Drinking to Distraction

“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” ~Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche


It’s been two months since my job ended. Since then I have tried to bring the structure of my working life into the vast abyss of my unemployment. Somehow I fill my days with errands and small tasks that must have gone uncompleted when I was working. That and I watch a lot of bad TV. I’ve become mildly obsessed with doing everything right – working out 5 times a week, cooking a variety of nutritious meals, using up all the produce in the fridge before it goes bad, getting the best price on bananas. At the end of the day I’m often not sure what happened. But I feel exhausted.

By filling in the time, I haven’t really been dealing with the…

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All By Ourselves

Wilson, Tom Hank’s companion in “Castaway”

Loneliness is an odd companion, and it just won’t leave you alone.

I’ve been on my own now for 9 months, and it’s been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.

First came a tremendous feeling of liberation, of being free from oppression, of expanded options, of being unchained.

Then came a period of examination, of expanded introspection, weighing options, of looking where to turn and which path to take.

About 3 months into singleness I had a panic attack.  The freedom fled, and I left work and curled up in a ball in my bed at home and slept.  I realized that I was alone.  Very alone.

I had been alone the whole time, of course.  It’s just that I didn’t realize it.  It was repressed and shielded from my consciousness.  Loneliness stepped out of the shadows, where he had been lounging and snacking and entertaining himself for decades.  All he said, in a nonchalant manner was “Hi”.  I was speechless.

Since then he really hasn’t said much more.  He’s just there, and I’m aware of his presence.  He looks over my shoulder and I see him in the mirror when I’m brushing my teeth in the morning.  He sits in the back seat of my car and watches the scenery go by on my way to work.  When I get home he’s napping on the couch.  He snores next to me in bed at night.

I was married for 35 out of the last 38 years, but I was alone the whole time while pretending I wasn’t.  Now that I know that I was, and am, it sheds a whole new light on things.

The feeling of loneliness comes from believing that you’re not OK in and of yourself.  It’s a belief that you need someone or something else to “complete” you.  You are relating to yourself in a diminished way; not fully connected to your essence.  Not fully conscious of your self – that other half of you that was always there, but hidden in the shadows.

I’ve been negotiating a merger with my other half lately.  He sits in the front passenger seat of the car now, and next to me when I brush my teeth.  We’re becoming inseparable and more fully aware and conscious of each other.  At first I didn’t like him a whole lot, but I’ve realized that we’re one in the same and need to learn to deal with it.  It might just be OK.  In fact, it will probably be more than OK.

Each of us has all we need within.  Awakening to that fact is true liberation.

I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.

~Henry David Thoreau

Divorce. Party.

What is it with divorces that brings out the weirdest expression in you? Wonder where this is leading?

Well, one look at Adnan’s joyous face after his divorce was granted and one wonders if divorce is more of a liberation than a painful parting!

After the Mumbai High Court gave its verdict, declaring the two were already divorced as per Islamic law, a thrilled Adnan said, “Let me dance and sing with my family and friends… I feel like throwing off my shoes like Waheeda Rehman in Guide and singing Kaaton se kheench ke yeh aanchal. For three years she (Sabah) wanted only to harass me.”

This, coming from a man who married the same woman (Sabah) twice. Now, the point here is not if they should have stayed together even after the relationship went sour. But it brings us to the question, “Does divorce liberate you?” Well, surprisingly or strangely, there are break-up parties in some countries. People feel when you can celebrate the union, why not the break-up!

Divorce parties are gaining ground. In may 2008, Heather Mills splashed out £250,000 on a dream holiday for herself and 25 of her pals. In a super-expensive “Divorce Party”, Heather whisked her closest friends to Richard Branson’s Caribbean hideaway Necker Island at a cost of £24,000 a night. She told them it was to say thank you for their “unfaltering support” during her divorce battle with Paul McCartney. Howzzat!

