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Metta’s Life Poultice

Welcome, dear readers, to another month of taking metta off the meditation cushion and out into everyday life.

December found me saying yes to a new job in the new year, putting on some new—actual and metaphorical—life shoes for a cross-country move. However, knowing what needs to happen next versus actually seeing through what needs to happen next is anything but straightforward. And no matter how good I had gotten at goodbyes during my seven years of combining meditation practice and location-independence—what I like to call “lilypadding”—it was surprising to discover the paradox of how much harder it felt moving on from somewhere I’d grown to feel so unhappy.

Woulda-coulda-shouldas swirled through me, mirroring the triage process of sorting through what belongings to take with me, what to give away, what to donate, and what to trash altogether. One of the biggest lessons lilypadding taught me was that moving on often triggered spontaneous outpourings of innermost woulda-coulda-shouldas in those I was leaving behind: a bereavement of sorts that actually had little to do with me.

And it was never from the expected characters.

More than one person has nicknamed me Poultice Girl for this very phenomenon, and I’ve learned to let metta guide who to make time and space for, both out of compassion for myself and for those being poulticed. During that final week of Liverpool goodbyes, it was surprising to discover the difference even offering the tiniest metta had made over the years.

A disabled neighbor, with whom I had always stopped to pass the time of the day whenever I saw him out, sensing that it might be his only walk that week, spontaneously invited me over to his flat for the first time. As a fellow bookworm, I admired his heaving bookshelves. He told me all about his hobby dealing in first editions and sweetly gave me one as a parting gift. He then confided how sad he was to see me go, and that he hoped our neighbors might feel safe enough to celebrate the queen’s platinum jubilee in the coming summer. Another neighbor had uttered an identical sentiment the day before, and I was able to matchmake the two hesitant party-planners before I left.

Two former co-workers-turned-friends from my beyond-random student accommodation delivery and void flushing jobs in 2020—described in Metta Delivers and Metta’s Thousand Oceans—felt like they might need one final site visit.

A receptionist in his 40s, with whom I had talked about football and Star Wars and exchanged political satire memes as the world around us went down the toilet, unexpectedly introduced me to a new coworker as the woman who had got him through lockdown.

And another receptionist in her 20s, who had needed to attend her father’s funeral abroad via Zoom due to lockdown, cheerfully shared that she was nearly finished with her master’s degree and introduced me to a resident student as someone who always gave her more confidence and something shiny every visit—a reference to sharing my love of crystals with her.

My household dissolved in the space of 48 hours. The women’s refuge was the first to collect donations, followed by my friends collecting theirs. I was thrilled to learn the next day that the washing machine was already helping a single mother of three set up home after living in the refuge for months.

I then received a text from the friend who had inherited my bed, already excited to reassemble it at her end, yet worried if I’d be fine without it on my final night? I replied with a photo of my portable hammock already set up in an empty room, jokingly adding palm trees.

The friend who had inherited my cooker and sofas then called to check if I needed anything before the next day’s roll-out, and I blurted out “feeding,” after not being able to leave the flat for the day while waiting for various visits. She sweetly invited me over and, not unlike a home visit after a rescue pet placement, it was fun to see the cooker in its new forever-home and my friend’s three-year-old daughter climbing the sofas that she had decided were really volcanoes and that the floor was now lava—the ultimate poultice!

After a peaceful night spent in the hammock, my colonic therapist friend-turned-getaway-driver arrived and we loaded her car as life’s lava swallowed up four years of me trying to put down roots in Liverpool. Our journey south was smooth and uneventful, and interestingly we passed many of the places at which I had lilypadded over the years. My friend listened as I shared the crazy daisy house-sitting stories that passing each previous lilypad sparked.

When we finally arrived at our destination, we enjoyed a leisurely late lunch before picking up the keys and unloading again. As we drove on to the reception of the private members’ club where I would start work a few days later, my friend hilariously stage-whispered in awe, “Two men at the gates. Two! Where have you landed?”

Considering that we’d left a part of the UK that was most badly affected by the pandemic only that morning to arrive in one of the least affected areas, I, too, had to wonder. I’ve since learned that neither gatekeeper is called Peter, but in that moment it did feel like reaching the pearly gates after a lot of tumult.

And so, dear readers, I’ll leave you on that cliff-hanger note while we all wait for the gates to open to the Year of the Tiger without knowing what lilypad to expect next. . . .

To metta-morphise “Carnival”,* one of my favorite songs on Tigerlily, Natalie Merchant’s first solo album after leaving 10,000 Maniacs, about walking new streets:

Well, I’ve walked these streets
In a spectacle of wealth and poverty
In the diamond markets the scarlet welcome carpet
metta just rolled out for me

Have I been blind
Have I been lost
Have I been wrong
Have I been wise
Have I been strong
Have I been hypnotized, mesmerized by what my eyes have found
In that great street carnival

* An unusual side-note, but possibly the ultimate example of metta’s limitless reach: “Carnival” was played at American serial killer Aileen Wuornos’s funeral after she reportedly listened to Tigerlily continually while on death row. Learning this, Natalie Merchant gave permission to use the song in the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, saying: “It’s very odd to think of the places my music can go once it leaves my hands. If it gave her some solace, I have to be grateful.”

See more

Carnival (Song Facts)

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