fear, moods, quotations, reflections, spirituality

there’s that pesky 2% again

Lots of things have been canceled on me this weekend — none of it is personal but cumulatively it’s a bummer. I’m back in that 2% hole, worried I won’t raise enough money to get enough copies of my book published, stressed with work that I’ve been lagging on because I’m not in the right state of mind (with deadlines looming), annoyed at someone calling from the west coast at 9:52pm to ask if I’d made a decision yet about a fellowship program I got into.

This is the most difficult part of staying spiritually aware and fit: the low points, the times when you don’t know how things will ever work out and worry that they actually never will, when you feel as though the entire world has forgotten about you or — worse — has become indifferent. It’s an angst no philosophy book can alleviate, no television-viewing-marathon can numb, no external force or vehicle or mechanism or material possession can make any better. The only thing that “fixes” this feeling is time — and not even time as a concept but hanging on long enough for things to shift just enough that things feel a little less dire.

Sleep helps, but I have work to do, work I haven’t done all weekend because I’ve been avoiding it because I’ve been stuck in the 2% hole. I’ve done a lot of reading and writing, in some respect, but it’s not the reading and writing I’m supposed to have gotten done. I’m cat-sitting (with cable) and have caught up on Girls and have plans for Homeland next and have ordered several horribly unhealthy meals and both stayed up too late and slept too long. And there are plane tickets to buy for Mother’s Day in Chicago, where I’ll see my father, whose health is just as precarious as his unwillingness to see a medical professional is strong.

Things feel so confusing this weekend. Not only am I not in my own room — my own bed — but it’s entirely on the other end of Manhattan, a strange place with foreign sounds and smells and different colors of people (much lighter than in my own neighborhood). I almost wish I could bring the cats uptown, to my tiny room, just so I could be in a place of my own making while I feel this way. But that’s not the way things work. I’m cat-sitting and I made promises and there are people currently touring Italy whose cats need caring-for.

I’m reminded of a story Anne Lamott tells in Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, when she’s on an airplane and begins a conversation with a woman sitting next to her (as far as I recall):

It turned out this woman worked for the Dalai Lama. And she said gently that they believe when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.

I believe this. I believe it as much as I possibly can and then some. But it’s also very difficult waiting for things to be born. It’s difficult to be in the place where all those things start going wrong — either actually or perceptually — and keep moving forward. Being distracted isn’t fun. It’s not like waiting for a big present you know you’re going to get on your birthday or over the holidays. It’s not even like actually waiting for a baby to be born or an annual review to happen: those things will come when the time is right, and you can generally predict if not an exact date then at least a range of dates about which one can be confident. Being distracted isn’t like any of those things; it’s interminable and painstaking and heartbreaking and it feels so personal you might as well be stabbing me slowly with a fork into the side of my neck right now. Because being distracted — in the sense of the quotation above — isn’t being preoccupied by pleasant things or happy thoughts; it’s being overwhelmed by things “going wrong all at once.” So even though I believe that Big Things will (eventually) happen, right now these Little Things that are distracting me are really bringing me down.

I know not every day will be like this. I know that not even most days are like this, which is why I call this funk I get into a 2% hole and not a 52% hole. Still. It’s not fun, it’s really quite awful, and it’s the most difficult part of my so-called spiritual practice. And I really need to get my work done so I can take a hot bath and get some sleep and wake up in the morning with just a little more fortitude and faith than that with which I go to sleep. With that, off I go with my distractions.