Saturday, June 19, 2010

"who died and left you in charge?"

Yesterday, the nurse who insisted I go to the hospital emergency room (now!) made a nice observation. After she had done her routine blood test and was considering my pulse rate (which was through the roof), she said evenly, "Sometimes you are your own worst enemy."

And as I thought it over, I realized she was right. I was not brought up to think that being hurt or having an ailment was something I might complain about. True, I might have to get it fixed, but when regarding what needed fixing, I did my best to stand at a distance, assessing and addressing the issue together with those who might likewise be considering what to do and how to do it. This stance formed a kind of camouflage for those doing the repair work ... if I seemed so even-tempered, it must not be that bad. But sometimes it was that bad ... or worse.

Besides my upbringing -- a bit of stiff-upper-lip or you-don't-deserve-it or something like that -- there was also, on my part, a desire to assert control of the ailment that was, in fact, in control: I could remain cool, calm and collected and place the ailment at some distance from myself.

It's ludicrous when you write it down, but I also don't think it's uncommon ... holding things at a safe distance when all the time they are in your face, plain and simple. Being in control is the habit, but what's wrong with not being in control -- what's the matter with things as they are, plain and simple?

The whole situation also made me wonder why it should be necessary to use up 40 years on something called Zen practice when there was Ann, the nurse, acting as a straightforward and no-bones-about-it teacher: "Sometimes you are your own worst enemy." Plain as salt ... ain't it the truth? What would convince me that there was some other approach -- something other than daily events -- that could somehow out-teach, out-inform, out-clarify what was in front of my nose?

Well, the short answer is, I love Hollywood ... the flash and glitter, the stunning scenes, the wise, wise wisdoms of something I'm magnetized by ... something that will get my attention and awe and determination. And who knows: Without Zen practice, perhaps my ears would have remained deaf to Ann's good teaching.

I'm not criticizing. Just noticing. All that time fussing about one kind of brass ring or another, when all the time ... well, I'm just sick. Or, sometimes I am my worst enemy. Or laughter is a delight. Or ... sunshine.

It all feels a bit as if the universe were smothering a guffaw: "Who died and left you in charge, nitwit?"

Well, no one died and even so, you are in charge. Not in control, perhaps, but in charge.


  1. I hear you,
    I suffer from the same kind of control issues.I think we all do to some extent. Couple it with additional conditioning(Military) in my case,parents whatever.
    Take care of yourself,

  2. Sorry to hear you are not well... what is the cause of this sudden high pulse rate?

  3. Anon -- The heart is not in synch with itself and as a result has to work harder in order to achieve some acceptable circulation. Such irregularities have the potential for heart attack, stroke or death.

    BD -- I'm not sure if a military background is really very different from any other. OK, so it's got uniforms and guns and a repeated sense of national commitment. It's tougher on the surface because there are many goals considered worthy and all of those goals whisper and slink around the one thing we'd all prefer not to do: Die. Maybe the military is tougher and more insistent because death and killing are the topic.

    But how different is this really from the longing to control any scenario -- work, relationships, bank accounts, etc.? I'm not sure quite what I am asking here, but it feels like the right question to me. :)

  4. Big G, Sir,

    Glad that when I visited your blog you are still noodling. Thank you.


  5. It's not when you boil it down I guess, but in the context of ignoring pain,warning signs etc. the military rams home the concept of suck it up and move on. Not exclusive I know there are lots of other professions that model themselves in this fashion Stubbornness can be a genetic trait as well that doesn't help, we all have conditioning to overcome. Either way be well.

  6. BTW ,Happy Father's Day to you,

  7. BD -- In support of your earlier, the guy I shared a pup tent with on basic training bivouac checked in to sick call one day. Later I was told he was sent to the hospital. As soon as I could I called the hospital. He had died of double pneumonia, a condition at least partly aggravated by the keen sense we all had of sticking with our buddies and graduating with our group. Twenty years old and dead of pneumonia ... it still sticks with me.

    Of the later point, thanks.