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January 1, 2008

Aftershock

Filed under: Essay,Writing — litlove @ 12:06 pm

From The Sacred Journey

It is an appropriate metaphor for how I have been feeling of late, though it is just a metaphor, no real earthquakes here recently though I am a mere eight miles from the San Andreas fault.

After the high of the Thanksgiving break and Joshua Tree, I’ve come down in more ways than one. First of all, I’ve come down with a cold, or as the buffaloes call it “the sickness unto death.” I love that I live and learn with students who rename a simple cold for a concept from an existentialist, Danish philosopher. Colds are interesting. Essentially, they are annoyances, but we can make them mean as much or as little as we want. Everybody has a causal theory and a remedy, and sometimes they compliment each other, but often they contradict each other. One student tells me that I shouldn’t drink too much orange juice because the body can absorb only so much vitamin C. Another tells me Airborne is what I need. Another Coldeeze (or something like that). Sancho is giving me some sort of bee extract that comes in two types of pills that I take on the hour, except I don’t because my schedule is madness and is my master absolute. Robby tells me exactly what is going to happen over the next two days because he just went through it, and looks gleefully at me from the other side of the sickness. Monique tells me that I am dying and wants to know if she can have my iPhone when I do. She also has plans for my funeral: a Whitman poem and Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes.” We decide that Penelope will be donated to the Buffalo Center upon my imminent demise. The silliness combines with the seriousness to make it all bearable, and compassion mingles with relief as people tell me they are sorry, but I can tell they’re also glad it’s not them.

As is often the case, a cold symbolizes a kind of spiritual dis-ease as well. A few times over the last few weeks I have felt disconnected from parts of my job and my place in the universe. Nothing too serious, just a disconnect. I think I’ve remedied the immediate problems, and I tell myself that everything here can’t be perfect, but it wasn’t good and caused me some sadness. Any kind of sad experience is easily connected to the sad experience that set me on my journey, and while I know better than to carry my “old delicious burdens,” still “it is impossible for me to get rid of them,” and “I carry them with me wherever I go.” It still surprises me that sadness can creep up on me and knock me off course. Dad says he is impressed with my optimism, and so am I. It’s real and serves me well, but I also know it can easily morph into idealism, so it’s good to have these periods of aftershock where I realize that I am still fragile and fragmented despite my great good fortune. I sometimes hesitate to tell friends and family that things are as good as they are because I feel like I’m always saying that, and it must ring hollow sometimes. And sometimes I say things are good because I’m trying to convince myself of it. St. Mary of Virginia called me on some of this recently, and I’m grateful to her for that. Scout also called me on something as we sat in the lovely Virginia afternoon a few weeks back, and I love her for that. She told me a hard truth. I hope I’m that kind of friend: one who will build you up by telling you the truth. We also need friends who will occasionally build you up by telling you lies.

So this is yet another circle of motion, a larger one that ripples out further and further into time. Journeys are like that: you travel with eyes wide and heart open, you arrive and look around amazed, you settle in and begin to think of a place as home, then you encounter difficulty and the wanderlust returns. But I’m not going anywhere. This is my home, and I’m going to be here until the universe decides it is time to be up and gone. Nietzsche had this idea of the eternal recurrence where everything happens over and over, but not in a circle. It is more like a kind of spiral where you are at the same place on one plane of existence but at a different one on another. Still, it seems like there is this rhythm to our lives, an ebb and flow of ache and joy that becomes as familiar as sunrise and twilight.

I had a similar experience at Prestigious University. I found myself in a hole and deeply depressed, and my good friend St. Roger spoke some hard truths to me. He also said that falling in a hole isn’t the issue because everyone does that. What matters, he said, is how you get out of it. St. Mary of Virginia has a similar story about holes and falling that she tells better than I can, so maybe she will share it in the comments here. But the point is the same in both stories: it’s all about grace and motion. Will you keep moving, and if so, how? Will you acquiesce to your tragic reflection, or will you break the mirror and open up to a new self that is constantly changing? At the same time, you have to find something solid and sound to hold on to as you deal with the aftershocks. When it feels like the world is shaking, you need something that isn’t. John Prine said it best: “Just give me one thing that I can hold onto.”

Where do I go to stand during the aftershocks? I go to where I’ve been. I go to the roads I have taken and the lessons I have learned there: I am larger, much better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness. Henceforth I ask not good fortune; I myself am good fortune. I celebrate myself and sing myself. All shall be most well.


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1 Comment »

  1. I will be sure to remember this post next time I fall in a hole (which happens quite frequently). Thank you!

    Comment by Emily Barton — January 2, 2008 @ 1:09 pm | Reply


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