Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake

This is the title of a book of which the Matron is extraordinarily fond: Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake. Morita Psychologist David K. Reynolds wrote that book; he describes Morita Therapy as Zen meets Freud. How the Matron loves that collision! Her delicate soul and psyche seem to exist precisely on that plan – part cosmic and part neurotic. Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake points out how silly and self-induced the obstacles to our happiness can be. Take a big drink, darling!

Zen Koan

Doshin (monk): “Open the gate of release for me!”

Sosan (other monk): “Who has constrained you?”

Doshin: "No one constrains me."

Sosan: "Then why do you ask for release?"

The moral of these stories? Suffering is frequently self-induced. Our minds can be the meanest enemy because we cannot escape. You take those troubles -- the worry, the self-doubt, the anger, the fear -- wherever you go. Unless you can find release.

Here is a poem. Stay tuned for post-poetry Dr. Matronly Follow-Up.


I loved booze,

and pills I loved more.

I still love them.

I still want them.

My wine, my Dexamil,

my after-dinner tall

tumbler of scotch,

my morning black espresso,

my Valium at work,

and more Valium.

It worked.

The Dexamil let me drink,

the drink kept me from feeling,

the Valium kept my hand from shaking.

The Dexamil let me drink

in the face of my psychiatrist saying,

I think you drink too much—

I think I won’t see you if you drink.

In the face of fines,

in the face of swinging at a cop,

in the face of connecting with a two-by-four,

in the face of cops looking down at me in the middle of

Amsterdam Avenue

in a Brooks Brothers suit, a briefcase,

in the middle of Amsterdam Avenue—

Where do you live, sir? We think you should go home.

I drank at Hanratty’s for four reasons:

it’s near where I live,

they cashed my checks,

they closed at one,

and they took me home.

At home, I would have another

scotch and a pill,

at 5:30 get up,

drink coffee, take a pill—

I had—I have

a responsible job.

I was always the first at my desk

and last to leave.

I never wanted to work.

I wanted someone else to take care of it all.

I don’t know why I’m alive today.

I don’t believe in God, I’m a strict Freudian.

When I stopped, I thought,

This is unspeakable deprivation.

I whined and cried.

I sat in the back eleven months

pitying myself. Home

from dinner with board members,

with two glasses of wine, the first in a year—

I opened the half bottle of scotch

a guest had left. It was months under the sink.

Often I’d thought of it. Always,
I knew it was there.

I poured scotch into a tumbler,

and I couldn’t drink it.
I couldn’t. I thought, I can’t go through all that again.

That was ten years ago.

My hair is gray. A doorman

with whom I left a package yesterday

described me to my friend as “distinguished.”

Lots of things are the same.

Some things are changed, changing.

I love booze in my dreams.

I drink booze and take pills in my dreams.

I don’t ask Why

do I love alcohol? Instead,

I have habits strict as the former ones,

meetings, books, service.

The dreams full of booze keep telling me what I am.

Late in my life,

In the numb elegance of this city,

I made a decision—

or the decision

shining in the soft, brutal darkness

took hold of me—

to live.

Often I am peaceful.

I never imagined that.

Sometimes when the going gets rough -- the worry and doubt compile or the bad habit feels like a hook that cannot be shaken from her spine, she thinks of this poem and the poet who wrote it, Joan Larkin. And the Matron softens herself. If you drink the water that surrounds you, you won't be thirsty. Sit in the soft brutal darkness. Let the decision, whatever it is for you, take you in its hand.

1 comment:

Becky Brown said...

What a lovely, powerful poem and what a gracious post. Thanks for sharing.