how to find the right answers

Man. Work, homework, housekeeping, volunteering, relationships, parenting, politics, interpersonal drama. There’s been a whole mess of it over the past several weeks, and I am tapped out. And I’m not nearly done with all that I need (or that I committed) to do.

I hate feeling like this: so busy, and not necessarily overwhelmed, but just at that point where you sigh a lot and think “oh for pete’s sake could I just have ten minutes of nothingness?”

I feel like this, and I have just two kids, a pretty nice amount of time, and the ability to say “no” to anything. I have so much control over my own stress level that I have no excuse to feel this way. And yet I do. I do, and that feeling tricks me: I catch myself thinking that my experience is somehow equal to that of another. And then I stop seeing another person in front of me, I only see me. Then I act or speak, and then I make a mistake, and morph into a fool.  

It’s this thing we do to ourselves. We think we know, and then we act, and then we err.

Our daughter — when she does her homework, sometimes she moves too quickly through her reading of a problem, and thinks she knows the answer, and writes it down, and then oops, she makes an error. She has to teach herself (and we try to help) that she simply must slow down, look at each word in front of her, never assume she knows everything she needs to know, and then, and only then, try to solve the problem. Then, and only then, will she find the right answer.

I talk to her about this, and I tell her, “I used to do the same thing, I’d think I’d know, and I’d be wrong.”

I still do the same thing.

Man oh MAN, I hate that.

But it’s temporary, right? Our ability to be wrong isn’t permanent. It comes and goes, just like our ability to be transparent, and reflective, about what and why we do whatever it is that we do. I know I can strengthen the preferable ability, but it’s hard to remember when I’m tired. Being tired makes me a bit more self-absorbed.

So here’s my reminder.

“There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. . . . This is why we are here.”

“what’s zen’s antonym?”

Yeah, I couldn’t put my finger on the right word, either, so I looked it up.

Here are some choices: clinging, illusory, time, vice, self, imbalance, finite, ego.

I’ve been called, a couple times, “so zen.” I guess this means I present myself as together, or connected, body and mind. Or that I see things without distortion by my own thoughts and feelings. I take it as a compliment, but honestly, I feel closer to its opposites at least once on any given day.

Sometimes I can’t let go. Sometimes I put on a happy, calm face when I’m anything but. Sometimes I focus too much on the future or the past. Sometimes I do things that are not the best for me or others. Sometimes I feel like I could just tip over from the weight I feel from all that I find so worrisome and important. Sometimes I just want to make a mark, to make myself known, because everything does feel so finite… And I want to last, and last, and last. I want to matter.

Who isn’t the opposite of zen, at least once a day? Aside from this guy?

2012_10_17_Providence_G06

For the majority of any given day, I am not “so zen.” I’m just doing my best. Like everybody else.

***

A year or so ago, my sister and I both ended up giving our sister-in-law the same children’s book for her daughters, our nieces: The Three Questions (by Jon J. Muth, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy). Please get it (reviewed here) if you don’t already have it.

The three questions? “What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?”

And the answers? “There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. . . . This is why we are here.”

It’s a beautiful story. It makes being at least a little bit “zen” a lot easier.