On the morning of Sunday, January 23, 2022, I went grocery shopping at a local store. I returned to my van, loaded up my groceries, but when I went to start the engine there was silence. Nothing. There’s a sick feeling that rises in your gut when this happens, and after trying to start the engine several times, I was feeling it, like an inner barfing. The short story is that my mechanic discovered a dirty battery terminal as the cause, so no big parts or engine overhaul needed, plus he didn’t even charge me! The profound experience of this event, and it was profound, was the emotional landscape that I covered through this scenario.
My inner trip started, yes at the inner barfing moment. I moved from there to full-on catastrophizing, imagining that this was the end for this 2008 vehicle and how was I going to swing a new one? I had the whole story laid out, right up to where I was living in a culvert, hissing at children, picking old doughnut bits out of my old woman’s beard. I did catch myself though. I recently finished almost thirty years of therapy, successfully because I am around to write this. During those years, I studied, read, learned–I mean really learned so much about the human psyche that in regards to my reaction to the engine issue, I should have known better. So, I pulled an inner shift, stepped around the barf, and summoned forth my wisdom, mentally lifting myself out of my future culvert and back into the present. That’s right, “Be here now,” baby, as Ram Dass said. I’m rolling solo these days, so there was nobody with me in the parking lot to talk me down; it was all me. I did it, one step at a time, calling CAA, convening with the fabulous wizard they sent, getting my vehicle to my mechanic’s garage, all, you know, like a functioning adult, on the planet, under the sun, in local time. I kept having to catch myself, to stop panicking, to feel the present: my warm coat, the sound of helpful voices on my phone, the friend who drove me home; this was all experience. The result, the final tally of a simple fix, gratis, brought it home.
I want to be better at this. I want my relationship with time and occasion to be a reflex instead of the result of effort, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be. I have the inner loot now. This is a bonkers challenging paradigm, and brings to mind a rather long quote from journalist Krista Tippett's book, “Becoming Wise, An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.”
“To nurture a resilient human being, or a resilient city, is to build an expectation of adversity, a capacity for inevitable vulnerability. As a word and as a strategy, resilience honors the unromantic reality of who we are and how we are, and so becomes a refreshingly practical compass for the systems and societies we can craft. It’s a shift from wish-based optimism to reality-based hope. It is akin to meaningful, sustained happiness–not dependent on a state of perfection or permanent satisfaction, not an emotional response to circumstances of the moment, but a way of being that can meet the range of emotions and experiences, light and dark, that add up to a life. Resilience is at once proactive, pragmatic, and humble. It knows it needs other. It doesn’t overcome failure so much as transmute it, integrating it into the reality that evolves.”
P 252, Penguin Books, copyright 2016.
That’s a good one, yes? I think “resilience” is the perfect word, and I will acknowledge “graciousness” as part of that mix. This intimates participating in the world, not withdrawing and commenting from deep inside the castle. This means for me, continuing to observe and listen intently as I have learned to, as I have come to get good at. When I am fully present where my deeper self is front and centre, I sense the world differently; I am an observer, never a victim. It is only when I am off kilter, beard full of crumbs, that I suffer victimhood and the fictional story of my perilous demise. It is only then that I am fearful. I know that. I do.
As I write this, there is a convoy of some of the worst of humanity–the toxic, racist white male, unable to emotionally evolve past adolescence–on their way to Canada’s capital hollering about their freedom being infringed on with the vaccine mandate. (Yes, I know. White males, the most privileged biped on the planet, concerned with their freedom.) They are completely unaware of how much suffering they cause others, to the point that it’s quite remarkable. I’ve met men like these, and women carrying this toxic masculinity as well, so I’m glad to have been reminded about resilience and the power of presence. I no longer fear them, rather, I am curious about how their minds work, how they consider the broader world if they do at all. They are part of this landscape, ignored at our peril, tolerated at great, great cost. But I think if we listened to them one at a time, away from their pack, we might learn something.
I wasn’t sure about mentioning the convoy, but I so love this country, and I hope nobody gets hurt.