February 9, 2000
For the first time since I've been here, the morning is foggy. The beach looks like the beach in San Francisco, where I grew up. No familiar landmarks are visible in the mist. The sea is big, pounding the shore in crescendoing sets. There are very few pelicans or other birds anymore. They've moved on to better fishing, presumably.
I feel sad. My mind says, "It's a sad day." Then I remember Churpa's warning: "Don't call the whole day sad. It might be a sad hour. Or a sad minute. You can't know that. Don't seal the day with a label before it's happened."
In any case, right now I am missing Steve. And wondering about all the people who live their lives alone, how they do it. I've spent virtually all of my adult life in relationship. I remember one year I spent single when I was thirty, another just after college in New York.
The neighbor to my right, a single woman, has hooked up with a man here on this beach. They are having a romance-- hold hands, laugh and make love. They make it all look so simple. To me, it's next to impossible, nearly a miracle. How do these connections even occur? I can't imagine, anymore.
Churpa's having a romance too. She and Josh lie slotted together in her hammock, long tan slender bodies side to side -- look suited. Young people aren't so jaded by disappointment. That must make it easier to leap into connection.
But then, when did I ever believe in love? In a total fitting together, meshing always? That initial illusion of falling in love, of adoration and merging, cannot be sustained. I came to our relationship a cynic. I wanted to see if I could grow a love with eyes open, seeing all the moles, the character flaws, the feet of clay, right from the get-go. Even so, it took years for me to learn Steve's serious defects, the ones that harmed him and his life, the places he got in his own way, self-sabotaged. I was too close to see, took him at his own word, not recognizing his self-deceptions until it was way too late for either of us. And meanwhile, with his universal acceptance and tolerance, he lived with my own unique craziness, my compulsions, blind spots, my own large shadow self.
Just as Steve's and my non-marriage endured beyond any expectations I ever had when we started our casual beach affair at Bungalows Briones. Initially we were brought together by the camaraderie of alcohol, a love of Mexico, a tendency to live with parrots, constellating in our magical Muir family circle. It was our weaknesses that bound us. In each other we sought asylum from our fears, our own propensities. We hid in each other's arms, eyes closed tight against our obvious inadequacies, our inability to meet each other's inarticulate needs. Steve was totally loyal, in his way, as it suited him. As long as we walked the long way around, avoiding our issues, giving them a safe margin of silence. It took too many years to find the words to voice them. I'm left whispering to ashes, screaming at the ceiling.
I'm 56 years old today and still asking myself the same damn questions. What am I here for? What's it all about? Does anything really matter, and, if so, what? According to the Buddha the purpose of being human is to become enlightened. Guess I better get on it!
For the last ten years, the practice of Vipassana meditation has been at the core of my life, at the core of Steve's and my life together. And now, it's even more the core, when things have fallen apart, and there's nothing to hang onto but the reality of the constant shifting of the sand under my feet. I practice anicca, the remembrance and observation of constant change, the arising and passing away of all that is, including the self, that isn't.
It's so ironic. I spent the first part of my life, like everyone, growing up, growing a self, developing a sense of who I thought I was -- hey, individuation is the key, right?
And then figuring out that I had to start getting it on with my dark side, accepting and integrating that shadow as my own, rather than projecting it out all over the world, creating bogeymen to blame all my problems on. Wrestle with my own dark angel and put an end to shadow-boxing, right?
And then, while I'm still managing those smarmy dark emotions, the sporadic and unexpected eruptions of volcanic magma, come to realize, if we are to believe the Buddha, this self that I have struggled to create, integrate and polish, is illusion, formless and substanceless. All that struggle for a unique identity, distinct and round as a moon, all shadowed and bright, serves only to create the sorrows of clinging to a dissolving self that can never be grasped. Only the relentless flow of mind sustains the delusion of any self at all!
So, what is one to do?!
Another philosophical sunrise, I think to myself, fixing myself a righteous birthday strength cup of coffee, happily high-grading the thermos, with nobody to complain. And, first thing, Christie and Colin walk into my palapa singing Happy Birthday and present me with one of his lovely watercolors, with a familiar poem painted on it.
And Churpa's right -- don't tack those labels on too quickly. It turns out to be a good day, eating a delicious smoked salmon dish prepared by Christie and Churpa, finishing off with a hilarious trip to the hot springs at Aguascalientes, where we sit in inches of water that varies unexpectedly; one moment tepid, the next scorching hot as new water bubbles up out of the sand, producing yelps and sudden leaps to a new position. A total metaphor for life, I think, and its shifting sands and tides. Riding home in the coveted shotgun position next to Churpa and Josh, I tell them it was a good birthday, as good as it could be.
....continued with Dia de Amistad