I was talking to my favorite neighbor the other day. 

Which is kind of a deal big seeing as how I’m almost a professional hermit and I’ve never been one to take to that whole standing on the lawn talking to neighbors thing. Remember Edward Scissorhands? I never wanted to be like those neighbors. 

But this neighbor is cool. She’s a few decades older than me and moved back here to take care of her ailing mother (who is closing in on 100 years!). We gab like we are old friends because we are pretty sure we are. At some point, our souls must have met before. 

We’re both weird and sick enough of the bullshit of the conservativeness of the South to feel out of place. But at the same time, we are strangely at home here. We both were born and raised here, but moved away. I came back sooner than she did because of reasons she didn’t have. She stayed gone because of reasons I didn’t because of reasons I didn’t have. She can’t wait to wrap up all the loose ends so she can get back to The Big Island and while I don’t mention it much, as much as I love my life here, I can’t help but to occasionally miss the time I spent in the Pacific Northwest. She’s full of stories of a life well-traveled. And I have two ears waiting to hear. Also, she likes my dog, my kids, and my husband. So that’s a huge plus.

Every time we catch each other outside, we stop and chat for a bit. She usually fills me in on the drama she has in her life, how her mom is doing, and we relate to each other how shitty family can be. We talk about the local gossip, like how often one set of neighbors fight and if the cops had to be called again. We try to predict the next weather pattern (we are really good at this) and of course, we shit on the current political clusterfuck. We may be from two different generations, but we hold pretty much the exact same viewpoints on things. It’s nice. It’s really nice. 

So the other day, after we had finished discussing how particular her sunflowers were our conversation moved to something a bit more philosophical. We had veered back to the topic of ungratefulness in relation to family dynamics when she mentioned that she feels that her lesson to learn in this life is how to serve others without attachment. We then started talking about the basic idea of being born with a lesson that we are to learn, and then being reborn until we learn it. 

We stood in the Carolina sun and discussed enlightenment, rebirth, and something that resembled saṃsāra. 

My knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism isn’t good enough to act like I have a great understanding of these concepts. But after a little bit of research and some reading, I have an idea. The idea is that we continue to be born in various realms and forms until we can escape saṃsāra with either self-liberation found through self-perfection and self-knowledge, devotion to Vishnu, meditation, or other various forms of searching of enlightenment. (I know I am not doing this justice. There is so much information to digest. It’s so amazing and my able to translate that is lacking.)

It made me wonder. If this is true, what is the one thing I am here to learn? 

What is my lesson?

What is keeping me in this cycle of rebirth?

I’ve been ruminating on that since the conversation. It’s my topic of thought while washing the dishes or doing my attempts at embroidery. I’ve been back tracing my life trying to find a red cord the might be a connection between all of the experiences that could be seen as teaching events. 

Trying to find subjective moments in emotional memories is weird. It’s like watching a really shitty season of a TV show you love and trying to decide if it’s actually good or you just like it because you’ve invested so much time in it. It’s putting together pieces of a puzzle you’ve made with your own flesh. But I feel like this could be really important. And I’ve come away with some ideas.

Most of my time and interactions with others involves me doing acts of service. I mama, wife, and friend pretty much all day. (Yes, I made those words into verbs. That’s the magick of having a blog, my friends) It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. As long as I can remember, I was the Mama Hen. I was always the one included not because I was “fun” because I was able to take care of people and help them when they needed it. When I was a kid, that lead me to being the one whose homework got copied and who wrote papers for others because I didn’t want to see my friends do poorly. As an older person, it’s lead to me being overinvolved in things I shouldn’t have been involved in. And for most of it, it was all for people who wouldn’t return the effort.

So my biggest struggles come from emotional fatigue from acts of service. Maybe I need to learn how to be able to help those around within proper safe parameters? Some combination of self-care, service, and ad-blocks like I’ve mentioned previously on the blog. Maybe I need to learn how to be dependable to others and myself. Maybe there’s a lesson on how being dutiful and being a martyr is not the same thing. Maybe my lesson, should I choose to finally learn it, is to not try to fix everything and just let things be.

Maybe, if the concept is to be believed, I’ve been trying to learn this for a while. And maybe I have quite a while to go. But if I make progress in this life, maybe I will be one cycle closer to getting to the next step, whatever that is. 

Or maybe, just maybe, the whole idea is bonkers. Maybe life isn’t about repeating the same struggle until we master an idea. Maybe it’s just about the here and now. Maybe it’s about what is and what is not. But even then, thinking about how I can be a better verison of myself isn’t a bad thing to spend my time on. Even if I worry slightly that all the self-introspection makes me a little self-absorbed, it might be for the best. 

I might go and talk to my neighbor again about it. I feel like we’ve had this conversation a few times. A few times more wouldn’t hurt. Maybe we’ll get it figured out eventually. 

Featured Photo by Daniel Frank 

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