I have this joke with my therapist that I use the Buddha for evil, against myself. I know very little about actual Buddhism, but, like your average idiot, I like to try out life lessons and mindsets I don’t totally understand, like the ever popular, “be present.”
The Buddha (says wise ol’ me) is present. He is untainted by frustration or discomfort, and he truly enjoys every moment, regardless of any shit storm raining down.
When the Buddha wakes up with a pain in his foot, the foot that’s been so injured in the past and has finally been feeling good, he isn’t bothered. He’d breathe and say, “It’s fine, I am present, I accept all things, I flow.”
When the Buddha’s husband forgets that it was his turn to watch the baby this morning, the Buddha smiles, genuinely feeling no frustration. “I accept all things. I am present. I flow.”
When the Buddha is playing with said baby and bored out of his fucking mind, oh wait no they’re not even bored, because they’re the Buddha! There are rainbows coming out of their eyeballs as they sing, “I’m so happy, I love all of this, no part of this is hard!”
Who is this evil Buddha right?!!? I’ve concocted this ideal way to be, and problem #1 is it’s completely unrealistic. Problem #2, is this even desirable? Is this really something I should be striving for? Would it really be better if I felt no anger, no sadness, no pain?
Does being present mean I don’t get to have emotions? No preferences? Is it one or the other – presence or preferences?
What could it look like for me to be present and have preferences? To be present and be emotional?
When my foot hurts (no, not the foot!) I am so sad I could crumple. But perhaps crumpling for a moment would be presence, because what’s going on in the present is my foot is hurting. To not be present would be to ignore it, to run through it. To be present here is to feel and acknowledge my sadness and worry. I can wish it were different, and I can be smart – take a few days off, try out some Youtube yoga, and not project another disastrous three year injury.
When my husband forgets it’s his turn to watch the baby, I want to scream and light my house on fire. I think, if he can’t remember our agreements, then it’s official – I’m worthless and no one respects or cares about me. Maybe it’s okay that I feel mad because the situation objectively does suck. And also, maybe my anger doesn’t need to be so pointedly directed at him. Maybe I can remember that he’s trying his best, and trust that he’ll make it up to me later. I can wish things were different, and I can try to make the best of the time I’ve got. And what I’ve got is….
Time with a baby. I’m going to say this publicly – it can be boring. Yes, even when you love your child they can be boring. There’s a reason adults don’t choose to spend their spare time the same way babies do – we have different interests! My daughter is one, and she spends most of her time pulling things out of baskets and trying to get her foot in her mouth. So the fact that I’d rather be doing anything else while I’m on baby duty is just fine. I can even (gasp!) put on a podcast or TV show while we play. I can be present with my baby and also be doing something that I like.
God is a woman right? So let me be that woman and rewrite the Buddhist texts that I never even understood in the first place. Presence, Preferences, Powerful Emotions: You Too Can Have It All.