I have been on a bit of a cleaning frenzy since yesterday. The house had become hugely chaotic with stuff not put away. It was just a mess, truly, and bugging both of us. Merely moving some things down to the basement where they belong (yoga props I'd loaned to a Dharma sister) and getting some things taken to our respective offices made a lot of difference. Today I've vacuumed, dusted, sorted, and organized some. That and laundry - I'm kind of tired, but it feels good to have things cleaner.
Amidst all of that frenzy, while dusting, my cane caught my eye. It is mixed in with rolled up yoga mats, hiking poles, and an old paper umbrella. The handle of it was covered in a rather thick layer of dust.
As I cleaned it off I was struck at how long it has been since I've used it. From 2000 until well into 2004 I would use it occasionally when the pain and weakness in my hips would necessitate the extra assist. I purchased a cool, lightweight one with the ability to be broken down like a tent pole. People commented on it a lot for the coolness factor and they were mostly too polite to comment on a woman in her 30s using one. I generally resented the hell out of it but admitted that I really needed it.
I'm not exactly sure when I moved my cane into the cluster of stuff. Sometime in the past couple of years it took up residence with the hiking poles, which feel like an accomplishment instead of an accommodation. My third yoga mat. CK's mat. The paper umbrella I've had for years; I've been pondering how to repair a tear in it and re-purpose into an art project. The cane had an impressive amount of dust on it.
I'm also not entirely sure when I stopped using it, even very occasionally. At some point it just became a thing in my house that I never interacted with. I didn't need it, so I never went looking for it.
What I am aware of is the meaning of that dusty handle. The lack of use, the accumulation of dust as the cane sits next to my scratched up hiking poles is a testament to my Yoga practice and to the hundreds I've spent on one form of therapy, including body work, or the other. Amusingly enough the dust is a rather powerful indicator of progress.
Yeah, there's still a truly mechanical failure I deal with. It does affect me, but now it is just another part of my physical practice. Tomorrow I'll probably really feel all the cleaning and organizing I've been doing the past couple of days. I'll most likely be moving a little slower, a little more cautiously. I might wake up with a bit of a groan.
Even still, I won't need that cane.
This song randomly popped up on my iPod a few minutes ago and I was struck once again by those lyrics. They pretty much catch my full attention anytime I listen to 'My Culture'. We're not strong if we don't think we are. We lack confidence when we think we don't have any reason to have any.
That brings this post around to chatting this morning with my EMDR therapist, PB, about my anxiety around the job search, my current lack of job. Next month my severance package, my "lovely parting gifts" from my last job, will run out leaving me on unemployment. I'm feeling a lot of dread and downright panic about this.
CK says I should take my time, find a job I'm really going to like. Sure, most of me believes her, but there's a rather insistent part that doesn't trust it. I've never been able to count on anyone to have my back and this habit is very hard to unlearn. Under it all there's a part of me that doesn't trust anyone, particularly anyone who says they love me. After all, my experiences with people who've said they love me have been pretty negative.
That shines a bright light upon the part of me that is pretty sure that all of those negative experiences have happened because I'm fundamentally not worth that kind of love. I'm so deeply flawed and such a misfit that eventually people will become disenchanted and hurt me again. It is the same part of me that dearly wishes I could be possessed of an average IQ and settled down into a seriously mainstream, ordinary, invisible kind of life.
All this insistence despite the preponderance of the evidence to the contrary. The larger part of me trusts CK and her love for me. That greater self also knows with certainty that the further I've moved away from the "mainstream" the more in touch with my essential self I've become. I know that when I tried to play that game, reinventing myself to be what would make my boyfriend/husband/family/friends/etc. happy, I was seriously, deeply depressed and had a weight & cholesterol over 290. It was a fraud, all of it.
The reality: Vegan, Queer, Buddhist, Yogini, Liberal, Smart, Poetry-Reading Freak.
As they tease CK (in a friendly way) at her office, "Edge Case".
What's underneath this job stuff? Well aside from the not trusting anyone to make sacrifices while I'm not bringing home an income and really have my back, I'm pretty intimidated by the popularity contest that job seeking feels like. It takes me right back to all the unease and awkwardness I felt as a adolescent. I got my last job through the sheer nepotism of being hired by the team I was a support engineer to when I was laid off. No interviews, I was the only qualified candidate for a job requisition written to match my resume.
I'm afraid all my inherent freakiness somehow seeps off of my resume and all hiring managers take one look and say, "No way!" Surely this can be the only explanation for my marked lack of anything resembling an interview. Clearly my lack of confidence is well founded. Right?
PB told me to work on being aware of the physical sensations that arise around this fear, especially since I experience this more as a physical sensation rather than a voice in my head telling me horrible things. She also said to work at bringing awareness to those moments, even if there are mere seconds, when I remember that I'm a strong, capable, talented woman. And that being a freak isn't so bad. Neither is being smart.
If I don't see that I'm strong then I won't be.
The entire time we've been working toward our ceremony CK and I have known that we wanted to include the first five Grave Precepts. Both of us have spent a lot of time with these vows. We've each written about them and have taken them in a public ceremony with our community (sangha), friends and family present. At those times we looked at how these vows informed our own personal practice.
Including these vows as part of our marriage ceremony would reaffirm the most basic of the vows of our Buddhist practice together. Ultimately we sat down with several translations of these vows to write ones that we felt truly reflected the practice we share together in marriage. Of the many wordings we looked at, we were strongly influenced by the vows we both have taken within our Zen community, the writing on the precepts by the late John Daido Loori Roshi, and the interpretation of the precepts by Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Naht Hahn.
