Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life is a Blank Page


Before me stands a blank page.  Empty.  Open.  Waiting.  At times writing comes to me, a central theme or idea and spurs my hands into writing, pouring out of me onto the blank canvas before me, this computer screen.  Other times, I am a heart full of feelings, a body full of experiences and sense perceptions.  Memories, recent and long ago, ideas wanting to be expressed and expanded upon, thoughts and emotions and everyday occurrences wish for some outlet.

I write about that which touches my heart, the life of a mother and the joys, the failings, the disappointments, and the lessons.  As I commit deeper and more regularly to a daily meditation practice, to mindful awareness of my momentary life, I feel a certain contentment in both the joys and tribulations of this parenting journey.  In the Buddhist teachings, there is this notion that we have all been each other’s mother and child, so we can feel a certain human family kinship with everyone else.  This does not mean the relationship is always easy.  There is misunderstanding and strong emotions of the negative kind that can overtake us. 

There are those occasions when love between myself and my sons feel like an aching drip.  The love gets mixed up with attachment and creates suffering.  A suffering borne of the realization that one of us will die, that separation will occur and a fear rises up demanding a response, ‘How can I go on without this love, this passionate love I feel for you?’

Interestingly of note is that in one moment we may feel this intense love and palpable fear of separation; and in the subsequent moment, feel another form of suffering that is borne of also fear but manifests as aggression.  The aggression may be characterized by yelling, using hurtful words, getting even, being disappointed, passive aggressive qualities of shutting the other out, or even physical abuse, either way it is suffering, and this comes from a place of fear, fear that there is not enough.  That we aren’t loved enough, respected enough, that there is not enough time to be together, jealousy, inadequacy.  It is rooted in qualities of poverty, thinking we are impoverished.

In love, whether between parent and child, lovers, friends or family members, there is another way.  There is a place, a path in the middle.  There is a pathway, a mental pathway that there is enough, that there is nothing missing, that everything we need and are is available in the moment. 

This does not mean to discount or diminish the difficulties of life, the challenges of being human, the inevitable sadness and suffering of being alive on this earth.  On the contrary, being fully present with a mind that is open, a body that is warm, senses that are alive and aware, and a heart that is available, is to be fully alive and awake as a human being. 

I speak of parenting, being a mom in this essay because I just came through a week of great eye opening and learning.  It has not been an easy week; it was immensely painful. 

Two people as a couple, whether together or divorced, can benefit from being mindful and aware of one another, of our own minds and hearts and of the place our children are in at the moment.  This is not always easy particularly in a world that is so speedy.  A world so wired in all the time.  A world that operates with a poverty sentiment, that if I am not online, or someone isn’t messaging my on Facebook, I am somehow out of the loop, or unimportant.  We relish and require in an addictive way of being paid attention to by another.

Over the last year I have noticed the trigger, emotionally and psychologically, of that the little message bubble in Facebook.  I literally feel a thrill of seeing it lit up red.  The addiction we have to being noticed in this digital age; I am sure that this desire to be noticed has simply changed in the way we experience it but has been with human beings since the dawn.  I just have this sense.

This digital age brings with it a price.  Children and adults spend much more time linked to an electronic device whether at their fingertips or to their ear.  We all spend much less time out of doors.  We use these devices in a state of ignorance, trying to erase a pervasive feeling of boredom or attachment to attention.  We seek perpetual entertainment.  Whether children are from single parent families, products of divorces or two parent working families, we use the digitized devices as babysitters and methods of entertainment.  Caregivers have to work full time often then keep the household running by shopping, cooking, laundering, cleaning, etc.  We all need a little downtime and space in our busy speedy 21st century schedules to relax and be peaceful.  I know I use the digital world as a form of supervision, my kids would rather be glued to those and not out roaming  the streets, perhaps on adventures or even getting into a bit of mischievous.  What has the trade-off been?  Is it worth it?

In the heat of a fury that overtook me one Thursday evening after finding jeans and dust-devil laden socks in the family room, more clothes strewn in a messy disordered bathroom, undone dishes, I transformed from loving, caring mother to a whirling tornado like she-devil storming angrily and abruptly and loudly to where my son was working on homework at 10 pm in the evening, after an afternoon of sloth-like time undoubtedly wired to television and I Pad.  All of a sudden I detested my decision to ever allow admittance of I Pad or Play Station, let alone computer and TV into our family life.  Simply, I blew.  I felt only rage.  Underneath the vomit of expletives and physical threats, my enraged self, she felt the existence of loving mother.  I knew I had a part in this outcome.  I had helped seed this indifference and slovenly behavior.  I was partly responsible.  If children don’t have the care and mindful guidance of a parent wiser and older, then how can they be expected to grow up with respect and concern for others, even for their own well-being?

There were so many tears, and eventual reconciliation of a kind that involved me stepping out of the whirl of torment and anger to see that my child was really hurting.  That the power I felt in belittling him was not being beneficial, could do real harm and damage if not checked.  The regret I felt for my aggressive actions was not grounded on guilt but wisdom.  I knew that I carried responsibility for my son’s lack of caring.  We needed space, we needed to communicate.  He just said over and over that he didn’t feel as if he was ever good enough.  Were we even having conversations with him about what it meant to be a meaningful member of this family?  Both parents since we are divorced would have to have conversations of this kind.  I would begin by saying sorry and then by listening with kindness and openness.

After the volcanic explosion of emotional venting, my eldest son, who did not bear the brunt of my assault and frustration, came to me, stood before me on the stairs and said that he wanted to share something with me that he hadn’t told anyone.  The April prior on a cruise we took, just the three of us, he had met a girl his age, and had his first experience of falling in love, of kissing another’s lips.  It was beautiful to witness and heartbreaking to watch her end their relationship via a text message.  But he shared that she, who had experienced her own heart ache through the loss of her mother in a terrorist attack, shared with my son what it meant to feel love of another woman other that your own mother.  She told him, “It truly is all good” and that if the ship capsized and was sinking she would be happy to die with him. 

This morning, I awoke after a night of broken sleep and haunted dreams, I drove to Lowes to purchase a bathroom faucet early in the morning and let my mind open to the experiences and feelings of my senses.  I saw a wide sky blue with wisps of clouds above me, a rising sun, and fresh, almost spring-like air and felt completely awakened, even if I had lost hours of sleep taking care of my friend’s two dachshunds the night prior.  What had gone before was over.  There was only me in this car, breathing and something about the morning light and smell of the air and the music I had chosen to listen to tapped into my deepest most profound and joyful place in my mind and I knew that all is okay, all is good, there is not one thing missing, even if at times we humans misapply, or feel lacking, or fearful, or angry.  Our ignorance is real but underneath is the quality of wholeness of infinite unity, of aliveness and wide wakefulness. 
My joy today would come from doing for others, making myself available to love the ones in front of me, to attending my son’s basketball game and being a harbor he could moor to in the midst of his fear and uncertainty about his sports acumen.  I would love today unreservedly.  I would love my children, my family and myself and make no apologies for what had gone before.  I would love, forgive and surrender to the world I am in, the world I have created.

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