Today I start with frustration. It’s not the topic I want to write about. I am dead-tired of self-introspective, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing writing, yet here I am today, finding my self starting with my own self-indulgent expression of dissatisfaction.
Yesterday at therapy my (very awesome) therapist and I were talking about summer break. About how it’s easy for the kids, harder for the parents. The disruption of daily schedules. The breaking in of voices – pitching into the higher ranges as my kids get older, the self-centered expression of teen-hood outranking the earlier experiences of differentiation by leaps and bounds.
But we got to the point in our conversation where we both agreed that time off was a good thing. That maybe we all deserved a break. A three-month vacation.
“Yeah.” I said. “I’d like a vacation from bipolar disorder.”
She laughed with me, and said, “Yeah, maybe that would make the rest of the year easier.”
To which I said, “Maybe. And maybe not.” Would it be easier to go back to this daily struggle after experiencing life without it? Would it be worth it to live for three months on even seas, and the rest on choppy waters?
My frustration comes in moments, sneaking up on me, of envy. Of watching people in the same work I was in when I was manic achieving at their full potential. And I get mad at the disorder that allowed both the energy to strive for my own expression, and the tendency to diverge from it. Projects half completed – book proposals written, and never published because of my incessant searching for the “Next Thing”.
And now, frustration at the side-effect of the mood stabilizers that allow me to live in relative peace and harmony with my daily responsibilities.
Except when desire arises, the desire to create, the desire to express, the desire to teach like I used to teach, and I find myself shackled to the need to maintain this steady ship that is my now more orderly, more ordinary, more stable life.
But to blame it all on the medication is unfair. The feeling of shackles that arises from time to time, yes. But my inability to offer at my fullest potential, what is that?
What is my fullest potential, the potential I am falling short of?
Waves of mania and depression caused a dual life. A life partially hidden, partially revealed.
It was not out of pride that I hid those moments of weakness, but out of self-defense. Being that vulnerable is not safe in a world that expects the world of you.
So I abdicated the role of teacher. Moved from the front of the room to the back, and slowly, quietly, exited the building altogether.
It’s not that I think spiritual teachers need to be perfect. Indeed, it is perhaps more important that they are not. And perhaps it is time for the teachers amongst us to unveil the basic humanity, the insecurities and failings that are the underpinnings of how we learn to teach.
According to his grandson, Arun Gandhi, Mohandas K. Gandhi asked repeatedly not to be called Mahatma, a word that basically means saint.
To paraphrase, he said that if he were called a saint, others would feel that being as he was and doing as he did would seem too out of reach.
So, perhaps in sharing my underbelly, perhaps in continuing to write, and to teach, in all my gore and gloriousness, in my moments of triumph and defeat, is actually offering myself at my full potential.
Indeed, if it is what I have to offer, it must be. If I were capable of offering more, I would offer more.
I have never been one for hero-worship. I kill the Buddha. Even in my most manic moments, I have never desired a pedestal. Perhaps a soapbox, but never a dias, never a throne, never a too-trusting and self-abdicating bow of the head at the flow of words that rush from my mouth or fingertips.
Engage with me. Here in the dirt of human experience, among the rough hard rocks and the fleeting, failing flesh of it all, I hope you can find it in you to allow for my wounds.
As a teacher, if I am such a thing, I request that you teach me. In vulnerability and strength, show me not only your best, but bring your worst. Teach me your inner story, share your moments of triumph and defeat, and your moments of glory.
Together we will learn what it is to be human. We will learn what it is to be holy and whole. We will learn to be perfectly imperfect, and imperfectly perfect.
Rumi says, “Out beyond our ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
That field awaits us. The one where there is no teacher and student, or were everyone is both. Where there is no expectation of perfection as a prerequisite for wisdom.
There is no path. That field is only a thought away. In fact, it is here, now.