Lost and Found
Sometimes I feel lost. Not too often. But, yeah, I do sometimes.
It may be connected with self-talk – all those things that I say to myself, generally about myself, through the day, days into weeks, at this point so many weeks. Want to know how many? This many – 3639. Multiply that by seven for a count of how many days I have had to be loving to myself, and those days in which I have shown less compassion to me that any cute cat rubbing up against my legs while out on a walk, or orphans starving in Bangladesh. Kind of sad, come to think of it.
Don’t get me wrong. This happens less often now, much less. It got better 35 years ago when I stopped the alcohol and drugs, but more than that, when I simultaneously began what would turn out to be a more honest look at the cat in the mirror (not those on the sidewalks). Even just the capability of being honest with me was a big, big deal, and allowed me to ease off the pedal of self-derision – or wildly unrealistic egomania – and get more real with me about me. Over those years the habit of the best reflection I can muster day in and out about how I’m doing and how I’m treating others, well that habit has become greater as a factor in my life and the way I live it. Along the way I fell into the study of what makes for emotional and spiritual health – kind of through my field of work but more as ritual in a comfortable chair with morning coffee, and I have turned the spotlight on the way I am with me. Not every minute, hell, I can forget for an hour or two. But the dark days of ruminating with the poor me’s, the eventual blame of self after running out of others to blame, those days are in the rear view.
I think it was probably in the early spring of either ’84 or ’85, but there was a sunny day I was walking from my apartment in Somerville, MA to Harvard Square to grab a to-go cup of Dunkin’s and sit on a brick wall and people watch, an event that for some reason filled me with a sense of freedom and blessing. But I was still a newbie with the self-care thing, though, and on this particular day far down the sidewalk in the distance I saw some kid spinning around and playing, laughing and apparently loving life, and being not far along in my honest looks at myself and who I really was, I remember saying, to myself, about that happy kid, “What an asshole.” Like, how could someone be so happy. As we got close enough to say hello I saw that the kid only had one arm – I think it was his left arm missing from the elbow. Guilt – remorse – shame — these are words I came to understand I had lived long with, and I sure felt it then. As in, who’s the asshole.
Happily there’s way less, way way less of that kind of dumb-ass judging now – about others or myself. I’m generally far on the other end of hoping to find joy in and for most everyone else. Which is good. I’ve come a long way, baby, I say to myself, and also have and maintain crystal clarity of the number of wonderful teachers and supporters that have come onto my path all along the way. Hopefully I’m one of those people on other peoples’ paths these days.
But, still. Every once in a while old ancient stories crowd in, push out gratitude and kindness, and then Oscar the Grouch ain’t got nothing on me. I sort of climb into a can for a while, and close the lid, before remembering how lucky I am.
I simply get lost for a little while. Not very often. Often only a minute or two. Then I recall the fun numbers on my birth certificate, and that I’m still up here, somehow, above ground, and I remember to have fun again. Like that one-armed kid on a Somerville sidewalk. Like the purring felines on all the others.
The man in the mirror.