Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday ramble

Last fall, I had a bizarre anxiety dream about something I wasn't remotely anxious about in any way: I'd dreamt that I'd received a mediocre performance review. Not only was I not worried about my performance review, but it wasn't on my mind at all. I couldn't fathom why it would assert itself in my dreams.

Last night, I dreamt that I was lost in Paris. That I was in Paris with a friend but had forgotten to have the international plan activated on my phone, so I wasn't sure how to get where I needed to go. I've spent a lot of time in Paris--most of it before I had any kind of phone and before phones had maps on them--and didn't give a second thought to getting lost. I'd get lost on purpose and find myself. I'd go for walks every evening and easily find my way back to my host family's apartment. I'd metro out to less-frequented neighborhoods and still have no trouble metroing back into the city (you're never far from a metro stop in Paris). If you plopped me down in Paris today, I'd likely find my way to where I needed to be by some combination of memory and instinct, and maybe a paper map and the ability to ask for directions if needed. Why on earth would I dream about getting lost in Paris?

Once in a while, a church not far from me hosts an interfaith meditation initiative to which I go whenever I can. It does me a lot of good (much of which can be undone in 15 minutes of driving home from it, but nevertheless). It did me a lot of good tonight, and I thought of how my mother was ahead of her time in embracing yoga and meditation. And yet, no amount of yoga and meditation and new-agey self-help ultimately empowered her to get over herself.

When the facilitator asked us to think about what we'd come for, what we hoped to get out of it, my answer was 'presence.' Or rather, practice for presence. As the first practitioner pointed out, what we get out of meditation is what we take into the world with us when we're not meditating--such as the ability to acknowledge a distraction and not let it derail us. You practice wandering and coming back to the breath, and in theory that helps you stay grounded against distractions in your day-to-day world.

They also (often) talk about humility, love, forgiveness, and oneness with the 'god' of your understanding. When you're one with your god (or your FSM, or whatever form your 'dear and fluffy lord' takes), you show up with your soul rather than your ego. You treat others--also god's children--with respect. You--your best self--deals in what's important and not what's petty.

I honestly don't know what my mother got out of meditation; when I was a kid it was largely a source of weirdness and embarrassment. I can definitely tell you that my mother talked about a lot of things in the abstract that she certainly didn't achieve in actuality. I mean, she read and talked to all her friends about 'Co-dependent No More.'

To which my reaction may partly be 'lol,' but it's also 'she did try.' And I have the most love and compassion for my mother when I think about how hard she tried to be a healthier person, even as it never took. I've said it before and it's still true: it's impossible to push out all the somewhat recent memories of my mother as shit fairy--as the voice that nags and negs. I often hear her voice when I'm getting ready in the morning ('if you'd only be more organized...') or when something doesn't turn out quite right. I hear her voice criticizing every decision I've made in my life; criticizing my clothes, my jewelry, my decor, my hair, my skin. So much criticism, so much nagging. So counterproductive, so erosive. It takes earlier memories to remind me that underneath the pullstring doll of negativity and shittiness that she'd devolved into, there really was a caring, loving person who tried to be better.

I think about all that when I think about not becoming my mother. Can I go to meditation and practice presence and humility and nonjudgment for an hour and a half, and maybe even carry it over against the fuel trucks making me miss every light on the way back, and also carry it over for months between guided meditations? Otherwise, am I just becoming my mother--am I just going through the motions and making the right noises at meditation but proceeding in the day-to-day as if I weren't the one in control? My mother, in her dementia and senility, lies in her bed having conversations in her head and repeating catchphrases over and over. I suppose some of that is muscle memory but some of it is stuff she's held onto over the years. At my most conscious (and present and sober), I choose not to hold onto anything like that. Can I stay present and conscious enough on a daily basis to remember to make that choice?

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