Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left open for surprises]

the seeker

I loathe writing bios. They're such a losing proposition. If I had some kind of prestigious job or if there were parts of my identity that I were fanatical about, I could see digging it, and I feel admiration/jealousy when I see somebody who's apparently embraced the form.

Mystery novelist! Dog lover! Outdoorsman and pizza aficionado!

You go, you guys, with your clarity and willingness to commit. God bless. I will admit to having judgmental feelings when I see bios that mythologize their owners in rakish, flattering ways.

Mad hatter. Artist. Thief of hearts. Dancer like nobody's watching.

I mostly hate trying to sum something up that I don't have a handle on. I mean, I love my kids and my husband, and I love Prince and green smoothies and Wes Anderson films, and I love reading and writing, but I'm not prepared to scrawl any of that on my tombstone. It's a "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" problem. All of those things are true, along with a billion more things like them, but those things feel limiting. Ultimately, I have no idea what this Tina situation is all about. It's seemed sketchy from the get-go. Like, there might be some kind of Tina persona on the loose out there, and if people are buying it—even though I've been actively honing it and selling it, whatever it is—that makes me nervous. 

But there's one descriptor that seems apt, and if it didn't give me that self-mythologizing vibe, I'd hang it out there every time and feel like I'm telling the truth without sweating that whole-truth-and-nothing-but thing.

 Such a great song. I first heard it when I saw Stephen Soderberg's film The Limey, when an old, black-clad, just-beaten-up Terence Stamp was staggering to his feet on his way to avenge his daughter's death. Holy gods, did I develop a crush. I thrilled to the moment because you knew he was going to have satisfaction eventually. You could see it. You could beat him down but he was going to get up and get exactly the fuck where he was going. 

I want something. I don't want anybody dead, but I show up at my meditation cushion 6-7 days a week because I want something, and I talk to a spiritual teacher twice a month because I want something. And that endless whirring going on all the time under the surface of me, this part of me that can't rest, it's because I want something. 

A few months ago, I was talking to Jim, who's my teacher, and a big thing happened. I forget what we were discussing, exactly, but he said at one point, "You're okay." Plainer, more boring words were never spoken. Nobody's going to break out their embroidery thread/tattoo needles for that little number, but something rippled through me when he said it. I thought of Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, when he's caught in that water tunnel, and he puts his hands behind his head and lets himself drop off the edge to his possible death. I felt like I was the fugitive, and that I'd been running for, fuck, I don't know, a thousand years. Forever. Like that was my whole gig, my whole raison d'être since time immemorial. But in this case, I felt like somebody had caught up to me just to tell me, "Nobody's chasing you." That's what I heard in that little "You're okay." Nobody's chasing you. You can stop running.

I can't tell you what a shock it was, what a newsflash, even though it only lasted a split-second. I just grasped a corner of it, and I could barely absorb it. Brain scramble. 

I had three reactions. 

1. I was running?


3. Well, shit. Now what?

If you've been doing something for a thousand metaphorical years, even something that sucks, you're going to feel weird when you get the go-ahead to stop. If I'm not running, what's my next move? Or is that a fugitive's question? I want to add that it's not like I've actually stopped running, either. I just didn't know I was doing it. Stopping is easier said than done, especially when you have all this stupid momentum.

I was talking to Jim this afternoon, and he asked me some good questions. Like, what exactly am I looking for? What do I want? What's the thing? What do I think this seeking's going to win me? 

I thought about it. I pictured whatever I thought the end was, whatever the big win was, and just got a picture of this enormous peace and quiet, and I said, "Well, I'll get to rest."

And Jim asked, "Rest how? From what?"

I thought about it a little more, and described the picture, "It's like there are no more adversaries. It's like the universe has been washed clean of my enemies, and I don't have to fight any more, or recover from a fight, or wait for the other shoe to drop." 

"What else?" asked Jim.

"My responsibilities are all met. I did it. I don't have to worry about letting people down any more. I don't have to be so vigilant. I can clock out."

And Jim said, "Okay, well, let's imagine that's true. Boom. Right now. That's already done. That's all gone. What do you get now? What's there?"

Uh. I don't know. "I don't know."

Jim was happy with that answer. He said that that was kind of the thing, that you take any seeker and have them keep deconstructing what they're seeking, and they're eventually going to run into a wall. There will come a place past which you cannot get. That the seeking model is flawed, somehow, or a red herring.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I don't know what I'm trying to work out here in front of you.

In my mom's apartment is a framed, gilded skeleton of a leaf. It's just the veins, all wispy and fragile. This is one of those family treasures. It's a clipping from the tree the Buddha sat under when he reached enlightenment, or a descendent of that tree. I'm not a Buddhist, I'm not anything, but I love the story of Siddhartha. I love that he had a good thing going on—a palace, riches, a family—and he threw it all aside to go find out just what the fuck is going on here in this living. He went seeking hard, trying all sorts of things. And he didn't find it, whatever it was. And then he stopped and went and sat under that tree, or went and sat under that tree and just stopped. And then it happened, whatever it was. He found something or lost something. He made it.

I don't know what the hell I'm doing, myself. I'm just trying to figure out how to drive this thing. I want something, which right there is maybe already screwing me over—which is probably also wrong—and I don't know if I'm supposed to apply gas or put on the brakes to get it/not get it/find out I always had it or something. Or maybe hit the gas pedal on the way to the meditation cushion, and then once I'm there, coast. I don't know. 

And nobody's asking me for a bio anyway. You just kind of think everybody is all the time, and that you have to have some kind of answer.