From the moment you step out from the curb, to the moment your child walks out the door, everything you love could disappear. I could write right now that I could die the moment I leave work today and then it could actually happen. These could be the last words you see from me. This could be my goodbye.
(Goodbye! You've all been lovely!)
Every fight you have with your spouse could be your last.
Every well wish a sayonara.
Only we wouldn't know it. Everything is so damned fragile. You never know when the tree branch could snap and take out everything below. You never know which combination of words might be the very phrase to end your relationship.
Have you ever lost a friend? Did you know it was the last conversation when you had it?
Did you lose a lover or a spouse? Which fight (one of many) was the one that tolled the death knoll for the relationship? Did either of you realize it? Chances are one of you didn't.
Did you ever lose a loved one? Did someone ever die? One day they're in remission and the next day they'll die in a hospital of unrelated complications.
None of it's right.
None of it makes sense.
It all reminds me that it's all so ... breakable.
It's foolish to think anything is permanent, that anything will last. Human beings and human bodies are collapsible things. Psyches change even though we promise they won't. Even careful drivers blow a red light.
Even healthy babies dies of SIDS. Hence the "Sudden."
And yes, even normal people descend into the winding staircase that is mental illness. Some never come back up to the parlor to sit and have tea with guests.
These are the things that could keep me up at night if I let them. These are the things that give me pause. These are the things I quickly rush over. These are the things we ignore to survive.
But every once in a while I glimpse the black gaping maw of forever and I remember that I'm not in it. You're not in it. Everything will be sucked up into that black hole of time and cease to exist. It's just a question of when.
That's when I take no comfort in reincarnation, an afterlife, or being buried in a deep green grave. I don't want any of that.
What I want is Repeat.
I want to live this life over and over again until I'm sick of it and everyone in it. I want to repeat the bad, the mistakes, the misery and, of course, the joy. I want to see my son when he was first born, to stare into those eyes that were as deep and unknowable as the ocean. I want to hear my step-father cackle again and give me a crossword puzzle clue. I want to lay on my driveway with my friends, a ring of Big Wheels and Green Machines all around us. I want to go to college for the first time and to walk along the river. I want to land in Paris at seventeen. I want to cry into my pillow for the boy who stopped calling. I want to hear my little girl's baby-laugh. I want to meet her dad on Match.com. I want to read his letters. I want to know that our last fight was not our last.
I want to do it all over and over again and know for certain that I'll see each and every one of you once more.
That way we'd never have to say goodbye.
(I wrote this about seven months ago and thought it wasn't good enough to post. Now it doesn't look half-bad so here goes...)
I recently re-discovered the game of Labyrinth on my husband's iPad®. I'd forgotten what an adrenaline rush the game provides. And I'd forgotten how good I am at the game.
The game requires nerves of steel, to match the tiny steel ball that maneuvers around the various holes and turns of the wooden board's surface. The purpose of the game is to roll the ball through the maze without letting it fall into any of the traps, while still guiding it towards the finish line.
The game responds to the slightest shifts in your touch. If you overreact, the ball will spin out of control and roll into a hole. If you don't continue to tilt the ball forward, edging it on towards the end point, you won't win the game. Thus it is a delicate balance between moving the ball purposefully forward, while not overreacting and sending it into an abyss. It's a tenuous struggle between gravity, beating heart and nerves, at one moment conspiring to make me panic, the next reminding me to remain calm.
I made a little Zen joke to my husband that you have to "Be the ball." Then I revised that and said, "You have to be the board." But I think it's both. You have to get your mind in a place where you are both ball and board, intuitive of each of their unique forces and reactions. If the board is the force, and the ball is the reaction, you have to carefully manage them both in one skillful act of cooperation.
I think everyday we play a game of Labyrinth in our minds. We have to move forward and navigate the day, while avoiding unpleasant thoughts that can sink us into the abyss. On good days, ball and board flow smoothly together in a perfect harmony of cooperative motion. On a bad day, anxiety can cause us to overreact and send the ball spinning quickly into a hole.
My brother, my sister-in-law, my nieces and my nephew all live in Tokyo. I'm sure they're fine. Their emails and Facebook updates tell us that they're fine. But with every friend's post on Facebook about Japan, and every news feed update on the situation at the nuclear power plant, I find the ball rolling out of control towards a black hole.
I quickly shift it back to calm, of course. I keep moving forward through my day. But every moment it seems there's yet another reminder of near-disaster, and my mind panics and sets the ball rolling out of control again.
And so I do this mental dance to maintain equilibrium, reminding myself that, no matter how much TV, radio and the internet may conspire to make me panic about the safety of my brother and his family, they are just fine. I seek the balance between gravity, beating heart and nerves, and breathe again.
This post is not going to be about sex. I'm sorry. Okay, I'm not sorry at all. Wait. Maybe a little bit. Perhaps I'll throw in a little sex to make up for it? It'll be like we're married.
