Heartbreak | The End

A friend told me not to think this way earlier today, but I simply can’t see the world otherwise, and I feel this worth writing as a cathartic final expression and processing on this topic. This will be the last heartbreak post, hopefully permanently. After this, I will return to the topics of Buddhism, philosophy, and life that generally have been the focus of this blog’s efforts. Hopefully, I can finish out the series on The Dhammapada for instance, which has been mostly dormant over the last couple years.


I’m setting the intention for myself never to have a romantic relationship again.

A friend told me that the person who broke my heart wouldn’t be the one to break me, but the ups and downs, highs and lows, and general games of being drawn in and thrown away over and over were traumatic for me (will return to this below), and furthermore, they act as the opposite kind of bad experience to what I had previously come to know from relationships – the profound unsatisfactory dynamic of a relationship that is settling. The last experience showed me what I want regarding high compatibility, which I know will be incredibly rare to find. I still find it odd, as friends seem to affirm that I should find that and deserve it but then act as though there are solid chances of finding that most anywhere – which shows they don’t really understand what it is I’m looking for or how uncommon those would be as a combination in someone. Some have suggested that I should just be happy with someone who’s nice and supportive, but I’ve been there and know how empty that will be a year or two into a relationship.

I’ve put these suspicions about rarity to the test. I’ve looked over hundreds, if not thousands of dating profiles. There have been so few that even raised an eyebrow about some sort of long-term compatibility that I could probably count them all on one hand.

I’ve been going rounds beating myself up over this again and again – feeling like it’s a quandary: am I too unrealistic and should settle? Does this represent some form of samsaric attachment to feel that these things are a good focus for a future relationship, or are they actually skillful, insightful, and wise? I think the reevaluation is good, but the feelings of self-judgment and guilt aren’t.

Ultimately, I think the only way forward is to accept that the old Z has died. I cannot live my life with some hope of partnership, connection, compatibility, family, and fatherhood in my future. That needs to be buried so something else can live and grow in its place.

I’m still struggling with whether I move towards full abstinence or not as well. Part of me feels it’s necessary, as casual connections, no matter the transparency regarding intentions and deeper emotional unavailability for partnership seems to fall on deaf ears more often than one would expect, and I have no desire to hurt anyone with a broken heart or dashed expectations, even if it isn’t my fault in some sense of clear communication.

I’ve had arguments with friends about intention and manifestation, but ultimately, I don’t believe in manifestation. I’ve had long discussions about that this year, and here are some basic points to summarize. The idea of manifestation, especially in the idea of the law of attraction, is the most mainstream form of magical thinking: magic is inherently the idea that you can use your will to impact some sort of metaphysical flow of the happenings of the world around you without any direct interaction with it other than thought/ritual/word. So, if you believe in the law of attraction, you believe in magic, just rebranded in a new mainstream way. If you respond that no, no, it’s about the psychology of positive intention – then why the near unanimous descriptions of the universe responding to your intention? I could find psychology studies that belief in the results of your efforts will lead to better outcomes (I remember talking about this in a class back in college). The reason isn’t some sort of universal resonance. It’s because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so to speak. So, if you get out there and try, taking a bunch of shots, you’re more likely to have a few go into the goal. I exercise those kinds of positive goal-chasing efforts all the time. That doesn’t require the universe lining up to my intention. I ultimately have tried to manifest my desires repeatedly, with all the energy I can muster, and steadfastly for so much time in the last year. It only succeeded enough to bring in some bright moments followed by being pushed away or erratic rejection, which is clearly not success. In the end, I find it incredibly arrogant, in that way that seemingly only mankind is capable of, to think that my will can influence the greater world in some sort of manifestation of my desire. Some counter that you can’t manifest intentions around others, but why? If I can influence objects with my body and can influence others with my words, mind, or heart, why would I only be able to throw my will out there to influence one but not the other with manifestation? I think that the idea of manifestation is an over-extension of armchair psychology (see above) and apophenia.

I bring that all up to say: I don’t believe that an intention to find the person who’s right for me, opening my heart for them to appear, or whatever other way you want to phrase it will make that person suddenly exist or cross my path from wherever they’re currently going. However, I can intend to set my mind and heart on a path to protect themselves from wasted effort and painful hopes. That’s what I intend.

To close, I’d like to return to the idea of trauma I mentioned above. Years ago, as a masters student in clinical psychology, I wrote a chapter in my final paper about trauma as understood from the philosophy of hermeneutics. I argued that trauma is a realization of the meaninglessness of existence beneath all the understandings we have projected on top of it. That realization shatters everyday life, making it clear that the trust we put into the world is built on nothing. The therapist’s job is to help bear witness and accompany the process of building/finding/creating new meaning and trust in life after such an experience. I feel precisely that way now. I don’t feel any meaning in my existence now beyond showing up to help and care for others in my life. The pursuits of love and partnership in particular feel beyond empty – I don’t trust that others will see me, will connect with me, or that even if they do, that they will show up in turn and love back in a supportive way. These are empty of both meaning and trust.

All in all, I can act as a therapist to myself in finding a new way in life, a new story where I find new strength of heart and mind, but I believe neither that I can find meaning and trust in love and partnership again nor that I can find the person who would reinspire such meaning and trust. I don’t have the energy or will in me to expend the effort to resolve these deep existential wounds.

