Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Impermanence, friend or foe?

I remember a friend telling me how for her Buddhism made sense when she understood the concept of impermanence. As I considered her comment, I realized that impermanence has been a part of my life for a very long time.

 My father died when I was 13 years old. At that time, I couldn't imagine this could ever happen to anyone. Of course, I heard about tragic things happening around the world, even in Paris fires would happen, and car accidents, but my life was so perfect and protected, I could never imagine this would change.

But change it did. In fact my life was shattered when my father was diagnosed with cancer and died merely 6 months later. Nothing was ever the same. My small world was destroyed, my mother and I moved to a different country, a different continent, a different culture and language and it was extremely hard for me to adapt.

But I did adapt in the end. El Salvador became my home and I lived there many years and built a life for myself and my children.

However when I became a Buddhist I realized impermanence has been part of my life for a very long time... so when the Buddhist teachers spoke about it, it wasn't earth-shattering, it was right there inside me, a natural concept, one I understood all too well.

After my father died, I continued experimenting loss. My boyfriend died when I was 17, later my grand mother and then a very dear friend my own age. To say I am well acquaintanced with death is quite the understatement.

I also lost my home in Paris, and later other homes followed, and with them friends, familiar settings and routines. I eventually came back to Europe, and I am now living in Budapest, Hungary, trying to make a new life for me and my girls, trying to settle in, to make friends, to grow professionally and to feel at home, since I don't really know where home is.

But impermanence is more than a liberating concept that we learn when we become Buddhists "Everything will change" or "This too shall pass". It is a constant feeling of possibilities, and not the comforting type. It is the possibility of loss... at any moment, in any way, all the time.

I often reflect on the possibility of my own death, and how this would affect my girls, my mother and all those who love me. I often reflect on their death, and how this could happen right now, in this very second, and there is nothing one can do about it.

I am not comforted by this. I am not traumatized by it either. I just think about it more frequently than other people do, I guess. I also have a tendency to have the darkest worst-case-scenario come to mind quite quickly if my daughters or my husband don't answer the phone.

I had an accident recently. It was a small accident, but it required hospitalization, and it involved a lot of pain. This was not pleasant, of course, but not that big a deal in the end. What really makes me tick though is how it makes me think so morbidly about my health, and of course, the possibility of dying.

And so here it is, once more... the confrontation with my own impermanence, the possibility of death staring at me in the face, making me feel like the ground is collapsing under my feet, and I realize this is not the Buddhist impermanence. This is the opposite, this is fear.

The reality of things is there is no safety net. Yet, after so many years, I still don't know how to deal with impermanence, or how to make it become my friend.