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Submitted by KimberlyBrown on Mon, 1/30/2012, 7:03am
I went on a few dates recently, and after each I spun a web of expectation and fantasy in my head. One man was a psychologist, and I imagined (after two dates) that we would marry, and teach couples' workshops together, and live in Park Slope, and adopt two foster children, and keep three cats, and compost in the backyard. Another was a composer, and I envisioned an Upper West Side life of culture and books with authors and musicians and artists; visits to Yaddo and MacDowell; dinner parties with heated discussions about highbrow subjects; and backstage at the Metropolitan Opera. Yet another was a suburban videographer; I pictured us with a peaceful dedicated meditation room in our home beside the Hudson River, taking cooking classes together, and attending couples' workshops to learn to deeply express and hear each others' innermost feelings.
Even after all the energy and time I expended creating detailed and rich stories of my future non-single life, I didn't end up dating any of the men for very long. And though I knew them only briefly, I still had a terrible sense of loss and disappointment when I had to let go of my fantasies. I discovered that I'd been "mourning my stories", which is a phrase my friend and dharma sister Heather Coleman describes as feeling sad and upset over something that never happened. It happens when we acknowledge the unreality of a story which was fervently hoped for or wished. It's something we all do all the time and mostly we don't even realize it is pain from an imaginary story; in our confusion we think something was supposed to happen or even believe it was happening when it wasn't.
Fantasy often masks difficult feelings or experiences. For the past six months I've gone through a turbulent period of adjustment, and when my dating dreams burst, what remained was sadness, grief, loneliness, and anxiety. Instead of opening to these feelings and softening to my vulnerability, my fantasies allowed me to avoid my authentic experiences; and in turn, my authentic but painful experiences were helping to drive the fantasies. I was in a recursive feedback loop which was hard to break. Luckily, meditation offers an opportunity to observe our own mental processes. This encouraged me to drop my storyline so I could return to the present moment. Arriving in the present moment, the real now, I am neither overwhelmed with worry of the future, nor eagerly anticipating a "better" future. Instead, I'm simply here with my humanness and it's all okay.
No one knows what's going to happen next. But I feel pretty confident that if I can be here now, then whatever happens, I'll be able to receive it and understand it and deal with it with love, wisdom, and compassion. The paradoxical truth is that reality only exists right now, but living right now is the hardest thing of all.
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here's what she said to me
Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera
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by Eman Nep