My mom called me Peter, once upon a time. If you don’t know your name meanings, it means “rock.” That’s how my family saw me. Financial troubles, boyfriend woes, problems big and small: when stuff happens, Anne keeps her head and knows what to do.
Now, I don’t. I’m mired in the mud, spinning my wheels, turning in a slow circle.
I got news about a week ago. Not about me, not even about my family. It was about someone who I’ve come to call a friend even though we’ve never met. An illness that’s becoming far too familiar to people. Outlook: grim. I feel depressed. And my first, overwhelming urge was to hide it from sight, which I have been doing.
This illness is not about me, or how I feel. I am just a friend. A virtual stranger. Besides, I am Peter, and I have people who depend on me.
Except, she is like my Peter, too. And I have had only two in my life.
I understand my grief, but I am ashamed of it. Admitting to my feelings feels selfish. It is not supportive. Nobody wants to hear that I am sad. These are the things I told myself while I lie and put on a happy face.
I keep a statue of Buddha in my living room, in the closest thing I have to a shrine. This would be my bookcase. Silly, perhaps, but it feels like he is at home in a place dedicated to knowledge. I’m a lousy, inconsistent practitioner of Zen these last few years, and lately I’ve been thinking about dusting off my zafu.
The Buddhist nun who guided us through Sunday services and sitting meditations once told me that Buddhism is a selfish religion, because its overriding principles are all about addressing your own state of mental health before you meddle with other people.
Like an adult sitting next to a child on a plane that loses cabin pressure, first you put on your own mask.
I know why I have the urge to kneel. There is the concept of how suffering is rooted in the inability to accept change–literally in some ways that pain caused by having a lack of “flexibility.” Buddhism is in many ways a mastering of iron-willed focus. And meditation is all about focusing inward: on the breath, on the moment, on the stillness that gives you discipline to remove yourself both from the anchor of the past and worry of the future.
Maybe it’s time to reconnect with the art of mindfulness.
Long-term illness is double-edged: a blessing-curse that is like the half-glass of water. Do you see it half-full or empty?
The Buddhist answer is: it is as it is. You must be mindful and appreciative of it as it comes, because who knows? You might take a sip and drop the glass. You might get to drink it dry.
There’s no sense in worrying about a future I have no power to change, so instead, I should learn to savour every taste.