Sunday, May 10, 2009

Real Hell or Real Life

It all keeps getting thicker.

Years ago my wife suffered but survived an odd disease known as Guillain-Barre (gee-on bar-ay) soon after our daughter was born. I was frustrating cause it presents as so many other possibilities (simple fatigue) in its early stages. It nearly killed her. The biggest scar it left was the scare that there can be bizzare diseases that seem like nothing, but doctors diagonose wrong. Once you learn this lesson, it's impossible to forget.

Now she has a torn TFCC (a complete cartilage structure in the hand), some torn knee cartilage and an only rotator cuff tear hurting. The knee and wrist really didn't come from obviously traumatic events. So is this just rotten luck, or some bizzare cartilidge-falling-apart disease? We don't know. We press on. She has been at 20% for the last 4 weeks, and now facing wrist surgery, will probably be at 20% for another 4 or more.

On top of that her father in Houston (150 miles away) has suffered renal failure from too much NSAIDs taken for gout cause by chronic alcoholism which was overcome 20 years ago. He also suffers from BPE (and COPD) which caused a raging urinary tract infection which spread to his blood.

The guy lives recently widowed in a trailer park, set in his ways and would have died, unchallenged, in bed last week if my wife hadn't called EMS remotely (who did not take him in) and forced her cousin (living in the same trailer park) to take him to the doctor who did admit him. Now he faces 20+ days in hospital for dialysis waiting to see if his kidneys kick back on... and if not, then what?

We saw him this weekend, and he is just out of the game. He doesn't complain about the hospital. He doesn't worry about his "stuff." He just sits in bed, with gout paining his knees, not really eating, waiting for the next dialysis.

I'm being stretched in ways I never have, these days. Covering much work at home. Striving to encourage my wife in her pain, and fathom the needs and wants of an aging, hurting man.

It is a whole shitload of dharma. Just-is-ness that I find difficult to face. I am angry and put out that life can't be the protected normalcy I had a month ago when I was sewing my rakusu and dreaming of precepts from Brad.

What would the patriarchs do in all this? Again I find myself angry that the famous ones all left "home and family" and escaped hells like this. How do I take a next step as I struggle with shame over my sarcastic tone to wife who has asked me for help for the nth time today?

This is the real crucible. When things get so tangled they are unrecognizable, and 5 minutes of no immediate trouble is like a vacation of 2 weeks. When you can see your own faults and pettiness and anger parading out of you like a 4th of July parade. No pretense of "holy". Buddha just please let me not be a beast in the next moment.

Jump in the raging stream
Fly past rocks and over waterfalls
Fearful of the trip and splash and swirl?
Unfamiliar scenery flashing by to quick?
Who are you?
Look inside
to the deep stillness
of the whole dharma.


zazenlover said...

I have no way of knowing what you're going through, but I do send good vibrations and best wishes your way. The issue with ideals are that they are images we prop up to "become," when we will never actually be one. We have images to inspire us to action, and they're nice. We are no image or ideal, even though we strive for them in our actions. We are "as we do" and we're never a finished product, in my opinion, that is. I've always had a problem beating myself up for not matching up to my ideals. The Buddha said that when we beat ourselves up, that's the "second arrow." The "first arrow" life throws at us. Gassho, j

Lauren said...

j -
Please tell me where the "arrow" sutra is. I like that. And thanks for the vibes & wishes.

What is becoming clearer to me in all this is that given some collection of events nearly everyone will struggle. And all struggle is exactly the same whether it arises from "petty" or "serious" important lesson in compassion.

zazenlover said...

I heard it from a Gil Fronsdal mp3 a few years ago. Here it is the way Gil wrote it: Nhat Hanh said the same thing in this article I've not found the actual text yet of where they got the story. I just did a quick search and only found these two

Barry said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your wife is suffering from such painful body injuries. And also sorry to learn about her father's situation, which is not good.

And, of course, I recognize my own life in your description of the challenges required to stay responsible through all this.

The patriarchs, of course, struggled with the same challenges, as well. They were also subject to delusion, including "no one understands" and "why me?" and "I'm not good enough."

The anger, grievance, resentment and overall beastliness - oh, man, do I get this - is the natural upwelling of our lives. At least, that's my experience.

The work of practice is simply to be responsible for these feelings - which means not to trust them and not to act on them. By writing about them, as you have, it's clear that your practice can support you through this - no matter how things play out.

In my own experience, it's my denial of reality that causes problems for me and for the people I care about. Now, when I'm grumpy about something, I just tell my dear wife that I'm grumpy (she knows, anyway). And then I take responsibility by not acting grumpy.

I dunno if any of this makes sense. But I'll chant tomorrow for you and your family.

Kwan Seum Bosal,


Lauren said...


It does make sense. I greatly appreciate your empathy. Thank you (with bows, of course) for the chanting.

Lauren said...


Thanks for the lead. Found the source... e.g.->

The "sallatha" sutta/sutra aka "the dart"

Jordan said...

Samsara sucks. No two ways about that. Right now you, through your connections, seem to be getting a full dose of it. This is one of those instances where I don't care for this form of communication. I feel the lack of intimacy pretty deeply as I would like to put my hand on your shoulder and offer a smile, a bad joke, or an off color comment to your face.

All of this shit is impermanent, even and especially you and me.

Lauren said...


Thanks. The imagery is a fair, though imperfect substitute for a real hand on the shoulder.

"Letting go" more in this situation is helping more. I'm still sloggin' through with the practice. Persevering with as much brightness as I can muster.

zazenlover said...

awesome! thanks man. I tried to find it a few years back, so this is great. Now I can say, here it is.. :)

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your honesty in the face of all of these difficulties. It seems like your attitude as exemplified in this post is the essence of uprightedness.

I wish you and your family the best and hope to hear that things get better soon. Best to you.


Lauren said...

Thanks for the well wishes. I'm not sure if things are easier, but I'm more adapted to them.