For them to be “healed” in the way most generally use it would require nothing short of a miracle at this point. I’m open to being surprised, to someone obliterating all of this, but I will not put any further effort into finding a unicorn.


May this close this topic forever on this blog, and may it help others feel companionship if they feel this way themselves.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Poetry | Crimson Drops

A rough attempt at poetry – initially thought of during a recent run. The beginning is merely a symbolic expression of the pain of loss – not any message of intention at self-harm.


Languid flow oozes – ebbing life and death
Crimson crystals coagulate
Drops fall to the ground
Mixing with the salt of tears

The stain of such a staunched flow
Crimson – the deep color of compassion
Mahayana monk’s tender tone
A reminder: death (XIII) is transition

Romance may have withered and fallen
The faded crimson of a dead rose
Yet heart’s vulnerability
Can hear the cries of the entire world

Twisted knot on my arm
Crimson dyes of tattooed ink
A lucky symbol and inspiration
Wisdom and compassion: entwined as reality

No matter my despair
My raw flesh of heart
Can pull in all the despair of the world
And push out peace to all – tonglen


May this pull in the despair of heartbreak from all those who feel it, take it upon myself, and replace it in everyone out there with warmth, acceptance, and peace.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Timing

Continuing from the feelings in the previous post…

Some days are so difficult. I started crying and feeling overwhelmed last night. It was sudden, but it wasn’t surprising. Today’s Valentine’s Day, and the mix of recent events, today’s whole celebration of romantic love for anyone paying attention, and memories of a year ago left me feeling torn apart in the worst way in days. I woke up with a splitting headache and a wondering if I could actually will my heart to stop today, despite all the previous failed attempts, alongside some various anxiety about Valentine’s Day and the various difficulties of work.

Then, I made it through the day, sniffling and verging on crying many times. I dodged various bullets at work and had my capabilities questioned by people who aren’t willing to work on anything that isn’t familiar or who don’t have the technical background in the thing they are critiquing. By the end, I lay in bed for a while, forgetting a class and showing up late after a friend texted me.

I got enthralled with finishing a mitten I’ve been designing and knitting, finishing it just in time to wear it to the grocery store in the last few minutes before they closed. I felt a bit pathetic as I arrived, planning on a combo of alcohol and caffeine to enjoy the evening a bit more after this rough day – a combo I’ve been trying to cut back on recently. When I got to the register to pay, the cashier absolutely flipped about the mitten I had knit, totally shocked that I had made it myself and had designed it. From her tone, one would have thought I was some sort of hero, and that glimmer made me realize for just a moment that I’m so much more than I feel in my feelings of humility that are exponentially intensified by depression/heartbreak.

I walked out of the store, thinking of this day, the last few months, and my trajectory through it all in resonance with the events I’ve been part of. The timing of our lives creates reverberations and an environment that we have to flow with and through. It’s incredibly daunting, seemingly impossible at times, but all we can do is rise to the occasion and continue onward even when we don’t see a point, a goal, or feel self-worth. Sometimes, when we’re incredibly fortunate, others can remind us of just how much merit and capability is behind those efforts. Those moments are also timing, and they should be savored, taken as lessons, and imbibed without grasping onto them.

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I aim to go for a midnight run in a few minutes to close out this day – a timing of my own that I have not done in a very long time. May it empower better days forward.


May this empower others to find their strength in their moments of difficult timing.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Self-criticism/Self-compassion

It’s ironic to me that in some of the roughest moments of the relationship I grieve that I was called prideful or possessing a big ego. There are few moments where I’ve felt less seen.

The truth is – yes, I’m confident in my insights, intellect, and my ability to adapt to circumstances, including failure. However, I sell myself short all the time. I was reminded of that this evening when I went to the grocery store and was met with absolutely exuberant amazement and praise at the fact that I was wearing a mitten I had knit and designed myself – just completed this evening. It kind of shocked me (I don’t really feel that any of these efforts are that spectacular), but that’s the point – I assume that many around me are greater than myself. I’m continuously surprised by others and keep my mind open to their possibilities – my philosophical and spiritual approaches would be mere bluster if I didn’t truly feel that way. I give others the benefit of the doubt, and even though I have studied years to know about a variety of topics, I often find myself speaking to others as though they know the same information. With knitting, I feel like an imposter still trying to find some small modicum of excellence, even though I’m designing my own projects on the fly now. I just feel that others around me must be more experienced and know more – because I know how little I know.

The same goes in recent times with feelings regarding my physique. I have felt unattractive for months despite months of push-ups, pull-ups, and physical effort, but I have gotten overwhelming positive reactions from people recently, and for the first time in quite some time, I see myself in the mirror and feel powerful. It’s been a key point of healing.

A friend recently told me that whichever woman I end up with in the future (although, honestly, I expect that to be no one) will be incredibly lucky because of my intelligence, kindness, and general awesomeness. I don’t feel that way. I feel that I’m worthless, day in and day out, but I show up. I do my best for others. I try to learn. I try to grow. I try to be kind. I try to be present.

