I am rooted, but still I scratch the sky.

by Shannon

source: wikimedia commons

It rained today. It rained last night, too, complete with thunder and a hyperventilating golden retriever hiding in my hamper and keeping me awake all night. I don’t mind rainy days; actually, this kind of weather invokes more sensory memory than any other type, with the possible exception of hot, slightly humid, jasmine-saturated summer nights. Wilkes-Barre isn’t known for much, but it is something of a bastion for lovers of inclement weather. I never knew more gray and wet days than when I lived there. I learned to love them. Now, I feel the wet air and I begin to taste green tea before it even occurs to me to prepare some.

Anyway, I was home to enjoy the weather, mostly thanks my life-wasting temp assignment, during which I earned about ten hours a week at most doing menial filing that anybody could have done on their own just as quickly as I did it. It took them a long time to admit they didn’t need me, but I am finally free–and without a paycheck. The worst part of this whole larger problem (ie, no steady employment) is that unless I abandon hope and return to retail or learn to bartend or something, the instability is likely to continue interminably. This theory is supported not only by my experience, but also by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

How encouraging.

I am seriously considering learning to tend bar or something, because at the very least I will soon need a second job if I ever have any hope of living on my own, even if it means I’ll be working too much to ever enjoy it. This is not a fact that I am happy about at all. I remember how miserable and wretched a person I became when I worked retail every day. I spent a year of my life in such conditions that six straight hours of sleep was a luxury. I was cynical and bitter and not myself at all. Having regular, guaranteed weekends and actual holidays–and health insurance–is something that I am still not completely used to. I made a little bit of peace with this, however, when I meditated today. It’s not okay, and I still kind of dread it, but sometimes you have to shore up and do what you must.

Speaking of meditation, I have more or less been maintaining a personal vow to do yoga every day, and I have also been reading quite a bit about Buddhism and meditation. In the general theme of unpleasant realizations that has colored my life lately, I have begun noticing in myself some areas in which I need desperate improvement. Not all of them are easy to articulate, but among my basic self-improvement goals are increased focus, mental discipline, critical and observant thinking, physical health, and the ability to interact honestly and fully with myself and the things around me. I am too distracted, too escapist, and lack personal discipline. I have been thinking that learning from Buddhism may assist me in improving myself. I certainly agree with a lot of the tenets on my own and have for a long time, so it is not a huge philosophical leap for me.

One of my biggest struggles continues to be meditation. You never realize how easily distracted, how active your mind really is until you attempt to sit perfectly still and focus on a single mundane process, phrase or image for any length of time. I am still terrible at it, but today I tried a different strategy and invented an off the cuff mantra and accompanying image for myself and what, in that session, I wanted to achieve. When I used to meditate in high school and in the college dorms, I only used breathing, but evidently now I need much more than that. I can’t stop myself from noticing everything, from daydreaming about what I am reading or writing, from asking myself how long I’ve been there.

I intend to learn Vipassana eventually, but my critical lack of mental discipline makes this a goal that will probably be a long time in coming to fruition. But, baby steps. Today I decided that I needed to work just on my focus and my posture, which until now have both been colossal failures. So, trying a different approach, I crossed my legs indian style (no lotus pose for me! My knees are not flexible enough, yet) and imagined myself as a sequoia, with my legs and tailbone extending like seeking fingers into the earth, and the column of my spine reaching straight up. On each inhalation and exhalation, I said to myself, “I am rooted, but still I scratch the sky.” It ended up working very well, both on a personal level and a physical one. Trees are a wonderful image for sitting still and maintaining correct posture.

I had thought that I was going to the gym today with my parents, but this was evidently not in the cards, despite it being my father’s idea. The Phillies are on, and this apparently trumps everything. (This is crap, actually, since it will doubtless be playing on one of the many televisions in front of the cardio machines at Planet Fitness.) I could have pressed the issue, but to be honest I didn’t really feel up to it. I had only recently gotten over a headache when they got home, and forcing myself to run would likely have brought it back.

Anyway, by the time I update next, hopefully I will have a long term, full time work assignment, and will have visited the doctor’s office, as I have been procrastinating for months.