It rained a few days ago. Los Angeles always needs a good rain. It needs the reminder that the sun is not always out and sometimes you have to wear a raincoat. It needs an outward dance of the blues so that everyone living here has some relief from the constant dance of inner fret and outer blaze.
I have been wrestling for the last 24 hours. It’s one of those inner dances where one wants to throw in every towel owned and move somewhere remote. It’s a momentary ‘what’s it all about anyway?” It’s a quiet voice whispering for comfort and a louder voice bashing the need.
Sometimes I feel very courageous but mostly I feel like huge parts of me are still hiding. I think I’m afraid of major thresholds but I walk others through them all the time. I know I’m terrified of loss.
On a more concrete note, my life looks a little like this these days:
Tiny pieces of my right front tooth keep flaking off because I grind my teeth at night like I’m a grizzly bear. I won’t wear my mouth guard because I hate it. My dentist will fix my tooth but not without silent reprimand and absolutely no guarantee it will last more than an hour.
When I type, it sounds like I’m shooting a gun. I would bet my keyboard wears out in record time. I would bet if I were a key on my key board I would be begging for mercy. I would wish I was a Q.
My morning alarm sounds like a trumpet fanfare mixed with heavy metal. I lurch out of bed sure that something has gone terribly wrong. I have to sit still for a minute just to reduce my heart rate.
I have been late 10 times in my life. Okay, I’m making up that number but it’s something like that. I am never late. I am sweating in the car, biting my nails, cursing at stoplights but I am rarely, rarely late. I arrive 10 minutes early and sit in the car. I arrive half an hour early and walk around the block. I have sadly passed this on to my daughter who now starts to crack every knuckle in her hand if it looks like we might be late for school.
I wake up in the middle of the night and remember 3 people I was supposed to call the day before. I begin to silently punish myself for not doing so. I open the notes section on my phone and add to the on-going list. It brings me great joy to delete notes. It rarely happens.
I am the parent chair of a big fundraiser at my kids’ school but everyday I think “I should be doing more. I’m not doing enough. Everyone must think I’m a slacker.”
Get the picture? I live life at 11. (My husband loves to quote the movie Spinal Tap where Nigel Tufnel, the guitarist, proudly points to the volume knob on his amplifier and says “these go to 11.”)
Anyone else? Can I get a hallelujah? I know this “living at 11” isn’t everyone’s particular flavor. But perhaps most of us can relate to a sense of how life doesn’t stop these days and how it takes a tremendous amount of will and discipline just to take care of ourselves.
Most of this noise and fury isn’t even self generated. The volume of the election is beyond 11. The stories of how we are treating one another throughout the world feel like a daily Tsunami. There are too many crises. We’re absorbing it all and think there must be something terribly wrong in our own small lives. We’re all steeping in this intensity together.
So in this very moment, you find me ready to do something about it. I’ll put it this way: I’m quietly registering for the school of gentler living. I wish to be a student of living well. I am curious what it would feel like to consistently turn the volume down, take a step back or say no more often. Most days, I feel I am a failing and flailing and am doomed to repeat freshman year again and again. Some days I feel I know a thing of two.
I notice more these days when I am spinning out. I notice how I clench my jaw. I notice when I’m saying yes and inwardly shouting no. I notice how happy I am when I have a day with absolutely nothing on the calendar. I notice what it feels like to consciously take a deep breath.
I’m finally even making some doctor’s appointments and attending to things that my body has been requesting for quite awhile now. That feels good. That feels like I am stopping to mother myself instead of fathering my way through.
I’m wondering what the holidays would feel like if I entered them softly and with curiosity instead of swinging a shopping bat with a 10 foot check list in my hand. I am 100% certain that if I typed more lightly, changed my alarm to a lovely quiet piano and walked around the block once a day and maybe stopped to admire something beautiful, my life would begin to change. Yes. I want to live more gently, to receive the grace that is everywhere about but only if we pay attention. I want to sit with myself without agenda. I want time to slip through my fingers like flowers and trust nothing has been lost.
Oh, and I’d like it to rain a little more often.