God bless the cashier in Zehrs who got my joke. I told him, as I loaded a choir’s worth of bottles onto the conveyor belt, that “I dilute my wine with a thin slice of lime.” He didn’t miss a beat. He laughed. He got it. And I was so delighted, and so grateful. I told him that I was looking after my mother. I added that “I would never do this to my kids,” and that is true. I love them too much. God I love them. Later that afternoon, I pushed on and hauled my ass out onto the trails even though it was raining, because I have to keep it together; right now, the universe is a bully, and he’s pushing me off the swings. Living on my own with all that goes on in my head, in this shitty time in the world takes stamina, planning, and unrelenting vigilance: I drink, but never too much. Get up in the morning, and don’t sleep in; NEVER walk around in pajamas. Don’t eat garbage. Exercise. Floss. Floss–I buy it in the little blue, plastic boxes with the black stamp on the bottom that says, Made in Ireland. I like that because it makes me assume that the floss is magic just because of where it’s made. I imagine the floss company’s CEO, a gnome, taking calls and then having meetings with floss shift supervisors and ad execs around tiny, wooden, rough-hewn tables. The workers are all elves. They wear typical green outfits with blue aprons and do their best, turning the deliveries of wispy clouds and unicorn thoughts into the thin, white strands that we use to dredge out the rot between our teeth. I know this makes no sense, but the scene brings me joy. Welcome to my head.
I like the idea of magic, the thrill of there being something else to our humanity beside bones and meat. Yes gnomes, but also art, and the natural world around us. On my recent hike in the rain I stood looking over a meadow, and succumbed to weeping; the feel of the soft earth under my boots, and the smell of spring newness cast its spell and made it okay to drop my defenses, gave me permission. The “Get out of Jail Free,” bullshit came up, the marker of the end of my marriage and I wanted to scream over how I just stood there and took it like some soft-headed dope. I’m not sure that I will ever fully get over that, but I did learn from it. I believe that I am a better person than I was, and baby, you should know that this outcome is the result of a hell of a lot of work. Now here I am, just in time for the pandemic and the ridiculous world of 2020.
Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Now, here in this pandemic, I wonder what ‘forward’ will look like. Am I even interested? Yesterday, I stood and talked with an acquaintance whose husband is dying. I watched her, eyes welling up above her mask, hands wringing at the bag she was carrying. She was terrified, completely overwhelmed at the suffering that lay ahead. Suffering; is THIS going to continue to be a thing? “God? Ya wanna chime in on this, because I’ve just about had it.” Yes, I know that experiencing pain and loss can open up parts of you that you never knew existed. Profound love can do this also; that ache is as wonderful as it is terrible. It’s different than, for example, a short FB chat I had with a guy where he asked me if I was in a relationship and then went on to talk about how horny he’s been during this pandemic, blaming it on his anxiety. This is very hard and I want it to stop.
In the diligence of my solitude, I watch particular movies that have a message. In one of these, Stranger Than Fiction a movie about an IRS agent who is a character in a novel that is in the process of being written, the love interest, says at one point that she, “wanted to make the world a better place.” And I wondered why the world always seems to need improving upon. Always. WTF? Why do we need so many aid agencies, wellness centres, social workers? Why is finding ways to cope even a thing? Why not simply flourish? Is it because, somewhere mankind lost its way, discovered retail and gave up compassion? This is bullshit.
“The Kominsky Method,” a recent Netflix series, touches on several of the hot buttons that I’ve been thinking about lately, death being one of them. Use the Buddhist word, “impermanence’’ if the other makes you nervous. Whichever you prefer, I am not afraid of it at all. I’m actually curious as hell, but what I AM afraid of is missing out on a really great, inspiring relationship with another human after the buzzer goes. I’m no longer a soft-headed idiot. Thanks to all of the challenging experiences in my Kierkegaardian past(and also holy fuck), I am a different person than I was. Jesus, it was as if my program wasn’t fully running at times. I’m embarrassed when I consider it, but here I am, fully flossed and ready to go, I suppose. I’m hoping that there’s some magic ahead. Alan Arkin’s character in Kominsky, after the death of his wife–his best friend in life–says, “It hurts to be human. It hurts like hell. And all the exploring in the world doesn’t make that hurt go away, because being human, and being hurt are the same damn thing.” The Buddhist phrase, “life is suffering,” comes to mind, and you know what? I think that’s horseshit. That’s like saying, “the car is stuck in the mud,” and just leaving it there and taking the bus. Who worked ‘suffering’ into the mix and thought that would be helpful? No. Go back and try harder. Stop phoning it in. FIX THIS.
I‘m exhausted and I really don’t want to continue be a part of this brutal experiment unless there’s some good magic coming. I need it to do its thing and change all of this ridiculousness, and also to nudge me toward ‘that significant other.’ If it doesn’t, I’m sure that I will wake up one morning to realize that my body has reverted to a pile of dust on its own. Please. Magic. Something.