Bondage

My life has become very simple. The relative ease with which I have picked up my daily routine has the potential to lull me into a state of complacent inattention. I’ve been watching myself every day, making sure I don’t blur the boundaries I’ve set for myself. I get up when my alarm goes off, or earlier if I wake up and cannot get back to sleep. I take my meds at the appropriate time and as directed. When I plan to exercise, I exercise. When I have completed my morning routine, I do any logistical work required of me to plan the next month and to get all my various medical needs met. Finally, when I reach a point in the afternoon when I am done with the things I need to do, I relax. Today, I watched two episodes of the TV show Grimm. That’s two hours of TV. But you know what? I don’t feel guilty about it at all.

That is one thing that is wonderful about keeping myself on a strict routine in the morning: when I am finished, I can relax and not feel bad about it. In the past, when I wasn’t getting things done at all, I never was able to really enjoy things or really relax because in the back of my mind I was feeling anxious and guilty about ignoring my life.

And truly, I was ignoring my life. I had just completely checked out. But that didn’t prevent my mind from agonizing over that fact and throwing it back in my face no matter how much I tried to bury it in distractions, drugs, and denial.

But now, as I pay attention to my physical, mental, and spiritual needs, I am able to actually clear my mind. Not on command, mind you. It still takes work. But that work doesn’t seem like work to me now. It seems like a necessity.

Here’s what happened to bring this to my thoughts today. My aunt and uncle have a meditation group that meets on Mondays at 7:30am. They said I was welcome to attend, so I did. It was a powerful experience. The problem was this: I had forgotten to do something I had meant to do last Friday, and had only realized it this morning when I woke up and took my meds. When I went to the pharmacy immediately upon discharge from the hospital, they did not have enough of one of my medications to fill the full quantity of my prescription. So I filled part of it and I was supposed to come back and get the rest. Well, I had forgotten to do that, but this morning, I looked in the pill bottle and saw that I only had enough to last me until tomorrow morning. I immediately became anxious, and I also became angry with myself for not taking care of it sooner. But the pharmacy doesn’t open till 9am and I was supposed to be meditating so I tried to push it out of my mind, knowing that as soon as the meditation was done I would need to call the pharmacy and make sure I could pick up the rest of the prescription today.

But I was haunted by the worry that they might be out of the medication or that there might be a hold-up because of insurance, or even (not knowing this pharmacy’s policy) that I might have left it till too late and they would not fill the rest of the prescription because I had waited over a week to come back. As we chanted together and meditated quietly, and prayed together, I tried to focus on the moment, let the future worry about itself, and to clear the anxiety from my mind.

I had some success. But less than I would have liked. And I realized at that moment that I am in bondage to my fear and my worry. I am tied to it. I am bound to it as tightly as I have been to drugs. In fact, I think there is a part of me that is addicted to the chaos and uncertainty that has come with the wreck my life has been over the past few years. How do I know this? Well, look at this morning’s experience for me. I had no evidence that there was anything wrong. In fact, part of me knew that there would be no trouble with my prescription (and indeed, there was none). But after several days devoid of worries, my agile mind decided to find something to worry about. That addict part of me needed there to be something wrong. Anything. There are probably some of you out there reading this who know what I’m talking about. Those of you that sit down to try and read or watch TV, but you end up reading the same page over and over again or not even knowing what show you were watching, because the whole time you were thinking “I forgot this, or how am I gonna figure out this problem, or are they gonna find out what I did, or what will happen when I ____ “.

I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate worries in everyone’s lives. I have many things that I could, if I wanted to, be anxious about right now. But my loving family has deferred many of those for me, and the rest are things that I cannot do anything about at the moment.

That is the true struggle. Recognizing which things we can actually work on and those that are out of our hands. Anyone who has dealt with addiction like I have will know the Serenity Prayer. It goes like this:

God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

See how that applies?

The only way I can free myself from the bondage of unnecessary anxiety and stress is to find this serenity. And this morning, I did the best I could.

In truth, there was nothing I could do about anything at 7:30am this morning. And I had the opportunity to be with a marvelous group of people who were full of love and light and amazing spirits. I had the opportunity to connect with them and I wasn’t able to take full advantage of it because of the buzzing in the back of my mind.

I know that in time, if I work at it, I will become better at recognizing the difference between what I can and cannot change. And in so doing, I will gain wisdom, as the prayer says. In gaining wisdom, I will find release from the bondage of worry. If I stop fighting the world around me, stop ramming my head against the brick wall of the uncertain, unknown, or unknowable, stop trying to change everything to suit me, but to become (as Tai Chi philosophy proposes) like water – flowing and flexible, yet strong and powerful….well If I do all that, I will truly become free.

Thanks for reading, and peace to you all.

-Nathan

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