“Trust your instincts.”
I don’t remember how old I was when my father said these words to me, but it was somewhere between the end of college and the beginning of real adulthood (for me, this was a 10 year gap). I was distraught, the memory of my tight chest holding back my adolescent tears is still incredibly strong. We were in the family room, TV providing background comfort. I sat on the couch, legs curled up beneath me, while he stood, gently pacing the small space. Our familiar positions suddenly were broken when he sat down on the other end of the couch, not too close, but clearly yielding his authority and position and handing over the decision making completely to me.
“Trust your instincts,” he said. “This is your life. It really doesn’t matter what I think.”
I heard the words but I had no idea what to do with them. What did that mean? Did he not care? Was this another parenting ploy I needed to deconstruct? I think that I mumbled some response, hoping to actually be the person that he thought I was in that moment, and the conversation was over. He may have stayed on the couch, sinking into the distraction of the television, or he might have walked out to get a drink or check on some detail of adult life that I still hadn’t encountered, but, either way, I was left alone.
Decades later, I hear the words often. “Trust your instincts” has become the defining force that pulls my parts together. It’s not the gravity that we all depend upon, keeping houses, cars & feet firmly grounded on the earth, but the field that surrounds just me, as if I am the center of my own, little universe. A solitary planet with its own pull, co-creating the concentric circles of orbiting paths for other planets that share my tiny corner of space. It is my mantra, but it is only half of what was said.
There is a rattle
deep in the belly of our not-so-old car
plastered with its political declarations and subtle confrontations.
It’s not a constant rattle, signaling its discontent only upon the first turn of the key, undetectable to mechanics and other passengers.
It’s been there for so long, I wonder if it’s possible that it was there all along.
But wouldn’t we have noticed it?
Wouldn’t we have heard it when the car was shiny & new & full of promises?
And now that it is a part of the whole,
there are many days when the rattle is missed altogether.
But, there are days, when the rattle roars, forcing me to recoil for just a moment.
On those mornings
when my silence is assaulted by the reminder
that all is so clearly not right with the one thing I am depending upon
I wait for the crescendo…
and then the fall back to a quiet pretense that all is okay
Music is layered
It is the movement
It is the stillness
It is the echo of worlds unknown
or, more accurately,
It is the echo of worlds hidden.
To write is to create
best left in the echo.
Sometimes I sit with the words, just waiting for the right moment
which never comes
I know the answer, even before the entire question is released
although my heart begins to race & I feel the capillaries opening
I don’t make a move.
Words flow around me, arguments ensue, plans are made
I watch and witness.
What does it mean to fully participate in this life?
When does listening become passive acceptance?
I want to be fully present
but I am afraid to lose myself
10. Then 12. 15. Now 17…although if I stop and click? Yep. Over 20. Posts just keep piling up. Writing keeps being thrown out into the universe, gobbled up by other writers and some readers who are searching for answers? enlightenment? laughter? connection?
I am shocked by the way that daily writing, for an unknown audience, has shifted my world. It did not knock me over, although there were days that I obsessed over finding just the right word, but it did make me focus on each step I took, wondering if I was going to land on solid ground or if I was going to tumble forward, grasping in the darkness. I both loved and feared settling into my computer, unsure of what was going to find its way to the screen and, also, what was going to open up deep within me.
I have always written. Always. But I have never shared the way that I have shared these past 31 days. I am buoyed by the writing that has surrounded me for the past month and so I am reticent to continue just for me. It brings me back to my very first post…wondering if what I have to write is worth being read. For now, I’ll hit “publish” and share the link and settle into my day. Tomorrow will need to take care of itself.
I woke up abruptly from an afternoon dream and was struck by the permanence of death. Again. This realization seems to be hopelessly attempting to penetrate my core belief system, diving at it over and over, relentlessly, yet being deflected by the hope in something more. The hope that in the end there is really not an end.
No. That’s not it. The permanence of death is not in the theoretical or metaphysical. It is in the pain that transcends words, even the words I am attempting to write. It takes the living (and loving) into an uneasy space that is beyond the emotions we assign to the business of each day.
Actually, it is far more simple. I miss my dad. He died in 2006, the night before Halloween. I was not almost 50. I did not have 3 kids. I was barely beginning to know who I was in this world, but maybe he could see glimpses of her, just as I have to believe I see glimpses into my own children’s true selves. I was so incredibly different and, yet, very much the same as I am now.
And today he entered my dreams, solidly and completely, as much as dreams can possibly be. And I don’t have the words to convey how it feels–so you would think that I wouldn’t try to write about it. But I do know this emotion that transcends any label I’ve ever encountered is instantly familiar to anyone who knows loss. It is membership into a club that, I guess, we are all supposed to enter, presuming that the natural order goes as it is intended.
I know that this Slice, this writing, this understanding about death and pain and permanence, is incomplete. But it is late and the month long challenge is almost over. So I guess it is an indication to me that, with more to say, the writing will continue beyond tomorrow.
I woke up this morning still carrying the weight from last night. Although I slept, sleep did not seem to ameliorate the rage that shared my pillow, but not, curiously enough, my dreams. I don’t even think I dreamed. And now I am about to embark on another day without the fresh start that I had been promised eight hours ago.
In parts of Alaska, the sun is out for over 20 hours in the summer, giving the allusion of one day running, unbroken, into the next. I have always been fascinated with the flip side of their seasons: the winters when the sun peeks up, just over the horizon, for a mere 3 hours of visibility, before darting away, leaving the people to hibernate for weeks. But the never-ending days? I am exhausted by the thought.
I must have forgotten how this feels. I do know that I have had many days where the night was merely a pause, not a complete reset. While I can’t viscerally recall the hazy days and weeks of college final exams, graduate school all-night writing sessions or, most recently, the hours that rolled into one another when each newborn arrived in our home, I am struck by this familiar (and uncomfortable) morning with no discernible boundary. But I recognize that it is not this entry into the day that threatens to rub against me continuously, like a wool sweater’s raised collar against unprotected skin; it is the fear that led to the anger which pushed me, prematurely, into a sleep that was more of a recoil than a retreat.
So, today, when I move out into the world, I will be aware of the blisters building to protect the raw skin that sits just beneath the fragile defense system. I will shield them, somehow, with invisible band-aids and gentle movements that will not burst this bubble, releasing the protective fluid and exposing the underlying skin which is vulnerable and defenseless. I will wait for the blisters to heal a bit; I will wait for the promise of gentle sleep; I will find what my morning has failed to provide.