"We mistake the openness of our being--inherent wonder and surprise of each moment---for solid, irrefutable self. Because of this misunderstanding, we suffer." ~Pema Chodrin, "The Places That Scare You."
On New Year's Day, 2014, I awoke early with a clear sense of resolution and logged onto my computer with get-to-it-ness. I would work on my website. I had a determined deadline in mind to launch it by February. It was about time. I had only been working on it for months. Well, to my horror, I found that messy incoherent draft that I had been laboring over had been published online for weeks without my knowing. I checked the analytics and saw that I had page views. I was mortified. Who were those people who saw my rambling mess and hodge lodge of photos? After all, I still had template skateboards for sale on my shop page. I was embarrassed. I felt exposed. I felt vulnerable. I found myself cringe laughing as I read the unedited essay on my About page.
I needed to breathe. I logged off and made my way down to the kitchen to make myself a calming cup of green tea. In that moment, I wanted to call, Donna. She and I have been dear friends since we first met as college freshman in 1982. Donna is a savvy tech guru. She and her husband Joseph have built a business that is all about web identity and multiple platforms. The three of us have had many intense discussions regarding the inescapable nature of web identity. While I maintained how I cherished my privacy; Donna and Joseph prodded me with exasperation about putting 'it all out there.' "What privacy?" Joseph would say. "That's an illusion."
I wanted to call, Donna. I wanted to hear her pithy response when I told her how my messy website went live. I wanted to hear her full throated laugh, as she welcomed me to the 21st century. She jokingly called me a, "rock banger" when I railed on about not wanting to sync my entire world with my phone. (Of course, that was before I got the iPhone 5.) I wanted Donna to talk me off the ledge of cyber mortification. After all, she and Joseph have been living their lives openly on the internet for years. And when Donna was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago, that didn't change a thing. Donna and Joseph continue to live out every aspect of her T-Cell Lymphoma triumphs, hopes, disappointments and fears openly on Facebook, as well as Donna's blog Chemomakesmestrongher.com. At first, I was appalled by her posts to Facebook about her doctor's appointments and diagnosis. I couldn't relate to that kind of openness to strangers. Not that I thought she should hide, in that old school way of not talking about the big C. Conversely, I found it completely outside my comfort zone to present myself to all those peering eyes. This is a seemingly strange admission coming from me because I spent almost 20 years on stage. Nonetheless, performers get the difference.
I sat down to the kitchen table with my cup of tea. I felt Zeus's tail brush against my legs as he circled my chair. I had an imaginary conversation with Donna, instead. I searched for meaning inside my clumsy internet exposure. Donna was in the midst of her fifth cycle of chemotherapy called Methotrexate and Vincristine. It would be very intense. Via text from her hospital room on New Year's Eve, Joseph described the contents of the chemo bag as a very fine scotch. I called Donna later that morning on New Year's Day. I told her to stay strong and to keep working hard on getting better. I asked her what she was watching on TV; after a pause, she said SVU. I told her that I loved her. She said she loved me too. That was enough. Our call ended.
So, now that this website and blog is up, I will go about fixing it on the fly. Don't know exactly what this blog will be about yet. I make art, yes. My husband, Richard sculpts salvaged steel. Still, I recognize already how this open practice of writing daily is about far more than what we make and what we sell. It's the mindful sharing of who we are.
In this moment, I understand this lesson as one that corresponds with the Buddhist practice of "equanimity."
Pema Chodrin describes, training in equanimity as, "learning to open the door to all, welcoming all beings, inviting life to come visit. of course, as certain guests arrive, we'll feel fear and aversion. We allow ourselves to open the door just a crack if that's all we can presently do, and we allow ourselves to shut the door when necessary. Cultivating equanimity is a work in progress. We aspire to spend our lives training in the loving-kindness, health, poverty, wealth, sorrow, and joy. We welcome and get to know them all" (p. 70, 2002).