I’ve got to be quick because I do not have much patience for writing at the moment. I would rather be standing on my head, or sitting silently in the lotus posture. I have piles of laundry that need to get done, and six novels that are all partially unread. Writing is only an inconvenience at the moment, but when the muse taps me on the head with his or her lancet filled with a plethora of ideas- I have no choice but to sit down and write. However, today I am writing about no big idea. My subject matter does not come from the magical wave of a muse’s wand. Rather, it comes from my own stupidity and desperation, my own inability to cope with being inside of my own body and mind. Let me explain.
Lately, I have noticed that I have been carrying around a lot of tension. I feel as if everyone is nagging me whenever they talk to me. If they are not nagging me, then I am almost certain that they want something from me. Under my breath I am finding that I am mumbling Sartre’s dictum that “hell, is other people.” I do not like that I am thinking this sentiment, because I desperately want to love and accept all people, including myself. But most of the time, this is an incredibly difficult objective to obtain. Instead, every word that someone else says causes an organ in my body to do strange contortions. When I spend more than five minutes of my time with anyone else, I am constrained by a constriction in my chest so tight that I am concerned that my oxygen might be cut off. I grow anxious and panicky and I either have to run and grab a beer, or excuse myself, and go away into a corner where I can take slow and deep breaths and pray for some sort of relief.
I do what I can to remedy my condition. I drink, and I see acupuncturists and a certain over-charging therapist who does guided meditations with me. I read books about modalities for spiritual transformation and the cultivation of love. I have purchased numerous forms of massage devices to rid my body of all the pent up tension. I have also started to take baths before going to bed. I stand on my head and do walking meditations. I try to walk on the earth with no shoes and tap into the healing energy of the earth. My mind tells me that I am behaving like a new age freak, but I am willing to experiment with whatever modality I can, in order to find a brief moment of calm. However, the calm is temporary because the moment I go back out into public, my mind begins to race and my body tightens.
People talk to me and I do not hear. My wife asks me if I am okay and I shake my head saying “fine, fine, no problem.” Meanwhile, inside of me I am being tortured alive. My thoughts are condemning me for the failure that I am. I am wishing that I had more money, a nicer place to live, less fears and a better sex life. My thoughts pick me apart like a wild animal chewing flesh off the bones of a fresh kill. I am a helpless victim of my thoughts. Everything that someone says to me triggers a new thought that sends my mind racing out of control. Money, health, status, job, family- my mind picks apart every failed and unhappy element of my life. The only thing that I have found that quiets my rancorous mind is the medicinal properties of beer.
And then there was today. I do not know if I will ever recover from the fool I made of myself. I certainly will never again be able to set foot into the bookstore. There really is no logical explanation for what happened other than my wife’s explanation that I “lost my mind and freaked out.” You see, I was with my wife shopping for various gifts for the holidays. Half way through the day, I found myself becoming stressed out by the amount of money I was spending. I started to worry about money. Then I felt as if my wife was nagging me when I wanted to put on the breaks and stop purchasing gifts. We had lunch and after lunch I felt as if my chest was beginning to tighten. Air became a scarce resource. My hands and feet were tingling and I thought that I might pass out. I tried to keep my suffering to myself but my wife kept asking me what was wrong. “I am all right,” I lied as my mind tortured me alive: You are 37 years old and you can not even afford the rent on a $ 1,400 a month apartment, you are angry, you live in a freezing cold house in the ghetto, you are childless, you hate your job, you do not know what you are going to do with your life, you are mean to your wife, you read depressing books that you never finish, you are still dependent on your parents for money, your health sucks and so does your sex life, you are a pervert and poor, you are not famous and never will be, you have not been successful at anything, you will never publish a thing, what are you going to do!!!!
I suggested that we go into a bookstore and look for gifts (I really just wanted to have an excuse to look at books, which usually takes my mind off of my own suffering). We browsed through various art, cooking, architecture and literature books but my wife was not finding anything that she wanted to give for a gift. Then, we found ourselves in the Buddhism section. At that point I was having difficulties breathing, my chest was tight, my heart was palpitating and my thoughts were tormenting. I thought I was close to my end. I looked at the various titles that said “The Nirvana of Joyful Living,” “Quieting The Mind,” “How To Be Happy And Enlightened,” “Tree of Peace.” The master’s faces that decorated the book covers looked so peaceful, refined and relaxed. Words like nirvana and enlightenment became like food that I was desperate to eat. I started to salivate. I wanted in. Desperately, I wanted what Buddhists had. My wife said she was ready to go. But I was not. I wanted peace and joy so badly that all I could do was throw my entire body into the book rack as if I was jumping in to a deep pool. I yelled “I want it!!!!,” as I let my body go- and the last thing I remember hearing before I landed on the ground covered in Buddhist books, was my wife screaming……”oh my God.”