Grace…at Mike’s Fitness


So, the calming practice from this week’s Letting Go of Fear is using the body’s contact points –to earth, floor, seat, etc.–to ground every time you get aware you’re afraid.

I’m like, HOLLA!  Finally an assignment I can do!  Who cares how many times or what caused the fear or what thoughts and behaviors happen.  I feel afraid, I acknowledge, and I calm.

Today is the official first day of the homework, but I started practicing it last night in the car on the way home.  You’re supposed to do it at least 5 times per day.  It’s 5:36 pm and I’ve done it about 200 times.  (This is a slight exaggeration.  I’ve only done it 25-50 times, but who’s counting?)

Anyhow, I’m at the gym after couples therapy–might I digress and mention since my partner and I now both like the Stork, we’re actually working on our relationship?  It was much more fun when we hated him and had an alliance.  Now it’s not so clear he’s going to get voted off the island, though after 25 years, it might be unlikely that either of us will go either.  Anyhow, couples therapy is a good place to practice our calming touch points, especially because the Stork has been a meditator for like 30 years, and when my partner and I get scared and suddenly yell out, “Touch points!” he kind of gets it.  Even better, after I confessed that I inventory my partner’s inner life (like I know what it is) when I’m triggered, and I mimed ringing a bell, the Stork knew it was the temple bell heralding my sainthood.  That gained him about 200 points, especially since my partner didn’t get it AT ALL.

Back to the subject at hand.  Well, back to leading up to the subject at hand.  Anyhow, after couples therapy I went to the gym.  I love the workout high, but I kept doing touch points every so often, because my own thoughts scare me and it’s a sad day because 1) it’s my sister’s birthday and I haven’t seen her in a really long time and 2) Don was slipping out of the world this time last year and I was holding his hand.

I worked out; I did some yoga.  I decided, then, to take a sauna, even though I had no towel or change of clothes with me.  So I stripped down and got in the sauna.  The calming practice came in handy because being naked in public places makes me a little nervous (and the locker room at the gym is kind of public).  So I’m lying in the heat, sensing into the points of contact, and feeling the heat, and listening to my Ipod.  I could feel my pores expanding, and the muscles letting go; I could feel the heat lie itself over my skin, the wooden slats under my ribs…and the very slight smell of cedar entering my nostrils.

Writing is always about trying to put words on the unexplainable.  Suddenly everything clicked in…the song on my Ipod, was, providentially, “No Day But Today.”  I heard the harmonies.  What I mean is that I heard each individual voice and the blending at the same time…and I could distinguish which sounds came through which ear, and the beauty of it slayed me.  The heat, the sweat beginning to bead on my forehead and abdomen, the points of contact holding me, grounding me.  The next song was “Halleluia,” by Sonny Boy Mack.  I could hear him breathe between the notes as the music filled all the space I own, as the slats pressed up against my sacrum, my feet, as the heat continued so steady, and tears poured down my face because it seemed I’d never heard music before, or felt my body against bare wood, or known heat…everything new, everything so terribly real, the senses fully awakened, and who knows why I cried, sitting naked in Mike’s Fitness in Jamaica Plain, thankfully alone in the locker room.  I wanted the moment to never end…I wanted it to stop immediately.

All this seeking…I joke, I know, but I do wonder what life is about, really.  I mean, it’s not ambition.  I emailed my bio in and it has awards on it, and when I won them it was a high moment, each time, but then there was a next moment and a next.  What was notable in the winning were the relationships, the claiming of a voice, the suddenly becoming visible–a moment, a presence, something that passes.

I know that life is about love…but maybe only the love like last night, doing the touch point exercises and then taking my partner’s hand, and, for a moment, feeling the warmth move from her skin to mine, feeling the small bones, the steady pressure–the touch of our hands everything we have ever loved and found precious in each other over these 25 years.

