Last week in the midst of a serious funk I hosted a barbecue. I have a pool, hot tub, a big fenced in yard for lawn games and happy go lucky dogs to roam off leash. There’s a grill, a picnic table, a decent sound system. I spent almost $200 at Target on food and beer, strings of lights for the tiki hut and pool area, paper plates, plastic cups. It was a beautiful day and I was set up for complete and total party hosting awesomeness.
I should probably re-word that intro to say, “I attempted to host a barbecue.” Of the 20 or so people I invited, all of whom I told to please extend the invitation to their friends and significant others, two showed up: my two closest friends on the island. We sat on my front porch around a comically large pile of uneaten food while I lamented how difficult, near impossible, it has been for me to create a community of close friends here even after three years of trying.
So the funk got worse before it got better.
After my friends left I lit a candle and a stick of sandalwood incense. I turned off the lights, opened my computer and YouTubed a full length Krishna Das kirtan I hadn’t seen before. I unwrapped my mala beads, strung them around my hands and fingers like I was playing Cat’s Cradle with my ten year old self and I got to singing.
It was well after midnight and I just didn’t care. I had the house to myself and it seemed like my neighbors were out of town so I let loose, singing at full volume for an hour and a half. I bobbed up and down. I rocked back and forth. I sat perfectly still for a very long time. I’m not sure but at some point I might have been napping. Or maybe that’s what deep meditation feels like and I just never knew. All I know for sure is I let it all in and I let it all out.
I howled for my loneliness and the sadness I feel every time I fall asleep and wake back up alone. I howled for the distance I’ve put between myself and my loved ones. I howled for how hard it is to stay sane in the pursuit of a strong independent life because what I’ve learned so far is that strength and independence lead to unshakable independence – not romance or boyfriends or well attended barbecues. It’s an unexpected pill to acknowledge and attempt to swallow.
At the end of the kirtan I was exhausted as if I had just run a marathon. Then something happened that I’ve never experienced before. As I slowly disengaged my fingers from each other my mala beads broke and scattered all over the floor.
My immediate reaction was panic: Oh no no no no no! These were a gift from my sister! Oh my gosh what do I do? What does this mean?!!
Scouring the floor in the candlelight I found every last bead, counted them twice to make sure. 27 + 27 + 27 + 27 = 108. OK, once more. I carefully placed them in the silver box my sister had sent them to me in years ago. I wrapped the purple ribbon around the outside like I’ve done after every other prayer I’ve ever sang with them. Then I just sat there having no idea what to do next.
I considered Googling what do you do when your mala beads break? But the clarity came on its own relatively quickly once I calmed down. I let go of the guilt of breaking something sacred and considered that maybe what happened had been out of my control; perhaps it had nothing to do with carelessness. Maybe, just maybe, it was exactly what was supposed to happen.
I placed the silver box with the purple ribbon and the beads inside into my new shrine box, the one that says Live your life like there’s no tomorrow. I blew out the candle and fell back onto my pillow. Within seconds I was fast asleep.