Life as an Extreme Sport

sometimes the hardest thing to do is practice on yourself

I wrote this a few weeks ago, and in a tricksy move to make sure no one could know what I was referring to without talking to me, I held on to it to post at a later time. Ooo, tricksy.

More seriously, the number of people who read this, at least occasionally, has lead me to conclude that while I can still talk about whatever I want, with common discretion, it might not be a bad idea to blur the lines on continuity just a bit – at least in some circumstances.

Today has been a serious day for practicing loving kindness and compassion.

It’s either that, or burn bridges in a spectacular flame out that I would regret almost instantly.

The problem is, it’s easy to get stuck in circles of irritation, when I’m essentially by myself all day, and the contact I do have with other people is short/perfunctionary. A conversation I had with Stax earlier is a good example of this; by myself, I was just getting more and more irritated (and thank god I didn’t receive certain email at that time, because I swear I would have done/said something I would have regretted, rather than the more patient filing of the mail and not responding). But having to explain a more detailed and balanced picture to her returned me to a better center, where I could see the picture larger than myself and relax again.

Unfortunately, I’ve been alone with myself since then, and had plenty of time to narrow my gaze once more. I know that I’m doing this, and I am attempting to breathe and retain focus and perspective, but it can be hard. It becomes so easy to just think about our self as individual, and elevate our own issues and priorities above the rest. To always think of how you are engaged with others in the world is not an easy task – it requires a sort of self-sacrifice that opens up a vulnerability. Because to do this, you have to trust that those you are opening up to have also opted to open up, that it is not a single sided exchange, but mutual and respectful.

Which is not, of course, to say that the practice of loving kindness and compassion should only be generated to those who will give it to you in return. But there is a hardening that I haven’t yet gotten over, to practice loving kindness without self-sacrificing vulnerability. What I generate and give differs, and it is much better, more intimate and true, if I allow the vulnerability to be there. If I assume that it is returned.

But that vulnerability, tied to imperfection, can lead to taking offense when there is none, to expectations, to a host of problems where the kneejerk reaction is to lash out, push away, protect, destroy.

What does it say, I wonder, that it is such a human impulse to push and destroy rather than be intimate?

semiotics on flesh

I am a study in signs right now. (Well, not right now – right now I’m a study in “oh fucking hell it’s too late in the year to be this muggy and hot!”) Everything I put on seems to have meaning, of some sort or another. Rubber bracelet with pithy slogan, stamped and brushed silver bracelet, ring, mala, pendant, locket – even earrings. Small bits of meaning woven into each, almost charmlike. The impulses to wear give some insight into the idea that having something that belonged to another gives you some power, over event, item, person. Tangible connections, ties that bind.


It has come to my attention that some people think I am, perhaps, upset, frustrated, and/or otherwise angry and disappointed with/at them. Some people should stop being stupid. Or come talk to me. Actually, both would be best.

I will be the first to stand up and admit I have issues with trusting. Take those issues, add in the utter fear of vulnerability which stems directly from having issues with trust, and you get – well, me. Someone who has a very hard time putting herself in issues she perceives will make her vulnerable – where vulnerable can be read as “hurt by other’s actions.” It also gets you someone who talks about herself in third person, apparently,…

I was talking to one of my sanity points this morning, and admitted that it’s much easier to be angry at people than it is to be angry at something as intangible and insubstantial as cancer. There’s the perception that people have choices, could have done something differently, made other decisions – easier to be wronged by people than impotent in the face of the cancer taking my mother from me.

I need people, but I need my mother more. And there’s nothing anyone can do about the latter, nothing anger will do anything about or for. So I got angry at other people instead. Because it was easier to say “you didn’t do X, Y, Z, you don’t give a damn” and fall back into bad habits about trust and vulnerability and that secret conviction that I’m going to spin around to find everyone stabbing me in the back all at once, rather than see the empathy and care that was being offered.

I have every right to be frustrated and angry – but the frustration and anger were directed at the wrong sources. And if you were one of those people who got whalloped with my rage, I apologize. And we should probably talk, and smooth things over.

hopeful misanthropes unite

Many years ago, I was in the hospital, after deciding that nope, life? Sucked and wasn’t worth it. I was still during my lockdown period, where technically I was not allowed any visitors. But someone had misinterpreted the rules and told me otherwise, and I mercilessly badgered and cried and basically pitched a giant fit until I got what I wanted — a few visitors. It was really, specifically, one visitor I wanted, but he was a package deal with the boyfriend at the time.

We finally sat, alone in a room together, and I remember it as clearly as if it just happened. He sat in a chair, and I sat at his feet. He looked so sadly at me, and I’m sure I returned the look, laden with so much more. We had been friends through a lot, a lot of his problems, and I had been there for him, steadfast, often in the wake of others having enough. I was a rock. I would not budge.

