S., tired eyes, summing up her life: “I cannot, at this particular time in my life, give up paper towels. I need them.”
It’s such a relief to find I’m not alone. Thinking about everything that “should” be done, trying to make tiny ecological systems in every area of life, in the form and formless, it all bombards me at times and I get thrown so far out of myself, I get anxious and jittery and make urgent noises. Well don’t do that. Look at what’s going on, and choose the most important, immediate things, and write them down, and do them one at a time, until they are done. I can’t possibly do all the things I “should” do today.
Starting a household, I’ve gotten past the starting point, and what I want to do is becoming clearer, and so a plan is emerging. For me, that is the biggest step. Now I’m ready to enjoy bringing it into being. I can’t do it all at once. I’ve already found out I can no more change all the instilled habits of twenty-five years of being a full fledged American potato chip eater than I can become my spiritual ideals overnight. I’m getting better at not getting so exasperated with myself for being so slow, and the lack of exasperation has acted as an oil, greasing the cogs and wheels of my own ability to be without trying so hard.
The paradox of trying to educate yourself and then live within the environment your ideals have dictated is: try but don’t try. You’ve got to cultivate the ability to look at everything that needs to be done, look at the patterns of sand the waves of your life have made on your beaches, see the trash, see the beauty of the shells, see the bleached portions made clean by the sun within you, and then, seeing it all, turn away and realize that by serving it all, you can become trapped in the ritualized aspect of it, the rigidity that can evolve from singlemindedness. Singlemindedness can turn on you and demand you see nothing else.You can’t let that happen either. Be able to turn away, not care that your house is filthy when somebody special unexpectedly shows up for a visit, not care that your unfinished projects, dirty dishes, dustballs of cat hair and dead bugs and chimney soot all seem to be huddled in the center of the living room rug, so many unmistakeable spokesmen for the “undones.” Turn away and remember who you are and why you are here (if you can see beyond your own garbage, someone else can too), feel your heart open and know that you never “need” anything. You did agree to come in here and honor this incarnation and its needfulness but you can turn back into that place within yourself beyond it all, where you are complete. Smile, and feel the innocence of that, the cleanliness of it. It’s all okay.
There’s no conflict in the unfinished and the finished. Open your arms to it all.
Having to proofread endless pages of heavy black type, spattered only with equations and an occasional table or figure, that kind of confinement of mind, that insistence: you can’t let a single error slip by. Clean copy. Clean copy. Give me some clean copy. I smile inside, nod in agreement, I accept these tasks with little joy but with something other than irritability too. These peculiar little tasks are related to all the dirt I’ve swept under the rug for so many years, my Scarlett O’Hara attitude of “I’ll think about it tomorrow,” and tomorrow has come. I understand that. I won’t fuss. All I can do is do it: clean and clean and clean until there aren’t any more spots. I am thankful for the exactitude of the Law: sending me exactly what I ordered even though my conscious mind never signed any of the receipts.
It has started to rain. The coffee has made me bolt from the room and down the hall to the toilet once already. I’m so happy there. I know every toilet of my life so well. I remember the one in Weldon the most pleasantly, I suppose. I never liked the light on, because that separated me from the night. If it was night, I wanted to be in the night. Open the window and lay my head on the sill as I sat, listen to my own past and present stillness there, enveloped in that house, the wrought iron rail below me, the trees. That was the only time I came to know well the tops of trees. It’s always the bottoms I see nowadays. But being up so high like that, hanging off the edge of the hill, I felt like one of them, they were so close.
Taking a crap feels so good. Isn’t there a theory about that? Love of defecation? Something about holding it in, not wanting to let go? So much psychological crap! The reason I like to crap is simple: it feels good. I’m lighter when I’m done. I feel like I just let an animal out of its cage, or took off a heavy winter coat. The one-liner I keep practicing for when I’m on my deathbed is: “This is it baby, I’m going to take the ultimate crap, I’m going to do the bowel movement my mother’s been begging me to do since I was two and she asked, hopefully, ‘Did you do a b.m.?’ ” And isn’t it going to feel good? I can see my face after I leave it behind, like a yellowed silk handkerchief, its charm suddenly expressionlessly immobile. Don’t let them dress me up with rouge on my cheeks and my blood all gone; I want to burn to a cinder, thrown in the wind. No jar for me.
