Push and Pull
Assuming he’d play my game by my rules, he deflected each attempt to reach him like a seasoned goalie. I could handle being an opponent, but what would I do if we weren’t even playing the same game? Disappointed yet again to be deceived by my own mind, a gentle voice came to the rescue and said: ‘what if he doesn’t know he’s your student and you’re his teacher?’ “Where do I begin then?’ I shot back. ’At the beginning.’ So, it was back to that again! Everything brightened gaining clarity. No wonder ‘the fool on the hill saw his world spinning ’round,‘ I was in the land of assumptions! Apparently me wanting him to be my student didn’t automatically make him one or me a teacher for that matter.
“Hi, how’s it going?” I said, approaching hesitatingly. He looked up at me and snickered, then carried on transacting with the others. Dismissed like a dirty dishrag, even now the Universe wasn’t going to make it easy for me. ‘Don’t say anything. Just watch,’ the voice said as if feeling my concern. So I did. After a while people left. Alone, he quieted down; only I remained; a silent observer. Exposed with no telephone pole to lurk behind, I made my move. “So, how’s it going?” I repeated. ‘Ok.’ “Got anything left to buy?” I asked, looking at what was left of a once ample supply of merch. Buying a few things out of politeness more than need, he smiled. “Got enough yet?” ‘For what?’ I laughed, like I didn’t know. “For whatever you want.” ‘No,’ he said after a short pause. “Do you want to go somewhere?” “Not really.” I couldn’t blame him for being as vague and evasive as I was. “Let’s get out of here. I’ll lend you a few bucks to get some dope.” ‘Don’t know any dealers’ numbers.’ “I do.” Short and to the point just the way he liked it. He got up leaving the rest of the stuff behind. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” He looked at the pile of flail on the ground then said ‘no, it’s just junk!’ I felt like a fool for buying just junk, but decided it best to leave my own ‘junk’ behind too.
He talked away – to himself, but that was nothing new. I took out my pipe, he looked, but this time didn’t say anything. So there was a God after all! After a few hoots, I was ready to go. Tucking my own tail between my legs, I followed him around like a puppy dog watching, taking mental notes and asking questions about what and why he was doing what he was doing, gently, even secretly, so has not to provoke suspicion. While secretive and manipulative tactics went against every concept of education I knew, desperate times demanded desperate measures. Weighing the pros and cons, I just had to keep my end of the bargain. No easy thing when drugs were involved.
How could I be selfless and have a selfish reward at the same time? The answer shocked me with its naturalness. All I had to do was be his friend, listen and talk about whatever came up in discussion. But how could I do that without judging everything that came out of his mouth? I listened and saw how competing for space was just like trying to get the ball in a soccer game. Conversation was similar but played with only one player. If it was my job to take, pass and dribble the ball pass the opponent, how would I know when I’d won? Then it hit me! There was a different scoring mechanism! Beating the opponent was only one way to play, learning from them was another! Everything brightened again. A good game was won through increased awareness. Wanting the ball all the time was like wanting to be heard, while having it was like talking. One passive, one active. The two together made up the game aptly called small talk! Being right was like taking penalty shots at an opponent. Sure it felt good to score and win, but it only lasted a short time.
The only problem I could see was me running out of patience and steam. What would I do then? ‘Let him use his own energy,’ a gentle voice said. The thought of him using his own energy grated my controlling nature. How could I let him use his energy and be heard too? Another flash of insight revealed all I had to do was listen with love and let him be responsible for himself. That way I was responsible for my own self too.
Whenever he cut me off or responded inappropriately to my few words, I saw how he was talking at me and not with me. In fact, with headphone blazing away he wasn’t even listening to me at all! Angry, I stood my ground for once and told him exactly how I felt. But apparently he said I had nothing important to say! How would he know without listening first? I stormed away then returned and every time he spoke I looked away totally disinterested. He got the message loud and clear.