Now, going by what Adnan Sami told the media after he was set free from his former wife Sabah, looks like he too will dance and make merry, celebrating his separation from his wife! Adnan intends to throw a big bash in Dubai that his friends from India as well as Pakistan are expected to attend.

One wonders if this ritual is good or in bad taste? Says Ashish Pai, a marketing executive, “Whatever said and done, divorce is an indicator of your failure. So, how can one celebrate? You may feel free from the bond, but there are good times to haunt you — your endless smiles captured in the wedding and honeymoon albums are painful reminders of the past. It’s definitely not an easy thing.”

While some believe the party is all about celebrating the end of a bitter relationship, others see this as cheers to a new beginning. If it’s for good or bad, the phenomenon is beginning to get popular. Type divorce party on Google and you get thousands of pages offering you help on ‘how to plan a divorce party’, ‘the best return gifts’ and the like. Is this ritual too likely to become another expensive affair? Looks like it!

via Does divorce liberate you? – Times Of India.

Divorce: A Liberating and Healthy Experience

Most people agree that divorce can be devastating, but newly emerging expert opinions say that it doesn’t have to be. In fact, they say, divorce can actually bring happiness into many people`s lives.

Traditionally, people have stayed in bad marriages to avoid being alone, citing issues of separation anxiety, feelings of abandonment, depression, financial instability or the prospect of being a single parent as reasons for steering clear of divorce.

Fear of the unknown also can trap you in a bad marriage for a very long time, especially if children are involved, ” says Judy Joseph Hamlin, author of the new book From Riches to Happiness and a former real-life Orange County housewife. How will you support yourself and your kids? Who can you rely on? I asked myself all these questions and worked hard to find their answers. And I`m here to let other women know that divorce can lead to happiness. ”

America`s psychologist ” Dr. Jeff Gardere mirrored Ms. Hamlin`s thoughts during a recent visit to CBS` The Early Show. Struggling to get out of a toxic relationship, he said, is worth it. Despite the temporary setbacks you may experience, removing yourself from a bad marriage will improve your health, your self-esteem and your overall outlook on life.

In From Riches to Happiness, Ms. Hamlin recalls her lifeless marriage to an affluent lawyer who focused not on love and respect but material possessions and social status. After years of suffering, she left him and started over, eventually choosing to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a special education teacher. Through hard work and lots of trial and error, Ms. Hamlin built a better life for herself and her children and in the process learned that having passion for all you do is more important than what kind of car you drive.

I used to have it all “the big house, the Mercedes-Benz and the closets full of designer clothes “but I lost most of it when I left my husband. ” says Ms. Hamlin. Now, I`ve found that there`s not just life after divorce but success, joy and even love. I`m remarried, and I don`t miss the money I used to have “or the emotional price I had to pay for it. ”

via Divorce: A Liberating and Healthy Experience.

Post-divorce self-discovery

Getting divorced was the greatest thing that ever happened to Julia Roberts’ character in   Eat Pray Love: The aftermath involves getting down with James Franco and Javier Bardem, not to mention copious amounts of gelato and pizza, and, if the trailer is to be believed, finding “your truth” at the “center” of your life. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert (which has been criticized for glossing over the messier parts of divorce). But who wants mess when you can revive the great ’70s film trope: the woman liberated by ditching her husband.

Hollywood has been grappling with divorce since before there were talkies, says film critic David Thomson. Cecil B. Demille, he points out, made a number of films with Gloria Swanson that were flirting with the idea. But those films, like Don’t Change Your Husband(1919), and Why Change Your Wife? (1920) can’t quite let the women revel in their newfound freedom and truly move on. In Why Change Your Wife?, Swanson plays Beth Gordon, a nerdy woman whose husband leaves her for a glitzier babe. Rather than move on with her life, Gordon decides to get a makeover and wins her husband back.

In the ’30s and ’40s, comedies of remarriage like The Philadelphia Story were in fashion. As Willa Paskin described the genre  in a Double X article from last year, these rom-coms “dissect the institution and then build it back up again.” The films often begin with a divorce, and then the divided pair ends up back together. Although the female characters in these films are often independent, sassy dames, the genre is an affirmation that happiness comes from the institution.

