Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When I Fell

When I fell
You stopped
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.

Why did I do that?  Perhaps it was so that I could do this.

There but for the...
No - just:
There go I


  1. I'm touched by your honesty.

  2. oh wow David, I'm so glad you're a writer. Thankyou for this post - I cried a little because your vulnerability here is heartfelt and very real. Its true - I AM happily chirping - and I'm also reaching out across the universe to hug you. Thankyou for sharing this blogswap. To me it seems like a soft spot was revealed for us both. May your post bring benefit to many! <3

  3. Thanks you guys for the kind words. <3<3

    I think it's finally starting to twig that the gut feeling that tells me I shouldn't do something is not necessarily the same as the uneasy feeling that tells me I don't want to do something. I should listen carefully to the first one, but the other, not so much.

    The one misgiving I have is that from time to time my writing may cause others to be uncomfortable on my behalf. If it does, I appreciate the empathy and apologize, but I don't intend to stop!

  4. I've just read this blog from all that time ago, David. I was very moved by it. Thank you for being.

    1. Roselle, thank you for taking the time to dig it out and read it. It's a part of my journey I need to not forget. Thank you for being, too!


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