Friday, May 17, 2013

Pique, Interrupted

I traveled Thursday, and spent Friday morning ensconced in my hotel room. I make this trip to visit Troy regularly and enjoy my rituals, like the long Friday morning I get to spend alone after Thursday's travel. For this grouchy, out-of-shape introvert, travel can feel like the Bataan death march. (Up at 3:30 a.m. Connection through O'Hare. Airport food. Rental cars. Overly friendly hospitality professionals... You get the picture.) So "Friday in Michigan" is it's own entity, like Lake Michigan itself, and a visit to it is as treasured as a visit to a favorite landmark.

As I sat on the bed knitting, I was mentally listing all the ways I hate this hotel. Then I wrote out the list in my journal entry, which includes (but is not limited to) the room being about 100 degrees when I arrived, due to a heater that had been running full tilt since the last inhabitant (or disgruntled housekeeper) left; chairs that no human under 7 feet tall could sit comfortably in; random and freestyle shower temperature modulation; and the depressed town it is in. And it all looked kind of petty as I wrote it out. One thing visiting a man who has been in prison too long will do for you is give you some perspective on discomfort.

I hate self-awareness sometimes. I would rather have my pique and eat it too, with a side of curly fries. I wonder why misery feels so good, so preferable. Maybe because so much of it is manufactured; it isn't even close to actual misery, which most certainly doesn't feel good, isn't territory we want to inhabit. Still, what is it about manufactured misery that is so appealing?

Part of it might be the persistence of story. To live indeed is to suffer, and our narratives are often full of it, justifiably so. It's not easy to inhabit this soft skin, to live with a consciousness ruled by sometimes harsh formative conditions, hormones and brain chemicals that can literally make us insane, and emotion-ruled thought processes. So, in a way, when we compose that story, which a mindfulness practice asks us to shed if even for a moment, much of that composition has its root in suffering — suffering I suffered, suffering I overcame, suffering that keeps me down.

The tagline of one of my persistent stories is "Nothing Is Easy," which is part of an overarching thing I have about (not) getting my needs met. After a long day's travel, a 100-degree hotel room and an alarming shower get narrated as part of a larger drama I'm habituated to. It's tough to shut that earworm of a story down. I don't know any other way to put it in its place than to sit with it for a bit, stare it down. On good days, the story blinks first. 

Sensory and Other Pleasures

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