Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quiet Changes

I've been sitting on the couch this morning reading "The English Major" by Jim Harrison, an author my old college roommate told me about years ago but I'd never read. I'm enjoying the book and its main character, a sensible Michigan farmer who's going through something of a late-midlife crisis.

Interestingly, five months after the first news of my layoff, my own life feels less and less like a crisis. I've settled into taking care of the apartment and the dogs, and though I'm still poking around for jobs I must admit I'm enjoying this time. My Mom asked me on the phone yesterday, "What do you do all day?" She seemed surprised that I find enough to keep myself occupied. But I feel very busy! There are always little projects demanding my attention.

I'm still faced with a tangle of options and steps for moving ahead -- and indeed the options keep multiplying for various reasons -- but I have some ideas about where I want to go and what I want to do. I don't feel at all lost, and I have the luxury of savings to live on and the growing certainty of my relationship with Dave.

I do think I'm finished with living in New York City. When I read the Times now (multiple shootings in Times Square!) I'm relieved I'm not there. As much as I have loved the city, there's not much I miss about it on a day-to-day basis. For example, although I've been to dozens of Broadway shows in the past decade, I've lost all urge to keep up with them -- they're too expensive, and honestly I'd rather be home on the couch with a good book. Maybe I've had my fill, not just of the shows, but of Manhattan life.

I also don't miss the Zendo. I wish I missed it, because I feel like a lout confessing that -- but the truth is, I've been uncomfortable for a while with the organization and the intensity of practice it cultivates. I've seen in myself a disingenuous tendency to do and say what I believe I "should" be doing or saying as a Zen practitioner. I also suspect that we can get so lost in the sitting, ceremony and retreats that we miss our lives on the ground -- exactly what practice is supposed to prevent. Can Zen give rise to its own delusions, and create its own unhealthy escapes?

(I don't intend to stop practicing entirely, and I still value the teachings and the overall philosophy of Zen. But I feel more balanced now, here on this sofa with the snoring dogs nearby, than I do in the middle of a chanting service or a three-hour sitting period.)

So, anyway, I'm in a good space. I love the exciting uncertainty of my life at the moment. And I'm loving this Jim Harrison book!

(Photo: Magnolias on a foggy morning, East Brunswick, yesterday.)


37paddington said...

What a wonderful post! I feel the peace in it, and--if you'll forgive the presumption of this comment!--for the first time I really believe it when you say you have moved on from the city. (I know--who am I to even have an opinion on this!)

I also find this post enormously comforting, as I may well be following along the same path as you have been these last five months. I wonder if it will be a relief when the shoe finally drops?

I'm glad you're in a good space these days. Life does have its ups and downs and when we discover that we are in a place of serenity, it is to be cherished. Thanks for sharing it, too.

Barbara said...

I love your positive attitude toward the current uncertainty of your life. I too have plenty of things with which to fill every day. People seem to be surprised that I'm not bored with retirement.

I'm so glad you have the luxury to take this transition journey slowly, stopping to smell the roses along the way. You will be much happier in the end for it!

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow. What an awesome post! You couldn't be in a better place than this, Steve. See? This is why I love you so much. You are SO GOOD!! Such a smart, down-to-earth, REAL person.

Well done, you!!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

sweet....all of it the photo is stunning and the be here now arrival is well inspiring.

me thinks you really didn't need that zendo to arrive at the zen.

but now to see you do i have to come to nj? not that i have anything against nj, actually most of it is very beautiful, afterall it is the garden state!