ananda - unfolding (and lonely) bliss


Yesterday was a hard day of reentry for me.

As an extrovert, getting to attend a huge wedding (where I knew enough people that I didn't feel like I had no one to talk to and where I could dance my heart out) was a joy-making event. And then Sunday was spent on a happy adventure with my family.

Filling up my cup with songs and laughter and dancing and fun and adventure and love. Yes.

I am extroverted. I love that social party.

But then I need the days like today, when I can find joy in my own solitude and I can write and art and be alone in my thoughts and follow them to where they need to go.

I am not just an extrovert. I swing between being incredibly social and needing a lot of time by myself.

(This is why I am an ambivert.)

It's the transition I have issues with. The coming down, after the big event. The coming back to being social after taking off a week to work on my book. Transition issues.

(Ahem. Apple not falling far from the tree, yet again.)

And so when Monday dawned waaaaay too early after a robot call from a solicitor woke me up, transitioning to being alone was even more difficult, because being tired just makes everything that much more overwhelming. And so I felt very lonely, after a weekend of being together.

I find refuge in my art, so I worked on the photos I had taken at the wedding.

That was wonderful and it made me happy (I am very pleased with the photos I got from my new camera) but it also made me feel more lonely, because I was already missing my good friends from the wedding(s) and I realized that I didn't get any photos of us together.

(I need to remember to ask people to take photos of me with other people more. I just forget, because I like taking photos so much.)

Anyway, I got an email later Monday afternoon from one of the friends who hadn't been able to make it to the DC wedding and that actually is what turned my mood around, because I had really missed her the entire weekend, but it was nice to know she missed me/us. Friendship is so important to me.

So, this morning, when I was thinking about my loneliness yesterday, and wanting to write about it, I was thinking of all this.

And I looked through my photos from our (very brief) visit to the National Mall Saturday afternoon and found this photo I'd taken of Ananda - the Buddha's cousin.

Ananda means "bliss" in Pali and Sanskrit. It is also the name of the daughter of one of my very best friends in the whole world. I actually took the photo above specifically so I could share it with her, as I love seeing my name out in the world and I thought she would, too.

But something about the photo called to me this morning, beyond that connection.

I took an upper level undergraduate class on Buddhism in university but that was over 15 years ago now. I needed to remind myself why this photo called to me, so I did a quick google search.

And there it is, right there on Ananda's wikipedia page:

"In contrast to most of the figures depicted in the Pāli Canon, Ananda is presented as an imperfect, if sympathetic, figure. He mourns the deaths of both Sariputta, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship, and the Buddha. A verse of the Theragatha reveals his loneliness and isolation following the parinirvana of the Buddha."

 One of the reasons I am not a "good Buddhist" (or really, a Buddhist at all, despite my leaning towards the teachings and my having made private Bodhisattva vows as a teenager- here's my later poetic rendering of them*) is that I am a mourner. I believe in mourning. I believe in fully living all my emotions. Not adding suffering to my pain (hopefully) but also not refusing to be in this world, of this world.

I am an Ananda - I am a force of joy in the world, completely.

(The email that cheered me up mentioned how "of course" I danced til the end of the party, and how much joy that would have brought other people, which made me smile so wide.)

And I am also like Ananda in my mourning, and my loneliness, after.

Living my life outloud in this world is a intertwined balance of joy and grief, love and loneliness.

And that definitely makes me imperfect. And it definitely makes me human.

And that definitely makes me myself.


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*I'm 99.999% sure I will not attain Parinirvana after my death. Which, by the way, was the inspiration for the death-by-disintegration of Obi Wan Kenobi. That .0001% unsureness is basically my Jedi-loving geekiness showing itself.