Posted in family

The Happiest Season

I was watching a wonderful movie called “The Happiest Season” with my wife on Thanksgiving. It’s a romantic comedy/drama that you can find on Hulu. In it Kristen Stewart plays an orphan. Her parents passed when she was 19. As a result she doesn’t really like holidays.

That sounds sillier than it is.

Her girlfriend convinces her to go meet her family for Christmas. But her girlfriend has not come out to her parents. Lots of crazy things happen.

Equal parts hilarity and heart. Five stars.


There’s a scene where the family is meeting her for the first time and they have this attitude of “I’m so sorry about your parents.” They pat her on the shoulder and they have incredible concern for her.

And she’s just like “Um…it was a long time ago…”


It’s sort of played for uncomfortable comedy. The family is a little over the top with their sympathy, saying things like, “You’re so brave. And you don’t need to be.”

I’m telling you all this for a reason.

I didn’t really know how to explain it until I saw it in the context of this movie. That’s exactly what it’s like.

I lost my parents when I was 19 too. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear presentation of what it’s like. I started thinking holidays were stupid after my parents died. I became a negative person. I’ve definitely made more than my share of mistakes.

And the sympathy is exactly what it was like for many years too. Now that I’m 40, a lot more people my age have lost their parents. It’s not nearly as unusual as it was. But through my 20s and even into my 30s I received plenty of “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

It wasn’t easy. I carried the weight of that loss for a long time. I guess I still do. For years I was just miserable. And I also I wasn’t really capable of letting people get close to me. I didn’t know how to show up for relationships like I needed to. I was just sort of broken and numb.

I still carry some baggage. I have real attachment issues and fears of abandonment. That’s gotten better but it will probably never totally go away.

The truth is we’re all carrying emotional baggage from childhood. We like to think we outgrow that stuff, but I don’t think we do. Whether your parents were mean, or didn’t show the kind of love you needed, or passed away too soon like mine…that’s manifesting in our relationships. It can take a lifetime to figure out how to put that baggage down.

I’m still working on it. Are you?

Posted in interfaith, Uncategorized

My Friend Krishna

Krishna was a nice old Indian man. He was always in a good mood and very pleasant to be around. He was very nice.

He sat next to me at work for two years and he talked to me every single day.

I think a lot of the time we don’t really think of the people we work with as having a big part in our lives.

I’m not sure it’s right to call us close or even friends, really. But he passed away and I am feeling the loss. Now that desk to my left at work is empty.

I remember the first time we talked. Two years ago he asked me if I was a Buddhist. Everyone knows that I am. I’m as “out of the meditation closet” as you can be. I have Buddhist tattoos. Everyone knows I’m a Buddhist and that it’s a big part of my life.

I told him that I am a Buddhist. He asked if I have a temple that I go to and I told him about the Rime Center.  He told me that he attends the Hindu temple in Shawnee, which I had actually visited that same year.

He told me he was  Hindu. He had been raised in Hinduism and he was really interested in talking about spirituality with me. He didn’t know much about Buddhism, but he really like discussing where our beliefs intersected.

There was one other thing.

He asked me about the Dalai Lama’s health. Really he asked if the Dalai Lama’s health was a big concern, something people were worried about.

I said, “Well, I know he’s been having health problems for years now. I don’t know if he will die soon, but he is in his late 70s…so, you know…” (the Dalai Lama is 81 at the time of this writing. )

Krishna just laughed and said, “I’m in my late 70s. What do you mean?”

So, that was embarrassing. But, luckily he was such a positive thinking person that he didn’t get offended at all.

I was clueless. I have trouble realizing how old people are sometimes.

It was a rude thing to say anyway, but I believe in being completely open and honest here. I hope the Dalai Lama lives for many more years.

Anyway, I sat by Krishna for 2 years. We talked about spirituality a lot.

Some of you reading this may not be aware that Hinduism and Buddhism have the same roots and they have a lot of similarities. He thought talking to me was interesting.

Earlier this year he asked me to tell him how to meditate. This was surreal. He had been raised as a Hindu. He had been practicing Hinduism for much longer than I had even been alive. And Hinduism is a meditative religion, just like Buddhism is.

There something we don’t always realize here in the west. There are plenty of people who were raised in Hinduism and Buddhism that don’t meditate, that don’t even know how.

That sounds weird, until we think about how many people raised in Christianity don’t pray or study the Bible. Plenty of them, right?

Anyway, I taught him how to practice breathing meditation. I guess at the temple he went to there was a lot of chanting and bowing, but not all that much meditation instruction.

Last week he told me he wanted to learn more about Buddhism. He asked me to bring a book in, something he could read and get through pretty fast, something simple. A lot of people ask me to recommend books. This is not a big deal.

I did bring in a book for him. I brought it in last week. But I never had the opportunity to give it to him. He never came to work again. And he passed away over the weekend.

He lived a full life and he died surrounded by his loved ones. His death was not a big surprise. He had been struggling with his health for a while.

It occurred to me that if my own father hadn’t passed away 21 years ago, he’d be the same age as Krishna.

Krishna was a wonderful man and my heart is with his family today.

Posted in tattooed buddha

Because Losing My Parents Broke Me.

The loss of my parents will always be a part of who I am.

I always had anxiety problems as a kid. I worried about things. I didn’t know how to make friends. I actually had a fear, even as a very young child, that girls would never like me. (And even as a very young child I liked girls a lot).

There are a lot of kids with anxiety problems who outgrow them. Plenty of people are shy as children and become outgoing as adults. But that wasn’t what happened to me.

When my dad got sick my anxiety exploded.

At the beginning of my teenage years I became the most withdrawn I have ever been. And then a few years later my mother became sick. At the age of 19, I was alone—an orphan.

My parents were in their 50s when they passed and it has always been in the back of my mind—the knowledge of how old my kids will be when I’m in my 50s. That being said, I hate it when people feel sorry for me, so please don’t.

This isn’t a story about how things got bad, but about how they got better.

I was lost and broken and I made my fair share of bad choices. I didn’t deal with their deaths very well and I ended up suffering from terrible anxiety and depression.

I withdrew into myself and started avoiding social situations. I just wanted to be alone and feel sorry for myself so I pushed away everyone that cared about me. This is something that a lot of people do when they’re dealing with a loss, I think.

I drifted through life like a cloud. I was in college and I couldn’t choose a major. I didn’t have any direction in my life. I wasn’t sad, I was numb. I felt emptiness.

Now, I don’t wanted to suggest that I conquered my anxiety problems. That would be untrue. I still have anxiety problems.

I’m an introvert. I don’t do small talk. I don’t really start conversations. I try to avoid crowded places and I’ve been told that getting to know me isn’t easy.

But, all of that being said, I’ve come very far. I’ve grown a lot as a person in my adult life and I learned how to manage it.

It was meditation practice that helped me. It’s the only thing that’s really ever helped me.

Why does it help?

Meditation is a practice of mental and spiritual development.

Meditation practice expects us to turn inward; to understand ourselves and our interconnectedness to the world around us. It helps us see the truth—that there’s no reason to be anxious because the truth is we are all one, not nearly as separate as we think we are.

It could help you too.

Losing my parents broke me, but it’s through meditation and serious spiritual development that I put myself back together.

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/because-losing-my-parents-broke-me/