Sitting and Breathing: Day 23

I skipped over Lovingkindness Meditation for Caregivers because, well, I’m not one. So today’s practice was a Meditation On Seeing The Good, which I honestly feel like I do much of the time already, but I felt like it couldn’t hurt to have some dedicated time for it in my day. As evidence of my regular use of this tactic, I was able to come up with multiple examples for each of the types of person I was to focus on (I’m not sure if that’s what I was supposed to do, but it’s what I did).

First up was me, and some of the good things I did for others yesterday. I didn’t really go anywhere or do anything outside of my home yesterday, so I mainly focused on things like taking the trash out, cleaning my apartment, taking my dog on a longer walk than usual, and doing this whole meditation and writing thing.

Next up was a benefactor. The obvious candidate was my mother, who regularly helps me both as a financial safety net and confidant when I’m angry or sad or happy about something. My focus flitted around to some of my other family members – suffice it to say, I get a lot of help from my family, so it was easy for me to come up with some names on the quickness.

Next on my Lovingkindness To-Do List was a good friend. Three names came to mind almost simultaneously (well five, but I focused on three): Greg, Bryan, and Monica. All of them took time out of their busy schedules to help me edit, revise, and rewrite a recent short story I submitted for a contest, and provide meaningful and insightful feedback. I think that’s why they all came to mind at once, but there are a litany of other ways they’ve been wonderful people to me, and I was happy to spend time today sending some positive energy in their direction. Between this bit and the benefactor bit, I was feeling a lot of gratitude today.

“Someone you know who’s having a difficult time” and “someone you have a bit of difficulty with” were the same person for me today: my aunt. She’s had a lifelong struggle with addiction (the alcohol and heroin kinds, mainly), and as a result, I’d say she isn’t the easiest person to deal with. It’s hard to know when she’ll be where and if what she’s saying is true or not. But! My grandmother recently passed away, and while I haven’t checked in with her personally, I can’t imagine she’s having the easiest time in dealing with that.

I’m not going to pat myself on the back for sending her lovingkindness today because I think I’ll need a few more sessions with her as the direct object of my meditation before I’m ready to cross that bridge and reach out to her. I can, however, now see that that is a bridge I must cross sooner than later because who knows how much longer it’s going to be there?

Aaaaand then my focus was back on me and a difficulty I had in my day. Specifically, I got mad at my dog on our walk yesterday which resulted in some leash jerking. I’m not proud of it, but I also don’t know how to deal with his unmitigated energy expulsion when he sees a squirrel or another dog or a human in winter clothes or some shit blowing in the wind. I spend some time focusing on how that was only a moment in time, and it has passed, and I love my dog and I always will (the adorable bastard).

Finally, I sent some lovingkindess to everybody like this, All beings want to be happy, may all beings be happy. I inhaled deeply on the first part, taking in the weight of the desire of all beings to be happy, then exhaled on the second part, pushing my positive energy out with the breath.

I finished early and my mind did some wandering. I got mad with myself for not being able to stay with the breath right when my alarm went off. I couldn’t help but laugh, because there I was, sitting in a meditative pose, huffing and puffing, pissed about not being able to focus on the good for just 20 minutes, RIGHT when the soft bird chirping and water noises that I have for my alarm started in. That’s just funny.

Week 4 involves practicing 6 out of 7 days, so we’ll be back for more tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Catching Up With Friends

Considering that I used to see this particular friend on a daily basis, it’d been quite a while since we got the chance to hang out. She was a “traveling kid,” meaning that she hopped trains and hitchhiked her way up, down, and across the country. She also happens to be around my age, intelligent, and particularly attractive, so of course, our closeness was suspect to my girlfriend at the time.

She and I were standing in the kitchen, beers in hand, and I was ritualistically chiding her for wasting her biology degree from UC Berkeley when Girlfriend said, “I’m going out for a smoke if you want one.” It was less of an invitation, and more of a demand.