The trope of the woman emancipated by divorce didn’t really take hold until the ’70s—this isn’t surprising, as divorce rates increased exponentially during that decade, as part of a wave of “self-actualization.” An Unmarried Woman, starring Jill Clayburgh as Erica, a jilted Upper East Side wife, is the epitome of the ’70s divorce-liberation flick: The film turns “the heroine’s unwedded status into a positive growth experience,” according to the New York Times. She even shacks up with the requisite ’70s “sensitive bearded artist.”

In the intervening 30 years, many movies have portrayed women in the throes of post-divorce self-discovery. The process has some familiar steps, including dancing in various  flattering, decade-appropriate outfits (An Unmarried Woman, Living Out Loud), destroying your ex-husband’s possessions (Waiting To Exhale, The First Wives Club), doing recreational drugs (Living Out Loud, It’s Complicated) and traveling to foreign lands to meet hunky dudes (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Under the Tuscan Sun, and of course, Eat Pray Love). Herewith, a slide show of ladies who are loving life, sans husband.

via Eat Pray Love and the trope of the woman liberated by divorce. – Slate Magazine.

I Do?

I Do?

A Buddhist struggles with impermanence vs. marriage

BY: Susan Piver

This past summer, I went to a meditation center to practice for several weeks together with my community. At dinner on the first evening, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He looked to be in his early sixties and I found out he was a longtime student of Buddhism. We told each other a bit about ourselves, including what we did for work, whether we were married, had a family, etc. He was wondering about moving in with his new girlfriend—much younger than he, more enthusiastic about living together than he—hoping, he feared, for what we all eventually discover is impossible—to stabilize a relationship. He was also concerned about giving up his solitude and really didn’t know how long he would want the relationship to continue. Given all this, should they live together, could this work? he asked.

I was totally ready with “I have no idea,” when a voice popped into my head and said, “Of course it can work. As long as you don’t expect it to make you happy.” So I reported these words and we had a moment. We were kind of embarrassed—yes, Buddhists are supposed to know that craving creates suffering, but I guess we still secretly hoped that a relationship could make us happy, if only we could get the circumstances just right.

My new pal and I talked about this, about how relationships can blind us to the dharma quicker than anything. As we said goodbye and I watched him walk away, I wanted to call out, “Don’t be afraid to tell yourself the truth about relationships.” And then I wondered, well, what is the truth, exactly? Do I really believe they’re not supposed to make you happy? And when we long for a lasting relationship (as most people I know do), what happens to the second noble truth? Why do we forget that craving creates suffering?

When my husband and I first started to talk about getting married, we covered lots of topics: who would marry us, who to invite, what to wear, whether or not we would be able to convince our favorite Cajun band to learn “Hava Nagila.” (We were. Shout out to Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.)

Then the most important question came up: what would we say to each other to mark this commitment? What were our intentions and which words expressed them best?

We spent time reading various liturgies, Buddhist and otherwise, and talking about what we liked and disliked about other people’s weddings. As we read the words that other couples had spoken to each other, I became increasingly uncomfortable. Most of them ended with “I do.” I do…what? 

Marriage is a commitment to share love, have sex, and try to stay together with this one person, right? Well maybe, but I couldn’t promise to do these things. I knew I couldn’t say, “I do” to love—feelings change, and keep changing. I also knew I couldn’t say yes to wanting to have sex with him for the rest of my life—desire is unpredictable. And ask him to commit to me? Which me? I couldn’t commit to remaining the same me. So if you can’t say yes to love, sex, or remaining the one each fell in love with, what are you agreeing to when you commit to a relationship?

It’s just now, eight years later, that I’m finding out what, apparently, I said yes to. 

