Giving my identity over to Buddhism is frightening to me. I can’t necessarily put my finger on why. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to advocate for my students anymore. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to make people laugh. I’m afraid that I won’t have friends. I’ve been afraid of these things for years. Only now, the potential reality is much closer than before.

Yesterday I wrote in a mixture of anger and confusion about my sister-in-law being ungrateful and irritating. But the Buddhist part of me recognizes that she has her reasons. I don’t make excuses for her behavior, but, if I’m being honest, it feels wrong to outright condemn her for it.

Soto-Zen teaches us to be aware of our passion, aggression, and ignorance, and to apply our awareness to all forms of interactions with others.

I’m known for being funny. I’ve strongly considered becoming a comedian. I’m extremely comfortable when I’m making people laugh. But if I apply my awareness, I start wondering about why I want to make people laugh at all. Is it because I want them to see me as clever and likable? Is it because I think I know what they should be thinking about better than they do? If so, isn’t that ego?

I’m also known in some circles for being polite, direct, and observant. But because I’m polite and observant, which might come across as weak, some people think of me as a pushover. I have a professor who regularly reminds me that I’m wrong, she’s right, and that’s just the way it is. I want to lash out at her and show her my cutting brilliance. But that’s ego, too.

I suppose that when I get down to it, my fear is that applying my awareness and giving up my identity will make people see me as stupid, weak, and boring, and take advantage of me the way my professor does.

I’m afraid that by being quiet, people will walk all over me.

Or that there won’t be a me for them to walk all over.

I’ve talked before about gentle firmness. The idea that you can be quiet, polite, and watchful, but when push comes to shove, you’re a boulder in the stream.

I wonder what that looks like on a daily basis? In a conference room, I get it. But what does that look like when my sister-in-law’s being rude and part of me still wants to vent? (Or slap her for it?)

So many questions…

And about friendlessness; people don’t want to spend their time with someone who’s boring. People really don’t want to spend their time with someone who’s calmness and honesty make them put down their defenses and start to self-reflect. It makes them feel guilty and confused. They want to drink, eat, and gossip.

How can I be part of American culture without pretending to be something I’m not? How can I keep my twentysomething friends without pretending to be something I’m not?

So many questions…