We pick up the story again here at Lyon airport...
Eventually we score the fleet of busses we’ve been promised and it’s late. I’ve opted the shorter less stress route to Lausanne via Geneva to meet a friend there and travel onwards the following day. The journey to Geneva is uneventful bar one child who vents for the collective while it’s mother tries to hush it and the man behind me mutters at them under his breath.
We’ve all had a bad day. But I notice no anger in me. At what should I direct it anyway? The wind? Easyjet? It’s just one of those things innit, we’re alive, they did what they had to and are doing their best to do the rest. The crying child? The mother? No chance. Instead I feel compassion, and then inwardly happy about that, then almost to the degree of smugness about my spiritual progress, which kind of kills it. But I’m ok. And it’s ok.
In Geneva I sprint for the train to Lausanne, I make it by seconds. Good job too! I fellate myself. Next one would have been half an hours wait and it’s already late!
I sit down and try to find the middle. I notice I’m fidgeting again. I can't put down my phone, or my kindle, or my notebook. I do pointless things with my bag, unpacking and repacking. I’m fucking tired. But a second or third wind of adrenaline is still coursing through my system and dispersing itself through movement and mental activity.
I check my phone for the 65,000th time that day. 8 minutes to Lausanne and the warm embrace of a dear friend.
Clunk, rip, screech and grind. The train pulls itself up to a standstill in the middle of nowhere. What the fuck was that?
Rain patters the silent windows, collecting in droplets and racing itself toward earth.
The PA comes over in French. I pick out the words “accident”.
Jesus. What kind of accident? I don’t have the energy to disbelieve anything at this point. Familiar murmurs and ripples, echos of the day, filter around the carriage.
10 minutes go past.
The ticket collector strides through the carriage pronouncing words I don’t understand. But I hear from reactional tones that something has happened and this might take some time.
Something inside me already knows what it is.
I ask a moustache and glasses opposite for a translation.
I’m validated. Somebody has gone under the train.
What’s happening today?
Life falls through the floor and trickles between the rails into the rocks.
I can’t tell whether people are more shocked and sad or annoyed. I wonder for a moment what would be the appropriate thing to feel.
The shock and exhaustion is kind of numbing me out. But mostly I just sink into a deep cold pool of silent WTF.
“It will take one hour.” We get told to discernible irritation. Most of the people on the train were in the air today too.
The police and ambulances are on their way.
Then I understand something.
Life is fucking fragile.
I am vulnerable, and in any moment it can be whipped away from my control. And I feel strong. Resolve. I am my biggest priority. (Even typing those words collapses something in my throat.) I can’t expect anyone to make me their biggest priority, and I can’t expect of myself to make anyone else mine. I don’t always understand why I do what I do. And I often feel shame about things I do when I think about what I think that might mean to somebody. Why do I care about what that means to them? I don’t. I’m selfish, I only care about whether or not they’ll give me what I want in return, based on who I think I need to be to get it from them. How to control their expectations and whether they’ll meet my need for sex, or love, or approval, or money, or fill in the blank.
I’m suddenly quite awake. Suddenly I’m quite important. Not in a ‘get me off this fucking train because I’ve got places to be’ kind of important. The narcissistic child is silent. There’s a good kind of selfishness alive in me, an unapologetic ‘hey I have to be this honest with you because the life inside of me depends on it’ kind of important, with a loving ‘fist in the face’ - the way I’m feeling right now is totally mine, I won’t take any of your shit on and I will absolutely keep all of mine off you - kind of ownership.
Once again a fluorescent shepherd comes to move us into first class (is this some kind of on the fly compensation scheme for that man’s life?) and then eventually down onto the soaked grassy verge.
We stand in the midnight rain next to an endless panorama of train tracks. Solemn and numb, bordering on distant contemplation.
Brightly coloured jackets flick and gather in the darkness. We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere. We get moved up a nearby footbridge onto a platform close by. I see a solitary polished oxford black shoe in the grass. I’m touched in a way that hurts.