Today, in the sauna, I understood presence.  Again.  I’ll probably forget it, but I knew, without question, that the experience of Halleluia–that level of hearing, feeling, completeness, that grace, that giving over–is the thing.  The one thing.  Life rolls out, one experience after another, and then experience lands, and it’s like oh, I was here to just be with this.  All of it, I might add, the grief, the drama, the sweetness, my partner’s small hand, the beauty of the music, the loss of loved ones.  I am here to be with it.  And then I’ll go, some day, and that will be it…so temporal, so impermanent, so worth it.

If it had taken the last two years of practicing Buddhism to get only that one moment, it would have been worth it.  But the truth is that when I meditate using the body as my anchor, these moments land more often.  I see colors differently.  I smell, hear, taste, feel, everything more.  It’s more joyous and more painful and I need every calming practice I can get to be with it, without running too soon, before I learn, before I deepen, before I am utterly changed.

Awakening to a moment of grace and presence.  At Mike’s Fitness.  The ironies of my life grow exponentially stranger.  Really.  I mean, REALLY.

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Letting Go of Fear, Class 3…or, Coping with Boston’s Sports Teams


So, after 2 weeks of finding out that I’m scared of, well, everything, I now get to do a calming practice.  This is good news.  Because sensing into my body during Pat’s games to stop my racing heart from Tom Brady’s f#$%ing interceptions, thereby preventing a heart attack ala football, will be a good thing.  I mean, what is it with the Pats this year?  Are they competing with the Red Sox for biggest roller coaster ride in history?  Not that I think the Pats will embarrass the city of Boston as badly as the Red Sox did.  I recognize that as a near impossibility.

I wish I liked watching hockey or basketball.  Well, actually, I don’t.  When my partner suggests we take an interest in the Celtics or the Bruins, I start talking about my early demise ala sports teams or her early demise ala not paying enough attention to me.

I definitely need a calming practice.

I should say that I did sense into my body to figure out how fear was expressing itself during a near interception in last Sunday’s game, and my heart beat super fast and my breathing went all shallow.  I must be having clinging to winning with sports games.  Why else would I watch?  But I must admit that my tendency toward extremes leads to…well, extreme and unpleasant bodily sensations during losing football games.

And, sports teams aside, I found that the lion statue on Huntington Avenue scared the shit out of me yesterday, partly because my partner and I had been talking about lions and I’d had a dream about lions, so, being Catholic, the statue seemed like a sign (anything that appears 3 times is a sign, not that I’m superstitious) of my early demise and when I sensed into my body my entire shoulder girdle, upper arms and upper back were tingling and tense.  That is how fear expresses itself in the jungle.  On Huntington Ave.

Once, when I was twelve and huddled in my bed late at night with abdominal pains, my father took me to the emergency room, where they did an x-ray.  They found I was very constipated, did an enema, and sent me home.  My father went around for two weeks afterward saying, “I had to pay X dollars to find out she was full of shit, which I knew anyhow.”  I still resent this, by the way.  He was way more full of shit than me, and it wasn’t a good joke and thankfully some of the people he told didn’t laugh.  I am remembering or constructing the women looking at me with sympathy.  I don’t know if they looked at me like that or not, but it’s a nice thought.

Anyhow, the point is, Buddhism is kind of like a spiritual enema.  (Am I actually saying this?)  You get the 1st x-ray.  You find out you’re afraid of way more things than you could possibly imagine.  You get the 2nd x-ray, and find out the ridiculous behaviors you have in trying to avoid said fears (including, disturbingly, a tendency to exaggerate and backtrack so you seem less powerful than you actually are…and that would be me).  Then you walk around disturbed with yourself.  Then you calm yourself down.  Finally, at some point, you investigate the fears, which has the potential purging (ha-ha) effect (I’ve done some of this, which is why I know what’s coming).

Anyhow, in Catholicism, you confess your sins, assuming you know what they are through self-analysis, and then the priest makes you say a bunch of boring prayers.  In yoga, you try to figure out what satya is, and what lies you’re missing…not the egregious lies, but the ones you tell yourself, the way you misrepresent your feelings and desires, and then you seek self-correction.  In Buddhism, you notice, sense into your body, track your behaviors and crazy thoughts, and then try to accept it all.  You do self-correct (the Noble Eightfold Path).

