I seem to be hooked on British stuff lately judging from the Nightstand, not that there’s anything wrong with that. They may have Brexit, but we have Trump and a shooting by a cop every other day, so it’s six of one, half a dozen of another in my book.
Ishiguro is virgin territory for me–I’ve never read him before. Get it out of your system and chide me now for the lacking in my literary exploration; as is my way, I don’t read books anymore unless they have a vitamin or mineral missing in my soul that I’m craving. As to the Samuelsson memoir: I’m working my way through Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” on Netflix and I’ve reached Ethiopia. Bourdain may be a food god, but he’s got his cultural and literary prods as well. (In other news, Bourdain wrote an intro to an excerpt of “Down and Out in Paris and London” in the latest issue of Lucky Peach, and when I found that out I felt a little more than validated. Everyone likes Bourdain for the food–I stay with him for the writing and the relating to the world.)
I’ve been playing chicken online for a couple of weeks or so; Jo tends to do this when she isn’t loved unconditionally. I had been coasting through my morning meditations and that means letting the app play while I closed my eyes. Sometimes I woke back up when I finished the session. You don’t sleep through meditation; that’s the deepest form of resistance.
And then this afternoon I watched a baseball game batter by batter instead of “getting through the innings” and I realized the meditation was working. Meditation, for me, is going to be like my thyroid meds; I am stuck doing it for life, and if I don’t do it then there may not be much life left. I had coasted through baseball, work, waking hours in general for months now, and suddenly, this afternoon, watching a game that may not mean anything in October, I found the beauty of each pitch. I stopped holding my breath through the ninth.
I hesitate writing about this, but the other option is to give up social media until Lent, or through Lent, or in general. I found I’m lousy at that, and I’m tired of self-censoring. I also hesitate to write about this because then the adage bursts through in comments: “If I hear one more person endorse or evangelize meditation I’m going to throw up.” “Mediation doesn’t work for everyone.” And other unrelated comments that will be designed to make me into an ogre.
You’re right, dear skeptic: meditation does not work for everyone. It does work for me. It has taken 75 days of doing it daily to admit that, even though every day has not been a gem. It has saved my life like it will never do for anyone else, because meditation is not designed to “fix” anything. It’s my form of prayer in reverse. I can breathe through so much of the judgment and ambivalence laid in my lap with meditation. And I realized that I have been doing it my entire life, and when I deviate from it, I am not me.
When I was a kid, I would do a lot of staring into middle distance, and my mother would leave me to it. I was a bright kid and got good grades and the practice of checking out occasionally throughout the day worked for me, so she left it alone. Once a friend in Missouri pointed it out as an aggravation, and my mother came to my defense: “That place where she goes…that’s where her stories are.” That’s still true, whether my mother is here to defend me or not.
About a week ago a similar point was made; someone confessed to me that they didn’t know “how I did” solitude so well. The answer for me is simple and lost on most everyone else: I’ve had to at various periods in the past. When you are on the farm wanting and wanting of a city, wanting of a certain kind of music, wanting of a certain kind of connection…when you are in an apartment just off campus and wanting of a story, wanting of a belief, wanting of a culture…when you are in exile in a desert wanting of a relationship, wanting of an experience, wanting of a love…you stare into middle distance during these times and make peace with the wanting. You find a memory to anchor you, and sail around it in that middle distance, and you use that little anchor to write better, be calmer, trust change.
Baseball is better. British literature is better, for now. I needed Vitamin See and Iron Mineral and the same dosage of middle distance every morning, dispensed with water. ✍🏼