|Art by Anna Silivonchik.|
With a mind that leaned, from years of habit and indoctrination, toward a fondness for putting on the white glove and setting out in search of grime, of which there was ever an abundance, Shirley knew the bum's rush was the only right action. Don't let it get a toe across the threshold. It not only reached above the door frames for schmootz, it gasped in alarm at any muscle twinge or skin irritation, racing, shrieking, down the inevitable highway toward agony and very bad news.
"I am Chicken Little and the sky is almost always falling," she said to herself.
And yet. This was not an unceasing state of mind, for Shirley was actually not confused about much of anything. She was not a pessimist but had been trained in the ways of vicious self-criticism, the unlearning of which, she knew absolutely, would take her the rest of her life. And beyond. The visual that came to her was a hapless child who had somehow, alone on a teeter-totter, slid down to one end and needed to get back to the middle where balance existed. It was a tough, splintery scooch along that ancient board, slow going and painful. She supposed unlearning a thing must take at least as long as the learning of it. "Crap sandwich," she said, thinking if that were true there would be decades needed for this particular educational curve.
What she believed, in a manner that might be described as "set in stone," was that each creature, each being of any and all species contained a unique brilliance, that each of those brilliances was essential for the well-being of the whole and that the loss of any was a loss indeed, measurable, just not by any instruments yet devised. In her best, least white-glove-plagued moments, she knew it was true of her, though she might not have been able to assign it words. She could feel the warmth of her inner flame, knew when traces of it showed up in thoughts or conversations, in simple intuition-inspired acts, in the prompting of kindness, in language that came to her, or rather through her, like channeling a greater wisdom. And no matter how cloaked, how dampened and covered, how walled in and plastered over a flame had been, it persisted in each life form for as long as life continued.
It was not the sort of thing chatted about idly. When the knowledge found Shirley, she imagined it was akin to being struck by lightning. She was positive singeing had occurred, accompanied by a whiff of smoke. To think, to even entertain the possibility that this was, as she assumed a Truth with a capital T, humbled her as nothing ever had. And the responsibility, the task of bringing that nearly extinguished candle into the world to add its glow, "No," was her first reaction. "Not me. I can barely maintain on more days than I can count, the thought of just showing up for the most ordinary things overwhelms and depletes me. Now this? No." Yet she knew the answer wasn't no but yes.
Yes, Shirley, yes. It is a process. Give it time.
To be continued