When Buddha Blows a Gasket

Hi, everyone (I like writing that, as if I’m addressing multitudes of readers). I’m back. Back from four days of meditation in honor of the prodigious accomplishment of a man who lived 25 centuries ago. His name was Buddha, and his achievement was waking up to the truth of life.

I was worried how this particular meditation would go, given that my body is hurting and my mind worries about that when it has nothing else to do. The first three days of sitting were great. On the fourth day, my downstairs neighbors, who happen to be my landlords, began partying in the recently renovated Man Cave (directly underneath my bedroom).

There I sat in front of my altar, gazing into the heart of a candle flame, as concentrated as I ever am, the very picture of a conscientious zen priest, when the turning words all aspirants long for finally arrived, at top volume: “A____, get your ass in here!” Apparently A____ deigned to do no such thing, because the injunction was reissued several times, with increasing wholeheartedness.

I decided to move my meditation somewhere quieter, which turned out to be the bathroom. It wasn’t bad. Warm and relatively peaceful, with plants for company and the new candle: Christmas lights tracing the roofline. After the partying settled, I settled in front of my altar again, finally wrapping up my dogged pursuit of enlightenment at 11pm.

Along about 11:30, after I’d dragged my vociferously aching body into a chilly bed, my landlady decided to organize her Christmas presents. I could hear her footsteps, back and forth, forth and back, under my bed and over my white-noise machine. I was suddenly and intensely angry. I didn’t want to go downstairs because I knew I’d get drawn into a conversation, and I was supposed to be nurturing silence. So I fumed, silently.

The next morning, I probably didn’t look too good, or too friendly, when my landlord greeted me. I said I hadn’t slept well. He said he hoped it wasn’t because of them. I said, well now that you mention it, someone was busy around 11:30, and that kept me up for awhile. Then my body finished the job. He was somewhat sympathetic, though he stopped short of apologetic.

I’m sure he said something to Mrs. Claus though, because the downstairs doors slammed harder than usual that afternoon. Or was it my imagination? And the aforementioned A____ resumed his practice of jumping down the last step in the hallway, setting off aftershocks every time he crossed the house. Which was often.

When the time came to go to bed, I went, but didn’t sleep. I was too furious. And stressed about what to say or do. I rehearsed notice-giving speeches in my mind until they sparkled with eloquent regret. I revisited fuming. I ranted, silently, about how much I hate passive-aggressive people, without spelling out whether I was thinking of myself or my landlady.

When things really hit bottom, I opened my computer and surfed apartment listings on Craigslist. I didn’t email any of them because I didn’t want prospective landlords to ask themselves what kind of person looks for apartments at 2am? But I took notes. And fumed some more. I also took every herb in my soporific arsenal, to no avail. I even threw my principles to the wind and dug out the Nyquil. That knocked me out for an hour, and I was awake again. And furious, again.

In the morning, which felt like a paler shade of a neverending night, I realized I had no energy to muster for the conversation with my landlords. At the same time, I needed to do something. So I wrote a note. Only two drafts, a miracle for me. The letter was a masterpiece of evenhandedness and multiple position-taking, if I may say so. It was true and balanced, a fair feat when the author is hopping mad and seriously sleep-deprived. But no blaming, no whining, no threatening. Even some genuine affection — although it may not be obvious from this account, I actually do like and appreciate these people.

When the hour became reasonable, or at least less unreasonable, I knocked on the downstairs door and tendered the note, along with a clean Tupperware container in which my landlady had packed her awesome tomato soup. Odd combo, I know. My landlord looked so alarmed when he took the note that I hastened to reassure him, “Don’t worry, it’s not that bad.” Meaning I hadn’t given notice (except those million times in my mind, which he didn’t need to know about).

Then I swept the snow off my car and drove to the big city to have my breasts clamped in a vise, which seemed appropriate. After which I treated myself to lunch, buying time to write in my journal and calm myself, while conveniently postponing having to go home. Which I refused to call home in my journal, referring to it instead as back.

I have to say it’s been quiet as a grave today. I’m a bit worried. I imagine the whole family huddled in their bathroom, muttering, “We have GOT to get rid of that

And welcome back to samsara! It’s almost like I never left.