Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Separation is stress – Duh!

On Monday I took my partner of the last 27 months to the airport and said goodbye. His visa was about to expire and there was no way an American employer was going to hire him in this economy when thousands of American citizens are looking for work. I had really thought that I had found someone to spend the rest of my life with, to grow old with. And even if we had taken the drive over to Iowa and been married, in the end that would not have made a difference with yesterday’s outcome.

Silly me how I forgot about how all things are impermanent.

For weeks I was preparing myself for Monday’s eventual arrival. I wasn’t so much holding my emotions in check as I was actively observing them. Moments of anxiety were inevitable, but knowing right away their source eased their impact. What I was really preparing for was what I presumed would be my ultimate failure to control my emotions. I held this mental image that after I dropped him off at the airport, I would go home and cry away the rest of the day. After all, I had been through a similar situation in the past when I had also fallen in love with a man on a temporary visa, who also had to leave the country because he could not find a job because the economy at that time had also tanked.

But it didn’t happen that way this time. Yes, I feel sadness, but it’s not this heavy, weighty sadness as I had experienced in the past. No, I have not become indifferent, unfeeling. Rather, the emotion is quite rich and varied, definitely there to be experienced. What’s different this time, I think, is that while I am experiencing these emotions, I am also observing them.

There is no doubt that I deeply love and care for Benny; I always will. There is no question about this, nor is there any doubt within me about how Benny feels about me. It is as certain as I know my own heart. And I have the Buddha’s teachings to thank for this.

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means an expert in Buddhism, nor am I someone who practices the Dhamma as if my hair were on fire. There is hardly a time while driving that I don’t experience an outburst of anger because of some pigheaded driver in another vehicle; I drink and swear too much; I am horrible with money management; and I like sex way too much to even dare think about the eventual day when I may not be able to perform.

But I do practice.

Perhaps the most meaningful of all the suttas for me is the Bhaddekaratta Sutta (MN 131), which is translated under a variety of titles including Discourse on Living Happily in the Present Moment; The Discourse on the Ideal Lover of Solitude; and An Auspicious Day. I will quote a portion of the sutta from the former, as translated by Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.”

In the rest of the sutta, the Buddha explains that the past is done, it’s over. By dwelling on the past, commiserating over what has already happened, we distract ourselves from the present moment, which often leads to very unskillful actions yielding poor results. It is paramount, the Buddha instructed, that we focus our minds on the present moment, because it is out of the present moment that our futures arise. You want to ensure yourself a happy future? Then pay attention to what is going on right now. Want to undo some stupid things you’ve done in the past? Then pay attention to what you are doing right now.

There is no question that I would prefer that Benny would have been able to stay with me, or that I would be able to go with him; however, he is not Audrey Hepburn and I am not George Peppard in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But I haven’t lost him either.

This brings to mind a koan I learned from the movie “Samsara.” It goes like this: How can you ever prevent a drop of water from evaporating?

By giving it to the sea.


  1. What a tough story. I'm sorry you're having to experience this. I really feel like we've made a mess of things when people are forced to leave places because the date on some piece of paper says their time is up. You deserve better. Benny deserves better. We all deserve better.

    Yes, a lesson in impermanence, and maybe an opportunity for you in some way, but also another drop of sadness added to a world so in need of more people together who love each other.

  2. Thank you Nathan for you kind words of support. I welcome them. But I have to tease you when you say "You deserve better."

    How do you know what I deserve? How do you know my kamma? (Big wink)

  3. Ha! You got me there. Smiles :)