Here is my long-term self-correction: I do not watch Browns/Steelers games because I am from Cleveland and my partner is from Pittsburgh.  This helps us not kill each other.

I would like to only watch Pats games in which Tom Brady throws no interceptions and wins early in the first half.

I avoided most Red Sox games this year for obvious reasons.  Though we won the only one I attended, and I did enjoy, as usual, singing Sweet Caroline.  (Total tangent:  Does Neil Diamond wear a toupee?  Or is his hair just like that?)

I will now walk through my day noticing fears and using my calming practice.  There will be no analysis, especially since Buddhism has taught me that my analysis is usually fiction.

Life is full of surprises.  I have been forced by the sheer power of Buddhist self-awareness to admit I am not the most self-aware woman on the planet.  In fact, I know nearly nothing.  This, for some reason, makes me kind of happy.

I am now, at this moment, doing my calming practice, because I had a thought float in that my stupid father with his inappropriate jokes may have had a point.  I reject that thought as a fear, and I calm, calm, calm.

 

PS–Yes, of course I know that Buddhism isn’t about purging and the ridiculous enema simile is ridiculous.  I am ridiculous and I am doing my calming practice and accepting my ridiculousness and the fact that most of the time this blog is my playground on paper…without paper.

Buddhism Is All About Realizing You Are More Insane than You Could Have Imagined


So, my partner and I had a fight.  An argument.  A discussion of whose fault it was (this makes it a fight).  I blamed her.  She blamed me.  We both tried not to do this, but we failed.  I hung up on her.  She threw a comment at me.

Then, I went away to hang out with my enlightened friends from NYC, so my partner and I couldn’t really talk about it.  Giving me plenty of material for the Letting Go of Fear meditation practice group homework.

I tracked my fears.  I wrote them down, and then tried to sense where they happened in my body and how they changed my behavior.  My behavior was mostly not calling my partner, though I did send a text message, “metta,” spelled, “Meta,” because Siri inappropriately corrected me.  (Incidentally, I asked Siri if she loved me, and she said, “You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”  This made my NYC friends howl.)

Among my fears appeared a kind of panic that my partner’s friends would tell her to leave me.  Also, that I would cave first and therefore not win the game of chicken I’d created in my insane mind.  (It goes like this–my partner tries to have the make up talk a couple times, but I don’t like her sallies into the game, so I say no.  Then she gets really mad because I won’t play, and when I try to have the make up talk, she says no.  So I decided I wouldn’t try to have the make up talk and see if she’d crack first.  (She didn’t, but I started the make up talk with a question so she had to be vulnerable first, which came a close second.))

In case you were wondering, this falls under the category of “More Insane than I Could Have Imagined.”  It falls under this category because Buddhism has made me capable of realizing that I’m doing these things, whereas before I just thought I was right and justified…or needy if I wanted to make up really badly.  Now I know I’m crazy.  My partner seems to prefer this…though I think she could have skipped the 3 days of playing chicken.

Anyhow, the good news is that when we had the make up talk, about, one might add, the same issue we’ve been arguing about for 25 years (is she being passive-aggressive, am I invasively describing what’s happening inside her head and is either one of us being really, really, really bad…or, even further, are we reminding each other of our mothers (answer to all questions, yes, yes, yes, and yes))…we actually made some F%$#ing headway!  After 25 years!  We are aiming for satya…you know, some relentless honesty about what we do, what we’re up to, and how much we’re defending ourselves when we want to just love and be close but are, guess what?  scared of being hurt.

My partner said, “I’m trying so hard to hear you and be honest,” and I really believed her, and I was trying, too, and we both do know the score, after 25 years.  I always say that the script is really well memorized for these arguments, and I could say her lines, in order, just as she could say mine.  There are, apparently, couples who don’t argue, and instead don’t talk at all and just resent each other endlessly.  We talk, resent each other, talk some more, resent each other some more, confess we’re scared, especially now, as we’re taking this Letting Go of Fear workshop together.

