For those of you who insist that I am so strong, so brave, yada yada, I thought it might be educational to tell you to what depths my soul can cower, and the relatively small things that can drive it there.
We have had a heatwave here in the San Francisco Bay Area over the last few days. For some reason my air conditioner thought this would be a good time to stop blowing cold air, and because it is a holiday weekend there is nobody who can fix it before Tuesday, or possibly before September 14th. Now anyone who knows me can tell you that I do not like heat. My maximum comfortable temperature is 72 degrees, with a breeze. So you would expect me to be uncomfortable in the unusual 110 degree weather we have been having. My bedroom, which I like to keep no warmer than 69, has been running between 85 and 90.
No surprise that I would have a negative reaction to this heat, but the kind of reaction I have had has been extreme, even for me. I sit in my room, and even with a fan blowing right on me, I feel as though there is just not enough air to breathe, and I descend into this dark claustrophobia. I fight against it by sleeping as much as I can (which is a lot actually), and by distracting myself. I was having trouble keeping track of the action on the TV show about the Irish Revolution I had started watching, so instead I thought it would be a lighthearted romp to watch a documentary about Timothy Leary and Ram Das and death. Now that really took me to some dark places.
I seem to have been thinking a lot about death lately anyway. I have picked up any number of books on the subject. I am reading two memoirs by Kara Tippetts on her journey through breast cancer and death. Somehow I came to be in possession of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and Preparing to Die by Holecek. I’d seen an upcoming seminar/webinar with Pema Chodron. The website didn’t say anything about the subject matter of the seminar, but these two books were listed as prerequisite reading so I picked them up, even though chances are slim I will attend the seminar or webinar.
Also in the last few weeks when I have experienced pain severe enough that it made me want to vomit, so persistent that I was unable to sleep. I have developed a new appreciation for those who say they would rather end their lives than live with their disease.
It’s all kind of challenging me, to tell you the truth. I have said for years, for always perhaps, that I am not afraid of dying. I have even said that I see it as a great adventure. But you know, maybe I am a bit afraid. In my brief perusal through Preparing to Die, it appears that Buddhism has some pretty specific ideas about what happens after death, and what you should do there. That surprised me, because I guess I’d always thought of Buddhism as being kind of non-religious. Well I guess that goes to show how much I know.
The God of the Bible, the Father of Jesus, now that’s another thing. I have spent a lot of my life pursuing him or being pursued by him. I had always thought of him as someone who loves me, but in recent years I have seen a lot more of the harsh, judgmental God when I read the Bible, and although I have a hard time believing in a God who is not far nicer than I am, the possibility has instilled some fear into me as well. This isn’t a serious, over-reaching fear, but it nibbles at the back of my mind. I have my own ideas about what happens after we die, but they really are my own ideas. Where they came from I don’t know, but who am I to have ideas? No one. Why would I listen to myself?
Then too there is just the physical part of dying. From all I hear, it is generally painful. I think my mother’s death, from emphysema, may be among the least painful, but it was replete with the other difficult aspect of death, the cutting off of breath, that thing that I have felt as a shadow over me in this heat.
Of course, I can never confine my suffering just to myself. So I have had to think about all those people who live in those unbearably hot countries with no air conditioning even to fix. I think about our young soldiers in the middle east in their monstrously hot uniforms. I think about all those people who suffer chronic pain. HOW DO THEY DO IT? I want to know. And people call me brave simply because I keep plodding along the course I have been given? Well I would not be doing that if my toe was broken, you know, and yet I have known high school students who ran cross country competitively with broken toes.
I am not strong. I am not brave. I’m really kind of an overly dramatic whiner. Anybody who tells you different has never met me!
Praying right now for a cool breeze, and more air. And an air conditioner repairman so this doesn’t happen again.