“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art–write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” Neil Gaiman
Archive for ‘Namaste’
I’m not a church-goer or Bible-believer, but I’ve always wished I’d look over my shoulder and glimpse an angel on the loose. Maybe a feathered wing tip just brushing past the living room window or a shadow rushing over the ground like an airplane passing overhead. In my mind, angels would be super-sized, XXL heavenly action figures creating shock and awe if you were lucky enough to see one. I imagine their assignments being passed out every morning, their homework for the day covering everything from here to eternity: lost children and lonely hearts, battered hopes and broken dreams, first breaths and last ones. I hope they’re out there — EMTs of the spirit, a celestial SWAT team, a school of guardian angels. There’s no one here on earth who couldn’t use one.
Today when I was waiting for the results of my mammogram and it seemed to take a long time for the nurse to get back with the results, my mind jumped to the worst possible conclusion. When the news was good, the world looked as if it had been photoshopped with extra brightness and contrast added in. On the drive home, I started thinking about all the things I don’t appreciate on a regular basis and it turns out they’re all pretty ordinary and small.
– a new container for my paintbrushes that cheers me up every time I look at it.
– my prayer flags when the wind lifts them and the blessings get scattered around
– a BLT at the restaurant around the corner from my house
– knowing I have 22 miles still left when my gas light comes on.
– leaving my front door open in the fall
– my washer and dryer…I will never take them for granted!
– ordering a new book about writing
– the aluminum can lights by Jeff Kopish on my porch. I love turning them on when I go out and being welcomed by them when I come home after dark.
I’m not an Oprah acolyte and doubt I’ll start a gratitude journal. I’m way too lazy. But maybe I’ll be able to hold onto the way the world lit up for me as if I were coming home for the first time all over again this afternoon.
Walking on Hampstead Heath on a quiet weekday morning, we passed this pond so still and beautiful that it could have been the legendary resting place of King Arthur’s Excalibur or the secret center of the universe. Whenever I look at this photo, I can feel my breathing slow down and my attention wanders far away from computers and spreadsheets and workout classes. I wish I could create a place like that in my mind, my soul, a still center that exists outside fickle time. I always hope it will happen for me during meditation (when I can be bothered to actually sit down and do it), but instead my head buzzes like a hive of behind-schedule bees or I start to fall asleep. A friend of mine recently took Transcendental Meditation training and now practices 20 minutes every morning and evening. It’s a huge commitment in terms of both time and money, but she swears by it (especially now that’s she’s no longer using the mantra she borrowed from her father!). I guess a mantra is just a way to trick your mind into sitting up and taking notice, or just sitting up and being awake and aware. I always feel like I’m missing the point of meditation and have to be reminded again and again why I should bother, but this photo makes me wonder if it isn’t just another one of those deep ponds of being that we are desperately seeking beneath all the magic tricks and cheap baubles the world carnival uses to distract us.
Sometimes in the midst of the most turbulent and acute pain, you can find a calm harbor where your mind stops its constant chattering about past failures and past events you can’t change. Tonight that happened for me on the way to a dinner party at an old friend’s. As I was crossing the bridge to her island home, the sun was setting violently, calling out in a loud pink and orange voice to look, look, look. All day I had been crying, listening to Sarah Dashew sing “What You Owe” and other sad songs, reading old journals and letters and missing my dead love. Sorrow was my “brave companion of the road” today, but I was determined to rise to the occasion of friends coming together to lift me on their shoulders and carry me over this broken part of the road. And the sun went down and the water was calm and I thought, “some day I’ll be okay, not now, not tomorrow, but some day.” And I laughed and drank and ate til late in the night, and the thought of my lost love was always in the back of my mind, but my friends hoisted me on the backs of their love and took me a few feet forward, distance I wouldn’t have to travel alone, on my own.
