The Paradoxical Present

A few days ago, a man yelled at me in the post office. I came home and made myself a drink.

My response was not cause and effect per se. My response was simply my present. A mixture of Covid19 and a country unhinged. Exposed and unbridled injustice. Climate change and mass extinctions. So much loss. Existential angst. This is Winter 2020. This is now.

Most days are hard. Challenging. Difficult. Up and down, in and out, moment by moment. Yet the moments string together into days and nights, tumbling over themselves so rapidly that I am always amazed another week has already passed. Eat, sleep, do dishes, eat again, do more dishes. Tackle one problem a day. Insurance. Billings. Website. Groceries. Work.

Every day, I walk my dog. Other than that, I rarely leave home.

I write but I don’t publish. I pray but not on my knees. I meditate but not on my mat. I stretch and contract, stretch and contract. I feel like May in the Secret Life of Bees. I feel it all. I need my own wailing wall.

I live in gratitude and wonder and pain. My soul is a kaleidoscope of sand and broken glass, endlessly beautiful, always turning, catching the light. The profundity of seemingly the most banal and certainly the most painful moments makes me cry. My tears are as spontaneous as my laughter, truer than any words I’ve ever spoken and more proficient. Grief-stricken by the loss of life, lights that were extinguished too early. Overwhelmed by love. Hungover from crying.

Quite literally there are days when I don’t trust myself to drive. When tears wash over me like nausea. My ears are ringing. Grief makes me queasy. I need to sit down. Catch my breath. Inhale. Exhale. Get back on the mat. Wipe the stinging water from my face. Do nothing. Be horizontal. Snuggle my dog.

My pain is my meditation, as much as my silence and my conversations. My memories are my prayers. My phone pings and I am roused, and the cycle begins again. I address some pressing need. I play with my dog. Eat. Do dishes. Watch a little something, read a short bit. Respond to a text.

The good news is that I’m not an alcoholic. A glass of wine with dinner that I sometimes don’t finish before switching to tea. Endless pitchers of water. Even my Italian addiction to coffee is waning. Last week I broke down and for the first time since the pandemic, I bought myself liquor: good bourbon, vermouth, and aged cherries. A Manhattan never tasted better. But only one, maybe two, and then I’m back to water and tea. Of course, there’s chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate and sweets.

I know I’m not alone. I’m not the only one feeling this way. There is a chart circulating on Facebook for identifying if you’re thriving or in crisis, with surviving and struggling in-between. If only it was that simple and exact, that linear, that clean. I can run the full gamut in a day. And please, I don’t want your sympathy and I don’t want you to worry. I suspect that even those who post perpetually good thoughts and positive thinking, those who are holding jobs and “functioning well”, are also experiencing the same range. We are each hurting, struggling, and grieving in our own ways. We cope. We function. We connect. We laugh, we cry, we worry, we rest.

It is good to know that we are not alone. And still, the experience is singular. It is not enough to say we are all going through this. The shared experience is not comforting. Instead, it is necessary – truly – and terribly important – to acknowledge that we are each in our own unique, singular pain. We need to honor the individual experience, as well as the collective.

The man at the post office cut in front of me while I was socially distancing. When I pointed out that I was in line, he raised his voice and verbally insulted me. I was startled. The screws holding me together began to tremble loose. Tears ran down my face. I finally turned to him and said his words were unfair, untrue, and unkind. He responded, “I hope you have a good day.” Again, startled, I turned away. A good day does not negate the unjustness of his behavior. A good day is not without pain.

Every day is a good day. Every day I have my dog snuggled warm beside my body rolling in the leaves walking on her leash perched on the couch like Snoopy reaching up with her paws on my knees and  tossing her toys in play is a good day. Every day that I eat can afford to buy groceries cook healthy meals and taste flavors and smell and breathe and poop is a good day. Every day I stretch on my mat and practice yoga and light the candles on my alter and say my prayers and chant is a good day. Every day with a roof over my head and a car than runs and credit with a balance below my limit and a phone and a computer that are working is a good day. Every day I talk with a friend or my siblings or even a stranger and smile and connect, these are good days. These are great days. Every day is a gift.

And most days are hard.

This is a messy and vulnerable and intensely human admission. We are together and we are alone. I haven’t shared this before because if we’re all feeling similar things then… why would you want to read this? My own experience isn’t important. But today I am posting, because, maybe it is.

One Comment on “The Paradoxical Present

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