Samsara, Nirvana and Cosmic Mishegoss

Samsara. I am not a scholar of eastern religions, but I know that samsara is the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. This is a cycle you want to complete so you can get out of here, this world of suffering. I want this completion. I want to use the rest of my time here gainfully, so I can complete my mission. I do not want to keep coming back here to lose the people I love anymore. There is love and beauty here but from what I understand there is even more of that when you get to nirvana. I can not know how many lifetimes I have left but I want to move it along.

This has been a long and confusing week to end a long and confusing summer, one characterized by things I did not expect. I feel trapped in a cosmic mishegoss, to be honest. Spell check does not recognize that word, it is a Yiddish word my sister said recently that she likes to use. But I mean I am upside down, backwards and do not have the energy to rectify my position.

In agricultural societies, summer ends with the promise of the harvest. Work coming to fruition with bushelfuls of whatever you planted. I await this as I await cooler, drier and less odiferous Brooklyn air. I have asked the universe for help and I believe help will be coming, in its own time.

In these days of photographing children on their first day of school and showing these photographs to the whole world, I choose not to do so. I have a living child I am terribly proud of. As all children starting back to school, he is approaching adulthood at an earth- shattering speed. He is preparing to enter the magnificent and horrifying world of being a grown person, with all of that living ahead of him. I do celebrate this.

I do not want to take his picture because (in addition to the fact that he does not like to be photographed) I still look at him through my camera lens and see a brother who is missing a sister. I can not create a picture without a gaping hole in it. This image does not go away, it just gets more complex and harder to explain. If Susanna were here, she would look so strange next to her brother. I have no pictures of her any older than five, but I absolutely feel like she was here five minutes ago. Hard to explain. But I do not want that type of picture without her in it.

When we were visiting family in Cape Cod recently, we saw a little girl in an ice cream parlor who, my son and I agreed, looked like Susanna. She was carrying a bottle of glittery nail polish. I wished that she could have been Susanna and we could have taken her home with us. This would not make sense, but my heart does not observe time and logic the same way we are expected to here on this earth plane.

That little girl, with the bottle of nail polish, was with a few other curly headed children and a couple of fathers. I noticed that she wanted gummy bears on top of her ice cream, but this was denied. “No, we are not getting toppings, just a nice big scoop of ice cream”, explained the rational father. There is nothing wrong with this, not allowing some extra thing for whatever reason such as expense, sugar and chemical content, or risking a stomach ache. Yet I inwardly wanted to intervene and tell that father that life is short and there should be gummy bears. I sometimes want to scream into the world that today might be the last day you can give your child a one hundredth hug, or some candy, or a trip to the playground after dark. This may be the last day you will hear that cranky preteen yell at you and blame you for something you do not understand, so maybe you should let that go and apologize blindly. Most of the time, children grow up. But in my cosmic mishegoss, one of mine did not and this will always affect my viewpoint.

Although I am not a Buddhist, I do know this: when I can choose to allow my own suffering, when I give up on outrunning the tears that fill up inside and make me feel like I am drowning, I start to feel like my suffering is not mine alone. I feel not just my lonely pain but the pain of the other parents who are not sending their child to school this week. The mother and father who wanted a child so badly but lost their children to miscarriage. The family that has no child to send, because the child they lost was their only child, or they lost more than one. Maybe someone’s child is in the hospital fighting a disease. The situations and the tears are endless. But when I open myself up enough to know I am not the only one who hurts, this seems to make room for some of the tearful joy and sweetness to creep back too, ever so slowly.

When I head back to work to be a teacher again, I will bring Susanna’s pink plaid backpack, the one with the little suitcase tag on which she had written her name. I have done this every year. The backpack is showing signs of wear, so I bring it for a week or so then revert to my own. I do this because I miss her. I do this because Susanna loved her school, her daycare center. She called it the best school in the world and told me she never wanted to go to another one. She never did. I carry it and I remember that my daughter was here, she existed, and she woke up cheerfully every day eager to be kind to her friends and learn to write letters and numbers. If we all lived as well as she did, we would not have much karma to deal with at all. I miss you so much, Susanna, my beautiful baby, and wish you were here. I will see you again. Peace.

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