Yesterday, Adam and a couple of friends spent the afternoon working on the basement. We started putting down new tiles last fall, but we got so busy, we stopped the project about 3/4ths of the way done. It should be done within a few weeks, now.

I spent the afternoon running/hiking in the glorious weather. Before I left, I felt guilty about taking off for the afternoon while other people worked on my house, but I dismissed those feelings as soon as I could. I put forth enormous effort on a daily basis. On my vacations and weekends, I put forth enormous effort. Even my guilty pleasure is killing myself on a trail.

At home, I spend a lot of time cleaning up after someone else, doing someone elseís dishes, doing someone elseís laundry or brushing the knots out of someone elseís fur. Iím often not even home long enough to create dirty dishes of my own, but Iíll drag myself out of bed a few minutes early in the mornings, to have time to fill the dishwasher before work.

So hell, if I want to spend Sunday afternoon enjoying a beautiful spring day, while someone else works on my house, thatís what Iím going to do.

It worked out well. I got to hike and come home to see things had moved along nicely in the basement. I happened to walk in the door while they were taking a break to eat some pizza. Adam gave me a piece of his vegan stromboli, and I sat down with them to eat it and listened to them chat about sports.

There isnít a topic more uninteresting to me than sports, especially when it comes to the drama surrounding the lives of individual athletes. Iíd much rather hear about the drama in my friends lives than the drama in the life of some guy that I donít know, regardless of his skill level or how much money he makes.

However, thereís something about listening to sports talk that makes me happy. My dad never cared for sports, he never followed any teams and he never played anything. It was something that was completely absent from my family life.

In my young adulthood, I never socialized with people who followed or played sports. Iíd somehow developed the belief that sports were something that normal people were involved in. Kids who played sports were kids whose parents were rich enough and interested enough to give them that opportunity.

I felt the same way about people who watched sports. They were people who were carefree enough to fill their leisure time with games.

Listening to the chatter bores me to death, but itís something that I always associated with privilege. I know thatís kind of silly. Every class is represented in the body of sports fans and players. Sports fans and players can be just as messed up as anyone else, worse even. Yet, for me, it somehow carries a scent of normalcy, healthy competition and strong bonds; all things that I never had.

Even though I have this strange appreciation for sports talk, I can still only take so much. Luckily, my brother called from Vancouver, and I was able to escape upstairs. Heís enjoying some nothingness before he comes back to the States to apply for his visa to Turkey. This rest in Vancouver comes after two weeks in Australia, three weeks in China, some time in Tibet (I didnít ask how long), some time spent with his girlfriendís family in Hong Kong, and now in Vancouver (her home town), meeting more of her family.

We chatted a bit about our family, maybe a bit awkwardly. Heís been putting forth more effort to learn about them and the past. I donít know if I find it interesting or not. In the past, I might have. Both my parents are extremely tight-lipped about everything. My mother is just inexpressive all around, plus, itís very difficult to filter out what is real personality and what is schizophrenia. My dad is the passive-aggressive type.

We talked a little more about our extended family, and some conversations heís had with them, on both sides. It reminded me of how much suffering, heart-ache, abuse and isolation permeates my entire family.

I usually donít think too much about it. I live my own life, and Iím in a completely different world.

Nowadays, I have a lot of friends. Some of them have experienced great suffering, and others havenít. Either way, theyíre mostly people whoíve gained some kind of perspective, people with compassion and people with hope. I know a lot of people who struggle daily, but there is something in them that makes them capable of giving back, but more importantly, to not take their suffering out on other people. They may suffer, but they also understand that their suffering doesnít give them the right to continue the pattern of inflicting suffering on others.

A lot of family isnít like that, though. Lost in such a sea of hurt, they have no perspective in that way.

You would think that, in theory, understanding the suffering of others might make me feel a little better. Things turned out pretty well for me, comparatively. I was lucky and my brother was lucky. I am grateful for that, but my gratitude is over-shadowed by a feeling of sadness for them. Not just my relatives, but everyone who has suffered. My heart aches for them.

So, I guess beyond coping with my own suffering, Iím still trying to cope with the suffering of the world. Itís a big thing, and I think it often hurts people more than weíll let on. We have no choice but to harden our hearts against the suffering of others or else be paralyzed with grief 24 hours a day.

But, along with the suffering, there is peace in the world, too. Thereís peace, thereís pleasure, thereís love. I guess the trick is to get in touch with that. To bring that into your heart, nurture it and keep it safe because when things get dark (and they always do), weíll need it to show us through.

That was Sunday, and part of today, too. Saturday, we spent the day at a meditation retreat, that I think may have helped, but Iím not sure. I think it helped Adam. Heís been feeling stressed. The semester has ended, but heís been unable to shake the anxiety.

At the time, I felt a bit better, but now, I canít say that I feel better. I may even feel worse. Sometimes, thatís the way things go, though, they get worse before they get betterÖ or they get worse before they get worse.

Friday, was the long-anticipated trip to the opera. We had a fantastic meal at a nice vegan restaurant before the opera. Walking from the restaurant to the opera house, we saw flashes of lightening and heard thunder, but the rain held off until we were safely in the lobby.

I adored the performance. Iíve never been to the opera before, so I had no idea how I would like it, but I liked it. Adam said to me that his preferences go in this order: plays, ballet, opera, and then in a distance fourth place, Broadway musicals. I asked him why thereís such a distinction between an opera and a musical. He thought for a minute and said he wasnít sure. Maybe hearing the opera sung in a foreign language makes the whole thing seem less cheesy.

Anyway, the result of his stated preferences, it occurred to him to ask if we could attend Shakespeare in the Park this year. While I often like the theatre, for some reason, plays donít stick with me the same way as dance or music. Obviously, agreed to go, but with the caveat that he do the legwork to get us there.

Usually, when it comes to our cultural activities, I am the one looking up ticket prices, figuring out dates and studying seating charts. I know that despite our agreement, we wonít get there unless I step in and do that legwork, which Iíll probably do as a favor for him.

Well, anyway, time to get my work done.

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Monday, May. 17, 2010 at 11:30 AM