During the ceremony we each recited the following vows to one another:
- In the practice of our marriage, I vow to affirm, cherish and protect the lives of all sentient beings.
- In the practice of our marriage, I vow to be generous with my time, energy and material resources and to take only what is freely given.
- In the practice of our marriage, I vow to be aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct and to cultivate my responsibility to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society.
- In the practice of our marriage, I vow to manifest truth, to cultivate loving speech and deep listening. I will refrain from using words of discord and will make every attempt to resolve conflict, great and small.
- In the practice of our marriage, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.
We each then wrote our own vows we were taking in our marriage. After reciting our own writing of the first five Grave Precepts we then gave our own vows. Here are mine to CK:
I will always remember seeing you on the first day of 2008. It was merely the third time I had seen you in person, but in the bright light of early afternoon I suddenly knew with certainty that my life was about to change in a significant way.
So it did, and here we are today in front of friends and relations. All of us gathered to honor the power of publicly taking vows to love, honor and cherish one another. It has been a mad dash to get to this dazzling finish, complete with unexpected news, arguments, wild passion, laughter, and tears. I’m told this is perfectly ordinary even though it feels to me rather extraordinary.
In addition to the precepts, which I have vowed to make a fundamental part of the practice of my marriage with you, I offer these vows from my heart:
- I vow to nurture unbridled joy in equal measure with gravitas.
- I vow to great each day with loving-kindness.
- I vow to nourish my health so that we may explore many more years together.
- I vow to create art, write, sing and cultivate playfulness together with you.
- I vow to admit when I am wrong.
- I vow to offer you cheer, humor, deep listening, and wise counsel. Whenever needed.
- I vow to challenge myself and you so we continue to grow fully into who we can be.
- I vow to read you poetry.
For my birthday last year you gave me a collection of Rumi’s poetry translated by Coleman Barks; an edition I did not have. It had been an amazing day spent celebrating my birthday and you fell asleep early. I stayed awake longer to read poems and enjoy my cake. One poem in particular really caught me; I knew I wanted to say some of the words from it to you at our wedding. Although I feel rather presumptuous playing with Rumi’s words, I do so as an act of love and from a deep honoring of the original poem, “The Self We Share”. These words especially speak to me of you and of this moment when written in this way:
The Prayer of Each
You are the source of my life.
You separate essence from mud.
You honor my soul.
You bring rivers from the mountain springs.
You brighten my eyes.
The wine you offer takes me out of myself into the self we share.
Doing that is religion.
I am a prayer.
You're the amen.
My dearest Sherri: You are one of the most generous, compassionate and courageous spirits I have ever met. From the beginning, you opened your heart wide to me and while cautious at first, I have learned to take great refuge in your presence.
In addition the precepts we have already shared, I offer a few of my own vows:
Because our life together will not always be easy, I vow to meet challenges in our relationship with a sense of compassion and adventure.
Because our family is but one piece in a very large puzzle. I vow to live a life of service to you, to our marriage and to our community.
Because while love is not scarce, many resources are, I vow to make sure you always have the things you need most such as food, water, shelter and art supplies. I vow to utilize our resources wisely.
Because I want to spend the most amount of time possible with you and grow old together, I vow to care for my body and mind.
Because play is just as important as work, I vow to cultivate playfulness, laughter and lightness in our relationship.
Because what I was hiding, deep inside, you brought out into the light, and even thought it is terrifying at times, I vow to stand bravely in the light of your love.
My dearest Sherri, You are the first person who made me truly feel loved. I look forward to sharing a life of practice with you and I am truly honored that you are making this commitment with me here today, in front of our friends and family.
When we exchanged our stunning, one-of-a-kind wedding rings, handmade by local artist Barbara Covey, we each said the following words to one another:
May our marriage be nurturing, intimate and supportive throughout the years. May our marriage be a refuge to us as we cultivate kindness and compassion toward all sentient beings. I give you this ring as a symbol of my vows and commitment to you with body, speech and mind. In this life, in every situation, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty.
There's been so much going on, joyful (our wedding) and hard (Mom being in the hospital and missing our wedding) that sitting down to write has been a far lower priority. I'll be getting back to it more since there's been a lot I've wanted to write about, but for now my return to posting is to share the three poems we had read during our wedding ceremony.
Oh, and a great picture taken by a friend after the ceremony!
CK's mother read this poem:
I Want Both of Us
I want both of us
To start talking about this great love
As if you, I, and the Sun were all married
And living in a tiny room,
Helping each other to cook,
Do the wash,
Weave and sew,
Care for our beautiful
We all leave each morning
To labor on the earth’s field.
No one does not lift a great pack.
I want both of us to start singing like two
About this extraordinary existence
You, I, and God were all married
And living in
One of the Zen priests, a dear friend and inspiration to our practice, read this:
Entering the Shell
Love is alive, and someone borne
along by it is more alive than lions
roaring or men in their fierce courage.
Bandits ambush others on the road.
They get wealth, but they stay in one
place. Lovers keep moving, never
the same, not for a second! What
makes others grieve, they enjoy!
When they look angry, don’t believe
their faces. It’s spring lightning,
a joke before the rain. They chew
thorns thoughtfully along with pasture
grass. Gazelle and lioness, having
dinner. Love is invisible except
here, in us. Sometimes I praise love;
sometimes love praises me. Love,
a little shell somewhere on the ocean
floor, opens its mouth. You and I
and we, those imaginary beings, enter
that shell as a single sip of seawater.
Another friend from our Zen community read this:
The Plum Trees
by Mary Oliver
Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into
the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment
rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don't
succumb, there's nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy
is a taste before
it's anything else, and the body
can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,
the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it
into the body first, like small