Saturday, June 30, 2012

Archie Bunker, Wendell Berry and the Buddha

I don't when it will happen, but I know it has been happening more often lately. I get into my car, or arrive somewhere and I just sit. I don't drive, I don't get out of the car. I just sit and stare; sometimes I cry, like I almost did this morning.

Most of the time I think "I've got this", but lately I know, at best, I'm keeping a stiff upper lip. I keep calm and carry on, because to admit you're not okay invites inquires and I'm not always up to telling my story. This morning I thought I was, but then had to sit in my car for 10minutes waiting for the urge to put my head on the steering wheel and cry to pass.

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the Courage to change the things I can, and
the Wisdom to know the difference

Carrol O'Conner did a Public Service Announcement after he lost his son to drug addiction. It was well before I had kids, but his face and voice stayed with me, and when I feel like giving up, backing down or running away I think about him and I keep going.


About his son he said:

"I should have spied on him. I should've taken away all his civil rights, spied on him, opened his mail, listened to telephone calls, everything."

 "Nothing will give me any peace. I've lost a son. And I'll go to my grave without any peace over that."

"Get between your kid and drugs any way you can, if you want to save the kid's life"


In his eyes, I see so much pain, remorse, grief, and also I see resolve and courage to make this statement in hopes that it would help. Help save someone's child. And now it is helping with my own son. I hear it when I am so tired I want to give up, give up and run away, when I want to give into my own increasing cynicism and cut myself off emotionally. I hear it when I am sitting in my car, staring at the steering wheel and seeing nothing. When I don't want to go into my own house because I am not up for the next conversation I must have. 

Damn you Mr. O'Conner, this fight is too hard. I want to give up. I want to stop deciding where to draw my line in the sand and then stay there no matter what happens. Drawing the lines are hard enough, standing firmly by them can tear you apart. Then I hear him again, and I get out of the car, I stand my ground and I don't run away. One day at time.

Not everyday is hard. Some days I have my son back, and he's goofy, loving, helpful, and kind, but I trust those days less now because I have learned that he lies best when he is being kind and sweet, when he looks me sincerely in the eye. I've learned not to drop my guard and think this is the turning point, now things will get better, because invariably I discover missing money, that the sincere face was there to manipulate and lie to me. This used to feel like a kick in the gut, a betrayal. Now, it's part of my life, and that I've become used to it is the thing that makes me the saddest.

Here is where I must remember to hate the disease, not my son. Addiction is a disease and its symptoms really, really suck, but my son is still there, even when his disease has him by the throat. I must remember this, but sometimes I don't and then I have to forgive myself for not being perfect.

I find peace where I can, like now while I write this, or in the times I sit in my car just counting my breaths staring at nothing. I meditate, do yoga and hapkido, I go to parent groups and talk to other parents like me. These things help, while I'm doing them, but in the end I still have to go home and stand by my line.


I love Wendell Berry's poem, 'The Peace of Wild Things', and in nature is where I find the most peace. But even here I find my cynicism creeping in, and it is hard to remain peaceful for more than a moment.





The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry 




"if you want to see just how much control you really have, try raising teenagers, several at a time"
- my tweet from last night 


I'm not a very good Buddhist these days (good thing I have Unitarian Universalism to fall back on), being so affected by things outside of my control (ie EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE who isn't me). I get to control my own thinking, not necessarily my first thought, and absolutely not my emotions, but what I choose to think after that is up to me. Suffering comes from attachments, from ego, from clinging to hopes and dreams and not living with what is in front of and within you right now.

At this point I would like to point out that the Buddha never had to raise teenagers, he became enlightened only after abandoning his wife and child. 

I need a teacher who has managed to practice Buddhism AND live with children and teenagers, someone with a regular life. I can detach from my ego, recognize how my pride is making me envious, angry, resentful... piece of cake. Okay it took a long while and I'm still working on it, but try to detach with teenagers. When does parenting stop and enabling begin? How do my expectations of acceptable behaviour become attachment to future outcomes? How to I Be Here Now when there are forms to fill out, appointments to organize? How do I, or should I detach myself from my child's self destructive behaviour?

Being a parent is work, trying to be a good parent in difficult times is something the makes Atlas' job look easy. Being a good enough parent is scary, joyful, funny, heartbreaking and utterly exhausting. It breaks your heart, but I think the only way to live with an open heart is by breaking it open, and that takes suffering, and pain, and that takes love, all the love you have. It isn't pretty most of time, but it is worth it ( I hope....).

3 comments:

daily llama said...

I feel for you. I lost my son - even after he cleaned up . I didn't like who he became as a sober man. There are many ways to lose a child. In the end the lies burned all the caring out of me... maybe I will have him back before I die.asked

Ruth Elliott said...

my mother lost both my brother and I when she married and stood by an verbally and physically abusive man. she still is married to him, and he has isolated her from her whole family. I would love one day to have my mother back, but I don't think it will ever happen. I walked away for my own mental health, I am still very deeply hurt, but if tomorrow she was able to meet me half way I would go in a heartbeat.
I think what I'm saying is try not to give up hope completely. Addiction shreds families (my father and brother are also alcoholics), but there can be healing if both sides are willing. I hope that will be the case with my own son, and my mother, and for you and your son too.

Tracey said...

Hello Dear Heart,

I hear your questions, frustrations, hurts, insights and hopes. Though neither one of my children are addicted to any substances at this time, the pain of parenting resonates.

The pauses while driving, connections with nature, acknowledgment and surrender of cynicism/frustration...it's all part of this whole trip. I actually find myself doing such things more about my parents than my kids at this point. As crazy as we may feel at times, I think this is "normal" and ok.

I love that you outed Buddha, and I imagine he is smiling about this broadly above his big jelly rolls!

:)