Mostly this blog will be about my work at the grocery store, but some other incidents just beg to be written about.
I do ecstatic dancing every Sunday morning. We hang our coats and miscellaneous items on coat racks outside of the dance hall. There are volunteers positioned right next to the coat racks, it’s a real honest group of people – and mostly we all feel fine leaving pretty much anything out there. I routinely leave my watch, phone, wallet hanging in my street pants or coat pockets. This morning I was wearing a shoulder bag (“man bag”) and had all those things in it. I hung it from the same coat hanger as my coat.
When I got out to the car, I realized that I had taken my coat but left the bag behind. I schlepped the half-block back to the Masonic Temple, where the dances are held, and methodically looked at all the coat hangers from several in front of where mine would have been to several behind. No bag. I had finished the dance in a great mood – and this good mood was mostly sticking with me, in spite of some frustration and just a little bit of anxiety about where was my bag. I patiently looked on the floor under the coat rack – and in a couple of other spots where it didn’t make sense that I would have taken it, like where I put my shoes on. No luck. I must have taken it out to the car.
Another trip back out to the car and it definitely wasn’t there – so back to the Masonic Temple. Nobody ever steals things in this group – but there was that time, three years ago, when Michael’s wallet and iPhone were stolen. I’m getting a little more anxious. This time as I come through the door, my volunteer friends at the welcome table start to tease me about all the back and forth. I confide my predicament to them – and my building frustration and anxiety. Sweet Leslie, a pretty, slender blonde woman in her 5o’s (very interesting person, terrific dancer) says “Show me where you had it.” I follow her over to the coat rack, saying “I looked all through there – looked under all the hanging coats, everywhere.” “Yeah, but basically where was it.” And in less than 30 seconds she finds it – hanging from one of the empty hangers, where I felt sure I would see it if it was there.
I used to study meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh, an extremely holy teacher of Zen Buddhism – who is right now apparently dying. He is on my mind. Thay (“teacher” – what his students call him) used to entreat us not to be sure about things. “Which way is up?”, he once asked us. When we all pointed up (as we understood it), he said “Our friends in China would not agree.”
I was sure that my bag was no longer hanging on the coat rack. How can my life be different if I don’t go around being sure of things? How might this soften my rigidities, leave me open to more possibilities – easier to deal with, to live with. Easier to be with for myself. Thay, thanks. I’m sure I love you. I’m sure that you are an amazing man. I think you are our greatest living spiritual teacher, though I guess I can’t be sure about that. It feels to me like this world will be a more empty, sadder place with you gone – but I’m pretty sure you would encourage me to not be so sure about that.