I’m a part of an eclectic group of artists who meet on Monday mornings to share ideas and inspirations and to keep an upbeat, inquisitive and kind perspective on the state of the human race, which can look pretty darn bleak, if you source only cable news or the daily newspaper. Every week our fearless (and very talented) leader proposes an “assignment” that can be taken up or left on the table, as each of us might wish. This week’s was to write down the 12 hours a day on little pieces of paper, pull one from a hat and use any combination of that number to pick a time of day. Each day, for the following week, we were to make note of what we were thinking, observing, feeling. My number was seven and I decided I’d go for 7:17 PM, as AM isn’t always my best time and it’s likely I’d still be sleeping and dreaming away. The following is my “journal” of thoughts and observations for this past week. (The Christmas image was drawn by my hubby. You can see more of his drawings on his Instagram page at haribhajans.
Watching a football game that I don’t really care about. Toggling the news channel. The world’s a mess, but keep hope alive. I can hear the water turned on and off in the apartment next door. A dog barks across the way. The city is waiting for the storm to drop. My stomach gurgles. I feel content.
My day looked like this:
1AM: couldn’t sleep, worrying about a potted plant on the balcony drowning from the rain so I open the sliding door and move it. It’s starting to pour. Still can’t sleep, so I read a story in a book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, one of my favorite authors. I wonder why he died so young and feel his loss.
That’s how it started then: Fell asleep, woke up at 7:30, didn’t want to get up, but did, zoom workout at 8, breakfast, meet with hubby to get clear on holiday plans. Go to the office at 11, watch a zoom video at 1 of a friend reading hers and Szymborska’s poetry. Leave at 2, stop at Ralph’s for Kona coffee and mango juice, also Zout, frozen ravioli and bananas. Eat linner, work on a poem, have a therapy session where we talk about why I have such a hard time with Christmas and why I give myself so much grief for having a hard time with Christmas. Call my best friend while I’m ironing my husband’s work clothes, we talk about our day and life. She texts me after to say she got a huge year-end bonus and a raise. Watch TV, barely keeping my eyes open. Write this.
Watching the news. Omicron versus Delta. Republicans versus Democrats. While making a hotel reservation the agent and I spoke briefly about COVID and she said her two kids want so much to go back to school and I thought of how difficult these two years have been for small children who haven’t been able to be with their peers on a regular basis. For some reason this last week I watched three different documentaries that had a thread of the Holocaust in them somewhere. I’m not Jewish and grew up with little, if any, real education on the horror of what happened under Nazi control. I think of the children who suffered, and the many who were experimented on and those who died, for no reason, but for an insane ideology that branded them as less than human. Did I mention it was a magnificent day-after-the-storm here in LA, the sunset breathtaking? Did I say how grateful I am for my blessed life? I’m clicking back off the news now.
I’ve been a football fan since Johnny Unitas was the quarterback for the Baltimore Colts and Joe Namath pulled off the win in Super Bowl III. My dad and older brother watched the Sunday games and I would curl up on the couch, after going to Mass that morning, doze in and out of consciousness, with frequent interruptions of shouted swearing and, alternately, boisterous cheering. The college games weren’t broadcast regularly, but we always watched the big bowl games on New Years Day: Cotton, Sugar, Rose and topped it off with the Orange Bowl in Miami. It was a stupefying day of snacking on chips and dip, ham sandwiches and drinking Coca-Cola, with a break at halftime to run outside for a sled ride down the local hill and to feel a bit of that physical exhilaration ourselves. I know it’s a rough game. I know serious, long- term injuries happen way more often than anyone would want, but the game is in my bloodstream—the interceptions, the fumbles, going up for a fifty-yard catch, crossing the goal line for the win in the final seconds. Heartbreaking when your team loses. The best when they win!
There are times and circumstances where the truth can never be known, where even the ones giving an alternate accounting of the same event firmly believe they are telling the truth. Humans are so incredibly complicated. Our minds are more mysterious than the workings of our vast galaxy. It is both frightening and fascinating. I am learning this about my own mind, the stories I’ve believed all my life and now find completely implausible. I’m not sure I trust the truth, which is an odd thing to say. I’m not even sure what that means. I just want to be kind and maybe that’s a truth I can walk with, for now, at least.
I press my husband’s t-shirts, fresh from the dyer, to my face. The sensation is of comfort, safety, an immersive warmth. Folding them into tidy squares, stacking them to be placed side-by-side in his dresser drawer, to be taken out daily, worn, tossed in the hamper at the end of the day, washed and folded all over again, until threadbare, stained or hole-ridden, they are used as rags or tossed into the garbage. So mundane is this task, but somehow magical, somehow an act of grace, an affirmation of the resilience of life, the small rewards of being human.
Monsters live in our dreams, live in the fears of childhood, conjured by trauma, embedded by lack of compassion and a freeing of the terror by holding the wounded with infinite tenderness. I’m sick of toughness, of the macho, “I’m a tough guy” culture in this country, in this patriarchal world we inhabit. Strength comes from turning on the fire of humanity, empathy, standing for who you truly are and for the right of others to do so as well. I will never be perfect, nor will I be an abject failure. I seek the gray area that has no absolutes, a paradigm incomprehensible and as innocent as a child’s heart. To touch even the outer edge of such a place will be more nirvana than I could ever expect. I will not seek it. I will get up every day, no matter how shitty I feel and endeavor to be a person who cares.