I open the text app on my phone and gingerly type out a message to a friend and fellow priest, “Do you have another priest you go to when you’re overwhelmed?” I wait for his reply, fingers clicking on the table, tap tap tap tap. My phone lights up with his reply. “No, I’ve pretty much lost all of my connections in that world.”
I sit back. That wasn’t the answer I had been looking for. “So you just drink?” I reply, dripping with sarcasm.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, tired and cynical, like a biting wind that pushes through even the densest of winter clothing. I sit with the wisdom I have garnered over years of experience and interaction in a world of violence and the world of priestly non-violence. I look at my inbox as it spills over with emails and wonder how I will ever give all that these people need of me.
I lie down at night and open my study materials: a sutra, a science text and a text by famed teacher Chogyam Trungpa. I look at them, study the covers, turn them over and over in my hands and put them down with a sigh. I don’t feel like reading. Grabbing my mala, I close my eyes and chew on the mantra that I repeat over and over in my head. This settles me and soon I am asleep.
I wake up and repeat a similar pattern between my daughter needing my guidance and me trying to do the best that I can with her even though I am riddled with doubts on whether or not I am doing a good enough job. I try and sit within a few brief moments with her, holding her tight in my arms, “I love you, sweetie.” She leans her head back into me and looks up, “I love you, Daddy.”
I break open my Chromebook and stare at the screen, its blank page blinking at me, waiting for me to write words that are just not there. I start to click away, read several sentences and delete them. Staring again at a blinking screen, I close the computer and place it on the shelf, safely out of reach of toddler hands.
I grab my little bundle of energy and we load ourselves into the car and drive to the local forested park making our way down the trails. We are great explorers searching for snakes and frogs and neat looking spiders. Her excited voice rings out, “Look daddy, look!” We kneel down and watch as giant black ants walk in and out of a fallen tree.
“You take a picture?” she asks.
Rat a tat tat tat tat..the echo of a woodpecker chases us through the trees and Brynn squeals with delight, “Daddy, it’s a woodpecker!” We get down low and stalk. Slowly creeping through pine and brush until we come closer to the noise. I point up and Brynn stares in wonder at the Pileated woodpecker, his large majestic red beak hammering at lightening speed.
These moments fill my daughter with a wonder that is palpable and her eyes are bright, wide and clear. We look at each other, smile and I breathe in and out and share this moment of happiness with her. She eventually tires out so I place her up on my shoulders and we march out of the deep dark, “Jungle.” By the time we are home, her head is bobbing up and down in her seat as she fights to stay awake. “Daddy, we get chicken, fries, and levonane?”
I swing through the drive thru and get her a treat. Arriving home, we sit on the back porch and watch the flowers dance in the wind. I listen to her chewing, which to most adults, this would be gross but because she is mine and so little, I find it ridiculously charming. So I sit, and I listen, and she chews.
It’s nap time now and I lay her down in her bed, kiss her forehead, and say, “Get some sleep Sugarbear.” I make my way back out to the living-room once more, open my Chromebook and I sit. I don’t look at the screen this time. I don’t think about my cynicism at the moment. I look out the window and catch the flowers dancing in the wind again and I smile.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s words pop up in my head, “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”
There is no need to fight the words, no need to create the moment. They are there and it already exists. All I need to do is be willing to be in it. There is no shortage of happiness that can be found when I stop looking outwards and instead look right where I am.
I look back down at the screen finally, and I begin…