Manyu called me from Taiwan on election night just to say, “Stop worrying. I remember how you were four years ago, and you can’t get so upset about the things you can’t control. Our lives will be OK no matter what happens.”
While I appreciated Manyu’s efforts, her words did not nothing to untwist the knot in my stomach. Only now, nearly a week after election day, have I been able to relax. Even then, I (like so many others) seem unable to relax completely. I have, however, been able to reflect on Manyu’s words. She 1) told me to not worry about things beyond my control and 2) reminded me our family has been remarkably stable in spite of everything that has been going on around us.
I value my peace of mind even more than my time. Maybe a genuine sense of peace should come to a person in an effortless zen-like mist, but I seek it as consciously as an aggressive entrepreneur goes after money. I do it by exercising, by living on a quiet street in a small city, and by avoiding situations that pressure me or create stress. For example, I retired early. I tend to not watch the news, although last week I was one of those people who checked the ballot count in key states three or four times a day. Lately I have declining invitations to participate in community service, something I rarely did in the past. Even before social distancing, I was spending the better part of my day doing things away from other people.
I sometimes question my conscious efforts to avoid community service and the company of others. Do I have that luxury? Do I have that right? Gary Snyder once distinguished Buddhism and Taoism as saying a Buddhist consciously withdraws from society, whereas as a Taoist remains in society and then hopes not to be needed. I am not sure which of those two I am.