Tonight, at dinner, my partner was like, “I really hated the middle of this fight.”

I was like, “You know, I just started watching the procession of my own reactions, and I got really interested in them, and then curious, because I hadn’t seen it this way before, so it wasn’t that bad for me.”

She started laughing really hard.

I was like, “I’m just like that.  I get curious, and then it’s like, ‘Hey, someone just cut off my leg.  I’ve never had my leg cut off before.  It’s really painful.  But I didn’t know it felt like this.'”

She’s like, “I know.  I know what you’re like.”

Which is, in the end, the sum up of being married for 25 years.

I can say, for example, that I know since I didn’t print her out a check sheet for the fear homework (because we were fighting) she probably didn’t do it.

Here’s the surprise–I didn’t do it perfectly.
I only did 1-2 most days, not 3, because I was too busy being with my friends from NYC.

Miracles happen.  All the time.  We just have to stop moving and see them.

Metta for my partner.  Who I love, who I love, who I love.

Letting Go of Fear


I have no fear, I have no fear, I have no fear, I am fearless, I have run with the bulls, I have no fear, I have no fear…

Frankly, running with the bulls is beginning to look appealing at this moment.

My partner and I have now done 2 of the 8 practice groups on Letting Go of Fear at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center.  The first week, you needed to acknowledge 3 fears a day.  This week, you need to also track how you know you’re afraid–where does it show up in your body, actions, emotions, checking out, etc.

I have decided that watching 3 episodes of America’s Next Top Model in a row on my partner’s laptop probably needs to go on my list of checking out because of fear list.  Because why the hell else would I watch that stupid show?  Unless it was to validate how mean women can be to each other?

Then, of course, my partner and I had a fight.  I am morally bound not to say what jerky thing she did.  So I am not saying it.  Notice me being moral.  I cannot tell you how difficult this is because I think the whole world should be ON MY SIDE.  Of course, this is impossible, because my partner does her meek, I-am-an-angel routine and people are like, “Lyralen, clearly she doesn’t mean it.”  This makes me want to kill.

Then, my yoga group is in this place of not yet having defined itself and I am in a panic, because unsafe groups freak me out.  You know, when, in Buddhist terms, everyone acts unskillfully, at first without knowing it with all good intentions, and then, later, from a place of being triggered.  Some people would trust it would all work out, but I’m remembering the Unitarian women’s group and how, after the leader left, there was so much struggle for control.  The first time someone was mean to me, I quit the group.  And you know, I don’t think that was a mistake.  People continued to get their feelings hurt…and no one wanted that, but it happened anyhow.

Mostly, though, because I like to globalize, I comfort myself with thinking about delusion, disappointment and lies.  Outside of the obvious fears–death, violence, etc–I am most afraid of lies, particularly my own, but almost as much the lies of other people.  And I don’t lie, lie; I’m ridiculously honest.  But I have delusions, and like my angel of a partner, I project an image to color how people see me, and that, too is a lie.  Everything in Buddhism and Hindu/Yoga philosophy is about dukha (suffering) and its causes.  Avidya, translated as ignorance or misperception, is perhaps the greatest cause of suffering.

My current delusion:  that the yoga group will be different from every other group I’ve ever joined, and will be safe, non-harming, without back-biting, power struggles or judgment.  What I should know: every once in a while you get a group in which struggles are minimal and everyone grows, but you can’t ever tell ahead of time when that’s going to land.  What I know: the miracle groups like that are highly structured, usually ahead of time, to minimize group dynamics and struggles for leadership.  But then, that’s me wanting to control things to do what I know.  There are no guarantees what I know will work.  Or that what’s failed in the past will fail again.

