I thought relationships like this were mythical, really: adult, mellow, fun, devoid of psychodrama and hours-long awkward silences as everyone tries to figure out what's wrong without actually asking or talking about it. How very odd. I keep waiting for everything to catch on fire, of course, but as long as I don't actually douse myself in gasoline and light a cigar, I think we're okay.

So I had a rather unhappy day, and it turns out I place way too much importance on testing and rank in aikido. Who knew? It's so much easier to think rank is unimportant when you're clearly and swiftly progressing towards it, and to not care what other people think when you're sure they think well of you. I really want encouragement and approval from my dojo, and I'm not getting it, particularly, so this is an excellent opportunity to remind myself that I'm doing aikido for bigger reasons than rank and respect (which is why I've kept training these past few weeks even though it makes me sad). I think I really see now why zazen is the pure Zen training: nothing to gain, nothing to catch your mind and distract you from the fact that it's simply your practice, nothing more and nothing less. But even that isn't quite true, as people create goals and desires for advancement even in zazen.

The solution here, as always and with everything, is to return to the moment-to-moment awareness of and involvement with what I'm doing, whether it's work or driving or eating or whatever. The past month has been a bit blurry that way, and it's time to bring the world back into focus. I started today, and then even more tonight, and it's amazing what a difference it makes.

I want to say that things aren't all better, because I still have all these downer feelings about stuff--I told a friend tonight that I sometimes feel like my life is a dead end, because I get this idea that I should be going somewhere--but in another very real sense, as soon as I act to refocus myself, everything is all better and all the sad thoughts are just drifting away. I mean, I still have to deal with the way things are for me at the dojo. But I am good and will get better at aikido with time, whether or not I take tests or get validation from peers or instructors.

Life is so delightfully strange.