The trails we normally walk along the river are all under water. This is the time of year when the river runs fast and full with spring storms and snowmelt. We are under a flood advisory. A huge section of what’s already underwater is an area they just finished rehabbing and replanting. I’m afraid all those new trails will be washed away, that the new plants won’t be able to withstand the force of the water.
The wet weather had another weird consequence. The heavy rain caused our land line to short out. We could call out, but there was heavy static on the line, and no incoming calls were getting through. This has happened before due to weather conditions, gone so far as to knock our line out altogether. This time the added bonus was somehow the shorting out was causing our line (not our phone, our line) to somehow dial 911 and hang up (who knew that could even happen?!). This happened twice, and each time, dispatch tried to call our number back to check on us, but only got static, so they sent officers to our house.
I could do a whole post ranting about how terribly our phone company has (not) handled this situation. The short version is they won’t send anyone until Tuesday to fix it and won’t disable the line in the meantime. We have a deal with dispatch that if they get another call and hang up, they’ll call our cellphones and check with us before sending out officers, but who knows if that will actually work. I’m feeling on edge, and to top it off, Ringo has a bit of a wonky belly today.
As often happens, the external environment seems to be a mirror of my internal one. I am feeling anxious and tender. I’m aware that the way I’ve moved through the world no longer is working, that I need to reroute, but I’m afraid, uncertain. I worry that there’s a real chance that the seeds I’ve planted won’t all withstand the difficulty I encounter. I’ve started rereading Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, searching for comfort, wisdom.
Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly.
When we were walking this morning, I said to Eric that I’m exhausting myself swinging between “Oh no, something bad is happening!” and “Oh good, the bad thing is over.” I know I can’t keep doing this, this resisting and grasping, swinging between hope and fear. I know it doesn’t work, only generates more suffering, but I still am working to embody that understanding.
I wrote in my journal just the other day, out of frustration, “The practice, the constant lessons and learning are exhausting. Why? Why not give me a little ease for a bit so I can HEAL? I’m trying to heal and you just keep pushing me so I’m so discombobulated I don’t know what to do, can’t think straight. How is that helpful?” And then today, reading Pema’s book, the answer, so direct and clear.
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
How many times do I need to hear this before I get it? Let go, surrender, relax, make room. One trail might be underwater, but there is another path, another way to go. Just keep moving, or rest, be gentle with yourself. As Pema says,
To stay with that shakiness — to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic — this is the spiritual path.