Instead of running, stopping

I am afraid of what happens when everything stops and I’m left in this void, alone. Immediately my hands rush to fill the gap, twitching to open the New York Times, Ha’aretz, Whatsapp, Telegram.

My mind jumps to an imaginary to-do list, making up tasks that must be done right now. Return my friend’s Facebook message, send an email to Bethlehem University’s finance department, follow up with the high school, plan for tomorrow’s sangha meeting. It leaps from task to task without satisfaction. Restlessness, the state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

I recently watched my first Netflix series to completion: Money Heist. Each episode filling the discomfort of ordinary life. Boredom. Sleep deprivation by way of jetlag.

If I’m not careful, fear of boredom, of being alone with myself without plans, will motivate my life. And this fear will carry me from place to place, always in search of the next spark. Never looking inside to understand this fear of the void. Of being alone.

Let’s go there now. What is it like in the void, dear one?

It’s cold. There is no warmth, and the candle I try to light is blown out by the wind. There is a stern overseer constantly looking for places of improvement. If this were a scene, it would be a windy snowy mountain. If it were a room, a barren one with white bare walls. My body hums with the desire to leave. To jump out of my own skin and be free from the claustrophobia of this body.

If I wait, other emotions arise. Tiredness. Sorrow that this body doesn’t always feel like home. That the first word I came up with is “cold”. Can I be with this sorrow without needing to change it or run for a mindfulness book? I notice that I am physically cold and wrap myself in a hoodie. And another heavy blanket, grounding this body to the earth. One burst of tears comes. I have been feeling like I could just float away without anyone noticing. The soles of my feet are tingling being solid on the ground. It is an unpleasant sensation and the instinct is to shift my feet off of the ground, to start walking. No, to start running. I’m searching for something. For a friend and a safe place to crash to the ground. Nowhere here is totally safe. Maybe Chen’s place is close to true safety. A place I can be myself and let go.

What about right here, Melanie?

Another cry. Sitting alone in my house, cozy in blankets. In silence, the questions arise. If I have to leave this house, where will I go? Will I be alone again? If I have to leave Israel, where will I go? Will my time here have been a waste, evaporating like rainwater? Am I growing old with nothing to show, no partner or fancy title to my name? My body doesn’t want to stand still, it easily resorts to panic. The desire to run. Solve the problem, figure out how I don’t end up alone.

I shift my attention to focus on the blankets on my lap, covering my thighs, knees, calves, and feet. The sensation is disorienting claustrophobia. I open my eyes to see if the bright room is calming. It is. I arch my back slightly, releasing tension, and sit up a little taller. Five deep breaths into the expansion of my chest. In, out. My body shakes and I notice my stomach burble. Digestion is on the way, letting me know that the parasympathetic nervous system has kicked in. The body is calming down. My feet are slightly more stable and comfortable on the ground. Another burble from the stomach. In, out. In, out.

I now turn my attention to the resonating self-witness. She arrives instantly with a burst of compassion and places her hand on my left shoulder. Her full palm cups my shoulder and touches my collarbone. Steady, reassuring, calm. I know this is hard for you right now, Melanie. It must be so scary to not know if you’ll get a visa for Israel next year. And to live in a house where you may need to leave in December. There are so many unknowns. No wonder you feel weightless and afraid. When this is acknowledged, my body takes a huge breath and sighs. My stomach releases its clenching. My feet are back, and I am safe.

I make a cradle with my arms and take to rocking myself. Singing. For now, the energy of running has subsided. In its place, surprise at the transformation. Joy. The stability of sitting upright. I am now present with myself. I have found the place I was searching for. True home, for now.