All I can do is try, but in part, this time is learning to be kinder to myself in the process and learning to see that any excellence I do have is honed by this very phronesis of aiming for the good and being humble enough to doubt myself along the way. There needs to be a balance between self-criticism and self-compassion.


May this inspire others to both push themselves and be kind to themselves.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Poetry for a Pulverized Heart

I’ve wanted to explore the topic of heartbreak and healing through a spiritual lens by riffing on a few of my favorite spiritual texts and trying to make them into some heartfelt poetry. This will be an attempt at that.


Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
Form is nothing other than emptiness.
Emptiness is nothing other than form.
Love is nothing other than heartbreak.
Heartbreak is nothing other than love.
The arising of love is the flux that also flows out into its absence.
With gain is loss. With attachment is separation.
All such dharmas, every dharma, the entirety of the ten thousand things,
Each, no more substantial than dreams.
Each as empty – impermanent and without a Self, an identity that lasts.
As such: “Slogan 2. Regard all dharmas as dreams”.
Each can pop and be gone in the blink of an eye.
Even a life can.

The pulverized heart – pulverized: something crushed into powder: pulver.
It is perhaps the greatest emptiness.
A flux of confusion, hurt, memory, despair, hopelessness,
And perhaps, the last reverberations of a beat:
A small echo of the past and a yearning for it to grow back into life.
None of it solid. None of it stable.
Complete emotional rawness.
Potential opening for vulnerable wisdom – a being-here to sit with.

Form is emptiness.
Emptiness is form.
There is no love. No heartbreak. No connection. No rupture. No gain. No loss. No joy. No grief. No healing. No hurt. No learning. No forgetting. No path. No resolution.
All of it, gone, gone, beyond gone, completely beyond the concept of gone.

And yet…
Form is form. In each moment, just this – the entire universe is this present moment.
Emptiness is emptiness. The goings and comings are being-time; time-being.
We misunderstand them because we don’t understand the beat of time.
For love to last, effort must be put in – the consistency that is accomplished through change.
Be water, my friend.

Seeing clearly is sitting without attachment.
It’s cutting through the grasping onto form, emptiness, and any arising.
It’s severing the ties that hold us to our devils: all being creations of mind.
When heartbreak arises, cut through the narratives, justifications, and demons of ego.
When love arises, cut through the narratives, justifications, and demons of ego.
As should be remembered:
“Flowers fall even though we love them. Weeds grow even though we dislike them.”

Just this.


For reference, this free-form poetry is riffing hard on The Heart Sutra, Dogen’s Genjokoan from his Shobogenzo, some ideas from Mahayana Buddhism in general, particularly the 8 worldly concerns (gain and loss being two of them), The Tao Te Ching, the 52 slogans from the 7 points of mind training (Lojong) in Tibetan Buddhism, and Machik Lapdrön’s The Great Bundle of Precepts (the founder of Chöd and an absolutely radical female monk from the Middle Ages – highly suggested reading).

To end, I’d like to quote three poetic passages from Addiss and Lombardo’s as well as Red Pine’s translations of The Tao Te Ching, as I find them absolutely beautiful and inspirational, and I feel they speak to this problem of duality in experience and how to behave as a Sage who gets to the fundamental aspect of doing well without getting caught in the self-involved pain of trying to jump only from gain to gain to gain to gain.

Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.

Is and Isn’t produce each other.

Hard depends on easy,
Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low,
Sound is harmonized by voice
After is followed by before.

Therefore the Sage is devoted to non-action.
Moves without teaching,
Creates ten thousand things without instruction,
Lives but does not own,
Acts but does not presume,
Accomplishes without taking credit.

When no credit is taken,
Accomplishment endures.

Tao Te Ching – trans. Addiss and Lombardo; chapter 2

7

Heaven is eternal and Earth is immortal
the reason they’re eternal and immortal
is because they don’t live for themselves
hence they can live forever
sages therefore pull themselves back
and end up in front
put themselves outside
and end up safe
is it not because of their selflessness
whatever they seek they find

8

The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
they thus approach the Tao
dwelling with earth
thinking with depth
helping with kindness
speaking with honesty
governing with peace
working with skill
and moving with time
and because they don’t compete
they aren’t maligned

Lao-Tzu’s TaoTeChing – trans. Red Pine; chapters 7 and 8

Heartbreak | New Resolutions

As I said in my last post, there’s going to be a struggle to feel empowered and on top of my path forward. At times, like in the last post, that will be the driving energy. At others, my long tail of pain and existential despair from this year will have the upper hand, and I’ll have to use that strength and courage to sit as calmly as I can in the darkness. The last week since that last post has felt much more the latter than the former.

I looked back through pictures today from this last year and realized that I spent pretty much the entire year sad, depressed, and heartbroken. The worst months have been not only that but riddled with thoughts of suicide, and the worst days in that have been battling against negative self-talk about how the world wouldn’t miss me in the slightest other than my mom and some close friends. I got a response to my last post that I am strong and brave and am beginning to tap into that, but that’s the thing – I’m not beginning. I’ve weathered so much pain and feelings that I’m meaningless and pointless because I’m so incredibly strong that even when I feel like I’m worth absolutely nothing, I still show up and try to do my best and be the kindest person I can be to those I encounter – most of whom have no idea how difficult of a time I’ve been going through.

