Tag Archives: suffering

Postcard

“Postcard”
by Olena Kalytiak Davis

Lately, I am capable only of small things.

Is it enough
to feel the heart swimming?

Jim is fine. Our first
garden is thick with spinach
& white radish. Strangely,
it is summer

but also winter & fall.

In response to your asking:
I fill the hours
then lick them shut.

Today, not a single word, but the birds
quietly nodding
as if someone had suggested
moving on.

What is that perfect thing
some one who once believed in god said?

Please don’t misunderstand:
We still suffer, but we are
happy.

Edgy

Port Townsend July 2019

Doomscrolling. Pandemic. Police brutality. The disaster that is the president. Election malfeasance. The dissolution of the postal service. A mediocre Democratic presidential candidate (for whom I root!). Sexism, patriarchy, misogyny. CLIMATE CHANGE. (Remember that?!) Drought. Wildfire. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Floods. The rise of Neo-Nazis and other white supremacy groups. Systemic white supremacy. Hate crimes. People being selfish, going maskless because they hyperfocus on personal civil liberty, and to hell with anybody else. New school year beginning, with some schools opening in person, and others distance learning. The added stress to families related to this. Hungry families. Millions of unemployed people. Millions facing eviction. Millions facing medical crises beyond Covid-19. Death.

Where’s my fucking handbasket??

So here is a metaphorical selfie. I’m all spiky these days. And purple, as usual. Sometimes, there are moments in my day when I sit still, and quietly count my breaths. Time passes, and somehow equanimity lands on me like a honeybee, for just that moment. And the moment after that. And the moment, and the moment…

And I remember what I’ve said to my daughter when she is anxious:

Do you know in your heart, and feel, that you are loved?
Yes.
Are you being eaten by a tiger right now?
No.
Then you are okay.

I’m tempted to whine, “What have we come to, that the bar for well-being is so low?” What follows is the realization that I have lived an immensely privileged life for a couple of decades. There was a time when I did not have material and financial ease, or even enough. I lived in rigid anxiety and stress. There are millions of people who live this daily. The truth is, life as most of us live it — future oriented — has always been uncertain, uncontrollable, unknowable. It’s just that before the pandemic, most of us suppressed this truth; we’d whistle past the graveyard and pretend we’re in control.

Then I remember a quote my mother loved, by St. Julian of Norwich.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

How can this be true? It feels like a koan. It can sit right next to another koan: “Not knowing is most intimate.” Come and sit with me. Leave a comment if interested.

Simply Pay Attention

Existence is hard; it is literal suffering. It has wonders and joys, amazements and fascinations, yes. And it has love. All of this along with suffering, which happens to us and which we inflict on others and our own selves. Claire once asked me, if life is suffering, what is the point of being alive? In the end it seems simple enough: we are Life experiencing itself. We are Consciousness holding everything. We are the Mystery. It doesn’t bear too much thinking about, because thinking is a distraction. Better to simply pay attention to what is happening right now, what is right in front of me, and to meet it as fully and with as much attention as I can.

Taking my own advice, I happened to notice the sunlight on freshly washed grapes when I made my lunch. After visually appreciating them for a time, before relishing them in my mouth, I snapped a photo to share.

grapessun

Just Breathe

No one can find the rewind button, child. So, just breathe.

Just Breathe

Two AM and she calls me ’cause I’m still awake,
Can you help me unravel my latest mistake,
I don’t love him, winter just wasn’t my season
Yeah we walk through the doors, so accusing their eyes
Like they have any right at all to criticize, hypocrites,
You’re all here for the very same reason
‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button girl,
So cradle your head in you hands
And breathe, just breathe,
Whoa breathe, just breathe
May he turn twenty one on the base at Fort Bliss
Just today he sat down to the flask in his fist,
Ain’t been sober, since maybe October of last year.
Here in town you can tell he’s been down for a while,
But my God it’s so beautiful when the boy smiles,
Wanna hold him, maybe I’ll just sing about it.
‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable,
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button boys,
So cradle your head in your hands,
And breathe, just breathe,
Whoa breathe, just breathe
There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout
But you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
These mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again
If you only try turning around.
Two AM and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, its no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
‘Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to
‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable,
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button now
Sing it if you understand.
And breathe, just breathe
Whoa breathe, just breathe…

Anna Nalick

A Living Continuation

“The day my mother died I wrote in my journal, “A serious misfortune of my life has arrived.” I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage.

I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died.

When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me.

I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.”

–Thích Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear

There Is No Place Too Small

I’m healthy. My daughter thrives. My marriage is happy. The weather is sunny and mild. We’re not in the middle of a mortgage crisis. We can pay our bills. I have a good social network.

So why have I grown tired, sad, and teary over the course of the day? I was prepared to chide myself for ingratitude, but then I remembered. Tomorrow is an anniversary. It’s been three years, but time doesn’t erase the mark completely. I feel fragile right now. (And my daughter has changed –yet again — these past few days; the cues that used to communicate hunger and exhaustion have changed, she’s eating just about every 90 minutes, and I feel off-kilter in my competence.)

I wrote the following poem a couple of years ago regarding the event.

No Place Too Small

It is easy to know how to meld with so much grief.
With joy there is blindness, rose-colored ignorance,
No body to tend, to anchor one to the earth.
When the world remains intact, you move nimbly,
Caressing the surface of things, noticing little.

But grief burrows in.
It needs only the exposed, wounded soul
To dig in as a tick under skin.
Grief bangs around the cellar, shrieking,
behaves unpredictably, hijacking your eyes
When the store clerk asks how you are. Clutching your
throat when you call the dentist’s office for a cleaning.

You walk now among oblivious humans,
an emotional leper
With lesions rotting your heart.
All of existence has its own death,
It too could slip into a tumor-ridden coma
Adorned with catheter tubes,
And gasp last breaths to the sterile beat
Of a monitor, attended by loved ones.

Since there is no place too small
For grief to infiltrate,
You lie down, surrender, pull it
to every cell of your being.
You take orders, as a dog obeys commands
From an owner; you honor and bear it,
And in this way, endure.

–Kathryn Harper