Even when we have some leisure time, we don’t know how to use it to get back in touch with ourselves…We are not used to being with ourselves, and we act as if we don’t like ourselves and are trying to escape from ourselves. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
As Ron and I prepared to move, I often felt off-kilter, out of alignment. It was hard to make sense of the world sometimes. An entry from my journal on my birthday, August 1, 2014, captures this.
Two mornings ago in Michigan, I learned via email that Twilumba had died. I exhaled an “Ohhh,” the wind knocked out of me. Both Mama Day and Twilumba, gone. A while later I started crying as I served myself my peeled, cooked carrots in front of the microwave in our hotel room. Ron held me.
Along with my grief, I felt shame. We’d been talking about whether to buy the Iowa Street house, and how we could comfortably spend a little money afterwards on repairs. Then here was Mama Agape, emailing me on Facebook about Twilumba. Mama Agape has been stressing for years about how to pay for Agape’s secondary school, and I don’t want to just send several thousand dollars when I don’t even know what kind of student Agape is. It’s such a bad precedent; it cheapens my whole friendship with Mama Agape; it’s not sustainable. But we could raise that much money. It gnaws at me that I’m tossing much more than that around to buy a luxurious American house when my Tanzanian friends are living and dying in such poverty.
I wrestle with this all the time lately, how to make sense of it, whether I can still call myself a good person, how to make up for it, how to be better. I can’t go to Africa right now–my health won’t allow it. I’ve settled vaguely on the notion that in order to help Africa or anywhere far away, I first must get healthy. Living in a peaceful place is part of that, although there’s probably some rationalization there. But when I think about having a big, open kitchen, with lots of light, where I can cook a macrobiotic or specific carbohydrate diet joyfully; and a peaceful study where I can write in quiet; and a backyard where I can garden, I feel so relieved. It would really help, to have a setting like that in which to heal, a place that’s easy to meditate and relax in, and cook in. So for now, I’m staying the course.
Last night, after spending the day stretched-thin from lack of sleep over housing, I gave myself a spa-like evening. It felt like preparing for my thirty-seventh year. I cleaned the apartment; I went for a walk; I meditated. I took a long bath, shaved my legs, washed my hair. Lit a candle, read good books. Read poems by Hafiz, wisdom from Pema Chödrön and Thich Nhat Hanh, plus a little of Healing Crohn’s the Natural Way and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
In the bathtub and shower, it occurred to me that I’m off balance. I distract myself way too much: with Harry Potter (we’re reading the series aloud) or with Blue Bloods on Hulu, or with reading The Week while I eat, or checking Facebook when I have a few free minutes. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, I act as if I want to get away from myself. I’m living too fast, letting life pass me by. I want to live slower.
As I learn about macrobiotics–a diet I want to try–and its concept of balancing yin and yang in food, I’m feeling like something energetic in me is also way off. Left to my own devices, I tend too often toward doing, accomplishing, organizing, intellectualizing. I bet I tend too much toward yang. I need to consciously act to bring softness into my life, to bring in more heart and soul. Sensuality. Maybe this will even be the key to my healing. Learning to really breathe; finding balance. Making it a habit, constantly, to sense whether I’m imbalanced and working to rectify it. Reading humor when things get too serious. Doing more things that have no goal, that don’t make logical sense. Spending more non-productive time.
Happy birthday to me. May this year be a year of life, gratitude, balance, and love. Amen.