She puffed impatiently at the cigarette while she told me that she didn’t like how close we were standing. “I feel like you two are doing your own little thing and I’m not allowed in the conversation at all!”

She was right – we were blocking her out for the sake of expedience. When you’re friends with someone for years and you see each other every day, you develop a kind of conversational shorthand that can be exclusive. That, and Girlfriend’s attitude wasn’t exactly making either of us thrilled about having her jump in.

At some point while we were outside, my friend got a call from a fellow traveling kid, informing her that their mutual acquaintance had died. I can’t recall from what exactly – the traveling lifestyle is wrought with dangerous activities like jumping onto fast-moving metal death boxes, riding those death boxes through harsh climates, catching rides with total strangers, and frequent meth and heroin use.

I’m not sure how close they were, either, but my friend was clearly rocked by the news. I did my best to console her, but my expressions of loving sympathy were too much for Girlfriend to handle. She went off the rails (pun intended), and started screaming at my friend. “Don’t think you can just come in here and take MY! BOYFRIEND! with me sitting right fucking here!”

My friend choked back tears and tried to explain that she wanted none of this sweet, sweet lovin’, but there was no getting through the wall of rage and jealousy Girlfriend had quietly been erecting the whole night. All she saw was red.

Finally my friend had had enough of being screamed at while simultaneously mourning the loss of her companion, and she ran out my front door, face in her hands. Girlfriend started after her, and in an attempt to stop the situation from continuing its downward spiral, I grabbed her in a bear hug. She flailed for a second, then reached around and grabbed the underside of my bicep and pinched as hard as she could until I let go. Then she ran out the door after her grieving target.

I took a breath, assessing how much I cared about continuing my involvement. I stared at the recently-slammed door thinking, “If I just lock it…” I sighed, in part because I was out of breath from the struggle, and in part because I knew I had to do something; I needed to help my friend at a minimum. I ran out the door, and found my friend sitting on the grass around the corner, still crying, with my girlfriend knife-handing and yelling in her face.

“Go back inside!” I yelled. I’m not sure why I thought that would work, but it did. She ran back to the apartment. I got about three sentences into trying to make my friend feel better when Girlfriend rounded the corner, steaming back in our direction. There was murder in her eyes, so I apologized to my friend then ran to intercept her.

We went back to the apartment to consume vastly more alcohol, and puff away at countless more cigarettes. My friend took the opportunity to find respite elsewhere, Girlfriend took the opportunity to continue belittling me as best she could for being a philanderer, and I took the opportunity to daydream alternatively about being single and being dead on a train track in the middle of nowhere – both sounded pretty awesome in that moment.

I eventually chose the former, but not before proving Girlfriend right. “If I’m constantly being accused of cheating no matter what I do, then I might as well be enjoying the thing I’m in trouble for,” I thought. Or I could have been an adult and just broken it off, but that’s just not my MO.

Patio Fish

I got evicted from the first apartment I rented on my own. Apparently I was too loud, though I was personally impressed with how quiet I was being, the 80 pounds of marijuana in my closet, and my ongoing probation didn’t put me on good grounds for fighting it. Luckily, one of my best friends from high school was getting out of the Marine Corps, and in the mood to relocate to Sacramento.

I found us a townhouse that was way nicer than we deserved. It was a two-story, 2-bedroom/2.5-bath with two patios and a fireplace in the living room, and there was a pool and gym in the complex. It was considerably nicer than anything I’ve lived in since.

Anyway, one of its short-comings was that the drain would always get clogged with the leaves from the beautiful, large tree that hung over the second-story patio off my bedroom (it was a hard life). My solution to this was not to regularly clear the leaves, but to keep them, and add 15 goldfish. I feel confident that they lived primarily off of bugs that landed in the still water, as I regularly forgot to feed them. They were clearly strong enough to fend for themselves (or at least the 9 survivors of the initial shock of the new environment were), so I let them.

