Thing One: Nothing is Happening. Or, Is it?
I saw a pair of underpants hovering above a stage, curtains parted (Heh. You're welcome for your brand new euphemism.) in a darkened theater.
And I kept thinking about it every now and then, until one day, I decided to commit it to posterity with pen and paper. (see above.)
“Ha ha ha ha,” I thought to myself, “panties.”
Having recently joined Instagram so that I could keep up with a couple of my other friends’ creations, I said to myself “I shall take a photograph of this drawing, and I shall upload it to Instagram.” And I did this.
And, having recently joined Instagram, my audience is quite tiny, and I figured nobody would look at it, really, but after a while, I got that little heart notification that means someone has derived pleasure from one of your images.
It was one of my dear friends, and she had included the note, “thanks for the morning he-he’s.”
I responded, "lol" (or something) and "I'm glad at least one other person thinks it's funny."
Later, I received an email from her. This friend is in a tremendous amount of pain most hours of the day. Sometimes it's only in deep sleep she can get some respite. Sometimes. And sometimes even sleep and dreaming is woven with discomfort. She has an extremely positive and grounded outlook on what’s happening, but, she's also a human, and sometimes crying must happen. She had been feeling extra super shitty that day.
The email she sent me was a forward of a blog someone else had forwarded her about feeling like, for all the work and stress this person was putting into it, the writing on her web site was reaching a grand total of her father and why was she doing it if she was essentially writing to two people.
And this blogger told of how, after many moons of basically blogging to her dad, while her other friends had thousands of adoring subscribers, she received an email from a stranger telling her how important she was to her daughter and how much her writing had helped her daughter navigate growing up. That her daughter would even take notes on her blogs and could she please write a personal letter because the daughter really looks up to her.
And she realized, of course, that the feeling of having reached even just one person made everything 100% worthwhile, and that that was the point.
At the top of this forwarded note, my friend had prefaced:
"I'm your one person today! (details removed for privacy, but the gist is she was in pain) and the panty painting made me laugh! MEDICINE.
Thing Two: The Grass Grows By Itself
“'Actually emptiness of mind is not even a state of mind, but the original essence of mind which Buddha and the Sixth Patriarch experienced. “Essence of mind,” “original mind,” “original face,” “Buddha nature,” “emptiness,”--all these words mean the absolute calmness of our mind.'"
And I responded by adding “…which is not generated, but found.”
After I clicked “enter,” I had the flash of a thought: “WHO in the FUCK DO I THINK I AM, ADDING TO SUZUKI ROSHI'S QUOTE?” And then I felt very grateful to my teachers (in whatever form), as I realized I must have assimilated or experienced something enough to be able to do so with confidence.
And then, I thought of how transmission takes at least two people, that both parties are receiving and giving simultaneously, and that it’s happening constantly - and mostly unnoticed.
Thing Three: On Being the "One Person"
me: mmm, this bed is so cozy. I'm going to sleep well tonight. ahhh... feels good to lie down and drift to OOHHHH MYYY GAAAAD I'M GOING TO DIIIIIIIIIIIIEEE! I CAN'T BREATHE WHY IS MY HEART BEATING SO FAST DID I EAT POISON AT DINNER I BET I ATE POISON I THINK I HAD RAW CHICKEN JUICE ON MY HANDS IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE CHICKEN JUICE AND I HAVE FOOD POISONING PEOPLE HAVE DIED FROM FOOD POISONING!!! I NEED TO GO TO A HOSPITAL WHY DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE SKIN OF MY BRAIN IS BOILING? THIS IS IT I CAN'T BREATHE WHEN DID MY SKIN GET SO SMALL AM I FAINTING? I'M BLACKING OUT WHY ISN'T MY DIAPHRAGM MOVING OH SHIT I’M PARALYZED SHOULD I SCREAM? WHY DO I FEEL LIKE SCREAMING..etcetera.
The first one lasted a good seven hours. My partner couldn't even comfort me because, while I craved being held, I also wanted everyone to leave me the fuck alone and stop touching me so I could just stay HERE CURLED UP IN A BALL EXCEPT FOR NOW THIS ROOM SUCKS SO I'M GOING TO CURL UP IN A BALL OVER IN THERE BUT THE FLOOR IS COLD I NEED A BLANKET AND THE COUCH WHY IS THE TV LOOKING AT ME THERE'S AN EVIL GHOST IN HERE, ISN'T THERE IS THIS SWEAT? AM I SWEATING? I'M SWEATING BUT I'M COLD THAT'S A SURE SIGN OF LUNG MALFUNCTION. SO THIRSTY WHY AM I SO THIRSTY. IT'S THE POISON ISN'T IT SHIT I'M DYING. IF I WEREN'T DYING I WOULDN'T BE SHAKING SO MUCH I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE DYING PART BUT WHY DOES IT HAVE TO HURT…
And so it went - I've never felt so much terror, helplessness and discomfort all at once. That time in Mexico at my aunt's during mosquito season is a close second.
During about the third "attack," I decided to try distracting myself. I turned on my phone and looked up panic attacks, and I came across this panty: an extremely informative web site with all sorts of handy tips on how to get through panic disorder consciously and in a way that allows the body to self-regulate and stop having the panic attacks. The things that made the most impact for me were:
- the only way out of them is through them. completely. like - bring it on, panic. I can take it.
- nobody has ever died from a panic attack.
- it's just your body responding to a perceived threat
- panic attacks have a pattern. they have a beginning, a really intense middle, and they always end sans you in a coffin. ride it out.
- you feel like you can't breathe, but you're actually breathing, aren't you.
- none of the scary stories your brain is telling you in those minutes or hours of panic are true.
- and the big one for me was: panic attacks can come on with absolutely no (apparent/concurrent) trigger at all. I was just lying in bed - I couldn't fathom why I would be so cozy and comfortable one moment and then AFRAID OF ALL THE MOLECULES the next. but I learned on that web site that triggerless panic attacks are an actual thing that happens at night for a lot of people.
And I really needed to know these things, and I'm so grateful to that person (I need to write him a letter) for putting all of those pages of information online for FREE. Anybody out there hovering over your phone and reading this during a panic attack, please go here and make sure to peruse all of the hyperlinks.
I also could not understand how my body could be doing one thing while my mind was doing another.
Typing at my desk.
Brain: Is it lunch time yet? I wonder if that monkey is still friends with that cat. Do turtles talk to each other, like, with sounds?
Body: THE ONLY RESPONSE TO LIFE RIGHT NOW IS FEAR AND PANTING
Things my body decided would suffocate me to death:
strong chemical smells
a nice walk by the ocean
staying up past 10
not drinking enough water
most news stories
mild psychological dramas, such as several episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Anyway, I could write several very long blogs on the whole experience, and how I learned there was a lot more I didn't know about myself and my particular body/mind relationship (I’ve been in the hippie arts since 97, man, what the hell?) but the main point of sharing this is so that someday, maybe someone out there will stumble on my panty, find that web site and get some relief. That dude has absolutely no idea who I am or that he helped me. I really should write him a letter.
My anxiety/panic episodes eventually rode off into the sunset, and I really believe it started with the info on that site. (If I'm depleted *at all*, I can still feel the anxiety ghoul come back and try to undo some screws, so I have to take care of myself more than most people can get away with.)
In conclusion: People of the world - share your panties freely! You never know who’s listening, watching or even waiting to try them on. And you certainly won't ever know how many people you've touched by just reaching one person.
And now I'm realizing talking about touching and reaching a lot of people is a little awkward, here.