My husband and I are taking a meditation workshop together. I know exactly what you're thinking: I have the most awesome husband, ever. True. I know what else you're thinking: That man is totally Buddha-whipped. Possibly. But I reward him with the sex, so it's win-win for everyone involved.
I hate the expression "win-win" so I put that in there to be obnoxious. In case you missed it.
I haven't taken a meditation class in close to 15 years, so it was refreshing to do so again. What strikes me about the meditation class and about attending temple is that every time I go, I feel better. It seems so simple, but somehow I forget that.
When I'm in a Sunday meditation service or a class, the session itself is so deceptively simple that I think, "I'm not really getting ALL THAT out of this" or "This is nice and all, but not really a big deal." But I find that for the rest of the day and night, I'm thinking about what I learned in that class.
And I feel lighter.
I mean, that's pretty cool. I don't know why I talk myself out of going to temple on Sunday mornings. I know there are the usual reasons: "I want to sleep in," "It's too cold," "It's too far," "I don't know anyone," "I don't feel like it," "I might get Sunday morning sex with the husband," etc.
But all those reasons don't give me the lasting effects of going and sitting on a wood floor with strangers and simply watching my thoughts. What a strange and powerful thing meditation is. What a deceptively simple thing it is too.
I always forget that.
And the best part of this meditation class? I got to share it with my partner. This is the first time in my life that I had a willing partner attend temple with me. It felt pretty special. It's not necessary that he be a Buddhist, but it is incredibly touching that he would express an openness to what's important to me.
That's pretty amazing.
We learned in our meditation class this week that what Buddhism can be narrowed down to is this: "The ability to approach life with an open heart." In that way, I look at my lovely husband as a shining example of what it is I aim to be.
Am I that open?
I'd like to be.
In fact, the teacher asked us what we had thought about while we were meditating.
"I thought about the fact that my nose was itching. And I thought about sex," my husband replied.
The whole group laughed, including the teacher.
"Finally, someone who understand me." she said. I think we all felt that way. Though his admission was funny, it was also unusually candid. Open.
It may sound silly, but by speaking these truths, he opens his heart to all of us, and we to him. We feel more comfortable knowing that we are all very human in our thoughts. We are not profound saints thinking about world peace. We're thinking about what it is to be human. In fact, I found the group to be very kind and open with one another, and I was struck by the presumption of kindness and acceptance by everyone there. Buddhist and non-buddhist alike.
It's a nice place to go. So I'll take my mind, body and husband there again.
People often ask me, "Mandy, how do you stay so slim and beautiful?"
Okay, people don't actually ask me that at all. But I couldn't resist making such an offensive opening statement.
In other fits of honesty, I must tell you, cosmetic dentistry is not for the faint of heart. There is a debt that must be paid to the Gods of Vanity and that debt is paid in pain. Oh, and dollars. Almost forgot that part. Dollars and discomfort, oh my.
It turns out that getting new fillings can cause some initial "discomfort." ("Discomfort" is medical-speak for "Ouch-that-freaking-hurts!") When I first had my metal fillings replaced with composite, it hurt when I bit down on any kind of food that wasn't pre-chewed by my husband. Just kidding. I'm not feeding off him like a baby chick to a mother bird. Again, that sentence was so disgusting I couldn't resist writing it.
Perhaps the pain is making me sadistic?
I went back to the dentist a few days after getting the composite fillings to fine tune my teeth. When all of the surfaces of your molars have been overhauled, you're going to need some smoothing and filing once the Novocaine wears off and you can tell the difference in your bite.
In addition to changes in your bite, some patients will experience hot and cold sensitivity. This is normal and is no cause for alarm, apparently. You'll just need to keep your beverages on top of the refrigerator instead of in the refrigerator. "Room temperature" is your new best friend. Unless we're talking about room temperature yogurt or a room temperature smoothie. Those things are actually kind of gross.
But even if your food is room temperature, it's going to take time to get used to chewing food with your new tooth surfaces. By the time you've made it halfway through a meal, you may just tire of the inconvenience of it all. Food is no longer quite as delicious if both hot and cold foods torment you, and chewing is not entirely comfortable.
You'll get kind of "Meh" on the whole food thing for a while. While this is a somewhat disappointing side effect, there is weight loss to consider. Sweet, sweet, weight loss.
In fact, I lost three pounds in the first week with my new fillings. It's enough initial weight loss to make me realize that the gum procedure I have coming next week, and the braces appointment I have two weeks after that, will result in six weeks of constant dental discomfort! Not that I'll lose 3 pounds per week for six weeks (18 lbs!) but even if I were to lose one pound per week for the remaining weeks, that would equal 8 lbs.
This is the Devil's math, I know. But I went there anyway.
All of this leads me to believe that someone should combine weight loss centers and cosmetic dentistry centers all into one convenient building.