I’ve talked about the why before – this all feels like a loss not only of a relationship but of love and partnership as meaningful pursuits in my life. I’ve spent the last few months seeing who’s out there, and ultimately, that doesn’t leave me feeling any better about the future. So, I’ve been letting go of the attachment to the idea of sharing my life with someone in the future. I don’t trust love anymore. I don’t trust that there’s a good match out there for me, and furthermore, I don’t trust myself. I seem to be attracted to those who don’t seem to see me or value me, so even if I did find someone who felt like a great match, I’d thoroughly doubt my evaluation.

So, here we are, at the cusp of a New Year, and I’ve decided that I’ll stop bringing up these bad feelings by looking through who’s out there on dating apps. I’ve only really been looking for friends or casual dating, but as I’ve scrolled through 100s of profiles, I can’t help but notice that none have sparked a deeper interest. I’ll leave my profile open so that others can perhaps find me, but I’ll stop with the effort on my end as the regular reminder seems to stir those feelings of apprehension about being alone.

I’ve struggled with this set of feelings for months now. At times, I’ve even thought of it in terms of Nietzsche saying that mankind would rather will nothingness than not will – his project’s concern regarding nihilism. I’ve worried that perhaps I have a nihilistic stance towards all of this at this point. In a way, I couldn’t blame myself. I feel like some big part of me is dead, and I need to amputate that to walk on with new invigoration. I do have some deep nihilism in my heart – I feel like something I had attached a lot of meaning to is gone, and as Frankl warns us, that sense of meaninglessness in one’s life is connected to a despair and surrender to death.

I can only hope for a Nietzschean great convalescence. At times, like in the last post, I feel on the cusp of it, and I think that willing something different is key, rather than willing the negation of all that hurts. As such, I will being a philosopher bachelor. I will that facing the absurd of meaninglessness pushes me towards greater wisdom about the interconnection of all and compassion for all other sentient beings. I will letting go of love, partnership, family, and fatherhood. If they find me in the future, great, but I will no longer worry about finding or building them myself.

I recently have been reading about Zen energetic practices which led me down a rabbit hole of the embodied energetics of chanting and the bodhisattva vow. Let’s take this vow up as the resolution for the new year:

Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them.
Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to put an end to them.
The dharmas are boundless; I vow to master them.
The Buddha’s Way is unsurpassable; I vow to attain it.

from Soto School Scriptures for Daily Service and Practice, as quoted in Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts by Shohaku Okumura

May the impossible nature of the above aspiration inspire patience and compassion with myself as I continue to struggle with self-mastery and as I fall short of any intentions of doing right by those I encounter in my life.


May this post act as an inspiration or companionship to those out there who need it.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | The Hermit’s Way

I recently have been attending a Buddhist dharma talk weekly session through a local Buddhist temple. One of the monks reached out to me to chat and get to know me better. She asked me about my difficult emotional states I’ve brought up when we’ve shared in class. I rattled off some straightforward description with some points about how I’ve been too attached to certain ideas of partnership and love and that I just need to reevaluate and come to terms with the possibility for a different narrative, understanding, and path for myself. I thought I would get some sort of agreement or pat on the back, but the actual reaction I got surprised me and made me understand my treatment of myself differently. Instead of just seconding such a tough approach to my situation, she paused and told me that it makes sense I would be grieving and struggling with all the transitions and restructuring I described. I realized in that moment that something some friends tell me is right: I don’t have a lot of compassion for myself. I strive and push myself hard to be better, to understand deeper, to stand taller, and to be stronger. When I fail, I tend to focus on how I didn’t do well enough and have to be better next time. As such, recent transitions have been tough. I tend to think of myself as weak or stupid rather than as working through legitimate issues. The fact that a monk who is well-versed in the phrasing and concepts I used basically indicated that I should pause and grieve with grace, accepting those feelings as legitimate, was quite the message to me.

Then, today happened. The last few weeks have been hard in general in that there’s flashbacks to a year ago and shared moments, as well as shared intentions and aspirations. We had talked at some point during that time about spending holidays with her family – helping her cook and enjoying the time. So, the loneliness of today, being alone, facing the existential shifts of looking at no partnership, no family, no fatherhood in the future as quite likely outcomes (No, I’m not being dramatic – it’s going to be difficult to find a match who is not settling for my sense of compatibility; such a person will be rare. That’s a statistical certainty.) has been incredibly painful, much more so than regular recently, and regular is wishing that my heart would stop, daily.

I’ve sat with all the feelings and tried to muster up the energy to just focus on other things that need done. That’s kind of my Zen of heartbreak: chop wood, carry water (as I’ve spoken of before). However, it was difficult, and I tried to focus on being patient with precisely that process.

One key focus for that was to go on a Jingle Bell Run – a family tradition of running in the Christmas Eve darkness with bells for the kiddos to hear. I didn’t have any bells though but took the idea up in spirit. I haven’t been able to run for months until recently, so doing this particular run was quite meaningful.

