Dispatch № 95: The Distance

An unhappy, unopenable can of chick peas

It wasn’t about the can of chick peas that rejected being opened. That’s where the frustration was focused, sure, but as is often the case in life, the real problem wasn’t the problem at hand, and the outsized emotional response pointed to other, larger problems in which those feelings were rooted.

It wasn’t about the cat vomiting behind the couch or the flat tire on the way to work, either. It wasn’t about the spilled water, the broken flowerpot, or the burned toast.

It was about the distance. Everything seemed impossibly far away. Learning enough Japanese, quitting the soul-sucking teaching job, getting married, having children, seeing my family in the USA, getting a successful business off the ground, having the freedom to live my life the way I want, not feeling helpless in the middle of a plague.

Imagine lying on the bottom of a cold, clear lake, held down by an immense weight. You’re looking up through a hundred meters of water and can see the things you want floating up there on the surface, sparkling in the sunshine.

You can get there, you know you can, and you’re determined to do it. So you work every day, trying to free yourself from the weight that holds you there. And every day, small stones drift down through the water and add to that greater weight. These would be inconsequential if they were all you had to contend with. They’re little things of no real consequence.

But given the position you’re in, exhausted and fed up, they just add insult to injury, reminding you of how impossible everything feels.

Which is how it winds up that, when the cat vomits behind the couch, it feels more like he’s vomited on your life. And when that can refuses to open when you’re just trying to eat better, it feels as if every single smirking legume inside is mocking you for your incompetence.

And the hardest part of it is just trying to be kind to yourself in that moment. Instead of agreeing with the judgemental chick peas, opting to make a different salad. Instead of getting angry at the cat, petting him and remembering that he doesn’t have a single malicious bone in his fuzzy little body.

Taking a walk. Taking a nap. Visiting the shrine. Having an ugly cry to get some of that awful feeling out of your body. Doing anything but leaning into the heaviness and frustration that we are all carrying, perhaps now more than at any other time in our lives.

And that distance remains daunting, but it’s not impossible to bridge, and the best way to start spanning the gap is to try to act from a place of love, no matter how little we feel we might deserve it in the moment.