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Anybody out there?

Well, I'm still here. Don't know if you are. I haven't said a dickybird since December as there's been nothing to say. I'm down to four hours teaching a week at the moment and what I earned in April and May will just about suffice to cover the June rent. CVs sent to other establishments have gone unacknowledged. (Bastards.) As often when I have too much time on my hands and not enough money, I've been anxious and gloomy. All day my stomach feels like a washer-load of tennis balls. My hands tremble doing fiddly things like sticking the charger into the phone or tying my shoes. Teaching in this state is rather challenging. It involves all my acting skills and I keep losing my train of thought, which makes me as nervous as a rookie. A couple of times last week my voice cracked and squeaked as another wave of fear hit me. Sounding like a twelve-year old boy rather detracts from teacherly authority, I feel.

This is such a pain in the balls.

When the mind sours and curdles like this, it's curious how far one's perception of reality deviates from other people's. The mind is obviously overstating its case here, and I can acknowledge this intellectually, but it seems self-evident that nothing I have ever done was any good, and that there is nothing to look forward to - ever. At three o'clock last Thursday, when I was gloomily convinced I had wasted everybody's time for four hours, several students came up to me to tell me how useful the day's session had been. Three years ago, when my mind had drifted off into the realm of the dead for a few weeks, colleagues were complaining (not to me) that I had become distant and uncommunicative, whereas it seemed to me that everybody around me was pestering me to death and I wanted them to leave me the fuck alone.

Rather than take pills to dull the anxiety, I do two twenty-minute sittings of zazen each day and attend a Buddhist meditation class on Friday evenings. Thus I get to peace out twice daily. Carrying the peace of zazen into the rest of the day is quite a challenge and you feel more positive if you accept it. The trick is to watch your emotions with a kind of detached interest. 'There's fear / boredom / irritation again', you observe, then you let them pass by like clouds, as they will quickly do so long as you don't spin a narrative around them. The rolling stomach and butterflies in the chest will stop eventually: they need not become part of a mental scenario where you are old, poor, cold, infirm and alone, a recurring image which has been freaking me out for the past month.    

What you think doing Buddhism will be like.
What doing Buddhism actually feels like.

Next month, all this inactivity will be replaced by twelve unbroken weeks of teaching English for Academic Purposes and from June to September there won't be time for black thoughts or indeed anything else unrelated to organising essays, paraphrasing sources and planning presentations. I hope by then that this last few weeks will seem a curious aberration, a prolonged bout of mental indigestion. This evening on the train I found a message to myself on my i-phone diary, one I'd forgotten about:

3 April 2016: A day of the old gloom and neat-to-tears misery yesterday. Then a dream of having a fucking enormous SHIT - it just kept on flowing like lava, and I feel better today. Go figure.

Gods send me more such dreams as this.

This post first appeared on Lathophobic Aphasia, please read the originial post: here

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Anybody out there?


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