When I fell
To help me up
Somewhere in far-off Australia, a bookbird is happily chirping.
A couple of days ago, I got a very sweet tweet from @CaptnSpaceCadet, who has a very nice blog over at bookbird which continually touches me with its honesty and sincerity. The tweet said some very very nice things about my blog. Before I had even finished blushing, a follow up tweet arrived, inviting me to do a blog swap, where we would each pick a topic for the other to write in the next 5 days. I gallantly agreed, and slyly suggested her topic: “Why am I doing this?” The twinge of guilt I was beginning to feel evaporated when BB shot back with a topic for me: “Why did I do that?” I was trapped. BB did a beautiful job, as usual, with Bookbird vs the Donut, and with 4 days to spare.
So now I have to step out of my comfort zone.
Back in 2002 (when BB was still a fledgling), I was going through a low point in my career. Four years previously, I had quit drinking because I was doing it too much. Now, without anaesthetic, I was responding to stressful encounters by hiding from them, leaving telephone messages unanswered and letters unopened. To make a long story short, I learned the meaning of burnout.
A colleague with some personal experience suggested I try Alcoholics Anonymous, which I did, for 181 meetings. The fit didn't seem quite right, but it was a port in a storm, and I worked hard at it. By now I had let my Zen practice slip, although I did continue to recite the bodhisattva vows every day. At the AA meetings, we took turns telling our stories. I can say that after a while, I got really tired of hearing myself “talk the talk”. At one of the last meetings, I remember sharing about the bodhisattva vows, and heard myself saying how arrogant I was to think I could save all sentient beings. That was the turning point. I felt as if I had stabbed myself in the heart and was about to throw away something priceless. I knew I had to leave the group.
It was around then that I read Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now and started doing zazen again. When I went to my last meeting, it was with a little sadness that I didn’t add “and I’m an alcoholic” after “Hi, my name’s Dave”. One of the members asked me if this meant that I was rejecting their group. I said no, just the opposite – they would always have a place in my heart because they welcomed me like family, with unquestioning acceptance, when I needed it most.
Why did I burn out? I don't know. I saw warning signs of procrastination and avoidance, but didn't want to acknowledge the problem. All I know is, if you think you are falling, reach out. If someone else is falling, reach out.
Fast forward to here and now. I’m grateful for the sangha – cyber and otherwise, and for remembering a couple of things I had forgotten, and for that little group of bodhisattvas. And thank you, bookbird, for the invitation to crawl out of my shell and talk about things I would have preferred to forget.
There but for the...
No - just:
There go I