I have been away (both physically and metaphorically) for a long time.
My last post and subsequent absence made me realise how many more people than I thought are actually reading this little blog.
In the past few weeks since I've been back to the UK and started to do Buddhist activities again, I have had a lot of people expressing concern about my happiness after having read that post. Some people wondered if I had stopped practising, some others thought I had abandoned the blog.
I came back to the blog today and found THREE beautiful comments awaiting my approval.
I feel loved.
I don't want to discuss what happened to me (I will refer to it from now on as That Thing That Happened, or TTTH), people close to me know it well enough and I don't want to dwell on it. Things that happen to us, I believe, are not important in themselves, but only for the relevance and connection they have to our own lives. In other words, it's not what happens that we have to analyse, it's our reaction to it.
Of course, sometimes we have to investigate the fact in itself, for example when a crime has been committed, and the person responsible has to be punished appropriately.
In this case, however, there was no crime, and I know that the person who destroyed my world with a two-minute conversation had no ill intentions towards me.
So, let's talk about the relevant part, my reaction.
The relevant part is that it robbed me of any will to fight, of any sense of courage. It brought back with graphic vividness the memories of having being bullied, treated as a scapegoat, used and cast away. It made me feel worthless, paranoid, suffocated.
I spoke to my parents, saying that I wanted to give up all my responsibilities, that I'd had enough.
They convinced me not to. My father said: "just make sure you don't commit slander and continue chanting". My mother said to chant to find joy.
For days and days after the fact, I could barely function. I am a creature of habit, so I continued with my routine. Wake up at 5, one hour chanting, go to school. I was fine when I was in school, because being a teacher is really acting. I have a role, Ms Munchkin, and I play it well.
But as soon as I stepped out of the regimented, slightly artificial but ultimately safe environment that a school is and I took the mask off, I would just break down in tears and sobs and couldn't stop. I would go on feeling physically sick, being unable to breathe.
On top of that, I couldn't fight. I didn't want to fight.
The lioness lay broken on the ground. For the first time in my life I stared at the Demon of the Sixth Heaven in the eye and said: "Well done, you've won."
Since I can say I have had faith in the Lotus Sutra, I have never been afraid of anything. Whatever it was, I picked myself up and fought. I could not understand when people were offered the sword of the Lotus Sutra and refused to fight.
Boy, that taught me a lesson!
There was also a little, petty part of me that wanted to suffer more. That part of me, (I'll call her Meanchkin from now on, I think), wanted to wallow in grief, bask in the mud while showing everyone and shouting: "Look what you've done to me! Don't you feel sorry now?".
I had an amazing summer holiday planned, and I was dreading it. I was dreading not having the comfort of Ms Munchkin, the schoolteacher, and her mask to hide behind.
How did I get out of it?
I wouldn't say there has been a moment of sudden realisation, not in this case.
It was more a case of not giving up. I wasn't feeling courageous, I was in the perfect textbook definition of Hell, but I didn't give up. I managed somehow not to slander the people (most of them unnamed) who had been the external cause of TTTH and I didn't stop chanting.
Little by little, the joy came back. The courage came back.
Guidance and help from members also helped. Like this, for example:
All of your hardships up to now have been to prove the power of Buddhism. The deeper the muddy pond, the bigger the lotus flower and fruit produced. Likewise, the harsher your problems and sufferings, the greater the happiness you will experience. Faith in the Mystic Law converts sufferings into treasures of the heart. Through practising the Daishonin's Buddhism, we can change poison into medicine. The time will definitely come when you can deeply appreciate this."
(SGI Newsletter No. 8816, The New Human Revolution––Vol. 26: Chap. 2, Banner of the Law 49, translated 31st July, 2013)And little by little I felt like myself again, not like a stupid, deluded bundle of pain.
There are some good things that came out of this.
The first one I have already mentioned somehow. This experience made me understand and build a newly found respect for people whose courage and will to fight has been sapped away by pain. Like my mother, for example. I didn't despise her before this experience (far from it), but I didn't understand her. Having been there, receiving heartfelt encouragement that felt like empty, happy-clappy rhetoric to me, I can now understand her, and all the people who haven't found the strenght to fight yet. I had opportunity to put this to good use a few weeks ago, when one of the ladies in my DL team was going through a similar moment of exhaustion. I don't know if it helped, but I could understand how she felt, which made me feel a bit less useless than I used to feel.
The second one is a bit more complex. Or maybe not. I stopped hiding in the SGI. Don't get me wrong, I'm still in it, and I still love it. Most of my friends are still other SGI members and I still do lilac like a mad ferret. What's changed is that I don't consider it anymore as my hiding place from the evils of the world. It's made of people. People fuck up. Fact. Lots of said people are extremely well-intentioned, but they are still people.
I'm not a little girl anymore. I'm not that small, frightened, angry and confused child who could not make sense of the fact that she was different from everyone else.
I'm an adult woman who has done an enormous amount of work on herself and who has build a happiness that she never thought possible.
I don't need a hiding place.
The third and final one might warrant a separate post, I think. I started really reflect on the way people see me and the impression they have of me. TTTH was in many ways only caused by this idea people have of me as an incredibly strong person, one that stands up for herself and is undaunted by anything. It never occurred to me that nobody here in England knew me as a child. No one saw the bullied child who felt she had to apologise for existing. Very few people saw the girl who had such horrendously low self esteem as to allow a guy to psychologically abuse her and gaslight her for five years.
They see the final product of YEARS of Buddhist practice, study and dialogue. And as such, they cast judgments.
It is up to me to manifest my heart in a more accessible way. And it is up to me to understand that certain things I say - things that I mean literally and that as such don't have emotions attached to them - tend to be interpreted by others in an emotionally-charged way that cause suffering.
I still have moments of acute pain, in which I feel stupid, for having believed that anyone in the SGI could find me special, but now I am aware that when these moments come, it is because I am moving forward.
Once again, thank you to everyone who reads my blog. Thank you so much.