V.R. is retiring. So is S.S. I look at their pictures in the paper, features blurred by age, sagging faces, bald heads. Old faces, like very young faces, extremities of the cycle of individuality.
When we’re in those middle years, young adulthood, adulthood, we look more like ourselves, we say. I think it’s that you come in all purified of one level of patterns; all you’ve got is your Isness and good intentions and then you go through a cycle of moving into individuality, with as much swaggering and singing and swinging as possible. And then out again.
The one lifetime is patterned after the larger pattern of pretending to depart, to leave the One Mind, to become creation, individuality, and then pretend to return back to the father/mother self, when really we never left at all.
Four-year-old Barbara, leaning towards me with every ounce of her determination, raising one finger in the air, little orator before ego’s podium, starting every sentence with a swing forward for emphasis, “Ick. . . . ! ” Everything she said began that way, so I finally asked Margret to translate. “It means ‘I’,” she said.
As an old lady in my last decade, I move out of the vortex of swearing and pledging my heart’s allegiance to children, to husband, to land, to myself. It slips away and I don’t even care. I can feel the features of my face beginning to be erased in my old age. Today even, in 1977. The culmination of individuality has given birth to the concept of the cup that has no bottom, the featureless face.
I take a rolling pin and roll us all out into green pastures that meet blue sky, and as soon as we are infinite from where I stand, I scream and dive and roll in our grasses. I am lost and that is my bliss.
Does feeling bad make you see more clearly? Probably no more than feeling good. My heart was so closed last night and I didn’t care. I just made my gutteral noises of anger and whipped that broom around the room like a weapon.
There are no two ways about it. I am mad and I am mad. And I don’t know why and I don’t care. I’m mad because the house is filthy and because people don’t keep in touch with people they claim are important to them, and because it is midnight and I’m sweaty and I want a bath, dammit, but I don’t want to wait for my hair to dry, and I don’t want to go to bed with wet hair. I remember hearing my grandmother make the same noise I am making now in my throat, whenever she found dirt under the rug.
First a nurse takes my temperature and weighs me. Then she leads me to a room, shows me the white sheet to put on, and leaves.
I’m never sure how much to say when a doctor asks me questions.
“Are you ever dizzy?” he asks.
“Trouble with your eyes?”
“No. Well, but sometimes in the afternoons they burn; maybe we should check them?”
He looks at me as if I’ve said something wrong.
“Oh never mind,” I say and laugh. “It’s no to all those questions.”
“But you circled recent rash,” he said.
“It was nothing,” I say. (I’m convinced I should tell him of nothing less than broken bones.)
I get on the table and he starts listening to me breath, the stethoscope against my back, and I remember being very small and afraid of the doctor because his breath smelled of something terrible, a sickness worse than anything he’d ever find down my throat or in my ears.
“Lie down,” he says.
“Did you hear my murmur?”
“Um-hmmm.” He’s checking me for lumps.
“You know, everybody in the world secretly thinks they are dying.” I say.
He never answers.
I’ve had only two hours sleep. Anita Bryant was on the T.V. this morning revelling in her “victory” over the homosexuals of Dade County, Florida. I’m so tired, but my mind has obligingly sat right up without too much fuss, and is wading calmly through the work. Page proofs are arranged all over one desk, rejection letters on the other. I’ve got a lot to do.
I’m not getting alarmed anymore at the prospect of “lots of work.” I’ve noticed it doesn’t really matter whether I am at work or at home, on vacation, or vacationless. My consciousness doesn’t care. Whatever happiness or joy I experience has more to do with how I did something than what I did, even if it was nothing but taking time out to talk to the dogs. That realization is in slight conflict with my belief that “living in the country is very important to me.” It’s nice. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. I have more freedom. To do what? Walk around naked? Scream my primal scream from the backdoor? Leave off the curtains in the windows? So what?
That so what realization has had a lot to do with making me think less and less about the future (writing a book, printing some pictures, drawing a decent likeness of my husband, going to Europe again to see blub and blub and blub). The only thing I am answering to these days is that in me which finishes unfinished business and other than that just flows.