As I left, my heart continued to ache with all the feelings. I turned on a live album by my favorite band as the running vibe. The soft nuances and crushing crescendoes of electric energy really jogged my heart and my mind as my feet moved along as well.

Somewhere in the middle of the run, I realized – “Why am I so worried about these future concerns and the loss I feel from the recent past? So what if I won’t end up in a partnership, as a father, or with a family? I can take the extra time and independence to invest in myself, to become smarter, stronger, and deeper. I can mentor others in a variety of ways, find opportunities to be helpful, compassionate, and involved, and help children in other aspects, perhaps volunteering. I can dedicate the love I felt for another in new directions, expanding my heart to hold and help others in the various ways they cross my path. So what if relationships have never left me feeling seen or valued? I can value myself better than anyone else ever will be able to.”

In recent months, tarot and I Ching have time and again counseled me to find strength, insight, solace, and equanimity within myself. Find and strengthen my inner light of truth has been the counsel, and let it shine — the Hermit card.

I’ve tried, but I fall away from it time and time again, as I’ve wanted love. I’ve wanted partnership, but honestly, it’s time. It’s time to accept the path of solitude from a place of strength and empowerment.

I was challenged at one point that the feelings of connection I had with my person of heartbreak were all stories in my head. They weren’t. That’s not how I exist or engage with life. I don’t get lost in stories that I create. I push myself for insight, truth, authenticity – as said above, and sometimes, I’ll even sanity-check with other people just to make sure I’m not getting lost in a bias. They were intense experiences. I didn’t get lost in my head. I got lost in my heart. It may be the closest I ever get to unconditional love for a romantic partner. The best I can describe: I saw the other person fully, even with all their myriad flaws and darkness, yet accepted them and would have challenged them to grow and get stronger – as they did me. Seeing our future together brought images of two birds flying together to the treetops and beyond, soaring in accompaniment. It doesn’t matter that the other person didn’t feel the same. That doesn’t invalidate this as a true experience that I had, and I’m certain that evaluation of what we could have been is absolutely true, although it matters not. I was reminded of this again tonight, however, as the music at one point felt like it expressed that soaring, and fittingly enough, it’s a song called “Halcyon”.

To return to the events of tonight: I came home drenched. The rain tonight was steady and pretty hard. This too was somehow uplifting. In thinking of the Hermit’s Way, I remembered all the times I have had runs just like tonight: running through the wet and cold alone in the dark with so few people in life I could even describe such an experience to, nonetheless with whom I could share exactly what it feels like. I realized though that in some ways I always struggle with and resist this process but also always end up feeling enlivened and sometimes exhilarated by the sheer wildness of facing wind, rain, and cold for miles with nothing but resolve and a pair of shoes. Introversion and self-reliance have always been some of my greatest strengths. They’ve acted as an engine for many of my endeavors, even writing this blog right now, as well as learning many of the things that I reference in it all of the time.

In any case, I think it’s time to trust the process and move past the pain of struggling with being alone and the grief of losing a great love. It matters not that I’m pretty certain I won’t have anything like that again. It matters not that that certainty is bolstered by having looked through 100s of online dating profiles. I’ve played the field or cast my nets, and it was just what I expected. The path forward for me is one of investing in the Hermit’s Way, and I will do so with the strength and sure-footedness of someone with light feet. As I wrote in a creative project for school long ago:

12) Healing thyself.  As Nietzsche said: “Everything good is instinctive – and consequently light, necessary, free.  Effort is an objection, gods and heroes belong to different types (in my language: light feet are the first attribute of divinity)”.  Light feet as divinity – a revelation!  Feeling the weight of heaviness keeps us from running, dancing, flying…  We encounter the suffering of others all the time, but we are more than just vessels for suffering.  Staying healthy requires a lightness of foot, mind, and soul, rather than the heaviness of disease; it requires a quick, easy readiness to laugh!  Remember that to heal oneself is a dance with the abundant radiance that is in oneself, in the Other – “You”, and in the world.  Light feet… 

Writing mine. Quote from Nietzsche: Nietzsche, F. (2002).  Beyond Good and Evil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Honestly, that’s an aspiration that’s hard to live up to. I’m sure I will struggle with accepting this still, but I felt bolstered tonight with a lightness of foot that I haven’t felt in quite some time. Whatever the case, I will aim to take up my hermit’s lantern and shine.


May this help others find their own lightness of foot and inner truth as they struggle to grieve and grow.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Nothing in the world

I was recently spending time with a friend and flashed on a German song from years ago, half-remembered. I was driving us back to his place, and so I pulled it up on YouTube to play on the drive and amazingly, sang along, remembering almost all of the lyrics. It just felt so perfect for my vibe around heartbreak. I felt that I should translate it and share here. I love the opportunities to translate and share German on the blog, as seldom as they might be, and sometimes the sad, sad songs are precisely what makes us feel understood in difficult feelings. As such, I thought that others might enjoy it in that regard as well. The song is “Nichts in der Welt” (Nothing in the World) by die Ärzte, a band that had a huge place in my heart when studying German in my 20s.

