Turmoil and anxiety. Chaos and conflict. The last few weeks have seen high highs and low lows. For a while there, most days give me cause for celebration and then commiseration. Yesterday had a bit of both. I made sure I ended the day on the upside by calling a friend who is a cosmically minded confidant to many and fun. She hears the highest and the lowest from her clients. (Reference available upon discreet request.) Her response to the bouncy nature of today’s world was to get a puppy.
She was on the speaker phone because the puppy was acting like a puppy. Things must be chewed and then scattered around the room. Interruptions will happen, but then that’s true of life.
Cosmic confidants, a term I just invented, are those folks that try to read the ways of the world to help people understand where they are within the map of their lives and what’s the weather forecast for the next bit of the journey. People seek confidants of every sort when something is amiss and directions aren’t clear. My friend has clients in every social strata which means she hears the troubles and confusions of rich, poor, mainstream, innovative, young and old. That’s a broad perspective, and one that reaches across lifetimes of stresses. Some days she can’t end the day with a phone call because she has to withdraw and recuperate before the next day.
Our call was a mutual relief. We laugh together and knew that was what each of us needed. A few key troubles were shared to sketch our settings, but we quickly switched to finding things to celebrate. As she put it, “If the world’s coming to end, then I might as well get a puppy.” If we’re in the final act, we might as well exit the play smiling.
Today’s world is overwhelming. It always has been. Back when civilization was largely agrarian, life was a constant struggle. What’s different is that today’s problems are global, can be influenced us, and can be covered in great and immediate detail. Ignoring reality requires astonishing rationalizations and efforts. Embracing every problem that comes along was too much when running a farm, but at least the solutions to the problems benefited the farmer. Now, working on planetary problems might not show results within a generation or a neighborhood. Work doesn’t provide immediate reward.
Meditation can seem ritualistic and the details of poses and exercises can distract from the practice; but at it’s essence, the meditation I practice can be reduced to sitting still and breathing, being aware of the moment and not being consumed by the past or concerned about the future. We humans need something that makes us aware of the moment.
Puppies know no other existence. Babies are the same way (from what I hear.) Watch a puppy and notice that there isn’t a lot of planning going on. Squirrel! (Go watch Pixar’s UP! if you don’t get the joke.)
Over a year ago I was in pain. I won’t belabor you with descriptions of symptoms. Doctors made guesses. I tried lots of different diets. No change. One specialist was head down, taking notes, and in my frustration I rambled and ranted about how unhealthy I felt despite diet, exercise, and lots of earnest effort. At one point I said, “Sometimes I think I’m just worrying myself sick.” His response, without lifting his head or stopping his writing was, “We have a saying. Sometimes if you let the patient talk long enough they’ll tell you what’s really happening.” My pains were happening just after Dream. Invest. Live. went public and the stock market tanked. (By the way, check the comments left by someone who had a really bad day.) The doctor’s guess of a diagnosis was that I was too stressed. I was thinking too much. His official prescription was for a colonoscopy plus another test that I also couldn’t afford even with insurance. His unofficial prescription followed two questions. “Got a girlfriend?” “No.” “Got a dog?” “No.” “You should get one of those.” He didn’t specify which one. He also recommended more wine.
Pets and partners can be great stress relievers, as long as the attraction is mutual and healthy.
I was spending too much time in my head worrying about the future. How was I going to find the money to sustain my life? How awkward would it be writing a book about investing in the stock market when the stock market wasn’t rational?
Ironically, or maybe as a reflection of the way the world works, my pains brought me back to an awareness of the present. There isn’t much future to consider while feeling very mortal.
Today I installed my next photo essay (Twelve Months at Penn Cove) in Raven Rocks Gallery (Opening Friday, September 2, 2011 5PM – 8PM). For the last few weeks I’ve been focussed on the day to the point that I couldn’t attend my dad’s 85th birthday gathering down in California. The recent DNDN plunge didn’t encourage travel either. After the frames were hung and the prices posted, I drove over to the local state park: South Whidbey. There was nothing else on my schedule except lunch and this blog. I sat on a bench on the bluff watching the ships pass and the birds swoop. Nothing dramatic, but something deep and restorative.
Money is valuable, but a puppy’s wag is priceless. And each moment is just as precious.