Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dear (enter name here),

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.

With love,
Your friend

26 comments:

Penelope said...

Thank you, Marylinn. I've just eaten my lunch by your camp-fire, recalling how I spent a few minutes this morning pushing dross-thoughts aside and pulling out instead the fine thread I wished to follow. Now on I go.

T. Clear said...

Oh..oh...oh....

I'll come back to this piece again and again. How did you know it's exactly what I needed today?

Chicken.

One thing for me has been the fishing pole that my late husband bought my oldest son when he was about eight, then never took him fishing. I think I've finally let go of that one, but for many years it carried me with it along with a lot of tender hurt. I was caught on that hook.

Thank you for this.

xxoo

Isabel Doyle said...

Thank you for tending the flame of the hearth (heart).

Sabine said...

That's just what I needed to read right now. Thank you!

RachelVB said...

Somewhere along the line we were taught to be "divinely composed" beings (Helene Cixous). Or at least outwardly so. Here's to chicken and fear and joy and stubbed toes and crying about whatever we damn well feel like crying about. We are emotional beings. Cheers.
Thanks for the rock on which to tether.
xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penelope - The band gathers, this time by the camp-fire, each of us a loop in the paper chain that, somehow, miraculously, holds. Thank you. If our dross-thoughts don't sink us, it could be a fine day.

Marylinn Kelly said...

T. - So many ways to run aground...hidden reefs, submerged wreckage. I am so glad this found you at the right moment. Thank you. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Isabel - If I have been able to do any flame tending, I am grateful. So many tender hearts. Thank you.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Sabine - We may be temporarily marooned, but not alone. I am glad for such company here. Thank you.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - A goodly number of rocks, enough for all. And aren't I glad to have saved all that string? Any day that I don't shake to pieces like a badly-tuned jalopy is a good day. xo

Anonymous said...

My very rusty safety pins and I thank you! Just the words I needed to read this morning.
xo Ginny

Marylinn Kelly said...

Ginny - Not only rusty but not always staying closed, a bit sprung on the side. Thank you. I could tell you tales of hems, bra straps, shoes falling apart, popped buttons...in junior high, a turtle pin whose plastic gem really was put back with a dot of chewing gum. What a class act, huh? xo

Jayne said...

Oh my, Marylinn. A good friend you are, bringing the main course. For dessert, I'd like to bring some marshmallows to the campfire. Now, if we could sit around together and roast those life really would be perfect. Of course there's always the risk of charring them.

Antares Cryptos said...

I'll have to catch up.
Too sleep-deprived to absorb;)

Maggie May said...

I really loved reading this. Thank you.

Angella Lister said...

This: "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."

This is what I need to hear. Thank you.

Claire Beynon said...

Dear Marylinn, you are a treasure with a gift for steadying, for firming ground. It is as if, as you write yourself towards clarity and self-acceptance, you write us a way there, too. Thank you. xo

Robert the Skeptic said...

Maybe it is just my luck on my part but I do not believe that "we are all wells of loneliness" or that it is a myth that we are fully completed by another.

Luck that I am partnered with one who compensates for the others weaknesses, who benefits from our differential strengths. At a time when I was so ill and ready to die, Nancy gripped my hand and kept me from going there. Everything we have built, accomplished and savored has been a joint operation. I have never been alone since I met her, we cannot imagine life with out one another. Damn I am lucky.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - The one who brings the marshmallows is always well-received. And the charring only means the insides will be pure gooey goodness. In our virtual, band gatherings, we DO get to sit around the campfire, laughing, weeping, manifesting various forms of self. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - There is a place by the campfire, when you catch up on sleep. See you soon.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Maggie May - Thank you so much. Nice to see you. I will do my best to visit you...soon.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - The double burden of bearing our unique natures AND, too often, being made aware of how far outside the norm they are thought to be is more than one can tolerate. Odd ought not to be treated as an affliction. Thank you. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - Thank you, for that is exactly what it is...my trying to find clarity, self-acceptance and a celebration of quirks formerly thought of as undesirable. "Let each step to the music he hears..." xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - You are indeed a fortunate soul, the more so for having the wisdom to know it. In many lives there are the supportive others but, for whatever reasons, the pain continues and full benefit of the comfort isn't realized. I am so glad for your affirmation that finding our own completeness with the strength of another is not a myth. I always appreciate your comments, thank you.

Antares Cryptos said...

Dear Marylinn,

Settling in after a refreshing 11 hours (!!!!?) worth. Thank you for saving me a spot by your camp-fire, brought beverage of choice, whatever it may be.

We don't have shared experiences, but somehow connect, shared individuality.

I am with Claire and her wonderful way with words. :) Whether friends family or even our non-human friends, no it is not a myth.

Other times, during those moments "We read to know that we're not alone" (C.S. Lewis)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - You didn't need to bring your own beverage...I'm sure we have lots, but thank you. I'm glad you caught up on your sleep. It is the separate, parallel experiences that are so interesting, so connective, the stuff of kindred spirits. My wish is that as we speak and link and comment, even those who choose to remain silent know they are not alone. :D