“Never underestimate the inclination to bolt when we are hurt,” writes Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron in The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.
I was made aware of my own inclination to bolt when I was in a Counselling Skills class. It was one of those classes that everyone dreads, the first time we have to play Counsellor Counsellor in front of the whole class. I volunteered to go first to get it over and done with and was (fortunately) paired with a friend, and off we went.
“Hmm. Hmmm,” I hazarded.
Then she started telling me – the fake counsellor – real shit. Like child abuse and rape real shit. This was too hectic for me to deal with. What if I said the wrong thing? What if I made her feel worse? So I looked at our lecturer and said: “Help”. She had promised we could stop at any time but she wouldn’t let me. She forced me to stay with it. So I had to. It was fucking hectic. But I stayed with it. Because she was right: of course I could do it.
And after that class, when I sat outside smoking and shaking, I realised that that is my pattern: I bolt whenever it gets too hard for me.
I bolt from conversations, I bolt from feelings, I bolt from doing anything that requires anything like hard work. Why do you think I STILL can’t play the piano? Because it’s hard, man! It’s not laziness; it’s the inability to sit with the difficult feelings. It’s that inclination to bolt that Pema Chodron writes about. Because it is too hard.
And whether we use food or porn or drugs or tv to numb ourselves, it amounts to the same thing: not being present in our own lives because it’s just too hard.
But if we stick with it we will find what? Ourselves? God?
Of course, it’s all very well saying (as Chodron does) “the pith instruction is stay … stay … just stay” and if I could feel any feelings, I would most certainly try to stay with them. Especially if it meant I would find God. And now with the cancer (sorry to bring that up again) I know I’m feeling something (I’m just guessing, actually, but I keep crying, so I’m assuming) but I still can’t honestly say what I’m feeling.
I’m scared of the pain I might have to go through. I have always hated my hair except for, like, the last week when I decided I quite liked it. Fucking typical; just when I decide to like my hair, the chances are good I am going to lose it all through chemotherapy. On the plus side, I will be able to wear a wild, ringleted, red wig with aplomb. I don’t really want to die, but I’m not scared to. I think what scares me is dying without completing my lessons on earth and without seeing God.
I read once that we are at boarding school. We are spiritual beings here on earth at boarding school, here to learn what we need to learn. That which we contracted to learn before we came here. And I don’t want to leave before I’ve finished the learning.
Awesome photo by Wojtek Kwiatkowski