I said yes to the unfolding, impenetrable arc of uncertainty. I guess I thought that finding love was an endpoint, that some kind of search was over and I would find home. We would leap over the threshold together into whatever we imagined our ideal cottage to be. But really we stepped through a crazy looking glass. No matter how hard we tried, how madly in love we were, or how skillfully we planned our life together, there was complete uncertainty about what the connection would feel like from day to day. I could give all the love I had (with great joy) and get back a blank stare. I could wake up as my crankiest, most sullen and narcissistic self, roll over, and greet the face of unconditional acceptance. Or not. It’s like the weather: you can try to read the signs and guess about atmospheric conditions, but really there’s no telling.

As far as I can see, the relationship never stabilizes, ever. In which case you can’t actually promise each other anything. This is how it works. I have no idea why. But like when I’m listening to a meteorologist explain why it’s going to rain, I think, “Who cares why? I’m just trying to figure out what outfit to wear today.”

It seems that I committed to a lifetime of delight and sadness, inseparable from each other. Every time I look into my dear one’s eyes and feel how deeply we’re connected, the moment disappears before I can actually hold it—and I have to watch that happen. It’s excruciating. It’s much easier to do this with your thoughts when you’re meditating than with the feeling you get from his breath on your shoulder as you fall asleep. But now I get that I have to repeat this until the end of my life, and that somehow this is love’s road.

I wish I had known that when you live with someone for a long time, there is continuous, mind-blowing irritation. (Okay, I did know this, but I forgot.) Often the irritation arises when you try to replace your actual partner with a projection, because they always figure out a way to tell you how unlike your projection they really are. Once you pick yourself up, that gives you yet another opportunity to choose between who this person is and who you sort of hoped he was. No matter how many times I prompt my husband with the correct lines for his role, he does not get into character. This irritates me. We have to throw away the script and just begin to improvise. You’re playing you and I’m playing me. Go. 

I didn’t really understand that love does not arise, abide, or dissolve in connection with any particular feeling. It has almost nothing to do with feeling. (Nor does it seem to be a gesture, a commitment to stay, becoming best friends, or anything else I might have thought.) Love has become a container in which we live. Through time, riding mysterious waves of passion, aggression, and ignorance (and boredom), I think we began to live within love itself. At least I did. Each time I have opened up, extended myself, accepted what was being offered to me, stepped beyond my comfort zone to embrace him, the structure has been reinforced. I no longer have any idea if I love my husband or not. I can’t imagine what the feelings I have for him could be called. I’ve even given up trying to love him. Our relationship is what gives us love, not the other way around. This is how it is.

And finally we’re saying “I do” to goodbye. This bond will end. Hello can only mean goodbye, one way or another. Some relationships are just mistakes. Or people grow and change. Relationships crater and nobody knows why. And if all else fails, we will certainly part at death. Saul Bellow once called this acknowledgment “the black backing on the mirror that allows us to see anything at all,” and isn’t that just the key to the whole thing? The deeper our connection becomes, the more I know the reality of its ending and the more passionately I’m able to feel his touch. I know this even when I hate him (and he can really be an asshole—I’m not kidding) and when I love him so much that I plead for the opportunity to be married for all our lifetimes. 

Each time my love expands by a molecule, it grows a molecule of sorrow. The more I love, the edgier it all feels, and the more courage is required. Where you get this courage, I really don’t know. Surprisingly, it just seems to be there. And if you’re looking for a crucible in which to heat compassion, this is a really good one. Someone once told me that compassion is the ability to hold love and pain together in the same moment. So at least we’re learning something, which is what I tell myself. It sort of helps, but not really. 

Here’s something else I’ve learned about a relationship: Okay, so it’s not what you think it’s going to be, the feelings are always changing, and you’re going to have to say goodbye someday. But when you find your true love, there is something inside that simply and inexplicably says hello to him. Yes to him. Of course to him. Certainly. Obviously it’s you. There is no choice. I do.

via A Buddhist struggles with impermanence vs. marriage–how can a relationship be secure and fleeting? – Beliefnet.com.