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I often fell asleep on the couch downstairs because of laziness, television, and the warmth of the fireplace. One night around 3AM, I was jerked awake by someone pounding on the front door. I opened the door to find a young lady friend of ours, looking panicked, and wearing an over-sized coat that clearly wasn’t hers. I invited her in, and intercepted my roommate who was rushing down the stairs, gun in hand. He lowered it when he saw me, and he went back to bed after I briefed him.

I spent the next two hours listening to her repeat herself. We were all magical, brothers and sisters of Jesus (not figuratively – Jesus Christ of Nazareth grew up with us), and at some points, I was Jesus. She was clearly having an episode of some kind. After about an hour, I found out that she “had a little bit of meth” a few days prior, and hadn’t slept since. She had previously been diagnosed as bipolar, and her manic states were more pronounced after her use of uppers.

She followed me to my bed where she continued her unending stream of words with little to no connection to one another, and at some point I interrupted her to go wake up my roommate. “It’s your turn,” I told him. I had work the next day, and for some reason, I just couldn’t manage to sleep with her talking directly into whichever ear wasn’t against the pillow.

I gave her one of my hats to wear, which seemed to ease her transition to the care of my friend. They didn’t sleep the entire night. We didn’t feel right having her committed to a mental hospital, but neither of us were particularly well-equipped to guide her to stability. After a daylight broke, he was able to get in touch with her parents, and he dropped her off with them while I was at work.

My roommate grabbed my hat off her head as she jumped out of his truck. It was my late grandfather’s hat, so I was glad he had the wherewithal to grab it in spite of his sleep deprivation.

I never followed up to see how things panned out, but I did run into her at a bar a few years later. She was looking much more clear-headed, but hadn’t made the sobriety choice so far as I could tell. Then again, neither had I.

The fish stayed on that patio beyond my lease. I hope the apartment’s new tenants appreciated them as much as I did, and they continued to thrive in spite of neglect, like my friends and I do.

We’re Not Together

What better way to celebrate senior year of high school than an unexpected pregnancy between my best friend and his lady? Both of them had aspirations for the future that did not include any children with any immediacy, so they decided that an abortion was their best choice. Knowing both of them as well as I did, I agreed.

He made up some bullshit about not being able to get out of work, so I cleared my day and took her to the clinic. The waiting room was filled with people there for similar procedures, and people who were just there to receive any of the other low-cost medical services the office provided. It was not a lively bunch, and there was a hush that was noteworthy even by comparison to other doctors’ offices. Her name was called, and I went with her to the counter because what else was I supposed to do?

“Can you sit back down?” she asked me.

“Why? I’m not doing anything over there. I don’t mind standing here with you.”

“No, it’s just that… I don’t want everyone to think we’re together.”

I turned to the quiet room and said, “Hey – I just want everybody to know we’re not together!” My voice carries. I did not need to shout. I did anyway. She promptly punched me in the arm, blushed, laughed, and told me to sit down again. I listened this time.

She sat back down after checking in and filling out the necessary paperwork. I continued making shitty jokes about the people around us to try and ease some of her tension. It was marginally successful, her name was called, I squeezed her hand and watched her disappear into the treatment area.

“I’ll be right outside waiting in my car, so just call me when she’s ready to go,” I told the staff behind the counter.

“The procedure lasts a couple hours. If you have any errands you want to run, you should have time,” the nurse told me.

“No, I’d rather be here just in case.” I sat in my car reading Men’s Health and GQ magazines with the air conditioner blasting, and a Tenacious D album playing loudly through my crappy sound system. It was a hot summer day in the San Fernando Valley, and it was untenable to me that she get out of the procedure and into the heat and discomfort of the valley in the summertime.

They were pretty spot-on with their time estimate. She stammered back into the waiting room, significantly more pale, drowsy, and sans baby. I helped her into my car, and she didn’t want to go home in the state she was in, so I sat with her for another couple hours while she napped. I got her a couple Gatorades to down on the way back to her parents’ house, where she presumably avoided the topic of where she had been all day.