Thanks for all the good wishes!
After five days of looking after Martha; doing a slipshod job of keeping up the house; marshalling the kids for school, senior dissertation night, and prom night; juggling the emotional needs of four intense but often not very communicative people, I've simply run dry. Sitting here in the office, and can't even imagine working, though I expect if someone comes to me with a direct request I'll lurch into action somehow or other. I don't have the faintest idea how single parents function. Seems a plain obvious impossibility. Nothing in the tank. Gumption and oomph gauges both reading zero.
Astonishingly enough, I've kept to my diet and my Ngondro regimen. They're refuges, in a queer and not-very-Buddhist way. Pieces of my life that don't belong to my family.
Martha's doing well, though she's still not up to driving -- gets dizzy still if she moves suddenly, which seems more likely to be an aftereffect of the narcotics than of the surgery. (She quit the narcotics altogether a couple days ago, and is just taking some Tylenol. She's far more afraid of pain than I am, in the abstract, which is very odd because I've never seen her fazed by concrete pain. Yet she worries, as I never do, about someday being in chronic pain. Maybe she just has a better imagination than I.)
My visualizations have taken a turn that is difficult to describe. Less in control. The refuges become huge, looming over me. More figures have come in. The medicine Buddha on the left, young Thomas Merton on the right. Merton in his shirt-sleeves doing his Loyolan contemplations in a half-lotus. He grins at me mockingly. Vajrayogini, below, bares her teeth and jangles her ankle-bracelets and challenges me, with her strange seductive contempt, to take on her ferocity. Machik Labdron, last to come and last to go, up in the sky above Kalu Rinpoche's right shoulder, spins and dances ecstatically. Vajradhara comes and goes vaguely, midnight blue, glinting with gold, seen only piecemeal: suddenly the hand on the bell-handle, a flash of red-soled feet, the briefly poised vajra, and then only darkness again. The wind blows the leaves and the tree tosses, and sometimes it's day and sometimes it's night. The lake comes suddenly vivid, and vanishes again.
Or again there's nothing there at all. Staring at the wall above the shrine. Ordinary wall. Ordinary wall-lamp distractingly off-center to the visualization. Does the lamp need dusting? What am I doing? Who am I kidding? But I keep going. Down on my knees. Down on my belly. "Dampai choe nam la kyab su chio," I grumble, as my forehead touches the floor, and I try, with no success whatever, to see the painted floorboards as lush grass. My parents are supposed to be on either side of me: are they? Quick surreptitious glance. Nope. Nothing. Back on my feet. Back to Mahakala, under the tree. I can always make a picture of him come, even though it's just the memory of the figure on the thangka upstairs, hardly a real visualization at all. He glares at me, and his glare is reflected from the lake, and then again for a moment the whole tree is there, with all its inhabitants. The wind roars in its branches. I keep going, with an unhappy conviction that the whole affair is supposed to be radiant and serene -- this is more like a scene from a bad movie of Wuthering Heights.
And so it goes on. Seldom far from wondering "what the hell do I think I'm doing?"