Tonight on my evening run to and from the gym in the bitter cold Missoula air I found my mind wondering to deep thoughts. Thoughts of modern communication, nostalgia and the flow of life, and amor fati and meditation. Now first of all it should have been no shock that such thoughts should be arising. I am naturally pensive, introspective, probing, searching for the grand meanings of things. But these days that has been mostly missing.
Why? Half I can attribute to the damaging effects of being highly ensnared in a very unhealthy (probably borderline PD) relationship*. A parable I once heard regarding such relationships goes as follows:
Imagine yourself striding along in life and you come to a bridge over a deep ravine. There you meet a bright and charming person. S/he smiles, tells you that you are just the person s/he has always been here waiting for, and hands you one end of a rope. S/he then jumps off the bridge holding the other end, pulling you half off the edge too. Struggling to keep from falling off the bridge you ask in astonishment, “why did you do that!?” To which s/he only replies, “don’t let go, only you can save me.”
The parable goes on, but you get the jist. Eventually, on the verge of slipping, I had to let go. Letting go, in such cases, isn’t always a one time thing. To twist the parable a bit, it’s like s/he has a platform down there too – you let go and s/he’s just fine and quickly tosses the rope back up saying, “oh, but please, we can do this – you failed once, but I forgive you, now let’s try again!”
Not gonna do it. The parable doesn’t mention the anger/rage end of PDs (personality disorders) or some of the other less pretty stuff, and I’m happy to leave them unmentioned too (though I really urge everyone to find out about them, all the while wishing I had known about them sixteen months ago). But all of those did have a damaging effect on me, which I continue to deal with.
I spoke with one woman months ago about her marriage of 20+ years to a man with (likely) Narcisistic Personality Disorder. She described him, saying, “there will always be this dark blemish on my soul from him.” I feel that those who have experienced this, either in themselves or a loved one, though hurt, have such a gift for the world if only they can express the experience… It gives insight into corners of the psyche that others can only dream of.
The other half of my pensive quietude has been quite the opposite of the above: the burgeoning of a very lovely new relationship. So, much of the time I might otherwise spend thinking deep thoughts has lately been spent with her. This has been great, but now the scales of balance need a slight tilt toward the pensive and solitary end of things. Ahh balance, the sweet, elusive goal of so much of our lives. When the Buddhist speaks of the noble 8-fold path: right view, right intention, and so on, s/he would be more accurate to speak of balanced view, balanced intention. Sammā, the Pali word translated as ‘right’, truly means something more like ‘balanced’ or ‘in harmony’.
On the run home Orion made his way over the mountain on my left. The stars on these cold nights are stunningly bright, seemingly floating just out of reach from that hill-top there. And I reminisce on life – the similarly cold nights spent on the back of my old Fiero with my first love, the many starry nights spent next to a campfire with high-school friends, the years coming and going like footsteps on another chilly November night in Montana. It makes me smile. But I’m also ever so curious about where it’s all going. Where has fate led me?
I return to my breath. Smiling more, I let go of Orion and the past, allowing the mind to be filled with the beauty of the present. If there is such a thing as fate, then meditation is our path to loving it, dropping the struggle that seems so endemic to human life. Going with the flow, as strange and at times painful as it may be.
* Note: I personally had a pretty bad experience with a person (likely) with BPD; that’s definitely NOT to say that people with BPD or other PDs are bad or that I harbor any anger toward them. In fact I hope to be an advocate for them, strongly urging treatment, which can be enormously effective. The very sad fact, for both people with PDs and their loved ones, is that a basic part of the disorder is denial and projection (blaming/seeing their own faults in others). So I sometimes think of such people falling into two broad categories: 1) those dangerous to themselves and others and 2) those extraordinarly admirable people who have seen the disorder and are in treatment or have been treated.