Thursday, January 22, 2009

From Small Things Big Things One Day Come

This is a very short story. After all that's happened I am amazed at days when I am fully alive here on the blue planet. In Buddhism the experience of loving fully without attachment is called metta. The word has so many near misses when translated to English, by turns suggesting unconditional loving kindness, good will, friendship, non-violence, unbridled warmth for others and self.

In even a long life, it can take forever to cultivate metta. I owe my understanding of it to E--, who appeared one night in response to a selfish online ad I placed after months of sober living. Our rules were simple, though I complicated them at every turn. But staying as present as possible was a challenge for two lovers who were addicted to self-erasure.

One night, E-- came by very late, rang the buzzer to my apartment building, and I let her in, then waited in the darkened bedroom, my giddy heart pounding. But she came in my room as a total stranger, dark with brooding. We lay together in bed, separated by thought, and I rummaged my mind for the clue to what I could have possibly done wrong.

Suddenly she bolted from bed and pulled on her clothes. I was disappointed...frightened. But she smiled, kissed my forehead, and said, "Let's try this again."

She went out of the apartment and I could hear the elevator going down to the lobby. Moments later, my phone rang as E-- buzzed me. I heard the elevator rising, my front door opening, and in the darkness of my room my lover came back to me. I felt her hair on my face in the dark and as I opened my eyes, I saw her smiling above me.

We went on through the winter and into spring. Months later, she seemed distracted again. And one night, after we went dancing, she broke into tears and said she could no longer love me.

I was devastated. Pulled angrily to the side of the road. We were miles from the nearest town. I said some angry things. Then a highway patrol car pulled up and the officer came to see why we were stopped.

I put on my stone face, said all was well, and drove E--- home. I followed her into her living room, thanked her for all that she had given me, and drove off. I wish I could say that it was what I wanted, or what my mind was telling me to do, how I could make something awful immediately worse, but I found myself automatically doing something quite against my nature.

When I wrote E--- recently to tell her that I had discovered Buddhism -- a practice she had been following for years -- she was delighted. She told me that the evening we parted her heart had simply been exhausted. She signed her email, "much metta." I think of that some days when I sit and try to quiet my mind. I remember that I can change my trajectory at any time by stepping out, taking the elevator down, then buzzing myself back in.

Not long ago E-- took a research position on the plains of eastern Montana. It's raw and cold there and I know about deep cold. I still had my rabbit-fur hat from my days in the heart of Alaska. I dug it out of a crate in a storage locker and packed it in a shipping box. The chinstrap is broken, the ear-flaps hang loose, and some of the fur is falling out. But I know you are a whiz with a needle and thread.

Stay warm.

1 comment:

tangobaby said...

I wish I had read this post in the morning...

I would like to go outside and start my day over again with myself but I think I will save that idea for tomorrow, if needed.

Lovely story.