Monday, August 6, 2012

You Call That a Good Day?

"Every day's a good day."  I've written about this Zen saying before, and still haven't got there.  Yesterday, for instance, I had pain in eight places, and a London pea-soup fog of a mind, and insomnia.  And missed a terrific sermon at church, I hear, because I couldn't get my head clear enough to get dressed.  But there was one good thing about yesterday:  it moved on.  Things change, and that is sometimes a blessing.

This is probably the dead-on koan for anyone with bipolar disorder.  And it would apply as well to anyone who is handicapped by chronic illness and/or pain.  A day with pain a good day?  Please.  I find myself having to think about this a lot.  There must be something I don't get.

I tie it to the famous verse on the seasons by Wumen that you may have seen recently on my facebook page, The Dalai Grandma. Here is my own (constantly changing) rendition:
In spring, flowers; in autumn, the moon.
In summer, breezes; in winter, snow.
If idle things do not hang in your mind,
every season is a good season.
 It's that third line that is tricky, and is translated various ways.  As I get it, it refers to being stuck hard on your preferences, ideas, plans, bucket list - all those things in our minds that are not the present moment, that are not the current reality.

We are funny about our preferences.  For one man I knew, liking butter pecan ice cream was not merely a preference; it was him, part of his identity, a thing to know about him.  For another woman who felt validated when other people needed her, being active and useful was not a preference or a pleasure, but a religion. She had to be useful. It's who she was; so slowing down with age was unthinkable, a failure - wrong.  There are many people in America these days, the Baby Boomers who are now entering old age, who are committed to the delusion that youth can be maintained forever; you just have to exercise harder and not eat anything good.

Good days and bad days.  The verse and the koan make me question how unhappy I get when I feel like I did yesterday.  I was probably having a flare-up of fibromyalgia, for which no cure is known, due to major weather systems moving around.  And I may suffer extra mentally with these because I have a bipolar mind.  What is good about being in pain and depressed?

One answer I've come up with is that illness can teach us.  For instance, I know people who are disabled by mood disorders or pain or chronic fatigue, and I do not think they can just up and fix themselves if they'd only try.  I understand how disabling these things are, and how invisible.  There's that.  And, as I said starting out, it makes me appreciate the constant change of carbon-based life, which sometimes goes in directions I don't like.  Yes, good luck can go bad. On the other hand, bad luck can change, too, and some days it does.

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