When I go on about being a writer, it isn’t for your approval. I’m not looking for flattery. What I am doing is reminding myself to hold on to a dream – my dream. Neither your accolades nor complaints matter except to drive me to be better, more determined to hone a craft I love. It’s the same for any of us. Our passions need nurture. Our attention to them is necessary for their strengthening. If we practice, inevitably our skills evolve. As they do, Zen (or any word that suggests its state for you) is often glimpsed.
Lately, my days are not necessarily my own. Getting around, finding my way is exhausting. Fulfilling promises and showing up for various jobs consumes an inordinate amount of time. Still, I’m graced with glimpses of peace. Although I am occasionally distracted and anxious, I am also filled with a calm and joy, unlike anything I’ve ever known. Is it enlightenment? I’m going to surprise you and say, yes, it is. You might, however, be surprised further to learn what this “enlightenment” is like.
“Are you okay?” I asked quietly reaching for him at the same time.
He recoiled. “Don’t…”
“It’s okay. A little blood doesn’t scare me.”
“It should. I’ve got AIDS.”
I blanched and inhaled sharply. I had not yet touched him and had purposely avoided the blood. I shook myself and putting my hand on his shoulder – neutral territory – I exhaled.
“Emergency services will be here soon. I’ll stay with you until they come.”
His head fell forward. He moaned. He was crying and mumbled, “I hate this.”
“I can’t imagine,” I whispered as much to myself as to him.
Once safely in the ambulance, a paramedic turned to me. “Are you a nurse?”
“If you touched…”
“I touched nothing. How is he?”
“He’s not someone who takes care of himself.”
“Maybe he wants someone else to do that,” I said.
“You could be right. Good night.”
I stood staring at the ambulance as it drove away, its image growing quickly fuzzy in the rain. Tears crammed my eyes. As the faces of people I love popped into my head, a scratchy lump formed in my throat. My chest constricted and it hurt. No one in my life is as broken as the man I just spent a few moments consoling. Had I ever met such a wounded soul? Probably not. A rush of desire came over me – a desire to fix, to help, to make better. Anxiety rose up and I thought “I have to find him, but how?” Then, as quickly as the anxiety came, a calm settled over me. “So, this is what it feels like to simply be in the moment, feeling love for a sick stranger while being grateful for my health and the health of those I am closest to.”
My wish tonight is for a loving, compassionate heart. I don’t always regard others with one and want to. We treat ourselves with disdain and brandish weapons against others when we feel unworthy. Those who hurt themselves and others do so because they hurt. We are always trying to ease our pain, however ineptly. Of course, creating more sorrow seldom works in the moment and never for the long run. Kindness towards others and ourselves work wonders in establishing safe spaces and feelings of good will. Funny how it always comes back around to love.