My ongoing delusion: that my partner and I are truthful people.  I mean, COME ON!  We both come from families in which delusion, denial and image-projection reigned.  It’s impossible to avoid these things.  They are samskara, the patterns burned into our brains.  This is so DISAPPOINTING!

I found myself, this week, flashing on a memory of my parents coming to meet with the disciplinarian at my high school.  My father, Mr. Charismatic, turned on the charm.  He was seemingly cooperative, funny, warm, caring.  My mother sat silent in her chair, exuding rage and ice.  I watched them, furious, but tempted to be charmed by my father, even though we were all there because of him and only the disciplinarian didn’t know that.  I had a moment of empathy for my mother, because how could she ever compete with that charm?  He was good.  Really good acting ability.  It was a performance, and she knew it, but no one else would, and she knew that, too.  She used to complain about it to me, but I didn’t like her well enough to try to imagine her life.  The impossibility of telling the truth when his performance guaranteed no one would listen.  The suffering and silence and fear of judgment–and the judgment.  “Everyone likes him better,” she used to say.

I say that about my partner.  I say it as a joke, but this week, thinking about my mother, I realized it’s not really funny.

It’s like this–we’re in couples therapy.  (OMG, yes, this again.)  I’m sitting there, projecting strength, confidence, and an attitude of I-don’t-need-anyone.  This is a performance, of course, and the therapists all buy it.  My partner sits there projecting meekness, I-am-an-angel and if you help me that’s great.  This is also a performance.  Besides the fact that the couples’ therapists are all insane, the performances make it impossible for anyone to help us.  Because neither of us is telling the truth.  As afraid as I am to admit it (putting that on my homework sheet for the week), we’re actually in couples’ therapy because we need help.  And as for who wants the help and is willing to accept it–the performances would have to be dropped to find the truth about that.

And because I study Buddhism, I know that underneath that performance is another, and another, and eventually, hopefully, we stop trying to fix it by figuring it out and just sit with the fear, and the suffering, knowing these things are not who we are.

I’ve been doing that this morning.  Watching the fear and hurt in my body, knowing they are not me.  Watching the thoughts that arise, the self-doubting thoughts of fear:  Am I as crazy as my parents?  (Clearly, no, but I am like them and this is disturbing.)  Am I fated to live out their samskaras?  (Clearly yes, but samskaras can be avoided and eliminated.)  If I drop my performance, will I be safe?  (Jury still out on that one.)

I claim to be committed to the truth at all costs.  Then, the truth is that I lie, in my performances in life, in the stories I tell myself that are inaccurate.  In this, I am like every other human being, not worse or better.  And so, stripped of the latest layer of delusion, I sit, with truth as I can see it, just being aware.  And there is peace.

This blog comes with a warning–if you decide to take the Letting Go of Fear workshop to learn what you’re afraid of, or that you’re afraid, BEWARE!  You will get what you came for AND THEN SOME!

Of course, learning to find peace in the deeper samskara patterns creates new freedom.  Just don’t expect it to be a really fun ride.

The Stork Returns. I mean, REALLY!!!!


My partner is in love with the Stork.

As we interviewed couples’ therapists and fired one after another (nicely, since I now practice Buddhism), she finally started crying and saying how sad she was we couldn’t see the Stork any more.

I told her if he meant that much to her she could always see him alone, so we went back in to do closure as a couple so she could see him as an individual, and he turned out to be kind of great (meaning honest, sorry for his mistakes).  In his Stork way.  He even kind of got me, for the first time.  (I seem to be heavily inscrutable to these people–it took him a year.)  So closure turned out to be let’s-check-it-out again, and I started tagging along while my partner did the sessions.  Once I fell asleep while she talked to him.  The Stork was like, “Lyralen must finally feel safe if she falls asleep.”

My partner was like, “Am I that boring?”

I was like, “Hey, it’s all you, all the time, don’t complain.”

Of course, I’m still traumatized from the therapist who fell asleep on me when I was 21, but who’s counting.

Meanwhile, the Stork yawned through the only session I talked in, so I can only say that payback is a bitch.

