Life is Hard

Obligatory joyful pet picture, Topaz in a tree.

Even for someone with almost everything (except true love) life can be hard from time to time. There is so much suffering in the world that I can do nothing about, and then there’s my own personal, ego-centric suffering. This or that didn’t go my way, this or that person doesn’t care about me the way I wish, this or that beloved has just died. Just this evening, I learned that one of my best high school friends died the first summer of Covid, a month after Michael died.

My old friend Wayne, who died of Covid in July 2020.

I hadn’t known him well for the past ten years or so. His beloved wife was radically opposed, I think, to our friendship, as she was to virtually every belief I held about reality, except the love of dogs–and Wayne. He was a great guy. We grew apart as our political differences fueled that awful cultural divide that plagues the country now as pestilentially as Covid 19. The last time we connected, jovially, on Facebook, was about a year before Covid arrived. I’d been thinking about him quite a lot this weekend when I cooked a batch of cheese grits, and served myself some leftovers with a lot of bacon. The last time we were really close was not long before the Colonel died, when Wayne and his wife visited at The Home, and we all wallowed in the endless bacon buffet at Sunday brunch. Grits and bacon, a Sunday brunch tradition for us for all the years my parents lived in The Home.

Cheese grits on the bottom, kale and garlic, a fried egg, and lotso bacon.

Why they feed old people all this fatty awful food I have never comprehended, but us younger folks sure enjoyed it. I remember that last time we were all together, before they moved to Phoenix and then the Colonel died, they were in the buffet line in front of me, and I heard her make some unkind remarks about the old folks in front of us, and he laughed. He fell a little bit in my estimation then. He never used to be unkind. Anyway, they moved, and we corresponded a few times, but then Trump happened, and they were pretty rabid supporters of his, and so that was essentially that. I went on Facebook this evening to try to promote my upcoming Mindfulness course, but was so distressed by the divisive comments on a post I’d made a couple weeks ago from ‘friends’ I don’t even really know, and from some crassly commercial spam on our high school page, that I decided not to share my course information on that platform.

But I did look up Wayne, having him on my mind from the grits and bacon, and was stunned to see some posts from his wife referring to his death. I followed his timeline back to his obituary in July 2020, to learn that he died after a two-week struggle with Covid. That news has exacerbated my already prevalent sadness as I begin to face the grief of the many other losses sustained in ‘my little life’ during the first two years of the virus. None of them, til now, have been directly related to Covid, but they have all contributed to an uncomfortable sense of aloneness–some might call it loneliness, but I eschew that word and concept–that has only kept growing since Stellar’s departure last November. It is becoming harder and harder to care. I keep checking in to see if I’m experiencing equanimity, or indifference. Peace with impermanence, or simple despair.

Wayne introduced me to my first real high school boyfriend, his best friend Mike, who I think turned out to be gay, but oh well. I spoke some French, and one night Mike played me a song he couldn’t understand in which a phrase sounded to him like Shut the door. It was actually Je t’adore. We had a good long laugh about that. Mike gave me perfume and roses, and played the total romantic, but he couldn’t get into sex with a woman. Or at least with me. Wayne and I stayed friends for decades after Mike had disappeared from both our lives. Every time I flew back east he’d pick me up at the airport, and he was a rock during the time my mother was dying of PSP and I lived in Lorton, VA, for almost a year to help her through that.

There have been a lot of people around here that have died of Covid, but those few I was peripherally acquainted with were much older. Wayne is the first peer I’ve learned of to die from it. I’m not surprised, given their politics, but I was shocked in a different way to lose an old friend, and hold the regret that I hadn’t reached across the divide to him sooner, in time to share some love before he died. I messaged his wife my condolences, of course. And now I sit with this regretful loss, on top of all the other grief I’ve been holding with equanimity until recently.

Too much current sugar, in the bad morning habit again of sweets with coffee, in this case a homemade buttermilk doughnut.
Negative Covid test a few days after potential exposure at the grocery store. For what it’s worth, given the unreliability of these tests to accurately identify Omicron infection in a timely fashion.

For the past week, I’ve been exceptionally tired, and my blood oxygen has hovered around 88, going up or down a few points depending on when I measure it. Relevantly or not, a week ago I was standing in line for the pharmacy, when an unmasked man passed a couple of feet in front of me and sneezed a giant, congested, snotty sneeze just two feet in front of me. He did sneeze into his coat sleeve, but still, I could practically feel the blast on my masked face. By Friday I felt hot and had some feverishly delirious all-night dreams. I didn’t have a fever, and I tested negative with one of my free government home tests, but I’ve been sleeping til almost noon the past few days, and going through daylight hours in a bit of a stupor. Who knows, I probably don’t have Covid or I’d have worse symptoms, but I do have some mental anguish.

