I don’t know how people do it. Seriously, how do you all do it? All the things?! I feel frantic today because there’s not enough time. I start thinking of all the stuff I want to get done — letters to write, packages to get ready to mail, laundry, shoe shopping, a Something Good post to put together (which also means going through the 100 unread emails in my inbox), this post, muffins to bake, tomato soup to make, more tomatoes to pick, a yoga class to plan, lights to order for the bathroom remodel, physical therapy to complete, a flower bed that needs weeded and mulched before the season is completely over and everything goes dormant until next year. I’d also like to sit down with my husband for a meal that someone else cooks for us, watch this month’s Open Heart Project Sangha theme video, watch the Monthly Dharma Gathering video, listen to the latest Good Life Project podcast with Susan Piver, finish reading Pema Chödrön’s new book, keep reading Brene’ Brown’s new book, maybe play with some glue stick or paint, do a yoga nidra practice. I’d also like to go to the gym and take a nap, but that just seems ridiculous. Rest and self-care and play becomes difficult under these circumstances, in the context of this kind of ambition, under the weight of my expectations.
Is it any wonder that I found myself on the couch yesterday, eating a bag of caramel corn and binge watching Catfish? And it makes absolute sense that when I went for a massage after so long without, that so much stress and tension had built up in my body that there were areas so bunched up that when she touched them they felt like they were on fire — the inside of my right calf, my lower back and the top of my glutes, my shoulders. When she was working on my right shoulder, I could feel it fighting back, resisting, refusing to relax, pushing against her as hard as she was pushing. There were moments I thought I’d have to tell her to ease up or even stop, but when she was finished, I felt lighter, softer, like I had lost ten pounds.
What was happening in my body is a mirror of what is happening in my life. There’s a single injury to my right heel, but there’s tension everywhere else, either contributing to or compensating for the injury, and when I don’t deal with it, ignore it and try to keep going, it doesn’t go away. Instead it reaches a point where it’s almost unbearable and I have to stop, address it. There’s no way to compartmentalize suffering. Whether hurt or hunger, when I don’t deal with it, it radiates out, touching everything, binding everything up in a single throbbing knot.
I almost feel bad for bringing it up, especially since I don’t seem to have an answer. I’m like Ringo chasing his tail. It’s like the illusion of ever being able to reach a work life balance, as if our work and our life could, or even should be separate. It’s like that story I heard once in college about a river where they’d built a new dam right in the middle of an established salmon run and the fish returning upstream threw themselves against the dam until they were dead because the need to go that way, the habit was all they knew, was deep in their body and they couldn’t give it up even if it meant they’d die trying. It’s like the running joke between my friend and I that if we could just fold the towels perfectly, have a completely organized and beautiful linen closet, nothing bad would ever happen, no one we loved would ever die, we’d all be safe and happy.
This is the truth at the center of the human experience I can’t seem to get comfortable with: bad things will happen no matter what I do. No matter how hard I try, now matter how much I work, things will continue to fall apart and life will be too short, there will never be enough time. As many of my Buddhist teachers have reminded me, the human experience is just this, getting on a boat that’s going to sail out into the middle of the ocean and sink. There’s no way around it. My only conclusion today is this: I’m an idiot but I’m also amazing, and I’m not going to give up.