And there is this–comedy reigns in sessions with the Stork.  He’s more or less promised not to cook rice or make telephone calls during our sessions, so things are looking up in the sanity department.  I expect it to last a month or two, tops, before he goes super annoying again and provides me with much blog material.  Stay posted.

Of course, get this–even though I knew, in that super intuitive way I have, that my partner and I belong with the Stork, I insisted we try out another couples therapist who is smart and boundaried.  I knew it wouldn’t work with her–no, not because she’s smart and boundaried.  She has this funky dark edge to her energy that seems pretty judgmental (not my favorite).  But really, I had to actually apologize to her, because me fighting reality (that I am destined to a farcical couples therapy with a very honest Stork) isn’t a good reason to start some therapeutic relationship that has no chance of succeeding.  I mean, I didn’t mind firing the other 7 therapists after mostly 1 session interviews.  We were spending money we didn’t have; and the therapists were either out there controlling (that’s partly the couples’ model, but hey, supposedly they have a brain…they could figure out it’s controlling and get innovative)  (What am I saying?  Most therapists would not come anywhere near Mensa status.  Or any award in independent thought, either.) or completely insane (the one with the gorilla puppet stands out in my mind particularly).  Like, who cares about firing them?  They totally deserved it.

But, my fight with reality causing us to go to someone I know we’ll not ending up seeing who I kind of liked when I met at Kripalu…that felt lousy.  So I apologized last night in an email.  That’s my second apology in a month to a therapist, so the practice of Buddhism is seriously changing my personality.  It’s quite frightening.  Almost as frightening as the occasional lack of chatter in my mind.  I’m like, “Whoa, that is way too quiet.  I’ve gone stupid.  I’ve gone boring.  What am I supposed to do without all these neuroses?”

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from attending the Letting Go of Fear meditation practice group on Tuesday nights.  People in the group laughed when, after announcing I had no fear, I had to ask the meditation leader to repeat his descriptions of unskillful reactions to fear because I kept forgetting everything he said as soon as he said it.  Clearly I am about to join my partner in the land of Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude in which a whole village loses its memory and everything has to be labelled with its name and function.

Hmmm.  Fear.  Why am I taking this workshop?  Well, we’re supposed to acknowledge 3 moments of fear each day.  I had my 3 by 5am yesterday, though I ended up acknowledging only one of them.  So I guess I have fear.  Hello to worry, panic (that was in a traffic jam…I’m claustrophic…oh, right, that’s a fear, I must have fear), anxiety, terror, etc.

It should be said that after acknowledging the panic, calling my partner, and pulling over to sit with it, I was able to do a terribly long drive in relative peace.

I practice Buddhism because it works.  Unlike therapy.  In which the therapist gets to act like they’re way more enlightened and sane…a complete lie.  At least in Buddhism we’re all insanely constructing realities that don’t exist.

I am nothing if not egalitarian.

Not About the Cleanse…. OR, Meditating My Ass Off


I seem to be at a transition point in my life.  Here are the factors:

  1. I closed the production arm of Another Country Productions.
  2. It looks like the rest of the company may follow, and that these last Meisner classes may be it for a while, if not for good.
  3. I am doing my 2nd devised theatre gig in a row and loving it.
  4. I am teaching yoga this week at Fitness First in Arlington and it may turn into a regular gig.
  5. I am leading a meditation group on Tuesdays.
  6. It seems taking yoga teacher training for no apparent reason had an apparent reason–as in, I am now a yoga teacher.
  7. I have no idea how I’m going to make a living except it seems it may have something to do with yoga and meditation.

My reaction to all of the above was to go to Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and to meditate for 4 hours on Thursday and then 9.5 hours on Saturday (not counting the time off for lunch or the hour that I bailed and slept in the hall).  I will also be taking Michael’s Letting Go of Fear workshop on Tuesday nights through November.

