In San Francisco, our Dog days of summer only recently arrived. This month, September. That’s how we roll here. Even though we expect our warmest weather in September and October, it’s been unusually humid and ridiculously hot. San Franciscans melt and die in this weather. Maybe it’s just Harvey or Irma reminding us what he or she could have done here too. Or will do. Next time. Or next earthquake. Mexico had a huge earthquake of 8.1 last week. It barely registered on our national consciousness’s richter scale. True, we had a lot going on with Harvey, then Irma, but lots of people were killed in Mexico and Mexican President Pena Nieto still took the time to offer us condolences AND aid for Harvey’s victims. Trump? Didn’t even send verbal condolences to the people of Mexico. Ok, he did. A week late. What kind of country do we live in?? (OK, yes, that was a sadly rhetorical question).
My friend Lisa says that when there are too many Oy veys happening at the same time, she and her friend Marlene just say Oyster Bay. I’ve picked up the habit myself. Oyster Bay is the plural — the very big plural — of Oy Vey. The term was originally an online auto-correct attempt, since auto-correct didn’t recognize Yiddish. Oy Vey became Oyster Bay. It stuck because it’s funny, and easy to visualize an entire bay filled with Oys. When there are so many. Like now.
According to the dictionary, Dog days of summer are supposed to bring with them states of lethargy, inactivity, and indolence. But now there’s no time for down time. We take down time at our own risk… of feeling disconnected, self-absorbed, perhaps even guilty. Even if we take down time, it’s hard to feel we’ve benefitted. Most of us, and I include myself here, are so A.D.D. it’s hard to settle down to an afternoon or morning of reading a book, or of putting our focus in any one place. One place? Why not two or three, or ten!? I”m particularly good at cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, making lists, watching you tube videos of Trevor Noah or Seth Myers, and on another window, checking Facebook or my inbox, all at the same time. Sometimes I can add in a phone call as well (though I prefer not to).
In this way, I think I avoid feeling under-productive, or, I don’t know, lonely. By the time I get ready for bed, I’m so exhausted I barely have the energy to read one page in my library book, (which makes me tense because it’ll be due back soon). I’ll also barely have the energy to notice my warmed up microwave boyfriend isn’t a real boyfriend. At least I don’t have to conjure up a Sorry, headache, honey. But still, I hate having to generate all my own heat; thank goodness for cloth, flax seeds, my basic sewing skills, and a microwave oven. When I get up to pee at night, I stick him back in for a quick warm-up. The silver lining is I won’t have to listen to him snore. I’m grateful I have the capacity to see silver linings.
School is back in session. I know this because I live down the street from the main campus of City College and the cars are like, kah-razy, which makes everyone more tense, with all the car engines and young students roaring up the street, probably late for class and anxious they won’t find parking. Which, likely as not, they won’t.
I dislike the energy of the whole thing. At the same time, I feel for the students, and actually while I’m at it, I feel for all the drivers in San Francisco. The streets are way too crowded at all times (even more so at rush hour) and the parking… well, let’s just say, I’m sure people have had their days ruined trying to find it. Public transportation is half way decent, but for a variety of reasons, it doesn’t work for everyone. I’m not casting blame here. There’s just SO many of us, and… not great urban planning.
Also, we’re all tensed up over Harvey and Irma stories of devastation, major wildfires in the West, and the terrifying dysfunctional dialogue between our so-called leader and the so-called leader of North Korea. Also, DACA — the Dreamers — might be saved, but that seems to be based on the whim of our very unstable leader, and even if it is saved — which it definitely should be — what about the thousands of other immigrants being deported? In the midst of all our western woes, half way around the world, why is our beloved Aung San Suu Kyi not speaking up against genocide in her country? And the Earth’s temperature is climbing. Oyster Bay!!! You get me?
I know all that sounds like a lot, but I’m barely scratching the surface of Oyster Bay. So I ask myself, what kind of time is there to be lethargic, inactive, indolent?
Really, there is no time. But how much stress can a single human living in a fragmented society take? Take in? Put up with? Contribute to? Attempt to alleviate? Before she is utterly exhausted and no use to any one?
Ok. I’m being a little hyperbolic. But not much. Not really. It’s been a stressful couple of weeks. Outside and in. My coping skills are pretty good, and I’m pretty damn resilient and determined to give this one life I’ve gotten (as a gift or a learning experience? I’m not sure which, or why) my best shot. Still.
For now, I need to go find some lunch. Maybe I’m just hungry. Maybe I just need a nap. Maybe it’s the new normal to feel this bonkers. I guess I’m just trying to say, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and tense, you’re not alone. I don’t think it’s just the two of us either. We’re not crazy; there’s a ginormous Oyster Bay out there.
Tara Brach said we could all use some radical self-compassion. I agree. So, I think I’ll leave you with her really excellent dharma talk on that. My small gift to you for today. Rumi wrote the great poem, The Guest House, sharing his wisdom. Everyone loves this poem; it is amazing, deep, and true. But try to do it without TV, alcohol, or drugs? I’d like to see it. Well, I would like to see it. Tara teaches us how to do it.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Tara’s talk on Radical Compassion — Part 1. Hope you enjoy!