Sunday, January 16, 2011

AMBIVALENCE: Valencia, Spain

So, I now know the secret. The way to get me to update my blog is to tell me I need to write an assessment report! Brilliant!

I've been thinking alot over the past few days about how many things I love doing, that make me happy and calm and content, that I have not done much of in the past 6 months or of those things, funnily enough, is blogging. Another is singing. Photography. Cooking. Eating. (Well, that one I've been doing pretty well, actually.) 

And I realized that, in the past 6+ months, there've actually been tons of things that I had something to say about...ugh, bad sentence structure, sorry.  Anyway, one of those things is Valencia, Spain, where hubby and I went in late August. 

I think I didn't write about Spain because, overall, the trip was hard.  And that sounds ungrateful, I know. But it really was.  We went in the week right before I began my internship, and I had a lot of time-sensitive dissertation work to do, and was trying to mentally prepare for a huge change in my life, and the start of something I had been working toward for years.  It was also late August, and I learned as we were on our flight there that the worst time to visit Valencia is August. Swell. So, it was extremely hot and made seemingly relaxing things like lying on the beach into exercises in mild torture.  Mild torture, but still. Also, the nicer beach, the one that was less crowded and more spacious, looked like this:

That's rock.  Hard, pointy rock.  So, it was beautiful, and I took lots of great pictures, but you had to wear shoes to keep from cutting your feet, obviously couldn't spread a towel and lay out, and to get into the water, you had to jump into the sea off of a sheer drop off, into the super deep water.  All the while timing it properly so that the incoming waves didn't push you immediately into the jagged rock face you just jumped off of. It was terrifying. And really sad, because I didn't want to be terrified, but the power of the ocean is incredible and we are extremely frail in the face of it, and I was all too aware of that and so was too scared most of the time to enjoy the beautiful Mediterranean water.  So, I just took lots of pictures.

The thing that saved me on this trip was that I had a camera glued to my hand/face the entire time.  I borrowed my friend's D90, and without it, I don't know what I would have done.  The trip was business/pleasure for hubby, so there were times when he was busy, the family we were staying with was doing family things, everyone was speaking Spanish, I had no clue what was going on, and no real agency to be able to control what was happening, where I was going, or what I was doing (which, needless to say, was extremely difficult for me), and so I took pictures. I looked, I framed shots, I fiddled with f-stops and shutter speeds, I shot. And that's how I didn't go crazy.  I also think the camera helped me to see the beauty of where I was, though I was feeling so ambivalent about being there.  Valencia is a beautiful place.  I was just there at the wrong time.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011


So...I very much need to work on a report for work, but even more so, I need to write some things, dear reader, after almost 8 months of silence, I'm back!

Hi :o)

The first thing I think I need to say is that for the past many months, I have been, and this is a severe understatement, extremely restless. I have been anxious, and angry, and sad, and mad, and confused, and nervous, and happy, and annoyed, and excited, and upset, and, even sometimes, content. I have also been doing what I typically do when I feel restless--trying frantically to figure out what needs to change, what needs to be done, so that I only feel the good emotions listed up there, avoid the bad ones, and don't feel restless anymore.  Needless to say, that pursuit has led only to me needing to add "very tired" to that list.

Then, yesterday, as I'm mentally racing around, trying to figure out what pieces to move so that everything can be "fixed" and "right," something shifted. And I asked myself, "What am I doing?" Over and over again, I asked...

A few months ago, thanks to a well-timed seminar at work on mindfulness and meditation and the mind/body connection, I heard about and read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.  Those of you who know me well know that I can exaggerate slightly sometimes :o) but believe me when I say that this book is changing my life.  Yesterday, I flipped through the many, many sections that I've highlighted, and a few really touched me, moved me to tears, and helped me to realize that for a long time now, as I keep trying to figure out what to do next, how to change the state of affairs, the internal state of my self, I have been trying really hard to avoid my fear.

Fear of what? It doesn't even matter, really. As I experience any kind of anxiety or doubt, I try with all my might to dodge out of its path, and become busy with any number of distractions, some beneficial, some not, to keep from feeling fear.

So many of Chodron's words are powerful for me when thinking about this tendency, which we all, understandably, have.  I mean, who wants to feel scared and miserable? Not me! But the thing is, it's unavoidable. It's part of life.  And it's so hard to accept that truth, isn't it? I know it is for me.

But I remembered again yesterday that the irony of it all is that the more we fight against our fear, the less we are actually living our lives and experiencing the present moment. From When Things Fall Apart:

I once asked the Zen master Kobun Chino Roshi how he related with fear, and he said, "I agree. I agree."
This one small sentence slaps me in the face every time (in a good way!). I mean, read it again. "I agree." Wow.

It's so simple, and yet is the most complicated thing for me to grasp, I think.  To just let myself be scared, sad, upset, thrilled, just be those things, if that it is where I am...instead of running, running, running to get away from real life, and the pain that is sometimes a part of being real. Being here.
Thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly. The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last—that they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security.
I think the painful truth of this--that nothing lasts, that life is groundless-- is what landed on me yesterday. Again. And it hurt. It was heavy.

And, I agree. Well...I'm trying to, at least.

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