After graduating college, I lived in Austin, Texas in the 1990s. With Marion Winik, Spike Gillespie was one of my favorite writers for The Austin Chronicle, the city’s alternative weekly. Spike was sharp, savvy, and quick witted—everything I wanted to be as a thinker, as a writer. I left Austin at the turn of the century to pursue a career in mental health, leaving the Chronicle and its writers behind.
Yesterday, an old friend commented on Spike’s final blog post. I hadn’t heard her name in over a decade, so I clicked the link. The title of the post on her blog, Meditation Kicks Ass? “Year three, week twenty-one.” Instant humility. The mind quickly appropriates: Who do I think I am writing a meditation blog? What matters about what meditation is teaching me? How can I ever compare to Spike?
The spiral continued through last night’s practice and into this morning. I continued to sit, mired in these thoughts, resenting the regurgitating mind and its cuds. Then a thought arose from Pema Chodron’s teachings. In practice, we build muscle for times like these. She adds this passage from Shantideva’s The Bottisatva’s Way of Life:
What I have to say has all been said before
And I am destitute of learning and of skill with words.
I, therefore, have no though that this might be of benefit to others
I wrote it only to sustain my understanding.
Me, too, Shantideva! Me, too.
And after that, I found Courtney E. Martin’s On Being article, “How the Sausage Gets Made.” In it, she reminds us that we only see one another’s products and therefore we confuse the often polished end with the usually muddled process. We omit the fact that life, people, our minds impose themselves upon our idealized process each day, yet no one sees that. And not being privy to others similar experiences, the mind convinces us there’s something wrong with us. We are somehow not capable, not worthy, and should stop all endeavors now.
I say it anyway. I write anyway. I just cling to that little rope of faith that what I’m doing matters, in part because I’m doing it. I might be the source of all this imperfection, but I’m also the only me that there ever is, was, and will be. So there’s that.
That’s true of you, too. So please, please don’t let the fictional person doing whatever you’re trying to do in a much more orderly, bulletproof way stop you from making a go of it. You’re all we’ve got.
Along with my friend’s encouragement, that’s just what I needed today.