There was a time I wanted to be a Buddhist monk. More specifically, a Buddhist teacher. Why? To help. To give people what I thought I had: a light in the dark. I got so wrapped up in trying to unravel the mysteries of universal compassion and endless patience that I began to change myself into someone that would later want to be dead.
I was in my blog beginnings. Writing epic posts with barely any paragraph breaks, or indeed any thought for the reader. I assumed people were dying to know the latest nugget of truth I’d uncovered from some book they could read themselves if they were bothered. And I started to change the way I presented myself. Mister flippin nice guy. Who was I kidding? I thought that by emulating the way these books were written, I was somehow launching myself onto some astral plane where I’m the guru and everyone is in awe of my transformation.
Come on… surely I sounded like a fraud. Anyone who knew me, knew I didn’t talk like that in real life. And anyone who didn’t know me – if they had an ounce of sense – probably thought I was a repressed cynic regurgitating goody-two-shoes rhetoric. I was like Justin Bieber – you just know there’s somethin not right there.
My story is true. Some know it, most obviously don’t. There’s depression, anxiety, colossal mistakes, thoughts of suicide, treating friends like shit, blah blah blah. Everyone’s talking about those things these days, and that’s good. But I’m not going to lie: it hasn’t been some epic battle to get where I am now. No, when God handed out the crazy, I was spared the double portion. Some people got it way worse than me.
Paper bag. There was a saying when I was a kid: “He couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.” I haven’t had to fight to be who I am. Rather, I’ve had to be aware of a point where I’m obviously not myself. In a bid to be liked by everyone, to avoid conflict and please people, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to say “Here’s why you’re wrong, and while we’re at it, here’s why you might be a dangerous nutjob.”
That’s me. Telling it straight as I see it. Not some quivering wreck trying to appease everyone. And it feels good, for the first time in fuckin ages. There’s an old phrase: you teach people how to treat you. If you’re a people-pleaser, others pick up on it. All too quickly, too often, they take advantage and settle in. And it’s your fault. You’ve sat them down and said “Use me, it’s what I deserve.” You’ve taken on other people’s burdens. You’re more nuts than you started off. You’ve helped yourself to other people’s crazy portions.
But one day you’ll discover where you went wrong, and you’ll slam on the brakes and go “Fuck this.” The people in your life who’ve become complacent, accustomed to you doing things for them, are suddenly confronted with a person who’s sick to the back teeth of being nice for a quiet life. Feel like you’re letting them down? That’s their problem. Time for them to feel a little of that inconvenience you’ve stacked on yourself all this time.
I know a real life Buddhist monk, and he laid it out for me one day. He said “For some of these people, it’s the end of the line.” The dregs of society who can’t cope, whipped into shape by Buddhist monks. A monastery or Zendo can be a hard, miserable place. When he told me this, after I asked about Dogen’s rubbish advice – beat disciples until your knuckles are raw – I was like Fuck enlightenment. And now…what they say…what they’ve been saying all along… starts to ring true. You’re good. You’re alright. You’re fine as you are. Maybe you’ve just forgotten that it’s okay to be half-decent. Perfection is for fools.
That was a few years ago, and my thing, my story, is still unravelling, and I’m seeing a counsellor, and I’m trying to get fixed, rid myself of self-defeating behavioural patterns. And the more ‘myself’ I am (ie the less repressed and more honestly I talk and write) the better – more genuine – I feel. I wanna say finding myself isn’t about about discovering some hidden mystery. I ain’t gonna find myself in a book someone else wrote. It’s about scouring away the bullshit.
There’s universal compassion, there’s prajna paramita, there’s birth and rebirth, there’s Form is emptiness, emptiness form, and then there’s Fuck it. Not in a way that rejects the world’s problems, and abandons all life forms to their fates… No, sometimes you just have to accept that other people’s problems – the world’s problems – can wait. Think I’m gonna fix everything? Nope, I’m just gonna fix myself into a krazy korner. I gotta sit down before I knock myself down. For a few minutes just step back and say “Right now there’s nothing I can do.” Fuck it.
I’m going from goody-two-shoes Buddhist wannabe to Fuck that shit, and I’m starting to feel alive again. I have bigger things to worry about than persuading people I’m some beacon who’s discovered the secret to a fulfilling life. Fuck that.