By playing his game in my own way, his negative emotions began to slowly transform into positive ones. He was learning or dare I say it even evolving! Reminded of the tale of The Ugly Duckling, could I transform my own ’ugly ducklings‘ when society prized only ‘beautiful white swans‘? A gentle voice said, ‘what if their swans weren’t as beautiful or as white as they or I thought they were? At first the thought of being strung together by nothing more than rickety white-washed rotting fences made me grimace. Then I laughed as the full realization of what I was being shown surfaced: my vision held all the materials necessary to transform and rebuild it to my liking. All I had to do was rebuild and repaint it with a fresh coat of white-wash. The only thing I didn’t seem to have was time. Sure I liked being with him, but while he thrived on company – anybody’s – I valued my downtime and privacy as well. Fueled by feelings of ineptitude I acted out. With my jealousy revealed, he threatened to leave. Delving into my heart I told him I was scared of losing him and never seeing him again. He laughed, yet the pain in his eyes revealed understanding. Then amazingly he said he was scared of endings too. We weren’t scared of arguments, but of ultimatums and endings. If we were lovers we would’ve embraced, yet we just picked up where we left off.
Rising above petty arguing we’d both won a simple victory. Yet I knew my day would come when I’d have to face my biggest lesson of all: not falling in love with him. No easy task for a Pisces! In the meantime I observed silently with renewed respect.
How could I tell Tom I recruited him to teach me how to survive and still call myself a teacher? Taking care of our needs was like starting a new exercise routine. The worst part was it was his routine! Acting like my limits were warm-up exercises, I plodded on like an ox to the plow; scared he’d think me a bad teacher if I gave up. In the fractions of time I did spend with myself, I asked the Universe whether I was taking the easy way out or not? To my surprise they told me no. So I carried on, nurturing my commitments like a newborn baby. As every morsel of my being was stripped from me in directions I never knew existed, all I could wonder was how bad a child I’d been to my own parents. If this was what it felt like to pay back karma no wonder people avoided it. It hurt to say, but even I had limits!
Without food, sleep, drugs, sex and privacy I felt more like a robot than a human being. Not knowing what kind of teacher gave up, I turned to the Universe and raised my fists. It’d got me again. Unlike before when it’d got me to go to treatment, now it made me see something I really hadn’t seen coming. all the time I thought I was teaching him, what, where, when, how and why to do things, the Universe had been teaching me through him. It’d got the last laugh yet again! I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t have the strength, willpower – even heart to go through with my commitment. I was a failure – again!
As if he heard my conversation Tom said: ‘you don’t want to be here do you?’ I wanted to say no, but the look in his childlike eyes nearly brought me to tears. Was I really that much of a coward to leave so soon? What if I was wrong and was giving up too easily? Where had I heard that before? But I couldn’t go on, not in my state. So I told him exactly how I felt, which was surprising because I didn’t think I had any feelings anymore. ‘Why didn’t you tell me? We can rest here.’ I couldn’t believe it. He made it sound as though all I had to do was ask, but if I did I had to have the perfect reason for asking. ‘I’m tired too. I could use a break.’ With whatever was left of my energy I managed a laugh, then hurried to set up camp before he changed his mind. All along I’d been scared to tell him how I was feeling because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, while totally ignoring my own.
While it was a joy to pass each test he had for me, it did get tiring when there was no time for me. Passing limits like kidney stones, we took it out on each other like Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab who ‘piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race‘. Still who else would put up with a pair of misfits like us? Even when people wanted him gone, I protected him. To me his criticism, anger and ingratitude were just masks for not being able to do for himself and having to turn to others for help. Instead of hearing criticism I heard angels singing songs of sweet joy. I didn’t know how to be the best teacher possible on my own? Turning to others with his issues felt like breaking his confidence. Wanting to do it all on my own was just pride talking. I had to turn to others for help if I wanted to succeed. And I had to succeed at one thing before the end.
Surprisingly, all the discipline and hard work began to pay off. I felt freer than I could ever remember – even when partying! Now I only ate when hungry, slept when tired, talked when I had to, worked when I had to and laughed and played with others because it was fun to do so. Other bonuses were there were no angry bosses to deal with, minimal taxes to pay and no responsibility other than staying alive and paying off my karmic debt. Sure I didn’t have a fancy car or went on exotic vacations, but maybe they’d show up along the way if they were meant to. Right now my living university was finally working for me! All I had to do was show up, ask questions and have the ears to hear, eyes to see and sense to sense!
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Varma and The Gong Show with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.