Today I’ve given up the need for precision, the need for muddiness, the need for am-I-pleasing-you-with-my-words? Am I coming across clearly? I don’t know who you are or who I am, or how much we perpetuate illusion. I know in my words that I am skating around the issue because by thinking about it, talking about it, I am not there, in the same way that God’s earth is one giant conversation about God, in order to discover it is God. I know that my instinct is to write, to send a letter back home, to telephone, to give the news. And even in knowing that the center of all escapes my words, I know as surely that my words carry me to the center.
I feel an obliteration in what is happening, even as I carry these thoughts like tin cans tied behind the honeymoon car. Their clanging and banging may be all some others can understand, and I know I stand back there with all the others, crying out for clues.
When I am unable to find myself it is only because I am clinging, I am crying, and the veil grows heavier and heavier and I only get out by having compassion for her (me).
The gratitude for getting to be here at all is expressing itself this morning in a fluidity that I can feel in my eyes. It is hard to imagine that eyes are made of anything other than almost liquid matter, always changing, never the same.
When you are backpacking, the trek up the mountain is as important and real as the moment of “arrival” at the top. You remember your thoughts when you had not yet seen the top but knew it was there, but knew equally well the importance and perfection in moving one foot in front of the other, creating the path to the top. But part of the acknowledgement of being at the top of the mountain is the self-given gift of seeing the totality of the stops and steps you made along the way, seeing that totality and burning in it, soaking it up until you feel the dissolution of the details as they admit to having gone full circle, and you do, too, and the mountain disappears entirely.
That is so much of what I am going through this Spring; some days I love everybody so much I have to put my hands behind me and hold them there to keep from touching people too intimately. The love I’m feeling for everybody is so closely intertwined with the dissolution of my ideas about where-I-want-to-go of just a few months ago, of my ideas of who I think I am. Which is not to say “I was wrong,” or “I was right.” It has nothing to do with rightness or wrongness. It has to do with the flow: acceptance that all passes away, yet is never lost, acceptance of every paradox in this system of reality, acceptance of non-acceptance. I wrote last month:
Because the form is losing its meaning
for me I begin to move into shapes and
sizes and unknowns I didn’t before. It is
raining and I am the water and no longer
can I decree where I will flow, into what
patches of earth I will form puddles and
lakes and rivers. The form is gone but I
can still be it and the paradox is my joke
of the day. Standing in CCF, cavorting
with the farmers behind our over-alled
whiskered balloon-like forms. “Sumpin’
eatin’ on my beans” is our introduction.
I am touched by our hypnotic dance, the
play. Who are you and who am I? My
attachment lies in the love for the dance
but not so heavily that my feet don’t drift
from the earth for moments when I know
I am between the inbreath and the out. My
ecstasy has lost its loveliness and my oblit-
eration has come. I am born again and am
I just realized something about the difference in knowing I can be centered and loving and open for just one day, and knowing I can do that forever. I say to myself, “Gee, I can’t handle being that way all the time.” Fine. I don’t have to be that way all the time. But neither do I have to wait until the outer world forces me into that place, the way I’ve been doing, doing a centering act every time I absolutely have to. That sort of miscellaneous program does not resemble discipline in any way. Which is OK, but I feel so much better when I’ve been that “best self.” And, at the present, I am only becoming that self as a reactionary measure, like a plant refusing to grow except under ideal conditions. I can still grow on the other days, too. How? By taking it one day at a time.
One day at a time. I feel my weaknesses more now. My temptations to backslide. To plug my energy in here, when I know if I save it, it will go further for everybody here. Okay, don’t get so depressed about not being that best self every day. Say, “Okay. I know I have weaknesses. I fall a lot. I’ll fall again. That’s what it’s about: falling, getting up, being honest about it, acknowledging how and why I fell, but learning from it, and going on. But tomorrow, I am deliberately not going to fall. I am going to put my hand in the hand of the sweet lady within me and tomorrow with her help that is my help, I am going to keep my vision raised all day.
That sounds glibly spiritual. Let me put it another way. Be your lightest self. You love to laugh. Well laugh, all day long. But laugh with your heart open. To everyone and everything. Live off the nectar of the light; your own light can lift you, don’t ever forget that. The light is not yours anymore than you can claim the flow as your own, but never ever will the light not reside within you; it lives in your ability to smile through the tears.