Saturday, January 08, 2005

Rainy weather introspection ...

This is a day for cleaning and tossing -- and rediscovering words written at another time to one no longer living.

From Walden Yale: "...It tells me that you do not yield to substituting the ease and acceptance of the human gift or pitfall of imagination, and choose the more difficult path of continuing to quietly ponder, wonder, study, experience while living a life worth living to its end..."

Walden: along with Laura's lovely post on The Emperor and her new thoughts on The Color Purple," the words above bring to mind that one of the signs of maturity may well be an increasing comfort with uncertainty. Maybe -- as we age -- we develop more respect for how much there is to be known, and of how wanting we humans are to encompass it all in but one lifetime.

Remember hearing recently on NPR a scientist describing the great migrations of the monarchs from the east coast of the USA to the welcoming trees of Argentina. Because of the distance and their fragility as a species, that trip to and from over those countless miles over a lengthy period of a year (as I recall), requires four or five generations between departure and return. Remarkable, isn't it? This extraordinary example of an astounding application of natural law is mind-boggling, indeed.

That provided a new pathway of thought for me when I started to muse on the possibility that I am (we are) on a grand migration through life that is dependent upon my ability to lean on and learn from all those with I come into contact, and that it is essential to all of existence that my role be well played and my contribution be beyond my own needs. Interesting thought, isn't it? Perhaps takes us all to know and with few exceptions, not many of us hold within ourselves the power to go it alone.

As with those monarchs, none among us knows from whence we've come, or where we will finally light, but they go on soaring through the universe with neither compass nor bible, bearing their progeny and wending their way into the future -- guided by some unrevealed universal plan that surely will bring them "home."

Natural science has documented the fact of their flight, but the magical "flight plan" is beyond human comprehension.

A part of me is intrigued by the thought of being a "monarch" who will defy known reality by thrusting myself into the unknown in order to participate in whatever comes next. My strong belief is that next is merely non-existence and a return to the matter from which I've come. That I need all of you to complete the journey is about all I'm really certain of, and that there is but one life -- and that we're all living it.

Betty on another thoughtful morning ...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Well! That didn't last long.

All that was needed was a phone call from someone who might generate a need to fill, and the fear dropped away as fast as mercury! Two days back in town and it feels just as it did before the trip to Eden; right and homelike. Camelot now feels more than mere miles away -- off on some other planet, maybe. Wonderful to experience for brief periods but now pretty surreal in the plain light of day ... .

Maybe it will take time to absorb and accept. Maybe I'm just not ready for that much wonderful-ness.

First came the steadying call from Melita, "...will you speak a few inspirational words at my fiftieth birthday party on January 15th?" "Sure." Then noticed the reminder on the refrigerator door, " are your tickets for the reserved section at the Martin Luther King celebratory concert on Sunday, January 16th. We're so happy that you've agreed to be one of our honored guests." Now that I've lived long enough to have literally become Black History, there are expectations to be fulfilled and honors to receive and enjoy. This is a very different world. Richmond is a part of that. For whatever it's worth, so is my racial background and culture. This is where the rewards of black life bring a visceral response from deep inside me. My entire life and the choices I've made have been colored by experiences that shaped me and my vision of the world.

The occasional views I got for extended periods of time showed me another way. Lived "outside" for the ten years of my marriage to Bill, and it was heady and exciting. But there's a richness in black culture that nurtures my soul and when I move away from that too far, I get disoriented. Unsteady. Lost. And in the looking back from outside, I tend to see this (black) world as marred, less, violent, confused, hopeless, -- because I'm seeing through the borrowed lens of "outsiders". I don't think I'll live long enough to bring all that together into any kind of coherent system that will hold my life steady.

Maybe, in that instant when I made the turn off Highway 128 to the vastness of the ocean and that oh so different world, my lens was turned to "outsider" and the contrasts of white/black urban/rustic life stood bare and harshly at odds. I couldn't shift realities quickly enough to ward off the shock. Makes sense to me. The feeling of safeness that I experienced there may be as illusory as the feeling of danger that walks with me through the dark streets of West County. I don't know. I do know that basking in the warmth of that feeling of security and caring sharpened the terror level to reflect that which is now being imposed from the world as beamed from the media hourly. Maybe it was just too much to absorb in a single weekend.

Living one's life on a bridge is precarious. I learned long ago that it would be necessary to choose sides in order to find peace. I thought I'd left the bridge long ago; that I'd chosen. Actually I've made that choice several times, each time for different reasons. Each time I've returned "home."