This song is dark yet sweet and familiar. I showed my translation to a friend before posting, and she laughed and said this song was exactly the same as many things I have recently been saying about my process. I hope that others will find a shared experience in offering it here. The one thing I would say though… I loved her not because she was cruel, rather because I saw everything she was, including her darkest elements, and I accepted all of it. I don’t think there’s any deeper version of love than to see a person completely, accept them and yet still challenge them in their elements of not being the full light of who they could be, but maybe that’s just my perspective.

My translation:
It is over, and the sky is black because the sun no longer shines here.
It is over; however, I hope that that which separated us reunites us again.
It is over, and nothing in the world will ever make it good again.
It is over – if I could, then I would run away from my life.
Would close my eyes and would try,
To simply ignore my feelings.
I want to be so cold that everyone freezes.
Don’t want to ever fall in love again, in order to never lose again.
It will be a while more before I comprehend what that means:
It is over. I don’t know why – tell me what I’ve done wrong.
It is over. You have ripped my heart to shreds and thought nothing of it.
You are so cruel – that’s why I love you.
Although I know of course that you aren’t good for me.
My feelings are in and of themselves,
Laughably simple and simply laughable.
Because every thought only circles around the one:
It is over, over, over.
It is over, over, over.
It is over, over, over.
It is over, over, over.
It is over; however, idiotically, I still want to be with you.
It is over – and I don’t want to comprehend: every person is forever alone.
Love is only a dream, an idea and nothing more.
Deep in the inside, everyone remains lonely and empty.
It means that every ending would also be a beginning.
However, why does it hurt so much, and why is it so difficult?
I let you go, even if it tears me apart.
It is over, over, over.
It is over, over, over.
It is over, over, over.
It is over, over, over.
It is over, and nothing in the world will ever make it good again.

Original lyrics:

Es ist vorbei und der Himmel ist schwarz, weil die Sonne hier nie wieder scheint.
Es ist vorbei, doch ich hoffe, dass das, was uns trennte, uns wieder vereint.
Es ist vorbei und nichts in der Welt wird es je wieder gutmachen können.
Es ist vorbei – wenn ich könnte, dann würde ich vor meinem Leben wegrennen.
Würd’ die Augen verschließen und ich würde probieren,
meine Gefühle einfach zu ignorieren.
Ich will so kalt sein, dass alle erfrieren.
Will mich nie mehr verlieben, um nie mehr zu verlieren.
Es dauert noch, bis ich begreife, was das heißt:
Es ist vorbei, ich weiß nicht, warum – sag mir, was hab ich falsch gemacht.
Es ist vorbei, Du hast mein Herz zerfetzt und Dir gar nichts dabei gedacht.
Du bist so grausam – darum liebe ich Dich.
Obwohl ich doch weiß, dass Du nicht gut bist für mich.
Meine Gefühle sind an und für sich,
lächerlich einfach – und einfach lächerlich.
Weil jeder Gedanke nur um das Eine kreist:
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, doch idiotischerweise will ich immer noch bei Dir sein.
Es ist vorbei – und ich will nicht begreifen: Jeder Mensch ist für immer allein.
Liebe ist nur ein Traum, eine Idee und nicht mehr.
Tief im Inneren bleibt jeder einsam und leer.
Es heißt, dass jedes Ende auch ein Anfang wär’.
Doch warum tut es so weh und warum ist es so schwer?
Ich lasse Dich gehen, auch wenn es mich zerreißt.
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei, vorbei, vorbei!
Es ist vorbei und nichts in der Welt wird es je wieder gutmachen können

Heartbreak | Sitting with Suicidal Thoughts

I’ve kind of touched on the thoughts here in a recent post, but I thought they were important and weighty enough to address a bit more directly rather than abstractly. I’m hoping the vulnerability and sharing of process will support anyone else who needs it as finding the acceptance of friends and family has been crucial to continue sitting through these difficult feelings, whereas those who tell you you’re wrong, confused, or self-involved make it much more painful. I can only hope to give some companionship and feelings of being seen to those who need it.


I’ve honestly dealt with depression off an on throughout my adult life. It’s always around big changes and losses though – not the seemingly random nature of major depressive disorder, more the grief of the difficulties of a human life.

I’ve never really felt suicidal in depression, no matter how empty or meaningless life has felt. Not until this time. I’ve had the deep yearning to die regularly and escalating ideas of suicidal ideation since around mid-summer. It’s hard, and ultimately, it’s scary and tiring. Part of me has to struggle continuously not to sink into the abyss. Honestly, as someone deeply involved in existential psychology, I feel like it has to do with the famous quote: “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning). I’ve personally seen the withering away when a “Why” is lost. In many ways, this is precisely the problem of suicide that Camus lines out in his discussion of the absurd in The Myth of Sisyphus. Facing one’s existence and projects in life as meaningless is the ultimate existential angst. It’s facing the feeling that life wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t here. Rather than the Heideggerean state of being verfallen and covering over one’s death, it’s the inverse – staring life in the face and asking why you were even born at all while struggling to find any answer, as any you used to have have dissolved in your hands.

That’s all cerebral, but the experience is anything but – those are just philosophy riffs to explain the experience. The embodied experience is much more raw and crushing. I’ve thought numerous times how great it would be if I had the courage to jump out my window. I even had a sudden urge to stab myself with a knife recently, but ultimately, none of this has ever escalated to the point of having true plans, means, or intentions enough to where I felt I needed help, beyond some time to sit, cry, and be mindfully present for my feelings.

