Saturday, April 13, 2013

Present Pressing

I filed for an extension on my taxes today, and I bought asparagus at the farmer's market.  These two events are related only because 1) I realized two nights ago as I sat down to do my taxes, that I had not received a W-2 form from one of the organizations I worked for last year, and 2) This day that I had dedicated on the calendar to completing my taxes instead included a trip to the farmer's market.

Now, neither of these events on their own are of any great import, but what is exceedingly clear to me is that time is passing--and quickly.  Yet, when I look back on the past weeks, I feel as if I've lived lifetimes--both in my waking existence and in sleep.  I woke Sunday night only to hear myself yelling "stop it" to some unknown (and scarily eye-less) assailant who was (in my dream) channelling negative thoughts into my mind.  I'm sure there's some fabulously Freudian explanation for my dream, but I'm not terribly interested in a heavy analysis.  I have been doing some heavy-lifting emotionally as I continue to make sense of my space and the transitions that I've worked through in the past months, and, really, there isn't much more space for figuring.

What is becoming clear is that once you stop the motion, particularly after a transition, there is space to think and feel.  And this?  Well, this space seems to offer up harder conditions than the constant motion.  Virginia Woolf writes:

"The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surface of a deep river.  Then one sees through the surface to the depths.  In those moments I find one of my greatest satisfactions, not that I am thinking of the past; but that it is then that I am living most fully in the present.  For the present when backed by the past is a thousand times deeper than the present when it presses so close that you can feel nothing else"  
("A Sketch of the Past," from Moments of Being, p. 98).  

[Woolf presents this as a seemingly positive state, but, although she was brilliant, I have to take this with a grain since we all know how that all turned out.]  What I'm noticing is that I'm not fully in either space:  I'm still trying to figure out my present, but I have enough figured that my past is creeping back in willing me to tie some bows and close up some open-ended thinking that has been lingering.  And then there's the whole idea that distraction is actually quite pleasurable--How much "easier" (emotionally) is it to operate on a purely survival level (though it never seems easy in the moment) than it is to say, "Whoa, I've been operating on a purely survival level and now I have to figure out what the fuck is really going on in my psyche and in my world."  There is this idea of really local concerns and really global concerns in life:  If I wonder where I'm going to get a couch for my new apartment, that is so much easier than wondering why it is that I'm living in my new apartment.  (Note:  My apartment is absolutely lovely; I just haven't lived in one since I was 19).  

And so...I continue on a journey to clear space, to clear out what is superfluous (and clear out the to-do bin) so that I can that I can watch the shift in the season and be a part of it.  I know there will always be mourning in shifts, but I want to focus on the celebration.  And I simplify things as much as I can, recognizing for the millionth time in this lifetime that operating from a clearer stance leads to a clearer view of the beauty--of the asparagus, of the flame red strawberries that can be smelled from two stalls away.  I don't want to be afraid to wake up and to see,  to appreciate.  And to let the present flow over the past because the past makes it richer, not because the past is haunting me.

"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness." 
 --Henry David Thoreau

I'm still teasing out the ideas of the above quote (and, yes, its author always demands a certain level of criticism), but there's something here.  Above all, simplify.  Note the shift in seasons.  Note the shifts in mindset.  File for extensions, but don't extend the past's impact on the present.  Trying.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wrapped in Stories

I want to wrap myself up in the coziness of a story--the kind that you lose yourself in, that makes you want to gather up yourself and your two favorite things and to step into a nether world.  I want a closet to Narnia, but without the Christian undertones.  I want Fairyland or Oz.  I want to hang out with Weetzie Bat.  I want to escape to a land that hasn't even been named yet.  As if I could escape into or control the outcomes in these stories any better than I can within the one I'm living...

One of my favorite lines regarding these thoughts is by one of my new favorite characters (September of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente):

"The trouble was, September didn't know what sort of story she was in.  Was it a merry one or a serious one?  How ought she act?...  "  

The narrator offers her omniscient reply to this thought of September's:
"But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move.  And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either.  Stories have a way of changing faces.  They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers.  This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble" (p. 36).

I can't quite get a handle on the story I'm in right now:  It has beautiful scenery and a huge cast of characters, but the protagonist seems a little weary in the world.  It seems to be that moment in the story when the main character seems a bit adrift in her daily routines, and sometimes a bit overly sensitive to the world around her.

I guess what I'm wanting, is to believe that I'm in the midst of a good, rollicking adventure story (Like that great 80s classic Romancing the Stone--stop it, I can hear the eyeballs rolling, don't judge me for that one).  Right?  I want to splash down waterfalls, be thoroughly annoyed by brash handsome men, outsmart bad guys, and??  Write a bestselling novel about it in the end.  (Do I have this movie confused with a different one?  I'm going to have to watch it in the name of "research" I think.)  

I know that my (less fictional) alternative is a lot less colorful than this.  I know that I have control of nothing; I know that breathing through the moment is key.  I know that being in the moment is key.  I know that bringing myself back to present is key.  But, damn, I'd like to slip into a narrative where I was a cat burglar, where I talked with dragons and swam with mermaids... and I'd like to be wrapped in this fanciful narrative until I'm ready to bring myself back to the "real" world. 

(One last word from Valente's Fairyland:)
"All stories must end so, with the next tale winking out of the corners of the last pages, promising more, promising moonlight and dancing and revels, if only you will come back when spring comes again" (p. 247).

It's spring.  It's here.  I'm ready for the next tale.