To all of us who wonder if THIS is really our life and, if it is, why does it chafe so, why does it feel held together with rusty safety pins, gum and Scotch tape, why do we seem to be what is wrong with the picture?
There are activities, events, I avoid, even when I might enjoy them, but the pain of preparing myself emotionally to get there, then to be there without shriveling and writhing, is too high a price. Maybe I have a deficiency of essential amino acids or bear invisible scars that have scratched the matrix, left gaps in the continuum. We are not all designed to fit, with ease and elegance, into every situation; we have regions of screaming discomfort and it is important to let that be acceptable. My absurdist mind is really churning this morning: would you take a harbor seal to the Burning Man Festival...I wouldn't take myself there...such extremes are distressing, impossible for me. Anyway, we have environments that support us and others in which we would truly perish, or at least suffer greatly. And for what?
I think we are all wells of loneliness. It is myth that we are truly and fully completed by another or others; it always comes back to being singular. We spend some of our hours carrying, wearing, being, unless we don't have the wits to perceive it, cave-ins. We sink, we falter. Who people appear to be and who they truly are generally do not match all that well, which is why so many of us feel like aliens left behind. The poets tell us what a grief-filled and lonely experience this is and there is such truth in calling it what it is and not pretending it is one long Hokey-Pokey of happiness.
What I think we are called to remember, and not to diminish anyone's experiences or disappointments, is that, whatever our life has been, it has been, if nothing else, a rich source of material for our writing or other art and in that it has been a gift. I often think of cooking as a metaphor...anyone can make a feast out of top quality ingredients; the skill comes in making whatever is left in the cupboard into an equally fine meal, full of nourishment and flavor.
Will you come and sit with me for a time every day and find a speck of life to claim as, if not enjoyable, then at least as bearable? It is, I know what I'm talking about, a process of exchanging rejection for acceptance, for what is, is. Yesterday I would have condemned myself for not having made the most efficient and prudent use of a store-bought roast chicken. Time, as we know, escapes me in its very fluid state. The chicken, which could easily have been devoured when my son brought it home, was enjoyed, a bit here, a bit there, but the majority of it being saved to use in a few dishes I had in mind.
Then time acted as it does, flowed along, with the remaining chicken past its prime and unused. I am so unforgiving with myself that I was weeping over not doing better for us with the CHICKEN. Oh My God. As I tell about it now it has a bit less sting but I swear my mind had turned it into a capital offense, myself into worthlessness. Our survival, our usefulness to ourselves and others on the planet, depend on not letting those hands reach up from the graves and grab us by the ankles. Just think: chicken.
Our minds and our worlds do not turn around over night. The learning curve is long but it is essential. To allow ourselves to be here, in peace, savoring the good parts, to laugh, even if hollowly, at our foolishness and our misinterpretations of self then and now, is a blessing we can access, one wee speck at a time. We can look at years of disappointment or whatever word one chooses but if we can find, say, 15 minutes out of those years of untainted, pure living, we have made progress.
The less energy we give to the lack, the more pleasure we can find. It is truly a pinch, a second, at a time. Find one vignette from memory that is not pain, one moment we can travel back to from which we return not as less of ourselves but as more. They are there, I swear to you, the bird whose song you heard in the midst of terror or pain. Life is goulash, everything thrown into the pot together and even if the sauce has a slightly sour after-taste, there may be a fine bit of carrot that still retains its sweet flavor. We cannot be all things to all people. What can we be to - and for - ourselves?
See how you help me solidify my own philosophy? Talk myself into better states of mind? Without our exchange of words, I could have thought these things but not written them down and, by not doing so, left them to be less memorable or real. That all of this may sound like foolish, wishful thinking is fine. But I am content to be here, formulating and holding these gleanings from my, shall we say, considerable experience of what I judged to be joy-deprived days, saving a place for you while you are about the business of being and feeling exactly as you do.
And I will continue to hold this for you, even if it never matches what you know, what you believe. It is a thin but not fragile thread tied around a medium-sized rock, hopefully of sufficient weight to keep you from floating off when that seems the next likely thing. Someone who has your back - as well as they can at a distance of a few thousand miles, someone with a hold on your hand. Wander about as you need to; camp is set up and will be here when you stroll back. God...could I think of any additional metaphors to mix here? I sincerely hope not.