I’ve been watching the gang of hummingbirds that gather on my daughter’s porch in Yosemite, dining on nectar all day long, getting a sugar high on life. They’re smarter than I am. Lately I’ve let work and worry turn me sour, and I’m trying to remember all the sweet things about my life and what I used to like about myself. For instance, I used to be a funny girl, able to laugh at myself and make others laugh, too. I miss that person, so I’m trying to remember to apply the 5-year perspective to situations that I blow out of all proportion: Is [insert crazy-making scenario] really, really likely to make a difference in my life 5 years from now? Usually the answer is an unequivocal “no,” which frees me to deal with it in an entirely more relaxed way and to separate what is worth going to bat for vs what can walk on by. Sweet!
Anything beautiful in my yard grows despite my intervention, and it always takes me by surprise no matter how often it happens. Every now and then I go out and dig around and wring my hands and throw fertilizer around, but I don’t fool myself that this is gardening. This morning when I left for work, the azaleas had flowered out overnight, and as I passed, they tugged on my sleeve to get their picture taken in their moment of glory. I was breathless and sad at the same time because their beauty is so intense and so transient, just like you and me and all those who make us catch our breath in awe and love and the unspoken knowledge of impending loss.
I have little pop-up altars all over my house. Some are shelves with family photos and candles, others are impromptu gatherings of numinous images or objects. This one is in my bedroom, and the flowers have been exchanged for a little vase of fresh rosemary to remind me of people in my life who are gone or far away. I don’t go to church, and I’m never quite sure what I’m doing in this life, much less whether there’s an afterlife. Maybe my hodgepodge of icons and altars (Shiva cheek to jowl with the Virgin of Guadalupe who is next to Frida) is just another hipster decorating pretension, or maybe my altars are spiritual lightning rods, designed to attract what I’m seeking in the way of peace, enlightenment, creativity, clarity, belonging, believing. Mostly, though, I think they’re visual prayers, the only kind I know h0w to make right now.
Fourteen years ago today, I was in a hospital room waiting to be operated on for some unidentified foreign object in my lung. I woke up packed in ice with a chest tube and pump to be told by my surgeon that based on the biopsy they’d done during the operation, I had cancer. Bad news, right? But wait! After a few days of doped-up terror, an in-depth biopsy came back showing I did indeed have cancer but it was a “benign” kind called a carcenoid tumor. No treatment required except follow-up xrays–yay! For years, though, I lived with a kind of survivor guilt, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Why was I so fortunate while other people I knew hadn’t been? After all, I hadn’t done anything to deserve that close that second chance. Recently I’ve come to accept that there’s simply no answer to why the Universe played an April Fool’s joke on me and let me go with just a lucky horseshoe scar stretching around my ribs and under my breast. A reminder not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but instead to whisper “thank you” in its ear.
I want to be liked. I want to do good. I want to be a responsible adult. I want to be self-actualized. I want to eat 5 servings of vegetables a day and love sushi instead of just pretending I do. I want to go gray gracefully. I want to be politically and spiritually correct. I want to enjoy volunteering and believe my prayers actually go out there somewhere to someone. But I also want to be bad. I want to tan. I want to eat Irish butter. I want to wear fur. I want to have meaningless sex. I want to spend money on totally useless shit that will make me momentarily happy. I want to drive a gas guzzling truck. I want to put chemicals on my grass so it will be really thick and green. I want to eat out every night. I want to stop worrying about my carbon footprint and just buy more shoes. I want to stop feeling guilty about polar bears. I want to eat a whole bag of those cheese things that stain your fingers orange. I want someone else to be the office nanny and deal with problems at work while I put headphones on and tune them out. I want to smash palmetto bugs instead of respecting their life force and shooing them outside. I want to live beyond my means. I’ve fallen short and failed at several things lately that are important to me, and maybe it feels so devastating because I’m still trying to be the good girl I never was. I admire people whose lives are wholeheartedly pointed toward True North on the moral compass, but like my mood board, I’m a jumble of contradictory impulses and messages, always changing, constantly finding my way and losing it — over and over again and again.