I just dropped Greg off at the E.R. I am not joking when I say that it is right on our way home. Something is going on with his knee, causing him enough pain that he’s limping and it didn’t seem like a good idea to wait two weeks before seeing the orthopedic surgeon he has consulted in the past. So, he is up at the hospital keeping me posted, the girls are playing up the street at their friends’ house, the “v” key on my computer is sticking, the dog is looking at me like, “What is your deal and why aren’t we walking?” And I am here. Here I am.
Here, imagining other scenarios, where Greg is in the E.R. for some much worse reason than a middle-aged knee with a bum history. Here, imagining how our lives could change on a dime. Lives do that. They change on a dime. It is such an old story, but it’s always fresh, every time. You know that expression? “We’re so far behind, we’re ahead.”
Sometimes, the change is a long time coming, like the cancer that claimed a beautiful mama, Jennifer Ballantyne, two days ago. She fought it and won, and then it came roaring back and she fought it and still won as far as I’m concerned, if winning means living a life of connections and heart and guts and tears and big, big love.
Sometimes, the change is so fast, it seems slow. I remember as a kid feeling water so scalding it felt cold. Sometimes, something happens so instantaneously – an accident, say – that your entire sense of time shifts.
So I am sitting here in the near-dark, feeling some urgency to write. Urgency, as in urge, as in something needs saying. But I can’t quite get at it. I keep typing anyway; maybe it will come. It has to do with this knowing that everything seems the same but everything’s changing. Fast and slow, hot and cold. The climate talks are deep in session and we’re acting as if we still have time because the alternative is to give up, which is not an option. Just not.
Three hours have passed since I sat down to write. Three hours packed in tight with what our lives are right now: crutches, dinner, movie time, books, peeing, snuggling, dog-walking in the dark woods. I look across the room at the windowsill and where sometimes I see evidence of a full life, at the moment all I can see is clutter. Laundry basket piled high with unfolded clean clothes, toys on the floor, Pearlie-size red fire engine, three menorahs ready to be lit tomorrow night, cat sleeping on the dog bed, rugs dog-eared, dog on quilt, husband on couch at computer, crooked lamps, rope bones, backpacks, broken baby strollers, twelve thousand pairs of shoes, winter coats, bins with hats and mittens, crates with cd’s, jars with colored pencils and markers, my own mind, crammed with thoughts, refugees from warm countries who could use some of these winter shoes –
There is also space here, always available but so hard sometimes to let in, to access. It’s the smallest one, the most elemental of spaces – a breath, an in and a slow out, another in, fuller this time, reaching to the top of the ribcage, feeling the cool air travel into my mouth down the back of my throat filling the belly, opened mouth exhale picturing the breath leaving my body as if I were still out in the windy winter night with Bobo.
This morning I got up at 5:30, slipping out of bed to go put in my contacts and get dressed in the bathroom. I made a pot of coffee and got Pearl’s lunch ready. I left a note on the fridge for Aviva and Pearl, reminding them that I would pick them both up at 2:30 today to go swimming at the Y, our cold-weather gig. And at 6:05, I zipped up my down coat and closed the front door behind me.
Walking the early-morning streets felt so good; it’s my favorite time of day, though one I rarely experience this time of year when staying in bed surrounded by warm bodies is usually a favorable choice, or better yet enjoying some quiet time alone before everyone else wakes up.
I was walking down to Evolution for Martha’s 6:45 Kripalu class. Even though I know these streets like the back of my hand, walking them pre-dawn had a newness to it, and I pretended a little that I was living somewhere new. You know that new feeling when you first landed somewhere, from back in your traveling days, pre-kids maybe, pre-everything? Just you and a backpack and the map you studied intently the night before over dinner by yourself, a guidebook maybe, or some instructions offered too quickly in a language you barely had a handle on? That sense of exploring, of discovering, of independence and possibility.
My mind wandered – reminds me of the Langston Hughes autobiography, I wonder As I Wander – and I found myself reflecting on the discovery my clients experience when we spend two hours exploring their personal values. I found myself wondering what my core values are; it’s funny, like the cobbler’s children running around barefoot, that I have never myself moved through this particular process that I have been doing for years with clients.
At this point, I was talking out loud, which I tend to do when I get good and warmed up into a walk. Here are the values, the words that came:
Now, if you have ever worked with me, you most likely now that we don’t leave it at that. The list, the linear, left-brain, ranked, top-to-bottom, most-to-least-important feeling that a list of values implies just doesn’t fly, doesn’t necessarily reveal anything you didn’t already know. I have to say, it is a very cool process. It’s fun and interesting and almost always both unexpected and completely inevitable.
Wait? How did I get here? I did not set out to write about values. I did not, in fact, set out to write about anything, per se.
Clutter… breathe… space… values. Right. That makes sense. It makes sense because remembering what’s important to me helps me breathe after (maybe even during) a long, long day of doing. It is amazingly easy to forget, forget that these values, my values, are always available, and it’s really up to me whether to tap into them, live by them, breathe them, let them breathe.
A single breath. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and as much as I may resist admitting it sometimes, it works like a charm.
So this is one of those posts, rambling, wandering, wondering. So often writing here is a practice, the very origins of this space. A practice in practicing. Not editing, not judging, not deleting or re-writing or waiting till it’s better, waiting till I know what I’m talking about and have something brilliant and beautiful to say.
The thoughts come, of course, all cluttery: I should go back and read this and clean it up. Sometimes I do. But when the urge is strongest, that’s the clearest sign that I need to let it be. Put it out there and let it go. Move forward, trusting that this self-expression, fierce in its commitment to being real, will be received by the single person whose heart it speaks to. Who am I to say who? It could be you. You could be me. And everything could change, will change, again on a dime, from clutter to breath, inviting these little spaces, the ones that make the whole world feel possible again.