We huddle under the platform shelter, everyone is smoking. We’re told a train will pick us up and take us back the direction we came, there will then be another train that will take us forward again to wherever we’re going. It’s too much. My friend drives out to pick me up.
I’m utterly grateful.
We chat and catch up. I’ve missed her warmth. We meditate together and she articulates an awareness that has been opening in me.
She knows what she wants. She’s sure of it, and she’s letting go of all expectations, she knows her imperfections. She talks about men who know what they want. I’m not one of them. And neither are many I know.
I think about the crisis in masculinity. How men, in order to fulfil their overwhelming biological urges with women are supposed to know what they want, be assertive, be confident and bold. But not pushy, and not domineering or rapey, but be like cavemen, and smart, and sensitive, but not emotional, hard and passionate, and understand what sexism is and take the lead, and be equal and give up control, and be in control. And be themselves, and not feel any shame or guilt about who they are, even though it hurts people and is wrong. I think about the shame and guilt that I feel as the terrified child ricochets between these poles desperately trying to win the approval and mating rights of most females that enter my vicinity, and validation from the tough guys. And then resentment because why is it so fucking hard? No wonder we fucking fake it so often. And then another dollop of shame and guilt for feeling resentment, followed by annoyance at myself because maybe none of it’s even true outside my head, maybe it’s just me, I’m being a spoilt child and it’s probably at least twice as fucking hard for women.
I don’t know what I want. I’m not one of those men. Shame and guilt and fear crush down on my shoulders curving my spine and jutting out my chin.
I watch her talk. Then I stop watching and start listening. I’m paying attention. I have to give up and let go. Let go of things I think I want. Addictions, fascinations, hypnosis, shortwave shit, the kind of drives that come on fast and exit with equal gusto; sex, money, food, sugar, anger, vanity, relationships, comfort, notoriety, approval, validation, Basically, “me”.
And I understand myself this time when I say give up and let go. I don’t mean push against, reject and renounce, punish myself for failing to adhere to a strict policy of abstinence with. Maybe I even have to put my entire heart into some of these ‘Sins’ (Greek word for ‘missing the mark’) until exhaustion wakes me up. By giving up and letting go I mean deeply meditate toward the soul tingling recognition that floating in these short wave desires isn’t going to connect me to the undercurrents that drive what’s alive in me. It just isn’t. It’s physics. But that maybe I can let them happen too.
I’m struck with rest.I don’t have to do anything. to descend through them takes the absence of effort, but focus, which is basically just looking and concentrating. To carefully notice, and relax back into the drive as it moves through me feeling for a handle. To let myself be pulled under by it, let it throw me around like a small metal tube in a storm without struggle until I drop into the deep, that’s where the longer wavelengths pick you up, ride you in an swelling undercurrent. That’s where the stability, the longevity, the consistency, the deep fulfilment can be found. If that’s what you’re into.
I've never really trusted love. I've never really trusted that intense intimate connection could come without an agenda, that it could transcend possessiveness and unconscious manipulation. It's always felt like I've had to be something or do something for someone, repress some part of myself to earn it. I've always thought I wanted the best for people. But my love has come with conditions too; validate me, tell me I'm ok, quiet that voice snaking around in the pit of my cerebellum. Suddenly I'm aware of deep caring. It's in the people around me, I care about them. They genuinely want the best for me. And now maybe I want that too. I'm touched. Something caves in on itself at my chest, like the end of an egg timer rushing through the final grains.
One of my new year's resolutions was to find out what I want. Not the flimsy, fickle, quick fix “I”, but the whale, The “I” gliding and weaving it’s slow, steady and enormous pace from below.
Now without a doubt I know what I want.
I want with all my heart to find out exactly what I want.
And my willingness, in the words of the late Marshall Rosenberg, is to sin courageously until it’s obvious.
What do you want?
What wants you?
What are you willing to give up or ride through to find out?