The yogis call this samvega–it’s kind of like hitting bottom, or having a mid-life crisis.  You feel an interest in something else besides what you’ve been doing, you are compelled to get quiet, to look for more meaning, to change.  Of course, I’ve been in samvega for at least a year and half now, interrupted by the theatre production of Saint John the Divine in Iowa, which made the need for samvega all the more obvious.

I’m not in control, of course.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  It’s kind of like jumping out of an airplane and then turning around to see if you remembered to put on your parachute.  Really exciting and absolutely insane.

Many people from my yoga teacher training class are holding on to their jobs as they start to get gigs, and I would certainly do that if it worked for me.  Or if the universe seemed to believe I was capable of letting go smoothly and gracefully, which I am not.  I hold on and can’t let go, so I seem to have this repeated experience of things ending without a ton of action on my part (except the painful gripping as whatever-it-is slips out of my grasp).

Perhaps the more salient question is state of mind.  What is my state of mind?  Hmmmm.  Well, there’s abject terror.  I mean, money.  I mean, change.  Lovely.  See how it will go.

And then there’s relief.  A desire to kick the old out the door.  Excitement about the adventure in the moments when the abject terror takes a mini-vacation.

But mostly there’s this current that runs through everything, and it runs through me, saying, wait, do nothing, see, deepen, sit with, do nothing, sit with.  Watch the feelings and thoughts go by and do nothing to change them.

When I’m not doing that, I’m rewriting my second novel (149 pages in, and entitled You Can’t Get There from Here) and working on a memoir (40 pages in) and occasionally sending out the odd play.  This is mostly because sitting around watching to see if things happen is anxiety-producing and boring.  Writing gives me a sense of purpose, plus, I kind of forget where I am, which can be a relief.

It also brings up more samskara (patterns burnt into the brain that we relive).  Like, I was thinking, “Hey, I can self-publish the novel on Amazon.  I know that the idea of publishing completely freaked me out in the mid-nineties, when I finished the original book, but compared to the stuff I’ve done since, it’s nothing.”

I would like to say that this is complete bullshit.  I work on the old novel and I’m like, wow.  I really knew how to write fiction back then.  The lyricism of the language is really kind of great.  Then I’m like, shit, this books is f*(&ing dark as hell.  Will people think this shit happened to me?  (Most of it didn’t.)  Or will they think I just like to torture my characters?  Then I start to freak pretty much just as I did almost 20 years ago (I had an agent them, and I tried to hide the freaking from him).

And finally, I’m thinking, you know, I haven’t changed that much.  I still write outside the box enough that the usual publishers wouldn’t touch this novel.  For example, it has a lesbian protagonist, but she’s kind of an anti-hero and a total player in the bar scene where she picks up women and dumps them pretty much every other breath.  And her family is really f(*&ed up, but I play with perception enough that sometimes you understand why she’d drive them crazy.  Lesbian publishers…they turned it down originally, much faster than the mainstream houses, actually.  I always thought that a sexually acting out lesbian wasn’t a popular notion for lesbian presses.

Then I think, why am I so outside the box?  I mean, John the Divine in Iowa is also outside the box.  It’s like I want to shake audiences into looking at themselves, sometimes with a trickster’s mischief, sometimes with a deadly seriousness.

Oh, right! I do want to do that!  I don’t admit it, even to myself, but since I’m mostly living outside the confines of the mainstream, and since I’m angry about some of what I see that other people don’t seem to see, this outside-the-box thing could also, truthfully, be a  in-your-face-not-backing-down thing.

It’s a good thing I meditate.  I am cultivating peace with what is, including my inability to leave well enough alone.

Actually, I have left well enough alone twice in recent history, and while I found it particularly challenging, it was also rewarding.  No mess.  No one hating me into eternity.  No me hating them either.

If I publish one of these books, what mess and for whom?

I think I better go meditate some more.  And think about sitting with the fear that is my answer to the above question.

Buddhism:  our feelings and thoughts are not who we are.  In fact, we have no self and we barely exist.

Oddly comforting.