Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oh No What Have I Done?

The "self" is an interesting creature to watch. It can provide more entertainment and drama than any movie you might rent. Two days ago I got to watch a curious drama of the self unfold, an oscar worthy drama to be sure. Two months ago we bought a new home but because the owners needed time to collect and arrange 18 years of belongings, the possession date was set 2 months into the future. We were excited and were anxiously awaiting the day when we could roll up our sleeves, shine the place up and make it our own. Finally that day arrived.

We had known that the house needed some TLC and that the aging owners who had health issues were finding the property a challenge to maintain. Yet when we walked into the house for our first viewing of it as our own, we were overwhelmed by doubt and buyer's remorse. "Oh no, what have we done?" Both my partner and I were afraid to say it out loud but it was evident from our wander through that we were not possessed by eager enthusiasm.

Instead we were visited by a huge helping of doubt. Things seemed darker, dirtier, the scale of what was required seemed larger. Could we be happy here? Had we grasped after getting settled and bought this house and property by mistake? Should we have waited? Maybe something better would have come up. And on and on and on. You're getting the picture. The sound track to this little movie is at the dark and foreboding stage.

So there it was "doubt" in full regalia, one of the five hindrances in Buddhist thought. And we got to watch it's pageant of suffering. Now as well as experiencing the doubt, we could see the little drama unfolding (kind of like watching a documentary) so we weren't fully hooked. Suffering yes, but also understanding the source of suffering. And we could see the other sources of suffering. A heavy dose of expectation. Yes we expected the place would need paint, but we expected everything else would look just perfect.

Instead we noticed that there was a view of the neighbour's house that we'd forgotten, his roosters were noisy. We could hear cars from the gravel road below. The scope of cleaning seemed overwhelming. Each expectation spawned a new one. It was like a little line of domino expectations, setting each other off. Dissatisfaction was the word of the day.

I wavered between trying to put a bright face on it and just being with that sense of doubt and dissatisfaction. We were drinking from that well of common human experience where we want to tie our happiness to external things, when we want life to please us, when we want things to go our way in every detail. I could taste the interesting souffle of doubt, expectation seasoned with a pinch of greater knowing.

By next morning everything had changed. Overwhelm had left the building. We got out our cleaning supplies and loaded up a few boxes and drove to the new house. This time it shone with the potential we had seen in it when we decided to buy it. The house hadn't changed. We had. Our self centred worry and doubt had lifted and we embraced the mop and bucket with renewed enthusiasm. Could I have found a drama at the video store that would have engaged me more, tugged at my heart strings, and offered me more teaching? I don't think so. And what's up on the movie marquee of your life today? Comedy, tragedy, drama?


  1. Congratulations on your new home! And welcome to another empty canvas to create your new abode, your new sanctuary, your new studio...

    I love the little owl! Those eyes! Maybe it's a good omen for illumination, intuitive wisdom and seeing *through* those pesky shadows of the "self." :)

    Creating a relationship with your new abode is kind of like any relationship. We sometimes have to remember *why* we were drawn to them to begin with...

    Wishing you a new sense of creativity with your new space as you settle in...

    Heart Hugs, Christine...

  2. Cool owl!

    Congradulations on the new house! I hope everything goes well with it.

    That said, I'm reminded of the Islamic saying, "Trust in God, but tie up your camel anyway." Be sure to check for any place in the house that can have water damage: behind the washing machine, sinks, bath tubs, window sills, etc. and address it as soon as possible.

    I've seen in the past that sometimes these areas are problems as the maintanence becomes more difficult for elderly owners. (This is especially a problem when the husband has passed away some years before.)

  3. Thanks to you both for your well wishes! I felt a bit like this little owl when I first walked in the door of our new home!

    And Chong Go Sunim thanks so much for the practical advice! It is true we can get so twisted around by our emotions that we forget to pay attention to the practical details. Those camels can get away on you!

    As if right on cue, Saturday night we had a torrential downpour and this was our first thought, "I wonder if there will be any water leaks when we go in the morning." Dry in all spots! So that was a wonderful surprise. There is a slightly leaky drain pipe that needs to be attended to. And in this climate lots of slippery outdoor wooden steps and decks that need attending to. I am thinking of the care and attention payed in a zendo as I do all my cleaning!

  4. Congratulations on your new home and all that goes with it. Thanks for sharing the drama and good for you making it a short rather than long dramatic piece?!I like your last sentence: "I am thinking of the care and attention payed in a zendo as I do all my cleaning!"

  5. Oh Hooray! A house-warming party is in your future! Welcome Home, Carole. I too love that last line. Also, I was imagining the mop and sponge as brush and ... well... sponge. :-) Splashing joyous colours across your new canvas is going to be good fun.

    Just this weekend, we were wondering if we are up to the task of selling and moving from our farm. Maybe... maybe not... ;-)

  6. You had me at the owl...where oh where did you find that glorious image?
    And he fits so perfectly with your story...
    Your friends comment: "Trust in God, but tie up your camel anyway." struck a cord for me... in a bit of dramatic moment last week I came across that very story and took it as powerful guidance.

    Welcome H'OM'E Carole!

  7. Congratulations on your new beginning in new surroundings and new house-- it will soon be filled with all your favorite things and it will feel like home.

  8. How exciting to finally be in your new home Carole! This really struck me as I was reading your post:"We were drinking from that well of common human experience where we want to tie our happiness to external things..." Why do we all do that? It pretty much always ends in disappointment. O we are such silly creatures us Humans!

  9. As usual, thank you for a generous helping of feminine Dharma brew . . . I could so relate!

    And congratulations on the new house. I can't wait to see pictures.

    with metta,


  10. Thanks for the well wishes. Exhaustion from days of cleaning have set in! And yes it is kind of like a work of art to create a home, a life for that matter. Yes pictures to follow!

    Sometimes it feels very self centred to focus on this "home making" but as Marguerite pointed out in her blog today, it is all about intention. Compassion and joy and generosity can manifest in an act as simple as washing the dishes. And always there is the opportunity to practice awareness.