Tuesday, 14 December 2010

It All Started with a Jellyfish Day

If you read this far without blanching, it's a good bet you're either my friend or you're wondering what the hell a jellyfish day is.

I had a snappy answer for your question; in fact, I wrote a really snappy essay in the summer of 2009 after a particularly pointed jellyfish day launched me into a jellyfish week, a jellyfish month, and finally, a jellyfish season. Then I came to my senses, got creative, and turned my jellyfish into *deep thought, sound of seconds ticking by* ... oh, yes, into SUNDOGS.

If you're still with me, dear reader, you're probably a bit anxious and would like me to stop rambling and enlighten you about my unorthodox use of jellyfish and sundogs. Plus, explain what they have to do with days or any passage of time, for that matter.

I could explain this much better if only the previously mentioned essay weren't tumbling around the hard drive of a boxed-up desktop computer. It languishes unread, not in My Docs, but in a sent e-mail and simultaneously soars around cyberspace in a student blog not accessible to the browsing public on the site of a college I no longer attend, AND whose username and password is probably long-defunct.

Oh, how I love imagining your white knuckles and your throbbing pulse, dear reader!

Get on with it, you say?!

Jellyfish are fascinating creatures, of course, exotic but kind of squishy and not generally nice to touch. I find the creature to be an apt metaphor for the not-so-good moments (or days) that we - the human race, not just writers - either dismiss, tolerate, or meditate upon, hoping to discover some glimmer of gratitude about them.

These attitudes are probably better than drowning our sorrows in a pint or two of something (especially of creamy Welsh bitters, my recently discovered favorite) or even worse, wrangling with the business end of a firearm, rope, razor blade, or narcotic bottle.

It helps to understand this jellyfish thing by thinking in shades of gray; that is, to see life's ups and downs as not-so-good and pretty good.

This takes off the conceptual and dualistic pressure to experience life as INCREDIBLE, FANTASTIC, or even REALLY GREAT, and softens the frequent blows of what Buddhism calls "the suffering of change", otherwise known as WTF moments. In other words, the not-so-good days, AKA jellyfish.

I can hear your fingernails tapping against your keyboard or desktop, so let me rush on to sundogs...

While I wrote the first draft of this entry, I was in the air on a Delta flight from LAX to Detroit - sorry, forgot the airport code - (NO, don't click that mouse!) - and when I glanced down at the scrolllllllingggg Earth below, we were somewhere over the Rockies, sort of a big, rumpled brown duvet with lots of snow on it, the clearly plowed roads etched deep and black as opposed to the fine, light tracery of roads that had not.

All right, sundogs, dammit.

Anyway, by some miracle of Earth tilt, angle of sun, and atmospheric conditions, a wonderful, perfectly circular sundog - a rainbow - appeared somewhere between the jet's 35,000-foot altitude and the ground. BINGO - my jellyfish day turned to sundog!

The day had promised to be sundog even though I had to get up at 4 a.m. for a 5:15 a.m. LAX shuttle pick-up. It still felt pretty sundog even while I checked my luggage and meandered into the security line, because  I was on my way to Nairobi, after all. Plus, Cali is pretty culturally diverse and so it's not so bad to stand in long lines and people-watch. You never know when the conversation next to you will be in Farsi, Hindi, Cantonese or maybe even Romanian. This helps to pass the time.

But then I noticed the TSA security man, an old guy, THE DECIDER, staring at me from across a border of ropes and machines.

BINGO! Even before sunrise, the odds of my sundog day turning into a jellyfish day were about 99.99% to .01%.

I suddenly felt cranky. Since I knew I wasn't hiding explosives, boxcutters, or even bed bugs - but I did still have post-nasal drip and a cotton-headed feeling from getting 5 (yes five) immunizations to protect myself and Africans from the scourges of yellow fever, typhoid, and three other dreadful (aka jellyfish) diseases.

I look away, toss my stuff into bins on the conveyor belt and emerge somewhere near the aforesaid decider, whose eyes are still locked on me like I'm the only possible terrorist in a sea of humanity that is breaking tide, shoeless and sans metal, on the shore of his decisions. He channels me from the people metal detector into the no-man's land between the lines and in front of broken scanners, and my required - not requested -patdown is history. That's another story.

When sundogs suddenly morph into jellyfish, it's not fair to throw oneself into a tizzy like a two-year-old. That would sort of be like having dualistic thoughts of good and bad days, something that keeps you reincarnating endlessly in Samsara, a questionable kind of place with six realms in which Earthly life MIGHT be the best, because you can only reach enlightenment from a human body.

However, dualistic thought is not allowed in the quest for equanimity, which results in enlightenment if you get really, really slick at the pretty good and not-so-good thing and don't break any other of the 9,999 rules.

Anyway, by this standard of equanimity, you simply note change, keep breathing, and roll with it. No difference between jellyfish and sundogs.

It's sort of like when you finally get through security and on the plane and settle in for what seems like a thousand hours, but not only are you the sole passenger on the plane to get a patdown, you're also the only one who didn't get a headset and so you can't hear any of the movies or music.

Breathe. You just make do. Compromise. Like how you can form an opinion but not kill yourself and other people over it when you don't get all clingy about it.

Compromise is a jellyfish verb that turns jellyfish into sundogs. I really like the verb improvise better. It's more sundog, playful and serene.  If you observe yourself, your thoughts, words, and deeds as if you're an actor doing improv, that's half the awareness battle.

Life is a comedy and then a drama, and sometimes it morphs into a thriller or a fantasy or even a damn horror flick, but one thing is guaranteed: it will never, ever be what you want it to be all of the time, so you may as well kick back and watch the jellyfish and sundog show.

And enjoy both, because no matter what, aren't we really sundog even when the day goes jellyfish?

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