I recently had lunch with my first ex-husband. I have not seen him in many years. Not since he and his wife moved to Florida where he studies and looks after elephants. I thanked him at lunch for studying monkeys copulating in the Japanese jungle (a previous occupation) because over the years I enjoyed sharing that tidbit in conversation. Today I lunched with my second husband who is a commercial airline pilot and lives in Dubai. I must also thank him because the two are perfect together as conversation embellishments. During lunch with him a plate exploded next to us and a man seated behind him became so ill that suddenly there were four paramedics gathered around and flashing emergency lights in the background. It was a wildly dramatic backdrop to a lovely and relatively quiet visit.
Both are healthy and happy and look fantastic which is very satisfying because I have always adored them and hoped for their happiness. I like that I was able to see them before this fast approaching birthday. As is typically human, I want to ascribe all kinds of meaning to it—that life has its own poetry or what I described in an earlier post as life’s persistent narrative. The idea fascinates me of a persistent narrative that extends on a delicate thread or trajectory before and beyond our lives.
I reflected on this after a visit to the Coroner’s crypt in Los Angeles not long ago-
As I walked through those rows of bunk-bed style metal shelves of plastic wrapped bodies, naked and in varying states of decay, I thought - death is the great equalizer. We shall all end up the same. No social or financial distinctions. We shall all rot and stink - however glamorous or dignified.
And that’s what occurred to me at first seeing them all there in that thirty-seven degree refrigerator. While they wait in that stillness, the ending in the story of their lives is told under microscopes and revealed by scalpels.
The next day I rendezvoused with a friend. Throughout the conversation, he disarmed me by recounting our lives as film students all those years ago and who I was back then. Talking to him delivered me to continuity. It drew me toward the thread of my life. There’s a story he keeps me connected to.
Thinking about that, about continuity, about what’s human in death and the persistence of our life stories, I was able to bring the entire universe to a standstill, to the moments of our meeting and parting.
I gathered as many of those who have inspired and supported me especially these last few years since my third divorce (yes, that’s right, third) a few nights ago in order to honor, treat and toast them. They were mainly colleagues and a few friends. Every single one of them are positive and gifted. I am truly stunned by what they set themselves to accomplish for the wider good. When I spend time with them I want to be like them. I want to embody that dedication to the other’s benefit. Truly remarkable. And if I can be blessed to accomplish even a fraction of their character, I would be what the world needs right now - a life lived with love and compassion doing what brings happiness not only to oneself but to many others.
When I look around and the forces against me (that contradict where I clearly see myself going) assert their certainty, I try to put my mind on my spiritual teacher. He reached enlightenment while in a Chinese prison camp for twenty years ( H. E. Garchen Rinpoche ) or I find a way to be around these remarkable people in my life hoping some of that brightness and brilliance will be inspired in me.
I encounter a lot of devastated lives in the course of going to the prison each month to facilitate Alternatives to Violence workshops and the few Crisis Response Team calls I respond to when there is a fatality. In every case I am being taught something so that each time I feel myself dipping a toe in the self-pity pool in response to situations in my life, this is my antidote--one must never give up under any circumstances. Even better, one must dance and sing through even the most adverse circumstances. I learned that by watching a few friends doing it.
Someone at the Garchen Buddhist Institute once explained an instruction by Garchen Rinpoche on where we put our minds, whether on the faults or qualities of others. She said, in other words, be a jewel collector not a garbage collector. That goes for choosing the company we keep. Be a jewel collector not a garbage collector.
By my estimation, I’ve collected a lot of precious gems.
Michelle Espinosa is Blog-o-licious
I hope not to squander this life on anything less than love. And what do I mean by love? Think fierce love. Love that cuts to the core, that burns away all nonsense in an instant to get at what is most human. M+