Friday, August 30, 2013

Wacky Sunday

"It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human." --Pema Chodron

When I started to write this post it was never a question of WHO I was going to quote, it had to be Pema. If Wacky Sunday were an official holiday, Pema Chodron would be its Patron Saint.

So what is Wacky Sunday, you ask?

It's a day in which everything one as a human being does, or sets out to do, goes sideways. Its a day in which up is down, black is white, right is wrong, and you realize - in a very clear and concrete way - that there are no rules and there is no ground. That this groundlessness of which Pema speaks is not hypothetical or true only for other people. It is true for all of us. It is true for you. It is true for ME.

Especially, it seemed, on Sunday.

I woke up on Sunday morning with a plan. My husband was taking the kids camping and I was going to have some "alone time." A whole day and night, and part of the next day, to do whatever I wanted, completely uninterrupted.

Except, not so much.

Turns out, my husband had to work and he was not going to be able to take the kids camping AND he needed to go into the office. Okay. Not what I was hoping for, but okay. He said would try to make it up to me later in the week by taking a day off.

I struggled. It was hard to come to terms, but come to terms I did and while my husband went to church I sat down to meditate. And, as often happens during meditation, I came up with a plan. (I know, I know, this is NOT what meditating is about, but sometimes it just happens!)

I would get ready and go to my church as soon as he got home and then take the kids to the pool later while he went to work. We'd have a relaxing day in the sun and then all have dinner together later.

I got up from my meditation feeling pretty pleased with myself and looking forward to our day. Then my husband came home.

He was all excited about his church service and wanted to tell me all about it. Uh-oh. I was "supposed" to be taking a shower and getting cleaned up and putting on my favorite dress and getting to church early so I could be relaxed and not rushed. I didn't have time for this. This was not in the plan!

But I didn't say that, I just listened, uncomfortably, to his story. And then, the kicker. He had decided that they WERE going camping after all. Time with his sons was more important than work (isn't this just what every mother wants to hear from the father of her children?) and they were going.

Uh, what?

Immediately my relaxing pool day is down the drain and I am now spending the day getting them ready to go camping. Packing the bags and the food and finding the flash lights and sleeping bags.....

And I am so pissed. How could he do this TO ME? How could he change the plan AGAIN? And I just wilted.

So we talked it through and he made it clear he didn't expect me to help and he was a little bit confused because he thought I would be happy they were leaving after all and now I was running late for church and had to go.

So I threw on my clothes and rushed out the door.

Driving to church I was looking forward to saying Hello to Michael, who sells the homeless newspaper on the highway off ramp near my church. I pulled up to the light at the off ramp and Michael wasn't there. He's always there. It's his spot. Where was Michael?

At the next light, I had not just the green light, but the green light AND the green arrow, nonetheless four pedestrians ambled across the street right in front of me as if I didn't even exist. Didn't they KNOW I had the right of way? (Despite my driver's ed instructors' admonitions that "the right of way is not something you have, it's something you yield," I still feel that sometimes I HAVE the right of way.)

At church I was talking to the usher outside the sanctuary, before the service started and someone shushed me. And when I went to walk to my car I walked the wrong way, despite parking in basically the same place every week.

By the time I got home, I was starting to realize that something strange was going on.

I walked in the door thinking no one was at home (my husband had called to say the kids' were at the neighbors and he was heading to the office to get a bit of work done before going camping) and I started relaxing in my head. I'd make lunch and have a cup of tea.....

Seconds later my older son comes up from the basement in tears. "Dad's making us go camping even though we don't want to and there's nothing we can do!"

I talk him through this, including two phone calls to his dad, two trips to the neighbors to talk to his brother, and a decision to once again bail on the camping trip and go to a baseball game instead. So I get online to buy tickets, and the internet stalls.

My husband comes home and says they'll just get tickets at the stadium. Can I drive them there?

Realizing I still haven't had lunch, I grab a snack and get in the car. I drop them off and then head home. Time seems to be standing still. I am hungry and just want to be home eating lunch and then collapse on the couch.

I start to think about the day and how it has gone and I can feel the resistance in my gut. Nothing has gone to plan today. Everything is just a mess. And I start to work with this idea. To try and turn it on its head.

If I am really living in the moment, really "going with the flow" then none of this matters because I have no expectations. But even when I try not to have expectations, I have expectations. I sit with this and I struggle against it. This is not the way I WANT things to be. This is not the way I want LIFE to be.

My gut is churning and wrenching at the thought of this. It's like I have been tased and I am lying on the ground, writhing in pain, trying to get away from the electrical current that is running through my body, but I can't escape it, it's in every atom and molecule of my being. This is how intensely I try and fight the reality of this day.

Nothing is how I want it to be or expect it to be today. White IS black. Up IS down. Right IS wrong. And that's just the way it is. I can choose to struggle against it, or I can choose acceptance. I can choose enlightenment. I can choose freedom.

And so I did.

When I got home instead of making lunch or a cup of tea and trying to get something done, I went into the bedroom, laid down on the bed and surrendered to the upside down nature of Wacky Sunday. I just let it be.

As soon as I did, the spell was broken. Wacky Sunday went back to being just another Sunday. I got up, made some lunch and ate it. All without being interrupted. I sat down to watch some television, and the internet worked.  White was white. Up was up. Right was right.

And I was grateful.

Grateful that Wacky Sunday was over and also, funnily enough, that it happened. Without Wacky Sunday I wouldn't have learned this: In the search for true enlightenment, we've got to change not only our thinking, but our language. No "shoulds," no "supposed tos", not even an "I'm going to."

WE don't know, we just don't know what's going to happen. And we've got to get comfortably - no, intimately - familiar with this basic truth if we want to have any hope of living a truly enlightened life.

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