For me, it’s been all pulled forward by having attached to ideas of partnership and love – ideas that I didn’t fully realize were such a strong piece of my identity, desire, and meaning in life. Now, I’m just not so sure of those ideas, and ultimately, I don’t think the answer is to try to find them again with someone else, so it feels as though my life doesn’t really have something to aspire to, to build, to find meaning in.

Speaking of attachment – this is a klesha: clinging. Clinging to those ideas has caused such a traumatic crash of meaning and identity, and it doesn’t seem effective enough to take the existential, well, rather, Nietzschean, approach of building some new meaning/project/values, i.e. creating some new take on love or relationships. Instead, I’ve been inspired by the Buddhist ideas regarding attachment. I’ve tried to sit with the feelings of attachment and let them dissolve. Instead, I try to show up, connect with people, and provide my kindness and compassion for the struggles they go through, and ultimately, every time, it has led to gratitude and sometimes, even, growth in the engagement.

I feel that showing up to these hardest of feelings is like what I’ve posted about previously as a famous quote from Zen that before enlightenment you chop wood and carry water, while after enlightenment you chop wood and carry water. Facing the toughest moments of life is about mindfully sitting in them, realizing that it’s just more life. The world is as it was before. Your perception and emotional reactions are all over the place, but ultimately, the same billions of years of history are before this moment as in the past. The same world is there. It merely seems different because of that Wittgensteinian idea that the world of the sad person is different than that of the happy: i.e. your evaluations of it are different, but the aspects of living your life as a human being in your life and home are the same in the broader sense (this could very much be lined up with Stoic ideas as well, especially Epictetus).

Mindfully being present and being focused on showing compassion for others is a simple and yet deep shift in approaching the mystery of living in an existence that’s always greater and more mysterious than the meanings you find in your personal projects and interpretations. Being present and vulnerable in such a way offers the possibility of seeing life as precious, just as it is, just as painful and heartbreaking as it can be in its most samsaric of moments.

Which brings me to the greatest counter-perspective I can emphasize to that of the suicidal abyss: experiencing life as precious. I’ve recently been thinking of Atisha’s slogan practices from Tibetan Buddhism. The first slogan “First, train in the preliminaries” was key to facing my dad’s death a few years ago, and recent Buddhist classes I’ve been attending have been key to bringing these ideas back to the fore.

There are four “preliminaries”. I’ll attach a photo of a post-it note I wrote years ago with my own take of them to remember them by. It’s on my fridge. I took a picture of it before a recent trip because I was thinking about these suicidal thoughts and the counter effort I’ve been working on in seeing compassion and wisdom to pull me back into this more engaged mindset.

My summary of the preliminaries

I’ll speak of slogan practice more thoroughly in the future (hopefully), but I’ll summarize these points here. Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes how rare and precious it is to be born as a human being in a time and place where you can learn the Buddha’s dharma – the truths and wisdom that offer you the possibility of breaking free from the painful reactions that make life so difficult. In a way, this summary of preciousness captures the point of the other 3 preliminaries as well as the Four Noble Truths in one go. A sentient life is one of the pain, disappointment, and suffering of dukkha. It’s one of standard patterns of action, walking through life with the same conditioned ways of re-acting (writing that way because we think of it as action, but it truly isn’t – reactivity is the most passive of ways of being. The only truly active freedom is in being able to sit with challenges and see your inclinations and choose differently in ways that do not continue the reactive patterns of suffering in your life). Waking up to a different way of being requires seeing the opportunity and wisdom that is available to you, embracing it with gratitude, and rethinking your actions based on the outcomes and results you bring to yourself through them (recognizing the 3rd preliminary that all action is karmic), working now to embrace that opportunity because you see your time is limited (recognizing the 2nd preliminary that death is coming), and finally, doing all of this out of the understanding that there is dukkha (the first of the Four Noble Truths which opens the whole Buddhist path before you).

When I think of the samsaric pain of loss and meaninglessness that I’m going through with all the suicidal thoughts attached to them, in other words, when thinking of the fact that there is dukkha, I remember another Buddhist passage I’ve brought up before, the poetic lines from Dogen’s Genjokoan: “Therefore flowers fall even though we love them; weeds grow even though we dislike them” (Shohaku Okumura, Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen’s Shobogenzo). Desire and aversion put us at odds with the changing circumstances of the impermanent world around us, but if we recognize those samsaric poisons within us, we can take pause and sit more patiently with the difficulties of life, allowing us to instead continue on with compassion for others and mindful presence for the moment at hand. We may no longer have the flowers of beauty, or we may need to contend with the weeds popping up, but we can be right in this moment, doing our best in it, and giving to all the others who are here struggling with their own pain at the changing circumstances they’re in.


May these words inspire and offer companionship to those who need them.

Gassho!

