I have been haunted by the idea of "letting go" lately, especially in view of the toxic political climate we inhabit, and because most of us are too intimately connected to electronic media which serves up a hysterical menu of news dominated by .... you know who .... the President. I must admit that I feel such shame that I don't even want to spell out his name. Navigating this non stop circus of information coming from Washington DC makes it more challenging to let go of our anger, our outrage and pain.
I made a choice earlier this summer to pause in my blog writing, for what was coming up in my brain was vitriol and deep sadness, and I simply didn't want to swim in those waters, and speak from that place. So, I took a summer break: I went south to Carmel to the Bach Festival to listen to classical music for a week and walk with my little dog on the beach, and then I boarded a plane with my daughter and couple of grandchildren and we zoomed off to Europe, which was baking in 90 degree + heat. My theory was that I would get myself farther away from the confusing and cruel news of the day in our country and would feel better. The problem was that in trying to show my family Rome, city where I lived as a child, I realized I didn't have the stamina to cope with the extreme heat and crowds, at least not enough stamina so that I could reveal the magical secrets of this ancient city and make them all excited to be seeing it for the first time. Simple fact was that not one of us really cared a damn for the historical facts of this extraordinary city, and we fought against waves of humanity on the streets to find a lovely place to sit in the shade, or a great pistachio gelato, a peaceful air-conditioned shop, or a quiet meal in a dark and comfortable trattoria. I kept on the move because we had come all this way after all, and I needed to feel purposeful -- I spoke the language after all and was a repository of knowledge about Italian culture. But in the end I noticed a distinct indifference in my teenager grandchildren and a passive exhaustion in my daughter with whom I've traveled a lot, and I began to lessen my expectations.
Sometimes we keep on moving in order NOT to reflect on our suffering, our challenges, our sadness. My daughter suffers from a recent separation and divorce, my grandchildren suffer from fear of the big changes ahead of them by sinking their attention into their electronic devices (one is going to college, the other to college), and I suffer from the sensations both physical and mental of old age, despair at the inhumanity of my world, and fear that my book will never be regarded with the respect it deserves, and that I won't be seen as relevant in the end as a writer. We carry these intimate woes as we march forward: through crowds on city streets, through airports, through congested museums ... and in the end we crave returning to our air-conditioned hotel rooms so that we may rest, perhaps even take a nap.
I love this dear little family of mine, and yet I realized for the two weeks we were together in the inferno of Europe we were all on our private trajectories, not always in synch with one another. And there is also the inevitable reality that these young grandchildren of mine are growing up and starting to move away... Such is life. We really do travel this journey alone, and the particular suffering we endure always feels terribly personal, often separating us from others. But now all of us have returned home, to temperate and cool Northern California. When I got off the plane at SFO I wanted to bend down and kiss the ground, so relieved was I that the moist coastal air was flowing all about me.
I've learned that there comes a time in every journey when all you really want is to get home: back to your own bed, your quiet street, your cold white wine in the fridge, your dog and cats, your own fluffy bath towels and your time on the couch with Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper. Ah yes. ... you want to be back there with all the information givers, the pundits, so you can again try to practice restraint in the digestion of news, and keep your heart and mind calm.
Let's see now: can we (I) practice restraint and self compassion? can we (I) let go of reactivity? can we (i) forgive our families for being fallible and just who they are? can we (i) take refuge in our true home, our heart? The cycles of praise and blame and success and failure will always be with us, kind of like the weather. Best look to what is a true and constant force: the heart, our home.