slow

species

Today, as I came to the end of the “All in One, One in All” chapter of this book of the same name, I teared up realizing again that I had received something wonderful through text. I teared up not only because of the wonderfulness of what I had been given, but also because it proved to me that text still carries the possibility of transmitting something which steadies and blooms the reader, something which could change how they live their life, or how they feel about the world. It could help them survive.

Writing this now I feel the urge to cry.

I’m still meeting this new self! She’s solid stuff, and okay, I should stop referring to her as a separate entity if I want to close this dissonance. I am her, actually, for real, with some permanence, with new confidence, courage, ease and compassion. Even in this peaking point of exhaustion, of feeling dead on my feet on the MRT, of finding the whole world too bright and hazy no matter the hour of day. I do like myself very much.

I think what has been most surprising, most comforting, is my new ability to hold rage and resentment without being eaten up…! To recognise that anger is an important emotion I must hold without indulgence, without repression. And to also realise that my anger is me standing up for myself now. I am not diminished by careless words, I am indignant that someone said such things to me. That is a newish feeling. Something I have experienced with myself before, but not so clearly, so doubtlessly.

Today all this culminated in a Scorpio rising on high kind of state: black velvet skirt, black sleeveless knitted cropped top (I have virtually never worn a cropped top ever), black tight hoodie, black socks, black running shoes, green knitted sling bag, pink wireless earbuds, pearl earrings on the uppermost ear piercing on both sides, long strides not looking back, looking straight ahead as if striking with a knife. It was anger, certainly, even some anxiety/fear, but also another shade emerging. I am excited to embody this colour.

But first, time to rest. Time to sleep for many hours on end, without thoughts of other people, projects, problems.

Nothing much I can report here except that there have some upheavals in my heart, but also that this new self is taking them well and it’s really a new feeling — experiencing sadness, disappointment, anger without feeling totally swept up, totally overtaken. At the same time, it isn’t repression. It’s sitting in the pool of feelings while knowing clearly that they are not you, and that you do not have to identify as/with them. Letting them run their course but not indulging them or extending them unnecessarily. They are a part of your experience, your life, but they are not you. Does that make sense? (I ask as if you might reply! But if you wish to, please do.)

The upheavals have triggered some bad emotional habits/ responses which I am slowly observing and holding. It is sometimes hard to hear myself say aloud the harsh, selfish things. I am thankful for XZ, who listens patiently. The question, I think, is something like: how do you articulate these hot, resentful, tar-like thoughts and feelings without causing harm, without feeling overwhelming shame, and without totally identifying with them? It is a delicate distance and position to enact, but I think I am learning now.

I have been doing more research on monastic life, and wondering again if that is a path for me. I am conscious of the part of my desire that is ego, and the need to observe and dissolve that first before I continue. I am also conscious of the impulsive, lightly escapist energy here, and the need to attend local sangha events first to get a proper sense of things. Either way, there is no rush here. I will work on practicing alone for now, to absorb what I can and to build a clear mind.

As I plod along, bright and light as a daytime cloud, may I continue to extend compassion and patience to each moment, each person, each thing.

It occurs to me that every day I wake and try to forgive this new self. Forgiveness is the wrong word. I wake and try to come to terms with this steadiness, waiting for the anxiety & low mood to return. But it does not. I feel something like guilt, confusion, being ripped out of one life and placed in another. I am afraid I am merely dreaming.

I have been slowly meeting you, my new self which feels more like a new life. So much has been shed in the last ten years (maybe more), and here we are now, you and me. I am continually surprised by your ease, your confidence, your steadiness. Who are you? Me, yes, but you’re so thoroughly different from who I thought I was. Your calm rhythm, your general lack of self-hatred, your ability to let go more quickly that I’ve ever been able to… continually astounds me. It shocks me out of my body, causing dissociation. I seem to have changed sharply and suddenly, almost overnight.

E’s suggestion that it’s kind of like a chemical reaction, where every day a few drops are added to the solution and one day, suddenly, there’s enough solution that the reaction happens, makes sense. The catalyst here is also clear. The other possibility is that I’ve been changing into this new iteration for some time now, but I’ve simply not noticed. Perhaps I assumed that I had grown as much as I could have in this life, and taken some past self as a state of permanence.

I am not un-grateful, merely still in a state of light shock and disbelief. Surely time passing will allow this feeling to come to pass, as I, again, become my own evidence of what I want to make possible in this world.

It has been interesting to encounter new people and experiences like this, to come to know how they perceive me and how I make them feel. The disjunction can be felt there too, where they seem to be describing someone else. Either way, I like where I am/ seem to be. I just need more time to sit and settle into it. This new sense of clarity, self-assurance, power.

