgiving him for what he hasn’t even done.

Maybe I can live with my inability to traverse the ice today, and find some way to be with myself simply and endure the discomfort of not knowing whether I’m any good. Maybe I can endure the inner voices that continually tell me I’m of no use to anyone.

It feels like a retreat I did recently. I was in a beautiful place, surrounded by supportive people, but I had a very bad sunburn. I was in agony, and it looked like I was going to be stuck in my tent for the duration. And I was uncomfortable with the idea of spending the next week stuck in my tent with sunburn. So I left. One of the counselors tried to encourage me to stay, but I could not endure the moment of not knowing what it would be like to stay there for another week. So I booked it. Even though I had every reason to go, it’s a decision I will always regret. I will have to go back and do that retreat again, and I will miss out on some activities for the next two years because I left, but that’s just not important now. The only thing that’s important is that this retreat is just one more thing I didn’t complete.

I don’t need to blame myself for the past, but today, right now, I can tolerate this moment. I can refuse to wage war on my friend and on myself. I can sit.

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