Friday, 17 December 2010

The Suffering of Offspring

I’m just a garden-variety writer and this blog isn’t necessarily all about chronicling the miseries of life in Samsara from a vaguely Buddhist viewpoint.
I write about anything that comes to mind. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction. I even do hard research sometimes. I call most of this scribbling “writing to discover”.  Self-discovery, discovery of how things work, and why they work that way.
But today the gosh darn wheel of life turns and the suffering continues. Jellyfish, jellyfish, jellyfish.
I’m really not liking jellyfish right now. It’s harder to stay calm when your tender young offspring are involved.

Let’s just say that an unnamed airline in Ireland that seems to have a rather large volume of complaints helped to cause my son to miss his flight from Dublin to LAX yesterday.
I’m much more likely to eat another bowl of brown rice and chant Om when circumstances are "acts of God", so to speak - natural calamities  or karmic circumstances that feel so inevitable that you agree to submit to them. I'm also more chanty when circumstances don’t lead to undue debt, dementia, or death. Clearly, I have to work on this attachment and aversion.
I’m especially relieved when jellyfish days are not caused by some volatile mixture of airline malfeasance and adolescent inexperience.
It seems that said airline is all confused by the fact that all extra baggage and flight change fees were paid ahead or presumed to have been, according to my recent contacts with said green airline, who, rather than use common sense and check their own records or contact the person who made the reservation - moi - and then proceed, decided instead to provide illogical, jellyfish customer service.
My teen-aged son may have also contributed to his own jellyfish moment by not knowing how to be assertive. He may also have not have checked in on the stroke of his arrival from England, thinking his five-hour layover allowed him PLENTY of time to burn the petty pounds burning in his pocket because they’d no longer be good in America.  He’s also still young enough to be hungry often and /or attracted to spending his booty on culinary delights. I am not as clueless as my offspring think I am.
So off he went to a hotel, courtesy of a kind family in Wales who delivered him first thing yesterday morning to the Birmingham, England airport. Not a bit of the drama sounded sundog - it was all a tangle of phone calls and scanned documents and e-mail.

My son could have taken a train up the lovely coast of Wales and then a ferry over to Dublin for his flight home, but  dear old Mom – moi again – thought it would be easier and less confusing to fly in and fly out of Dublin. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything. Life is getting to the point that I’m more amazed when things go right than when they go wrong.
To make a long story short, dear reader, a few hours ago I got an e-mail from the kind angel lady in Wales who says it’s snowing in Ireland. So far, Belfast is affected. Then another that says Dublin is probably not affected. So far, so good. But my offspring may not be charging his cell phone, because no one can reach him.
My mind is grinding its gears  – is he getting where he needs to be? If the weather turns suddenly, how many more nights in a hotel and how many restaurant meals does this mean?  Maybe none, if I’d just stay in the present with the facts. Dublin’s weather is milder than Belfast weather, if I’m not mistaken.
I just wanted my son’s cutesy little toes that took 9 months to create treading earth at LAX just after midnight this morning. Home safe and all that. It’s rather jellyfish in itself to try and make sense of these things when you’re also abroad. The 2010 SLS Kenya conference and the Kwani Litfest is winding up this weekend and I leave Nairobi on Tuesday. This is sad but expected. Jellyfish and sundog, just like everything else.
But I diverge.
Meanwhile, my other young-un will make a trip via LAX - Paris - Birmingham, England, and then on a train to Aberystwyth, Wales just prior to my homecoming and just after her brother arrives home. Two words: young love. Do not attempt to get between an adolescent female and the object of her desire.
So my small family is sort of zigging and zagging at loose ends around the Atlantic this week, which feels sort of sundog and adventurous on one hand, but is starting to feel suspiciously jellyfish and expensive. Which is to say, those not-so-good dualistic thoughts are kicking in and I’m having trouble extricating myself from them as I examine the situation with no-so-good imaginary fears and habitual thought patterns. 
But then, that’s what mothers do. We worry. We fret. We turn sundogs into jellyfish with little provocation. It’s a bad habit, really. My own mother irritates me terribly with her jellyfish notions and worries. It’s a waste of energy. Things don’t happen until they happen and WHEN they DO happen, it’s really only for a moment and then that dismal moment becomes a thing of the past.
If we’re really working those sundogs, then our minds are more like water than ice. In other words, we don’t offer our minds and emotions to those stingy, poison tentacles over and over. We acknowledge the not-so-niceness of the jellyfish moment and distance ourselves from it as much as possible. We move on.
This is not to belittle anyone’s horrible suffering, because there is plenty of horrible suffering in this city and on this continent, and every city and continent in the world, traumatic circumstances that are extremely difficult to explain or to grapple with. These jellyfish require lots and lots of compassion from other beings and the focus of our own self-compassion as well as compassion from the victim for the perpetrators of these horrible sufferings. You could call this sundog energy. Buddhists call it bodhicitta.
But that’s another story. Well sort of. I really am trying to grasp how the above-mentioned airport employees were having a not-so-good day themselves, but also reminded how airlines seem to be getting away with poorer and poorer service just because there is both a practical need for security and an insatiable and impossible-to-satisfy need for security that can never be met. Not on a public level nor on a personal one.
We just need to remember that anticipating imagined painful moments is unproductive. And when we do get stung by jellyfish, we don’t have to replay the cusp of that moment over and over. Not delving into brain-freeze allows room for more sundogs to happen. It’s all about using discernment and wisdom.
Sundogs will shine again. The only predictable thing about the universe is change.
If today's post sounds repetitive, it probably is. I’m yakking at myself, trying to salve my anxiety. I'm waiting for that sundog change, dammit!

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