The Pearl, vol. 63: My inner screamer + Mercury retrograde

Dear Oysters, 

So, turns out Mercury has been in retrograde for the entire time that Susan and I have lived in D.C. Astrologically, this means that communication, travel, and technology all tend to get snarled up. Our experience has borne this out. In the past couple of weeks, there have been long Comcast waits and malfunctioning laptop batteries; colleagues with emergency tonsillectomies and unexpectedly towed cars; crossed signals and cancelled plans; and more than my fair share of wrong Metro directions. The coup de grace came Wednesday when I neglected to turn off a burner on our stove, and left the house for two hours. When I returned, I was greeted by the fire department, a house full of smoke, one burned pot of chili, and an alarmed cat. 

Nice to meet you too, neighbors.

Nice to meet you too, neighbors.

Thankfully, Mercury retrograde has ended and we are all still alive.

Tough times—much like meditation retreat—tend to reveal what's happening in your mind, on a level that's typically not accessible in daily life. On my most recent retreat, I discovered a voice inside me that prowls the perimeter of my experience like a cranky, strung-out junkie, spitting vitriol at anyone who passes.

I'd like to introduce you to her. I call her Louanne. (And I should warn you that she uses foul language.)

On retreat, I'd be waiting in line for tea, minding my own business, when suddenly I'd hear Louanne bulling the woman in front of me: "What are you doing? Move the f*ck along!" When I saw someone taking a break during walking meditation, Louanne snarled: "Well, some of us are actually serious about our practice." When someone walked into the meditation hall late, for the third time that day, Louanne barked: "Are you f*cking serious!?!" With each perceived offense, as Louanne exploded in rage, I felt a self-righteous flame leap up from deep within my gut, its edges wrapping around my heart.

At the beginning of the retreat, I felt like Louanne and I were the same person. When someone violated my preferences, she was there, unpleasant but loyal, ready to hold a knife to their proverbial throat. She was my sidekick.

I think this might be her.

I think this might be her.

As my mind and heart settled down, though, some space began to grow between Louanne's outbursts and "my" interior life. The process of witnessing Louanne's rage had made clear to me that kindness, towards myself and others, needed to be at the top of my priority list. During lovingkindness meditation, my heart cracked open when I realized that the phrase May I be safe and protected could actually mean being protected from characters like Louanne: those well-meaning, ultimately toxic buddies who prowl the streets of my mind.

I began to understand that Louanne's outbursts represented an ancient, lizard-brain fear of The Other, and that my inner system was trying to defend me by rejecting the people around me. As these realizations dawned, Louanne began to feel a little further away. Rather than being at my elbow, she was across the street, jeering; by the end of the retreat, she was a few blocks away. 

Louanne still says terrible things ("Stay to the right, grandpa!" she grumbles as I pass a perfectly nice old man). But when I've got the head space, I try to let her know that I actually don't need her protective services—I'm okay. I've got this. Let's leave the nice people alone. 

Now that I've told you about one of my inner creatures, you can totally tell me about one of yours. And also, all your worst Mercury retrograde experiences from the past 23 days. 

Stay salty and much love,
Ellen 

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