Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Zen Toon: That Thing You Do
I love today's 'toon because it's a reminder that we've all got 'our thing'. Whatever it is: addiction, proclivity, hang-up, habit, annoyance, fetish, foible, or fixation.
It's sorta like writer and poet Mary Karr once said, "A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it." It's our nature. We're dysfunctional. Some people take pills for it. Some people pray. Some meditate. Some put all the discarded dots of paper from the hole puncher into perfectly stacked groups of twelve in a drawer to maintain order. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Normalcy is, to some extent, abnormal. The world may know our neuroses or tendencies, or it may be our own little secret, but it's there, and how we deal with it says a lot about who we are. Some people keep depression at bay, others battle anxiety with the fortitude of Gallahad. Some stare at the ceiling at night, wrought with worry, others can't stop sleeping from the enormous gravity of it all. Some obsess over money or sex, others over health or loss. And addictions. Oh my, there's one for every conceivable want in the world, and a seemingly endless supply to feed the collective monkeys on our sentient spines. The world is our Wal-Mart and we've got what we mistake for unlimited karmic credit.
Perhaps even harder than coping with whatever our own personal hang-ups are is having empathy for others when we don't know what their everlovin' deal is. When I know a friend or family member is struggling with something, I try to cut them some slack. But how do I behave with someone who is working a nerve or seemingly intentionally lighting a fuse when I don't know their circumstances? Most of the time, I'm not so inclined to extend the same lovingkindness (bodhichitta) to them...until I think, "I have no idea what they're going through, but they are likely wrestling with something." Even then, it ain't easy. No one said it would be.
When I was in college - and this is a huge confession, so sit down and grab some furniture - I was addicted to..."The Young and the Restless". Aside from the considerable baggage that comes with that, one of my big frustrations was how characters would have some big secret (I'm dying, I'm struggling, etc) and keep this noble silence about it. I would find myself yelling at the TV, "Nikki! Just tell Victor you've got a tumor! It'll change EVERYTHING! Damn, girlfriend." Plot lines and problems that could be resolved in minutes were dragged out for months because people were too proud to beg, or share, or simply be.
I later joined a "Real Men Don't Watch Soap Operas" 12-step program and I am proud to say I'm 24 years sober.
But I did learn there are some people who are like these characters in real life. They don't wear their hearts and their battle scars on their sleeves, but you've got to assume they've got them. No one gets through this life without them and if they do, well, that's a thing to pity and have empathy for as well. The woman in this cartoon is obviously not going to have a lot of company, after all.
Insecurities abound, and uncertainties rattle our ribcages until we can't land on just one thing to obsess over. The world makes sure we've got plenty to keep on our minds. If your own personal windstorms don't assure that, just turn on a 24 hour news network. They'll remedy that whole 'peace of mind' thing you've got going in a News Flash Minute. It's no wonder we're overstimulated and overmedicated.
It's telling that now, when I meet someone who seems like they are even keel and at peace, I don't ask myself how they stay centered, I think, "I wonder what meds they're on."
So, just remember, you're not alone in your quirkiness, your lostness, your what-the-hellness. Whether you're 12 stepping or one breath at a timing it, white-knuckling it or whitewashing it, perhaps the best thing to do is accept that you're a vulnerable messy number in the very human equation of this world, and that is incredibly beautiful and fragile and fun.
Chris from "Northern Exposure" said it best, so I'll let him:
There's a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there's a little Darth Vader in all of us. Thing is, this ain't no either-or proposition. We're talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can't hide. My experience? Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol' dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!