Family Practice

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Happy Boxing Day! Merry post-Christmas and Hanukkah. Joyful early New Year.

I spent the holiday with my love, and it was good. Our munchkin was with her mom, but we’ll do presents and the regular extravaganza when she comes back this way on Monday. It’s funny, everything still feels new to me…the whole deal with family life, where I wake up every morning and re-notice with surprise, “Oh, I’m not alone. There’s somebody/ies here next to me who care that I’m here who want to take care of me and want me to take care of them too.”

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I think it’s good for me, family life. Good for my pride. I no longer get to be the master of everything. We never really are in this life, but it’s an illusion I kept up when I lived alone. It hurts sometimes now, sticking my nose in my own self-centeredness, seeing how accustomed I am to making my choices and deciding my priorities precisely based on what I want, when I want, and how I have the habit of being patient and available exactly when I feel like it and not particularly the rest of the time.

There’s a sort of kindness necessary when facing these things, the ways in which we are not as awesome as we imagine ourselves when there’s no one there to reveal otherwise. I think this is part of the true value of people who love us. They lead us to care about them so much that we are willing to admit when we are at fault. And then they are gentle with us when we don’t know how to be gentle with ourselves, upon facing the fault in question.

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On a related note, it’s amazing what can happen when you put two such people in one place. Having been on my own the last few years, coupled with the fact of my parents still-kind-of-recent divorce and the various transitions that followed, my concept of family has gone through a rough transformation. It’s become something unstable rather than stabilizing, and often something imagined or remembered more often than experienced. Last month, though, I had the good fortune to get a revamp on the goodness of what family means.

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My mom came to visit and of course, she and my love met for the first time while she was here. For me, it was a little bit like worlds colliding. At the same time, it was weirdly natural. Maybe this is the connection that comes from caring about a same person, or maybe I just have the incredible luck to have a mom and a partner who click. Suffice to say, to my intense relief and even a bit to my surprise, they got on swimmingly.

I didn’t think they’d detest each other or anything, but I didn’t expect their meeting to create the all-inclusive warm fuzziness that it wound up making. This is the ephemeral but ever-wonderful feeling of family. It was like being a kid again, where I just felt safe and snuggly all the time. I guess that is the power of multiple people who love you in one place. I suppose I know by now that we can’t rely on such things or expect them to last, but holy crap. It was awesome. I hope everyone gets to feel like that sometimes. Especially during the holidays.

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In other notes, during my mom’s visit, we went to Auvergne, to visit the monastery for the coming-out of retreat for those who have just finished three-year retreat. A handful of courageous men and women come back to the rest of the world, either to continue where they left off, with the skills and knowledge acquired during their retreat, or to visit family and organize business before returning to the retreat centers for another three-year cycle of practice.

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This is Cedric, my love, sitting at his place in the temple, the same seat he took every day during one of his two long-term retreats. He gave my mom and I a fully guided tour of all the different centers. We joked about me making wishes for the center I’d like to wind up in one day, though of course I’ll go wherever Karmapa tells me to, if/when the time comes. My mom mentioned her relief upon discovering actual rooms inside actual buildings rather than somber stone chambers carved into the rock.

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Sometimes this life feels like a dream. I try to remind myself that it is. That even a long life passes in the blink of an eye when you reach its end. That the dreams we make for this life have their value so long as they keep us moving toward wakefulness. That the stresses we add are no more than dust in the wind; it’s enough to blink and they’ll wash away, so long as we don’t rub our eyes and scratch our poor hopeful eyeballs. That a life of practice is a sacred thing, and that it is through vigilance of our mind that we respect it.

And so, Happy Holidays y’all, from this foggy corner of my mind…er, the Dordogne. xx