Sunday, April 9, 2017

Refuge vows


It was my birthday a few days ago. I was not looking forward to it, if anything I was quite depressed about it. Funny how some birthdays mean nothing, some are happy events and some are dreadful. This was in the last category. My parents died in their 70s, neither saw their 79th birthday. I am now 10 years from that date with posterity, feeling my mortality in a big way. I know it's not rational, but it takes little excuse to get depressed. And it's not something one wants to talk about because everybody piles on with how silly you're being. Doesn't help, only makes it worse: not only am I depressed but I am also silly for being depressed.

Just so you know I am not depressed now, so I am not looking for advice.

A couple of days before my birthday I had a really bad dream. Trapped in a small fenced yard with someone shooting a gun at me. The bullets were really spots of grey-coloured liquid but I knew they were poison and the deadly effect would kick in very soon. Needless to say, I woke up breathless and stressed out. Went to the bathroom, got something to eat, had a drink of water and went back to bed trying not to think about it. Instead, I thought about all the things I'd ever failed at in life, all the things I had abandoned--you know--all the negative thoughts that come to you in the middle of the night when you're a little stressed out.

So one of those abandoned things was having taken buddhist refuge vows years ago and then promptly abandoned them. Supposedly lifelong vows, abandoned for something more interesting I guess. I tried to remember what they were. I spent a few minutes on that distraction and did manage to remember them. Thought about what they meant. It occurred to me that they weren't gone for good, I could always go back to them, if I so desired. That thought was actually comforting and shortly I was back to sleep again.

Next day I was supposed to go up the mountain to dogsit overnight. I thought I would just spend the time hanging out with the dogs and reading, so I looked through my books for something I haven't read in a while and might like to read again. In honour of the abandoned vows I chose a book about Buddhism that I remembered having enjoyed the first time but couldn't for the life of me remember the content. It was Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, by Stephen Batchelor. Turned out to be a very good choice. So good in fact that it snapped me right out of the depression within the first couple of chapters.

In the evening the dogs and I sat out on the deck in the dark. One of them had a bone, the other just watched and listened. I tried to listen too, I don't know what she was listening to because I couldn't hear it, just silence. I felt alive.

The next day was my birthday and I went to an art show with a couple of friends and then to a local restaurant for a burger; April is Burger Wars month so a lot of restaurants are featuring hamburgers in a competition and a portion of the cost is donated to a children's charity. I think. Then we went to a pub for chocolate cake and wine.

I've been avoiding my writing group because the depression has stopped me cold. But the morning after my birthday one of the writing group members texted me to say she'd be walking by my house to go to the meeting and she'd knock on my door. I texted I hadn't written anything and she replied she'd knock anyways, I could come and critique. So I scrambled out of my PJs and brushed my teeth and was ready at the door with my jacket when she knocked. The sun came out and it was the warmest day we've had since last fall, and Environment Canada says we were the warmest place in the whole country that day!

Finally, winter is over. Even if it snows again, it's over.


5 comments:

Rain Trueax said...

Glad you found your way through the dark. I find nights are my time to think of all my failures. It's difficult when there's nothing you can do about it but the thoughts flood in. I guess the answer is when the dark voice starts, counter with a positive event for each seeming failure.

Wisewebwoman said...

The dark winter of the soul. My companion also though as I age I don't share it as readily due to unhelpful comments, more deeply felt now. So I suffer alone.

I wish you lived closer Annie.

Happy birthday. I have some years on you so I'll carry the lamp. 🎂😀🎶

XO
WWW

Annie said...

Rain, I suppose so, but easier said than done I think! Now I just look at the clock and wait for morning...

Annie said...

WWW, I hear you. These days I have so few readers that I feel a little safer talking about it, but if I ever gain a wide audience I'll be keeping mum. Nothing like the unsolicited advice. Not that I'm not above giving some myself, but being on the receiving end is not easy (now there's a negative sentence for you!).

joared said...

What works for one doesn't always apply for another, so I guess we each have to find our own way when dark thoughts intrude. At best we can share what works for us as so many highly individual factors come into play I think. Glad you've emerged back into the light.