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Lions Roar : July 2009
61 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2009 with our help, she found an apartment and didn’t change her mind. Over the month before the move, i packed her books, helped her get rid of things, and carried boxes over to her new apartment in the broiling august heat. She fired me a week before the move. She accused me of steal- ing her will and threatened to call the police. She said she didn’t trust me, that i was mad with power. My emotions during this bizarre exchange were curious—i felt my adrenaline pumping, of course, but i also felt a cold rage, almost an exhilaration. Hooray! free at last! Somehow, though, i had to orchestrate the move without Julia knowing of my involvement. i called the ex-lover to see if she could talk some sense into her. She remarked that her life had been subsumed by Julia’s when they were together. We shared the experience of being the caretakers/en- ablers in an abusive relationship with the same person. Julia was who she has always been, only now dementia had unfettered her. eventually, Julia asked for my help because she couldn’t manage the move by herself. life pretended to go on. She forgot she was angry with me and that i might be angry with her. night flight of dread & delight A painting by Skunder boghossian of owls and demons flying through the Ethiopian night. every morning i awoke in a foul mood and saw everything through a mesh of anger. if i hurried fast enough, the anger faded. i wanted my mind to be different; i wanted to just be in the world and be happy about that. faintly, through my anger, i heard a beautiful day calling me. i could see it, but it was as though i were autistic. i knew it was pretty, but i didn’t feel it. i tried to explain Julia’s taxes to her. She was mad at me for her loss of comprehension. i said nothing while she shouted. i left, my legs shaking with anger. i had panic attacks whenever i approached her apartment. i pant- ed; i couldn’t get enough air. One day, after being blasted once again for neglecting her, i thought i heard a car door slam in my driveway. i thought it might be her. My physical reaction was sheer terror. i could have made a horror movie out of this: Here cometh the embodiment of all my guilt and worst fears about my fu- ture. Here cometh my own rage, my own self-accusations. Here cometh a situation that is always on the verge of spinning out of control. no wonder old women are monsters in fairy tales. no wonder children are trapped by them. We cannot run away be- cause we cannot in good conscience abandon our parents. even if we do run away, they pursue us, because no matter what we do, it is not enough. i wondered if meditation might release me from the clutches of my own mind. i signed up for a weekend meditation retreat. the first thing i discovered was the startling depth of my self- hatred. during those two days of sitting and walking, sitting and walking, i glimpsed a bit of light on the far side of the enormous room of my mind, and then i pulled myself back because i need- ed to hang on to my thoughts, lest my true self come screaming out of the darkness. i was sure the other meditators in the room were staring at me and finding me lacking. the most valuable lesson from that first long weekend was one of forgiveness; no matter how many times my thoughts car- ried me away, no matter how many times i failed, i could always return to the breath and begin again. there was only this mo- ment, with its limitless possibilities. Maybe the value of my experience with Julia would come from working through it. this was a complicated love, a love born of necessity. How could i survive that love? two Women, disrobing A series of photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, from his “Animal locomotion” studies. A naked woman approaches another woman who is clothed in a grecian robe. The first woman unwraps the robe from around the body of the second. i was caught on the horns of compassion and rage. i saw Jack Kornfield’s A Path with heart on a bookstore shelf and wanted nothing to do with it. compassion was my problem. look what it had gotten me into. Why would i want to practice it anymore? i didn’t understand what compassion was.