Grief, for all the beloveds I’ve lost over the past two years, and missing the physical comfort of my precious black cat and my dear old big dog; anger at the stupidity of the human race who is so fucking impatient to be done with Covid that they’ve set it up so we’ll never really be done with it (see BA.2 variant doubling weekly in the US); bristling at the nasty, self-righteous pontification of near-strangers on ‘my’ social media; pure physical weariness and pain from the longterm effects of ancient tick bites and too much current sugar; sorrow at the metamorphoses of some significant relationships into less than my preferences; and overall resignation to the entropy of life on this fragile planet.

A glowing moment of delight, lemon-ricotta pancakes, thanks to MFC sending me the recipe. Way more trouble than they’re worth, but delicious.

However, I’m grateful for the skills and perspective of the ancient wisdom of mindfulness, which enable me to get up out of bed every day no matter how late; to meditate myself into a place of calm abiding; and to be aware of, attentive to, and grateful for the ephemeral beauty, joy, connection, and love that flows along within this precious life. We are all grasping at straws–they can be straws of loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, gratitude, and equanimity, or they can be straws of rage, hatred, envy, greed, and aggression: the choice is ours to make.

I’ll choose the path of love and kindness any day, no matter how challenging. “On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree.” ― W. S. Merwin

7 thoughts on “Life is Hard

  1. Rita, thanks for so eloquently expressing the frustration and challenges of living in the world in a mindful way. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but it gives some comfort to know that there are other like-minded and like-souled persons also struggling with what seems like uncaring and unaware fellow human beings.

    • Thank you, Sandra. I think it’s fine to take comfort where we can when it’s a healthy source, and the experience of recognizing a community of like-minded souls with similar struggles is very healthy. It’s a challenging time to navigate with all the discord, and now the threat of another world war, on top of the divisive politics around Covid. I cling to my like-minded friends and the larger mindfulness community. OK, cling isn’t the healthiest word, but I do rely on the sense of support.

      You might be interested in exploring the Mindful Life Network a free online platform where mindful people share intentions, struggles, and joys. There are specific communities within the MLN, including courses in mindful living, mindfulness in recovery, and more. I became certified to teach mindfulness and meditation a year ago, and offer a quarterly mindfulness foundations course through the Mindful Life Program which hosts the network. I am hesitant to promote it outright on my blog, but have linked to it a couple of times. In the course, we develop skills and tools around the four key components of mindfulness: attention, values, wisdom, and an open heart. Feel free to email me if you or someone you know might be interested in learning more, or we could have a phone chat about it if you send me your number.

      Rita Clagett Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Mirador Eco-Retreat

      “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” ~ William James

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    • Thank you, Pamela 😍

      Rita Clagett Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Mirador Eco-Retreat

      “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” ~ William James

      >

  2. Awwww, Rita, shit. What a miserable time you have been having. Hang in there, Girl–pretty soon you will be able to see the good stuff again. Did you know that they (ASPCA etc.) are organizing shipments of dogs and other pets from the south, which has too many in their shelters, to the north, e.g. Pennsylvania, where they have a shortage of adoptable dogs? They are moving hundreds.They go like hotcakes there. Did you know that there is a wonderful, handsome Black veterinarian in San Diego who makes it his business to treat the pets of the homeless?… I got your call, will email sometime soon. Dave had ten teeth pulled yesterday, and I got to watch the whole enterprise. The dentist and crew are wonderful, Dave is so brave (and okay), and I have a gory picture of his gaping gums without teeth. Cool! When you are braver I will send it to you, ha ha. F…ing war in Ukraine doesn’t help, but a guarantee you you are not alone in horror of the bad shit in this world. Sending love!

    • You are dear to send so much comfort! I’m glad Dave is doing ok, what a ghastly procedure, poor guy! Yeah, don’t send that picture maybe ever 😂 I didn’t know about the wonderful vet, he sounds perfectly lovely. Maybe he wants to be my true love! I am aware that there is often pet rehoming from one region to another. Did I tell you in my message that you had puppies in my dream, is that why you mentioned the pets? I’m always able to see the good stuff even when the shadows get so dark, but thanks for the encouragement. Already feeling better after having several opportunities to be a good friend to others today and yesterday. Give me a call when your caretaker load lightens enough ♥️

      Rita Clagett Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Mirador Eco-Retreat

      “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” ~ William James

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