Heartbreak | Music | Songs for the Deep

I hadn’t planned to write more heartbreak posts, but ultimately, the journey through the abyss to safety (recent I Ching reading but also reminiscent of the Moon card) is a fraught one with new challenges and rapids along the way. For me, this is much more true than I’d like to admit. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve cried about her, thinking about how I’ll never see her skin and smile again, or reliving a moment I wish I could change to maybe make things end up differently. It hurts so bad some days, and I couldn’t tell you why those days are worse. Every day, I wish my heart would stop beating. It just hurts too damn much, and some days, like today, something breaks you into full on panicky hyperventilation and crying, and you can’t even really say what triggered that exact moment. However, even then, there are events that make you feel understood and seen.

I went to a concert last night – Garbage and Alanis Morissette. These two artists really brought this to mind because they both have songs about some difficult emotional experiences. Listening to them and seeing how popular they both are, even 20+ years later, made me think of previous heartbreak and the sense at that time that so many songs are about love lost and pain around it. There are certainly more songs about this experience than the opposite (not that there are none of those), and it made me realize that the experience of loss, grief, pain, and frustrated hopes is more common, impactful, and lasting than that of some deep joy realized, which is generally more fleeting and less deep.

If we think of this in spiritual terms, we’ll quickly arrive at the Buddha’s fundamental truth that upholds all of the Four Noble Truths – the first one: there is dukkha. There is a suffering in existing. It occurs on both great and mundane levels, and those great levels speak to our greatest desires (see the second noble truth) and the difficulties involved in them ending or not being fulfilled.

Our relationships with others are a fundamental. They are part of being in the world (riffing on Heidegger here but pulling in a Buddhist direction). We become entangled in the desire of being with, regularly. There is both some of the greatest beauty and the greatest suffering in this, as other humans reveal the depths of who we can be, what we can feel, and how we can flourish.

In any case, I wanted to pick a few songs from this experience alongside a couple others to really pull at the heartstrings regarding heartbreak and the pain in it. Music can give voice to the human experience in profound ways that make us feel seen. Perhaps this is cathartic in itself. I know that even in just driving to the concert, “You Oughta Know”, spoke to my more fiery feelings of being overlooked, unvalued, and cheated. I’ll just leave it as a reference here without linking it for better options that don’t delve into such anger, but even that can be valuable and worth expressing in its own way.

First, let’s go with Garbage’s “It’s All Over but the Crying”, which speaks to ending, loss, and the grief afterwards as well as the poor treatment and misperceptions of someone else. They didn’t play this at the concert, but I was really wishing they would have played something from “Bleed Like Me”.

Beyond that, Garbage played a newer song, “Even Though Our Love is Doomed”, at the concert that really spoke to me. The main refrain kept asking why we kill the things we love the most. I kept wondering the same, as my feeling time and again is that extraordinary was traded for ordinary in my situation. I can’t help but feel like I was told I was superlative repeatedly but then was not chosen because of more or less bullshit reasons that never really made sense and seemed historically revised and over-hyped over time. In the end, I have to wonder why we kill the things we love the most, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one who feels a resonance with that question. Furthermore, the song has a “even though” this killing is doomed, you still want the person anyway because you see the beauty of that love. I couldn’t understand that any deeper than I already do. As a friend pointed out today, that’s why I hurt so much now and feel dead – I loved that deeply that its passing is a grief to my core.

Between sets, songs played over the speakers, and an old fave came forth and reminded me precisely of the strength of crying out against not having been chosen, of the feeling of what it is to roll in the deep of the abyss. Adele’s song is a classic for a reason in this genre.

In a note more fitting with my usual musical journeys of late, I was walking home today, listening to my newest post-rock album release of focus, the fantastic Transmission Zero’s “Bridges”. Their song, “Still No Sign”, has this haunting feeling of floating through space, waiting for some signal and it never coming. That’s the feeling of waiting and not hearing anything, of feeling on edge with the hope that continues to cut rather than soothe, as every moment is that Buddhist play of dukkha and tanha arising together. I felt so haunted by this song that I stopped in opening my building’s door and just rested my head on it for a second to catch my breath and resolve. It’s simple but feels like a deep journey of waiting and yearning.

Finally, most importantly, I wanted to share a positive note. Alanis ended her set with “Thank U”, and it struck me hard, even though it was a song I never really liked before. The journey through pain, through the heartbreak, even in its angriest moments like some of her more memorable moments from “Jagged Little Pill”, is ultimately soothed in gratitude, in moments like telling the audience that she certainly recommends getting your heart trampled on to anyone. These are part of living with others and vulnerably putting our hearts out there. In the end, that’s how we become strong and how we give back grateful compassion. Every day, I feel like dying right now. I really wish my heart would stop sometimes, but ultimately, I also always paddle on past that abyss of deep waters, keeping my resolve to continue, do well, and give my kindness to others. It’s incredibly hard, but every time, I’m thankful for continuing, despite feeling unworthy and unfit for the challenge. I love the closing lines. I’m thankful for my own disillusionment, my facing nothingness, my sitting in silence, and the clarity of strength I find in myself every time I do that with vulnerable surrender and resolve rather than anger or self-involvement:

Thank you India

Thank you providence

Thank you disillusionment

Thank you nothingness

Thank you clarity

Thank you, thank you silence

Alanis Morissette – “Thank You”

May this help others feel both expression and some gratitude for continuing forward in heartbreak.

Gassho!

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