17 February 2013

Idiot Compassion, Orgies and Self-Imposed Writer's Block (and a Little Perspective)

I need to write. But it's nights like tonight that I sit and struggle with exactly what I want to say and how to say it. I know I want - no, need - to write something, but it feels overwhelming and complicated, something I don't know how to do - like those days that you sit at work and wonder "hmmm, when will they all realize I have NO IDEA what I'm doing?"

Part of me wants to write poems, but I need to scrawl those messily by hand - my brain won't communicate poetry to a keyboard. But it's Nepal and the power is off and as romantic as writing by candlelight sounds it isn't really possible when your eyes are as terrible as mine. That leaves me with the laptop and either this journalish 'personal essay' stuff or fiction, and I will be honest: fiction scares me.

I have a few ideas for stories brewing but they involve themes that are still too raw and so I am avoiding them, thinking to myself "oh, that? Yep. I'll write that later." as I slink away and hide and read jezebel instead. I know that the best thing to do would be to plunge my hands in up to the elbows and get messy and haunted with my particular muse, but I have to work in the morning and I have no whiskey in the house (oh, look at me being all tortured and writerly). It's also just easier just to let myself slack and get away with avoiding the big, scary work.

So instead I will give you a piece about my week that will start wanky and Holden Caulfield-y (or Lena Dunham-y, see link above) but get progressively more self-aware, I promise.

It has been a bizarre week. Last weekend I found out that two of my ostensibly "straight" exes are...erm, 'romantically involved' in a 'group setting' on the regular. This news was obviously unsettling, and a bit upsetting - and also kind of hilarious. (I'm pretty sure neither of them read this, but if they do - hi guys!) Now, should I be relieved or offended if they don't ask me to join them? Just kidding. (Am I? Mostly...)

After a weekend filled with spontaneous laughing jags, on Monday I had to perform a "friends-off" and tell a particularly toxic pal in Kathmandu that I could no longer be in their life. It felt shitty to abandon someone who is obviously in need of mental health help, but allowing their abusive behaviour to go unchallenged was not doing them any favours. In this case, I really like the concept of idiot compassion that has been popularized by Pema Chodron. In her words it is defined as "the general tendency to give people what they want because you can't bear to see them suffering. Basically, you're not giving them what they need. You're trying to get away from your feeling of 'I can't bear to see them suffering.' In other words, you're doing it for yourself. You're not really doing it for them."

Had I stayed friends with my buddy after they repeatedly treated me badly (and swore it would never happen again each time) I wouldn't have been helping them, I would have just been enabling them - and that isn't compassion. It's actually cowardly and selfish on my end. Avoiding idiot compassion means that I can be a compassionate Buddhist (or Buddh-ish, depending on the day) without being a fucking doormat. But that doesn't mean it is easy, and I had to be careful that I was reacting in a calm and measured way and not out of spite or anger. I'm proud of how I handled the situation.

To top off the week, I found out that an old flame has moved on - a fact that came to light in a weird, roundabout way. I wasn't at all shocked, and I wasn't really upset. I was just caught off guard and a little bummed, as I think anyone would be. I'm actually more upset that there is no one in Kathmandu with whom to have an ill-advised 'moving-on/kind-of-bored/my-bed-is-freezing' fling. I live in the expat-lady capital of the world (development work is largely a vagina-having thing to do) and so I have pretty much zero options when it comes to dating. Nepali guys are incredibly handsome, yes, but I have weird ethical qualms about breezing into a developing nation for seven months, banging the men and then leaving.This leaves me expat men who are either a) older and married, b) younger and frat dude-ish or c) OH WAIT THERE IS NO C.

By mid-week I was sufficiently feeling like garbage. It was then that I found out that my pal had been attacked in rural Nepal. Mere hours after hearing this terrible news I learned that a Tibetan monk had just set himself on fire in Kathmandu. My heart sank and tears welled up in my eyes, a heavy weight in my chest. This marks the 100th self-immolation in the past year, and the first of its kind in Nepal (the other 99 have been within Tibet and China). The act took place at Boudhanath Stupa (which is located right near Kopan) and I go there quite often to circumambulate and recite mantras. My recent visit to Boudha made the monk's pain and desperation feel more tangible, more urgent. Yesterday I found out that he has passed away from his burns, and this news put my whole 'sorry' week into perspective.

Basically, while I have a few woes with friends and exes, millions of people in Tibet are being stripped of their human rights and their millennial-old traditions are being lost. They are so disenfranchised that they are resorting to a brutal self-inflicted death to try desperately to draw international attention to their plight. While I grumble about the cold and the rain and the lack of dating options my friend sits in hospital with a fractured skull, her career and travel plans dashed (temporarily). Through this ordeal and all of her suffering she has had the most inspirational attitude and positive outlook. I'm humbled.

So I can get down in the dumps and lonely and even stuck with a bit of writer's block, but I lead a charmed fucking life. I don't want to forget how lucky I am and feel sorry for myself when things get angsty - instead, I need to get busy spreading this fortune around. The only things that I know I can do to make this world a better place are meditate, be compassionate, work hard on meaningful projects and write. When I avoid writing fiction or poetry about painful subjects because it's easier to avoid them than confront them, well that's just idiot (self) compassion, and that doesn't help me or anyone. So I need to write.

It seems fitting to end on that note, because it is also where I started.
Good night, chickens.

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