At 94 my mother is just starting to loose her sharpness (I mean this in more ways than one) and her memory and general health are noticeably declining. I am touched by how bent and crooked she is when we take a little walk. What I am reminded of when I look at her is the human condition that the Buddha discovered after leaving the palace where he spent his youth. There is sickness, old age and death. Now if you think that is morbid or depressing to mention, just look around you. It is merely a fact. And one of the points of knowing the facts is that you won't be surprised when it happens to you or those nearest and dearest to you. (So easier said than done.)
We take great pains in our sanitized, Disneyfied, celebrity obsessed world to avoid these truths. We do everything we can to airbrush the truth. I have nothing against health, in fact I do many things to look after my own. But I refuse to be botoxed and lifted and tucked and liposuctioned and all that really desperate stuff. In time we will all age and die. Could we do this with some grace, some awareness, some acceptance of what is? I hope I can. And that's the direction I am pointing myself in. But like all feature films the end will tell the tale.
But I have strayed a little from what I was thinking originally when my mother said "come and I'll tell you the story of why I am so queer." It reminded me that's exactly what we are, we are walking stories. We are like a giant chapter book by the end of our lives, maybe each chapter builds on the last, or some seem disconnected but we are self created stories. My mother thinks she is a tragedy. And there have been lots of difficult chapters in her life. My story is not so easily defined, at least not by me. I think other books are easier to read than our own. Like all good stories mine has had some tragedy, some drama, some suspense, some funny bits, some foolishness. But in Buddhist thought the self is really an illusion, if we look hard enough, as they do in Buddhist logic, we can't find a solid, tangible self anywhere. But we think for some bizarre reason that we are these fixed entities, solid and real. And in doing this we tell ourselves a lie, a lie that traps us in our story.
My mother has popped her story into the oven of time and she has come out bitter on the outside and sad on the inside. She is a victim of her own making, trapped inside that hard, solid crust. In that way she is not so different from most of us. How many of us blame our childhood or parents or circumstances for "how we are"? How many of us think it's impossible for us to do certain things, to be different than we are?
And here is the postcard version of how we end up in this position. It's a quote I've heard but can't track down its source. "Sew a thought, reap an action, sew an action reap a habit, sew a habit, reap a character, sew a character, reap a destiny." It starts out so innocently with that thought that we believe. So what are you believing today? What are you believing today that will create your tomorrow? Our work is to shine that little dollar store flashlight in our pocket on that thought and see it for what it is. Just a thought, neither good or bad, just a thought, part of the passing scenery, a little puff of mind smoke. Now on to the next moment.