I may find myself perplexing, but almost never boring. I am mutable and constantly acting upon an impulse to shift. For a while I thought it was a sign of being easily distracted, lacking staying power (consistency), and/or being ungrateful, not knowing how to be content. I’m beginning to see that that may have been partially the case previously, but also that my discontentment & restlessness were rooted in pain and a desire for another world. I was not ungrateful so much as deeply hurt, deeply afraid to be here.

As I grow less afraid, I realise that I am still shifting. Less impulsively, perhaps, but still shifting all the same. Morphing and moulting again, again. I should learn to forgive my mutability, to stop troubling it as a sign of flakiness. I should also stop seeing consistency and uniformity as (morally) superior or greater virtues. There is value in mutability just as there is value in consistency; they are both companions of our lives and the world.

And just like that, one storm of the heart passes, and in its leaving teaches me so much about what it means to be calm. How to let trust lead without dismissing fear & anxiety. I can honour the depths of how I feel without indulging them to the point of stretching them out or letting them be reproduced into permanence. I can see how another person’s choices or opinions are often not a reflection of me at all. In that sense, I am becoming bolder.

There is an ease I can see myself leading with, even though it’s not here yet. But it does feel easier and easier to be in the world, with other people. I am beginning to tear little holes into my fear. I would like to be seen, soon, to become a visible object in the world.

I must begin to admit it: I am depressed. These griefs are eating me up, ounce by ounce, as I continue moving as if I feel nothing at all. It is an outsized coagulation of sadness, anger and helplessness that I do not know how to chip at. The return of restrictions is causing last year’s wounds, which I’ve barely begun to address to myself, to become infected. I am a body of pus.

There are so many things that I feel I must carry on doing. The world does not stop, and because of that I feel I cannot. There is much work that needs to be done, many things I want to do with this life. So I’ve tried and managed to convert emotion into energy and action, over and over, but I’m beginning to wear out at the seams. Especially now that, as A and I talked about briefly, the pandemic timeline is stretching out again. The slow-building bit of hope we were feeling has died.

How to repair? Firstly, I think I must allow myself to grieve. I can no longer beat myself over the head for daring to feel these things. Vent diagram: Yes, I am in a place of considerable comfort and privilege, but also, yes, I am brimming. I am depressed. I am struggling to do things.

What kind of process or ritual does my grief ask of me? How can I begin to move through its choreography, how can I honour what its presence means: that I love and empathise deeply?

I like you. Imagine it being that simple, because it could be, it is. Love is simple but romance is not. Somehow, we must be responsible for our desires. Right now, my sense of responsibility keeps me turning slowly on the spot.

I am revisiting the desire to be understood, and discovering that it matters less now than before. Yes, I need to be understood on a baseline level, for some degree of well-being and safety. But beyond that, explaining myself feels less and less crucial. Being perceived feels less and less meaningful. By which I mean: right now, other things feel more important than these games of speech and appearances. There are more urgent connections to be made. There are other languages, which exist within and between bodies, that I need to learn so as to continue doing the work I wish to do. In this sense, a focus on breadth becomes slightly more important than depth, which I have held to for so long. It is time to expand sideways.

How do you speak, and how can we adapt to each other’s languages? How can I make my thoughts easier for you to access? What is the vocabulary you are using? Tell me. I want to hear and feel you.

I know there’s something faulty about my desire to protect and solve everything for everyone, acting almost as a mother bird or shield for the people I love. It hijacks their agency on some level. It makes presumptions about what they want. It has a saviour/ martyr complex. It is another opposite of collaboration and trust.

The truth is that I am still not much good at collaboration. I find it hard to trust other people, hard to trust systems or rules or authority. I feel the need to enact some equity of power between myself and those who hold more power than me, and then I feel the need to extend what I acquire to other people who need it too.

Consciousness of my privilege compels me to exert myself especially drastically, as if my life is something I am using up. I am working my life as hard as I can. But I am also conscious of my limits and needs; I am learning to oscillate, to balance. Vent diagrams abound.

It’s not that I don’t have boundaries or habits of self-care and self-preservation, rather that my priorities are different. I am precious, but I am also a means of changing the world. At times, the world has to feel or be positioned above me, the self, for things to work. It doesn’t mean I am not conscious of my well-being, only that it is, for that period, secondary. Perhaps we can even say that in that moment, I am so enveloped that I have no need for a self any longer.

I am also thinking that to experience transcendence, often one must forget the self. The notion of “I” has to dissipate. To dissipate the self is to open up the possibility of becoming something else.