A long time ago in a land that was actually far, far away, I was killing time in a tiny bookstore on a military post.
It was a tiny little shop, located at the end of what was a strip mall styled shopping center that held a PX, a barbershop that gave maybe three styles of haircuts, a small arcade, a food court, a Vodafone cell phone center , and maybe a half dozen local seller kiosks that sold seasonal items. The store itself was slightly larger than a broom closet and if I remember correctly, had an abundance of romance books, gun magazines, and Louis L’Amour novels.
And copies of Twilight. There was half a wall of Twilight. Twilight had just come out around the time my husband’s unit had gotten to the area. Being as how most of us were really young and probably pretty dumb, I guess they thought it would sell like hotcakes. And they were right. Military wives were lapping it up like kittens on a dairy farm. Everyone was reading it. Everyone but me.
But this is not a story about how shitty I thought the Twilight saga was. That’s its own post. This is a story about something else entirely.
After browsing the cramped room, I found myself over in the Religion section. It’s a thing with me and bookstores. Give me long enough that I end up hanging around there. And in a story that size, there was no New Age or Occult to browse through. There was just Religion. (Picture me saying this like the Ancient Alien guy says “Aliens” and you’ll understand.)
Hidden among all the Bibles and the Christian books (which was like 90% of their inventory), I found a wee little book on Buddhism that came with a tiny little redwood Buddha.
He had a round face with was made even rounder by his closed eyes and open mouth caught in mid-laugh. His bare chest was heavy and hung down onto his bulging belly. He sat crossed leg with a rounded knee peeking from a robe he wore loose and open. The chubby little toes of one foot were clearly defined, as was the indention of his navel. His left hand rested on a bag as round as his stomach at his side, while with his right hand he clasped a string of beads. His ear lobes were long and hung onto his shoulders. He was beautiful. There was no way you could look at him and not feel joy.
It was pretty much the entirety of my pocket money for the day so I picked it up and checked out. I went to the car and went back to our on post housing in it’s little cul -de-sac and that was that. I started reading up on Buddhism and kept the little red laughing Buddha around as part of my desk flair.
And then life happened and we moved. And we moved again. And life kept changing and things kept happening and kids showed up and stuff came with them. And wouldn’t you know it that’s the way life goes.
Somewhere along the way my little book on Buddhism got lost and with it my little red Buddha.
But that little red Buddha didn’t stay lost.
In fact, he has a funny little way of popping up right when I need him.
Things get lost a lot in our house. I’ll be upfront in saying I am not the greatest housekeeper. I do my best and we aren’t living in an episode of Hoarders but Martha Stewart and Marie Kondo wouldn’t be pleased. We have a lot of stuff and there are five of us, not counting the fur members and sometimes, sometimes I’m lazy. So there. Things get misplaced, snatched, and just flat out lost. But this little red Buddha seems to always find me when I need him.
Here’s the latest incident that inspired me to write this.
These last few weeks have been tough for me and I’m not sure why. I feel edgy and emotionally raw but still, everything feels gray. Once again, it’s that not waving but drowning feeling I’ve mentioned before. I’m starting to wonder if maybe my antidepressant dosage isn’t working for me and I need to get it adjusted. But there’s also the possibility I’m being a big baby about everything. Or, you know, I just need a giant hug, a few thousand dollars, and some really good coffee.
So in the middle of a rough spot the other day, I was doing what I do, putting my feelings into action. Instead of crying about whatever had me bent, I was sweeping the floor while detaching from reality with a podcast in my earbuds (I’m currently in love with Family Ghost. Give it a listen if you are so inclined). I hit under the couch with the broom with all my fury and all of a sudden, BOOM, the little red Buddha popped out.
I hadn’t seen him in a good long while. The last time was when I was in another slump, struggling over something that made me feel a lot like how I feel now. It was a good long while ago and it was not in the living room and definitely not under the couch. Yet here he was again with his shiny lacquered belly and his laughing face, staring up at me from the floor. A little palm-sized reminder of happiness, days past, and my few fings with Buddhism. I picked him up and just held him for a moment. The sweeping be damned, this was important.
It was one of those Universe wake up calls. This little guy found me -again- when I needed him
He was the life vest that didn’t mistake my waving for drowning. Just when I was sinking, this jolly rotund red-faced man lept into my life and reminded me of what was good.
And this might come off wrong, but screw it, I’m going to say it.
This is a part of my Craft.
This is my reminder to live my Craft and my life. It’s the sounds of a bell rings through the heavy fog of whatever is going on inside my brain. It’s the pinprick of light from the lighthouse in the night. It’s not only an allowance but an encouragement to just fucking be me.
Buddhism wasn’t the right fit for me, no matter how many times I tried it on. I tried Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Mantience. I tried Hardcore Zen.( I really do love that book). I even made a habit of chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Ky and learned about Nichiren Buddhism after learning about it from a beautiful friend. And I gained so much from all of it. Even though it didn’t all fit me, there were things that did add to me, my life, and my Craft. And this little red Buddha is one of them. He is like my guardian spirit who pops in, roaring with laughter, with the reminder Hey, life is for living. So get to it, lady!
It might sound silly, but the little guy makes me feel like when the world has forgotten about me as an individual (not the wife, mother, helper, housekeeper, fur mama, friend, etc ,etc), he remembers me. No matter how deep I get in my care for others, I am still me. And he sees that with his laughing face and closed eyes. His happiness is a reminder that the relationship I have with myself should be honored.
His arrival is a reminder that I need to drop this idea, this self-image I have, of being the one that has tp hold everything together. It’s a reminder to see myself as an individual too. I don’t have to be the one that holds all the weight. I don’t have to be the one that is always holding out my hand and offering to take on someone else’s baggage. I am not the mother hen to everyone, I can’t comfort and pacify the world. Sometimes it’s okay if the only person I comfort is myself.
And as much as my own baggage tells me otherwise, this is not ego.
It’s self-care, self preservation, and self-love. And this is one of the times I need all three.
And it seems that right now, this little red Buddha is what it’s going to take to remind me of that.
It seems to be his job. And he’s really good at it.
I think he was the best thing I ever got out of that bookstore in the land far, far away. I know it sure as hell was better than if I had gotten a copy of Twilight. They closed the bookstore down before we left because a bigger, better PX opened at the military base nearby. This one had a book section inside it, so it didn’t need it a bookstore. It was a romp through the country side to get there, but the food court having a Taco Bell totally made up for it.
The little redwood Buddha is now sitting on my computer tower, overlooking me as I type. I intend to keep him around, to look up at his face and belly, to have him remind me to breathe and just be, for as long as I can. But I know he might have different plans. He might disappear soon and then come back when I need it more. I can’t really act like I know how he works, I just know he does.