It’s 11pm and I’m usually asleep by now. Our routine is pretty solid in these pandemic times, thanks to my husband’s organizational chart. It keeps one of us always off Huck duty so I can check emails, teach, surf Poshmark, scroll scroll scroll through everyone else’s fabulous lives on Instagram (ps. I hate Instagram so much, I much prefer the messier long-form narcissism of Facebook. IG is just too neat and snappy for me). And so my husband can read or watch baseball games from other years, since this season is most likely a goner.
It’s 11pm and I’m working. Writing. Thinking. Re-organizing. My computer died. Well, that’s not totally true. I did a clean up of old files and seem to have hit the wrong “yes, delete that” button. And it deleted all sorts of random files, most of which are essential. 3 years of carefully crafted financial records, Excel Spreadsheets of Extraordinary Beauty. Years of lyrics and music files and photos and … well, it’ll break my heart to continue the list. Mostly what I need is gone. My entire book. The memoir. Carefully culled into chapters and organized into A, B and C lists. Gone. I’m sure it’s somewhere in the ether but I am not smart enough to find it so I took my iMac to a guy at a computer store, the geeks, and I’m crossing my fingers, giving my credit card and saying “I don’t care what it costs, just get it and back the shit up to whatever Terrabytes it needs”. And then, I’ll be hiring one of those geeks to come over and spend a few hours with me teaching me how to not ever do that again. I mean, once we’re allowed to be near strangers again. I risked my health even to go into that store. I haven’t gone into a store in weeks. A month. I’ve been in the house or our yard mostly, with the exception of running 3 miles in my neighborhood and a few rock throwing creek excursions with Huck. I bring a mask and hand sanitizer.
It’s getting boring. Does anyone else feel like they’re on a bender. Night is day. Day is night. Sunday feels like Tuesday. I’ve lost track of so much. My files. What I’m doing. Everything is cancelled, death tolls scroll across the television, there is quite literally nothing else on the news but Covid-19. My cousin had a baby 2 days ago. My Aunt died. But it’s gotten lost in the soundtrack of the moment. The fog of disease spreading. And my State wants to throw open the gates in a week and get back to normal. And I’m not ready for that. I still feel like there’s a threat hanging over us. I’m not sure who’s telling the truth but I can guarantee you it’s not anyone who’s supposed to be in charge.
And what if we all do get back to normal. How soon will we forget any of the lessons of the shelter? Shouldn’t we stay until it seeps into our skin and changes our DNA and makes us kinder and makes us want to take care of our neighbors even if that means sacrificing a tiny bit of freedom? Or are we all so desperate to get back to what wasn’t working before for everyone because it was working well enough for some? I’d love for there to be a seismic shift. I’d love for this to mean something and I think 4 weeks will only be a nuisance rather than a crack in the ozone.
Jesus sat in the desert for 40 days, didn’t he? We are bitching after less than 30. Death is out there. Of course, death is always out there, isn’t it?
I took a 10 day Vipassana meditation course almost 10 years ago. For 7 days of silence, I cried and fought internally and hated every moment of it and wanted to quit and run so badly I shook at night. On day 7, my tooth broke. There wasn’t any pain and I learned that I would be able to wait a few days to get a crown if I avoided chewing on that side, which I could since I was only really eating oatmeal and soft bland vegan foods anyway. And the meditation teacher said this to me, “Use the technique” and I wanted to punch her alabaster face. I said, ‘How? My fucking tooth broke.” She said, “The technique teaches you to allow, to not cling, to not respond but to watch it change. It teaches you a physical knowledge of Annica, of letting go.” I wanted to tell her to go fuck herself, the Tilda Swinton looking guru in white. But I was afraid if I left after investing 7 painful days, I’d never come back and I’m not a quitter. So I stayed, and kept my tongue over that broken tooth, swished liquids to one side, and tried to ‘use the technique’.