Now it was my turn, my time. I needed a rock. And I told him as much, that I needed to know he cared, that he loved me, that I could fall apart and he would take care of me, he would make sure I was okay. I needed to know that he who I had given so much to would do the same in return, and I needed that return.

I remember everything vividly. I remember sitting, kneeling at his feet. I remember the yellow light, the sick hospital walls, bad furniture in the room, the feel of the industrial carpet under my feet. I remember looking at the floor, even then having such a hard time admitting I needed anything from anyone else, and I remember his look, his sorrowful expression. I remember the tears rolling down his face, quietly, as he understood what I was asking, what I needed, and what his answer meant.

And he reached out, ever so gently touching my face with his long, delicate, almost elven fingers, tracing the route the tears had taken down my face, and whispered so quietly, “I’m sorry, I can’t,”

You would think, those twenty years ago, I would have learned a lesson. That I would have not repeated it since. Of course, if you thought that, you probably haven’t spent too much time around me.

We were never as close after that. I still dropped everything if he needed me, which he frequently did for a while, until he got things together. And when he was more pulled together, he needed me less and less, and eventually he replaced the friendship I offered freely for nothing in return with someone else, someone without history. By then, I simply shrugged. I had walled myself off from him, from those moments where he touched me so gently and said no. In that time, he had proven to me just what he thought of me, just how he thought of me, and I learned that fast, and kept that lesson near and dear to my heart.

I could give, but he never would. It would not be an equal relationship, and I could either accept that and continue to give, or walk away. I chose the first, I gave until I was no longer wanted, and then I went away.

And people wonder why I have issues, especially with trust.

It came to mind because I recently found myself in a situation that evoked similar tone (if the details all different), and received similar results. And found myself that same mix of resigned and so frustrated with myself.

Why frustrated with myself? Because I know me well enough to know I will repeat what I did with the boy above, and have done with people since him. I will continue to care and make it clear I do, I will continue to be there, I will do all asked and more. And I will do it both expecting nothing in return — for that, truly, is what you must do to love, to give unconditionally; you must not expect anything in return. ((Insert Buddhist rah-rah justification, loving kindness, compassion, etc and here. Although truth be told, I think Buddha’d probably be getting close to kicking my ass. There’s a difference between practicing loving kindness, and allowing people to take advantage of your inclinations.)) But at the same time, I know I will build that wall, create an arm’s length distance, and I don’t know if I can stop that, or if anything can undo it.

I know that if, today, the boy from above were to show up on my doorstep, I would drop and welcome him with open arms, while not saying a word about my own situation to him. And now I fear I’m in that situation, once more.

And to be honest, I hate myself a little for it, for being such a doormat. For drawing boundaries that mean I pull back and away while still giving freely. Buddhism would counsel me on how this is a good thing, to give without expectation of anything but the generation of metta. It would also say I obviously still have too much attachment. This would be why I am a bad Buddhist. One of many reasons.

I would say that I am a hopeful misanthrope who is continually let down by the world, yet still keeps alive the idea that one day, one day, it will be different. And keep getting hurt, because one day hasn’t yet come.

kill the buddha outside you

I was chatting with an academic colleague of mine about the recent attack in Pakistan on a large, carved Buddha, and actually impressed myself with my own serenity and acceptance. Quite the different response from my reaction to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas (outrage, anger, despair).

But as I told him, it is only rock, and only appears indestructable to use because we move at different time than rock. To focus so much on the image is in fact to do exactly what the Islamic militants fear – idolize the image, instead of revere the message.

Ultimately, what I feel is more sorrow and sadness, not for the destruction of the carved art and stone, but for the people who are so ruled by fear, who are so threatened by something as simple as carved rock. How sad and small their lives must be, and what beauty and wonder in the world they are missing.

words make wisdom

For various reasons, and one rather specific one, it became necessary to stop using my office as a large storage room, and get it in working order rapidly. (So now my living room is a large storage room… sigh. But I’m working through it, albeit slowly.)

Anyhow, now that I can sit at my desk, I can see some of the collective wisdom I’ve opted to attach on the side of my filing cabinet. And it’s rather weird to realize that these are things I had hanging up on my cube wall at eWorld, some 12 years ago.

I guess as much as things may change, they stay the same. (And rather, as an aside, solidifies the notion I’ve been a pragmatist long before I knew what it even meant.)

When you lose your temper, the other person gains control.

A person is not hurt so much by what happens, as by his opinion of what happens.
-William James

Of course, the two bumper stickers up are equally apt, tho not quite so old:

I’m not paid enough to be this pissed off!

I’m not gonna drink anymore…won’t drink any less, either!

Yep. That about sums it all up.