Lessons Experienced

Back on August 6, Bino related the story that during his recent trip to Brazil, he realized that he was rushing around trying to do everything in a place where there was nothing really to do. He found himself asking: "why are you rushing when you have absolutely nothing to do in this country?"

I took that realization with me to South Dakota/Nebraska last week, trying to keep time and space open, knowing that there would be certain family obligations to dance through. It mostly worked - I felt a certain ease about having no expectations of my time other than keeping my little nest all in order and making the correct appearances despite certain obstacles (like flights due to arrive at 6:45 pm, being waved off at 6:30 pm due to the evacuation of Rapid City's airport because of a tornado watch... then spending the next 4 hours in Cheyenne, WY...finally arriving in RC at about 11pm only to find that the kid's car seats were left... somewhere between Seattle and Salt Lake City...)

What I didn't count on, though, was that this little exercise in Zen Nothingness created a sense of emotional detachment... I, my identity, my sense of connection, my creativity were all on hold. I didn't realize it fully until reaching Fort Robinson where the ghosts of Buffalo Soldiers, frightened pioneers, Japanese POWs, captured/murdered Lakota Sioux, and self righteous cavalrymen, jostled dreams and slipped around darkened corners as we inhabited their spaces. My children slept fitfully, my oldest wandering the halls looking for her bed several times. My husband unconsciously shaved his beard in the fashion of the officers who had lived in the same adobe quarters we slept. My relatives spoke in hushed tones and generally felt a sense of unease about the layers and layers of history - there was no strong sense of right or wrong there at the Fort - pioneers needed the soldiers to create safe passage and secure their ability to make a living in a region where no one had farmed ever... the Sioux needed the land to rove, hunt, live as they always had, following the seasons and the land in ways that can only be learned through centuries of experience. The Buffalo Soldiers were there to prove their hearts as brave and as worthy as whites, while the Japanese POWs bided their time until the end of the war... I know little of their story, muffled as it was beneath the older, more painful tales...

These are the things I learned after I realized I was not really present while on vacation. There was the promised ease that came from being so detached, but I think I missed things... what did Mount Rushmore /feel/ like as I searched the landscape to see what Washington viewed and how it differed from what Roosevelt saw in the distance. How did the land cope with the tunneling created by the Needles Highway and what possessed the engineers of the pigtail bridges to move in circles instead of in straight lines as 'normal'? And then there were the Relations that visited - the sparkling hummingbird, the skittish antelope, and the curmudgeonly, flatulent skunk who 'greeted' us as we drove from the mountains to Custer in search of food or souvenirs - what were their messages I missed?

Once again, I was reminded that to not be myself, to not be that strange mix of jittering creative energy and anal-retentive focus, even if it means that I tire myself out easily, is to risk missing meeting the world fully, experiencing my life as my own life.

A 'teacher of the Secret' once expounded on the efficacy of the Curly Factor (Think Jack Palance in City Slickers and his 'one thing' philosophy). "Be a monomaniac" the teacher encourages "Pick one thing and stick to it like a first class postage stamp until you arrive" (okay...maybe I'm mixing my philosophers here a bit).

I get that - I've seen it in others. Being the expert in one thing means excellence. And it also means sacrificing the possibility of being an expert in a bunch of things (which really is pretty impossible for most, I think). But there's also a layered richness that's lost in being so focused. Focused in the sense of narrowly-viewing.

I like the periphery, the nearly seen, the almost heard. I like bringing those things together and finding the stories. Somehow I don't think monomania would bring me that richness.

But here, in this moment, I also realize that I've short changed the ideal of Zen, the Middle Path, of Balance. Yes, there will be moments of being really focused and then there will be moments of openness. And somewhere between no work and ohmigoshIvevolunteeredagain, there's honoring the work I've been given and living up to the responsibilities of being a mom, wife, and writer.

Kel Agodon writes a really good review of Mothertalk which sounds like it gets this concept down of juggling creativity and living. Looks like a good read, but even so, the review will have to suffice for now. I'm going to choose to honor the choices I've made this last year - ie. read the books I've already bought, write the papers and stories I've already sketched out, finish the chores I already have in mind, before taking on anything, Anything, ANYthing, new.


No... really.

This is where I have to set aside my Filipino nature of social compatibility for a more American sense of individuality.

It'll be entertaining at least to try.

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