My month-long assignment is to ponder the words of Swami Rama and try to "fall in love with my life as it is." I hate that it's so hard for me to do this. For as long as I can remember I've been fundamentally under-satisfied with everything and everyone. I'd describe myself as easy to please but impossible to satisfy. To fall in love with my life as it is right now is asking a lot. And I feel like an asshole for writing that.
I certainly have felt content with myself and my life at times, but those are fleeting moments; I would love to lengthen them into more of a status quo. I tried to do that this month, with varying success. Something--I still don't really know what--happened along the way and by the end of the month, instead of expanding my sense of contentment with all things, I wound up spiraling down into a pit of despair about everything. Here's a breakdown of that trajectory:
Week one deals with the epidemic, especially in the U.S. and NYC in particular in my opinion, of people always being in a rush to get on to the next thing, which robs us of experiencing the moment we're in. When I was younger I absolutely played what Adele calls the "if only game" or the "planning and regretting game": I was waiting for my life to take off and lamenting my current circumstances. I do less of that now, at least on the larger scale, but I find myself frequently waiting for something to be over: a class I'm teaching, a run I'm on, a work day, a week. Even when I'm doing something I generally enjoy, I find myself looking to what's after. And of course, I am ALWAYS rushing.
My elderly dog Buster had surgery to remove a tumor from his leg this week, which turned out to be much more invasive than anyone anticipated. When I picked him up in the evening, I left what I thought was plenty of time to get him home and then get to daycare to get my kid. I was wrong. Walking the 7 blocks home (including the stop in at daycare with a handicapped dog in a cone) took just under an hour and a half. Usually it would take 12 minutes, tops. But there was nothing I could do: Buster weighs 65lbs, so I couldn't carry him, and he just couldn't walk well, nor did he want to. So we just had to go achingly slowly, stopping to rest every 4 or 5 steps. I couldn't rush, and I felt so bad for him that my patience was easy to tap. Luckily it was an unseasonably gorgeous evening, and even the toddler was in good spirits, so the longest 7-block walk ever was surprisingly pleasant.
This unhurried enjoyment of life as it is carried over into the next few days, too. Whereas I usually find comfort in looking ahead at my calendar and--sometimes arbitrarily--adding tasks to complete in the future, I tried not to think about the next thing, especially on my Wednesday hell day, which starts at 6am and ends around 9pm, a long-ass day during which I'm usually just trying to get to the next hour and next obligation. I tried to just be in each hour I was in. It was hard. But doable.
Week two instructs me to "notice how much energy I expend moving towards what I enjoy and avoiding what I dislike; to notice any gripping sensations in my body".
Isn't moving toward what we like and avoiding what we don't like kind of the summation of human existence? Procrastination and anxiety would be greatly reduced if we didn't. So would addiction and crime. And divorce and war. I guess all the bad things would be reduced.
I'm supposed to be noticing the tendencies and gripping, and this extra attention I gave to it may have been the beginning of my downfall this month; maybe it made me focus on it too much. I don't know.
The biggest mistake I've made so far in 2020 is switching gyms. I switched because my old gym was dinky and de-motivating: I was usually the youngest person there (I'm in my 40s), and sometimes the only person there. A 'packed' gym day would require me to share it with maybe 8 or 9 old folks, which has its merits, no doubt, but after two years of it, I was BORED and had plateaued several times over. However, my son LOVES the daycare and the girls who work there, so I kept my membership for his sake. At the beginning of the year I finally decided to switch to the newer, bigger, more modern gym that's even closer to my house and which also has a daycare. I decided that for this one thing, I would put my desires before my son's, figuring he would just have to adjust to the new situation.
It's been over two months and he has yet to allow me to actually leave the daycare room to go work out.
There is a definite gripping in my body--and psyche--when I have to leave the gym after hanging out in the daycare for 20 minutes with an inconsolable toddler and not working out. I need that workout on days I'm home with my kid, for so many reasons, and not getting it is having profoundly negative effects.
As far as my tendency to move away from things I don't like, I've gotten pretty good at not avoiding tedious shit anymore, having learned the hard lesson many times over of what happens when you avoid unpleasant yet important tasks like taxes, bills, the dentist.
I don't have the luxury to move away from things I don't particularly like anymore, such as cleaning the house, because I am the only one who is going to do it. What I'm feeling as a result of this challenge is less 'gripping' and more annoyance, almost resentment for the very suggestion that I could move away from what I don't like. I mean, who can? Not sure why I'm reacting so strongly to this one. Maybe that's what I should be 'noticing' this week.