There is always pain in the choosing. It always leaves people I love behind -- on either side. It appears that we must cross that bridge alone, invariably as exceptions to the rule.

Perhaps that was really the fear that I've been running from. Fear that I can never bring my whole self to either side -- but must make impossible compromises for the sake of those whom that life effects.

Getting lost in "the work" has always served me well. Maybe it will again.

But for now ... I'll just hold steady until a pathway clears. Maybe when I'm rooted again in meaningful work I'll find the pattern for movement ahead. For the moment I'll stay the course.

But for today, at least, fear and the acceptance of the idea that I am fearful are under equal control. Allowing myself to acknowledge the level of terror I've often lived with is a threat to my sanity. Staying sane in an insane world was always the challenge. It still is.

Perhaps when there is enough reciprocal caring, the way reveals itself and "the world" property alters its course to fit. (And what kind of an insane statement is that?)

Could it be that simple?

Monday, January 03, 2005

This may be the very first time in my personal history that New Year's Eve lived up to its promise.

I can't remember a time when I felt so warm and cherished and sheltered ... and even now ... I'm not sure why that is... .

Drove home through a rainstorm on Sunday morning. It was like a curtain descending on an implausible vignette written by some unknown romantic and acted out by two unlikely character actors. Strange.

There was no preamble; a sketchy introduction; and, so many obstacles to overcome that upon arriving home yesterday I found myself unable to escape the feeling that -- at least for a few months -- my life will be lived in disconnected fragments with little continuity or reason. There will be isolated events with neither of us wanting to think of tomorrow or the day after. It comes with living in these years -- this bonus period when leftover life has to be ad libbed. It will be a period of now.

Almost no sleep last night. Lots of wide awake wonderings as if the forefront of my thoughts had been concealing those things that were giving energy to this friendship and that -- once quiet -- the new reality revealed itself from somewhere just beneath conscious level -- where the emotions reside waiting to be evoked by events.

There were suddenly tears. Climbed out of bed and turned the light on. Insight. I'd begun to feel the world drop away on the drive north -- somewhere in the passage through the redwood forest -- I was listening to a Sarah Vaughn Brazilian song from a CD I'd thought to bring along. I didn't know then just what I was driving toward. But something was in a state of change. I had no idea what that might be.

And, I didn't know that I'd lost it until it was being restored ... .

It has been many years since I've felt safe; totally, unconditionally, safe.

I'd lost any sense of just how frightened I've been over a very long time; many years. As I reached the place where Highway 128 morphs into Highway 1 and the ocean comes into view on that narrow stretch high atop cliffs that hang over the ocean, I could feel myself (paradoxically) driving into a "safe" place. Five miles further, when I turned into the private road leading to my destination, I could literally feel my jaws relax, the tautness in the muscles of my thighs give way to an easiness as I drove over the last speed bumps and my leg lifted lightly moving from gas to brake. I again felt the lightness as I turned into the driveway -- and then remembered that I'd left the overnight bag I'd packed for the weekend sitting on the bedroom floor back in Richmond! I would spend the weekend -- not in the lovely Indian dress I'd planned for the occasion, but in borrowed pajamas. The "best laid plans" are sometimes best laid aside. Maybe the need to improvise helped to break up predictability and freed inhibitions... .

Over many years, I've very clearly desensitized myself to the very real physical dangers I've had to confront daily in order to "do the work." And there's been a cost, I suppose, one that I've been paying without fully understanding it. I'm not aure that I do even now.

It's only in the absence of that fear that I'm learning that it was there all the time. Maybe I've been living my life much as those frogs who -- when placed in cool water and allowed to heat beyond endurance lack the will to hop out of the pot. Maybe it's like that.

But after returning home, last night as I re-played the weekend, the absence of the fear left a disturbing vacuum, a vulnerability which brought tears of relief. But now that I know that I'm afraid, what will happen to me? Will I be defenseless and live in quiet panic? Can I still "do the work"?

And what is there about this man -- who suffers such profound frailties of his own, yet radiates at least the illusion of protection and support? The years have been so much kinder to me, yet it is his kindness and warmth that seems to form a shield -- that and the endless expanse of the sea and sky from his window wall -- that minimized all that lies before it.

They say that the earth's rotation has been changed by the earthquake and tsunami in the south seas... .

Could be... .