On day 8, we were led in a 4 hour meditation, the longest I’d ever experienced. At first, everything ached, my knees, my hips, I tried shifting my weight, I rolled on my ass a bit to wake up the sleeping nerves. I concentrated on the feeling (the ‘sensation’) of my breath on my upper lip until I felt the cool. I thought about the top of my head and felt a prickle of sensation, almost an itch, then I followed the line of thought down my head, across my brow – an itch – I stayed with the itch mentally until it faded and went away – and then down my cheeks across my nose, down my lip and mouth to my chin and my neck, across my shoulders down my arms and my fingers, under my arms to my obliques, my ribs, my stomach my lower back down my thighs, my knees – another itch – I stayed, I bored my concentration into the tunnel of the itch until it broke apart and shattered into air – my calves my ankles my feet the arches the toes and then I turned around and came back up my body, part by part as they said until the deeply concentrated effort became an easy sweeping up to my head down to my feet up to my head down to my feet.
And then, somewhere in the forgetting where I was, just sweeping up and down, a voice came to me. It was my own but it was not my own. And my own voice asked it a question and it answered in a full sentence. And then another question and another answer. And I was in conversation with myself but my ‘self’ was not me, my voice had been borrowed by something deep within or without and I couldn’t tell which but I’d lost track of time and I was floating on some kind of blissed out enlightened wave that felt like the best part of a mushroom trip I took in college when I literally thought I understood paisley as a sign of God in the shivering trees (Don’t ask…I got lost in the mirror in the dorm bathroom. Someone had to rescue me and give me peanut butter before I puked).
When I came out of that meditation, something, everything was different. I understood that I was not alone. I understood that there was a benevolent force within me without me who was on my side. Which is not the God I was raised with. Years later, in recovery, when I had to assign characteristics to a Higher Power of My Own Choosing, I first chose one that had my back. A kind god who was on my side. I’m convinced that God spoke to me on that 4 hour meditation and the conversation began with the broken tooth. The broken tooth challenged me to gut it out or bail. And despite every desire to run, the courage to stay won the race. And because I stayed, God spoke to me.
Now. Do I believe God, as in GOD, spoke to me? No. Well, I don’t know. I’m afraid to say “yes” because it’s always been kind of cool to be an atheist. Or at least a doubter. At least in my New York City Intellectual Snobbery. But to be honest, yes. I do believe. But I believe God is not the blonde blue eyed God on the cross above my grandmother’s bed with nails and blood running down the wounds, the gruesome Catholic crucifix. I do not believe God lives in some Heaven that only the few are allowed to enter. I do not believe God keeps tabs on us. I think God is inside of me using my voice. God is my gut instinct. God is my son’s smile. God is my friend who forgave me last week when I forgave my other friend. God is the rainbow over the Tennessee River after Jamey got down on bended knee, giving me the dream proposal I never thought I’d get. God is the 1st miscarriage, the drunken stupor, the car wreck, the skinned knees. God is the rape is the making love for the first time. God is the bruise and is the tattoo. God is everything or he/she/it/they is nothing. So I choose everything. God spoke to me in my own voice and then stayed with me through my darkest days.
These are the darkest days. It’s now midnight and I’ll be up in a few hours to greet my smiling chattering son and feed him breakfast and go throw a few rocks in the creek. God says to me, I took away your tooth, now shut up and stay still for 4 hours and see what conversation you can have with what you actually do know. Maybe if I talk to you through your own voice, you’ll listen (narcissist that I am).
So maybe, just maybe, if I shut up and listen, if WE shut up and listen there will be meaning. A baby was born yesterday named Norah Jane, which is funny because I have a friend whose name is Nora Jane and she has a daughter just a year younger than Huck and we both have children from borrowed eggs and that’s how we became friends. I have Joan Didion and Louise Erdrich and Claire Dederer and Anne Lamott stacked up in front of me, mother memoirs to guide me through the dark.
Precious things, precious people have been lost in these end times. I’m hoping that the end begins again and renews and the soil turns and in the cracked-tooth silence, something beautiful comes to be at the corner of lost and found.