It’s no secret that I’ve been seeking peace and equanimity my whole life. As a child I used to climb a tree in my yard and hug it to my little body as tightly as I could. Something about the seeming permanence of the tree, the solidity of it, the depth of its roots and the height of its branches—all made me feel safe. What was going on inside my house was definitely not safe. I imagined that the tree was my mother, holding me in the arms of its branches and I was soothed.
So it was that I was seeker from way back. When I hit college I found a deep connection to Buddhism and that helped lend me a certain sense of peace. At least I felt like I had found some answers. When the Buddha said, “Life is suffering,” I said, “Hell yeah!” I feel like he got where I was coming from and knew which way to guide me.
I’ve also spent a lot of time in therapy. I saw my first therapist at 14 and I’ve kind of been in therapy, off and on, ever since. I’ve learned a lot from my therapists. A lot of that has coincided with what Buddhism has taught me. I’ve learned to not be so attached to my ego—or at least be aware of when my ego is bumping up against itself and/or others.
A lesson I learned in my twenties and thirties was that everything wasn’t about me. That blew my mind. As a child who felt abandoned by her parents, I was pretty well convinced that everything was my fault. My mom drank because I was a bad kid. My dad left us because I was a bad kid. You get the idea. Kids are all ego.
But see, you’re supposed to let go of that as you get older. If you don’t have anyone there to guide you to that knowledge, to support and cradle you in their arms—soothe you—well, you might get stuck there. So I had to pay for that love and knowledge. I think I bought my first therapist’s Lexus.
Totally worth it, by the way.
Now that I’m in my forties, I’m continuing to seek solace and peace of mind. My husband and I have found a terrific marriage counselor who complements our work with our individual therapists. Something I’ve learned from her is that we’re always going to annoy each other.
I know. We’ve paid her a lot of money to learn that.
The thing is, it’s okay if we annoy each other. It’s not the end of the world. I think I’m the sort of person who can panic over everything. Any disagreement or irritation can be a sign that everything is about to go to hell.
But it’s not like that anymore.
Maybe it was like that when I was a little girl who had to escape to the trees. But now I’m a grown woman with a lot of resources. I don’t have to be so rattled by every little thing. If I allow myself to worry over every little thing, I’m ruining a really great time in my life.
This morning, I heard a snippet of wisdom from a different yoga teacher.
“Fazed by nothing, awed by everything.”
That’s how the yogis live. And that’s how the buddhas live too. It’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life. Things are going to go wrong. People will disappoint you. Crap will break in your house. And truly terrible things will happen. But if we can maintain our own inner stability in the face of it all, we can keep our feet planted on the ground. We can trust the deep roots of our own abilities and spirit to persevere. And we can be present enough to enjoy the beautiful moments that are happening all around us, all the time.
Right now, even. In this moment here.
I want to live like that. Fazed by nothing, awed by everything. Hard times will come and go. You will survive them. You’ll survive them even when you’re quite convinced they’ll kill you. I’ve been hurt so badly I thought I’d never breathe again let alone love again.
And yet here I am.
In love again. In marriage counseling. Still seeing a therapist. Taking an anti-depressant and going to yoga every damn day. Not going to temple enough. Slowly plodding through my first book. But man, I’m putting one foot in front of the other and there have been many times in my life that I honestly didn’t think that could happen.
After each heartbreak, each disappointment, each total and complete decimation of the life I once had—I pick myself up and I move on. I make something new. I get stronger and I get better. And now I’ve got two kids and a husband who fill me with a sense of awe I never thought I’d know.
My knowledge of love has expanded. My faith in it has multiplied. I’m filling up where I once was empty.
When I ride my bike to my therapist this afternoon, I’ll ride under the branches of the trees and I’ll be awed by the way the September light plays on the leaves. I heard someone once describe this certain quality of light as “God Light.” In Buddhism, God is everywhere and everything. I am God. You are God. The tree is God. The light that dapples its leaves is God.
Why wouldn’t we be awed by everything when everything is God? Everything is holy. All of it, good, bad and indifferent. Flattened on the floor by heartbreak. Lifted up by new love. Holy. Sitting here right now, writing this. Holy. You there, reading it. Holy holy holy.
Now to work on that whole “Fazed by nothing” thing.
I’m a work in progress.