I haven’t written for quite a while. I’ve indulged my obsessive orientation towards whatever project to which I’ve committed myself. The latest project was to create an in-law apartment for my husband and myself. The project involved hiring a contractor, discontinuing our relationship with that contractor due to cost concerns, hiring another contractor, being involved with every detail of the design and building of the place – picking out woodwork, cabinets, sinks, faucets, tile, flooring, paint; everything. I spent countless hours shopping on the internet, shopping for the basic items such as pulls for cabinets and all the other basic items that are needed to create a kitchen and bathroom. Most of the furniture we bought was used, but to find nice used furniture also involved more obsessing; hours combing through listings on the internet; hours going from thrift shop to thrift shop. The process took well over 2 years. We have finally moved in and I’m reeling with exhaustion, excitement, joy, sense of accomplishment, and a strong sense that the difficulties involved were surely a First World problem. I go back and forth between thinking that it surely was worth the time and cost to create a nice place for my husband and me to live and to provide space upstairs for our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. The conflict that creeps up on me, though, is the sense that with the world as it is, how can I spend this much time trying to make us comfortable when everything around me is falling apart, when refugees are dying as they try to reach a safe haven; where health care access is being decimated in the U.S.; where populist movements in the west are destroying what I used to think of as a progressive globalism. You get the picture. Is it okay to meditate, garden, create a warm space for yourself, your extended family, and your friends? Is it okay to live a comfortable, privileged life when the whole world is falling apart around you?
Let’s flash back to the 1960’s. In those days I was obsessed about one thing – to end U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. I remember the militant anti-war demonstrations. Since that time I’ve read more about Vietnam. I know people whose lives in Vietnam were destroyed not only because of U.S. involvement but from abuses done by the side who we thought were so pure and good. I learned that political activism requires a balanced, integrated approach that considers all sides of every issue. One-sided obsession is immature and nonproductive; rather, a balanced, rational, empathic, open-hearted approach is needed. Militancy against war makes no sense to me now. Looking at issues in absolutes doesn’t make sense either. I look for a middle way.* For me to achieve that balance requires paying attention to my own balance as an individual. To have compassion for all concerned needs to start with my own balance, rather than the old way of obsessing in a one-dimensional way that ignores my own needs and that ignores my own dark side. We project that darkness onto what we perceive to be our enemy and the self-righteousness that ensues leads nowhere, in my opinion.
There it is – some hearty stream-of-consciousness words that will give you an idea of what I’m thinking about. Does any of this make sense to you? Let me know your thoughts.
*I’m an active member of The Middle Way Society. If you’d like to learn more about this approach I suggest that you check out their website: middlewaysociety.org