Friday evening, the three of us walked to town to get pizza, which we carried to the little park with the fountain and the good climbing tree. We sat in the grass and ate, and somehow wound up talking about my coming out. I said something about that first email I ever received from Mani–six years ago this month.
“How could you have been in the closet without knowing it?” V asked. And suddenly I was trying to explain it to them which morphed into a catalog of each high-school boyfriend and what were their names and did they break up with you or did you break up with them and how come, and it is sweet and easy, this conversation with them without secrets, Jamie Ferguson who I had such a mad crush on who loved Bob Dylan and was too cool to notice me and the song I wrote about him on the piano, and Aimen Hamid Magbul Al-Refai Al-Jehanny, who was beautiful and gave up his oil inheritance to practice aikido and to paint, losing his parents’ blessing.
And then they ran off to the tree and timed each other to see who was faster, and V posted a picture she took of Pearl on Instagram with a hashtag #siblinglove and I climbed up that tree, too, thinking without thinking, the kids are alright. And so was I. So am I.
So today, Pearl is off and running to yet another friend’s house. V slept in and has a rehearsal this afternoon. After I dropped Pearl off this morning, I drove alone past barns and cows and fields and now I’m seeing Mani everywhere so I call, call to tell her because I can, because she is there, here with me, and we are alive together despite and because of, call to say: I see you everywhere and everything is changed because of this love. And as I start drafting this post on my phone before I get home to actually write, autocorrect for mysterious reasons turns “love” into “life expectancy,” that wild card in the deck because none of us knows. We shuffle and play what we’re dealt and mostly, I stopped reading cards years ago, reading what’s in front of me instead, reading the rush of words when they come, come quick to sit down on the curb in front of Supercuts to get them down before they’re gone while I wait to hear my name, wait my turn.
Between the barns and the curb, I idled in the drive-through, anticipating a disembodied voice that would say, Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get for you? And suddenly I imagined, what if it was an angel on the other side of that speaker, and along with a venti iced latte, I could order anything. Anything! No order too big, too audacious, too expensive.
So I got my latte, and then as I drove down Route 9, put in the rest of my order out loud to the big guy, big stuff like Mani’s health restored and abundance and flow in any and all forms. I said, throw in all side dishes, too, since I don’t even know what all is on the menu. In fact, I’ll take one of everything and I’d also like to pay for that lady in the minivan behind me, so tell her to go ahead and get whatever she wants and not to hold back.
What if it was like that? What would you say if you could pull up to the drive-through and order anything? What if we actually can do this but write it off as fantasy and don’t bother, limit what’s possible to a tiny corner of a big stage? What if we ran across it like the kids across the grass, and climbed up the trees in 14.75 seconds and laughed when it got awkward and then jumped to the ground without fear of breakage? What if we knew everything was not only going to be ok, but already is?
If this is my refrain, I’m good with it. Could do much worse. Because though my wife’s pain was so high last night, I felt guilty for sleeping, today we are here and that is far from nothing; it’s everything. The sun is warming my arms as I write on the porch.
And after I told Mani I saw her everywhere, after I said I am feeling the need for a staff meeting with the angels, after I placed my order in the car and went on my way to get a haircut, in the midst of all of this, someone in one of the two writing groups that’s coming to a close posted this:
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. – Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”
Reading this quote, I thought of the naps I’ve taken in the past few days, and of the truth that burn-out serves no one. I thought about the fact that though I’ve been busier than ever these days, I’ve also been more present, or differently so, than… maybe ever. I thought of these words from Malcolm Gladwell that spoke to me so directly this morning when I read them: “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.”
It’s so true. And this work, this work that doesn’t feel like work, there’s my tall order, that’s what I’m putting in for, and the words “thank you” never rolled off my tongue so smoothly as now. I want to grab my wife around the waist, if not for a jig than for a slow, slow dance of belly breath together and how she smells like home and may the violence of our times be something that raises my vigilance and helps me remember, daily, not to buy in to that frenzy.
Every time one of my writing groups ends, I feel loss. Each collection of voices is so unique, the connections formed so genuine, free as they are from the daily things we call distractions that are really our lives, the material we mine and share, ten minutes at a time. So many practices braid together during these two-week periods: The stepping in, to the unknown of how each one will go; the writing itself, without worrying about whether it’s any good; the sharing, and learning to receive, to be witnessed; and the goodbyes, the letting go, of the group itself. Not only trusting, but really knowing, that the energy of these connections and the beauty of showing up in this way–these transcend the container.
It just dawned on me that I’m all over the place here. That this is one of those posts that covers so much ground. And yet here I am sitting in the sun, same place as when I started writing. Time has passed though I couldn’t tell you how much. It is amazing to think, that maybe you’ve taken some moments to read this combination of words, not for the sense it makes, but–for what? Why? Why do we read each other’s thoughts and stories? Why do we bother, to sit down at all?
Because life is happening and it’s easy to miss it. Easy to keep busy and not bother breathing. But today, something about today, made me want to come here to name these moments, to see the pattern they form of which I am a small part. To slow down, to find the still point between Friday and Saturday and Sunday whizzing by me like the barns on either side.
I don’t want to miss it. That’s why I write. That’s why reading your words moves me so deeply. And I really don’t think we’re here on the planet to practice self-denial and fear. Fuck that noise. There, I said it. We’re here to love. There, I said that, too. And for me, loving means writing, connecting, and putting it out there. It means grabbing my wife around the waist. It means not worrying about the next thing. It means it’s not all up to me at all. Someone is on the other side of the speaker, listening, as I place my next big order and offer to pick up the tab for a stranger.