In my dream last night, I was telling a friend that I had begun to see things as they really were, in a more sober, honest way. “Yes!” he said enthusiastically, extending his fist to meet mine so we could fist bump. “Yes,” I said, extending my fist to meet his, which is when I woke up, my fist extended in mid-air, meeting nothing but the gray early morning light of my room.
It was funny and a little sad; fist bumping into thin air, but at least I was fist bumping something.
The New Year has started, not with a bang and not exactly with a whimper, but certainly with some sobriety, and by that I mean a desire to see things the way they are – which is always subjective, I mean, what is true? What exactly is the way things are? And how might I respond to what I see?
Living demands some serious imagination, and I don’t say that sarcastically. I mean it for real. To see what is, but to stay open and imaginative to what you’re seeing so that you don’t rush to meaning, is a bit of a stretch for the 9-5 mind.
My kids are off and assembling their own lives. They each spent their New Years, not here at home, but far away from here, with their friends and new loves. This home of mine was quiet. I chose to spend the New Year alone, to make myself a fire, lay in a bath, listen to music and cobble together something to eat.
Was this day lonely or was it spacious with possibility?
My 23-year marriage is over. While I miss the companionship of Mark Wagner, miss the way he might show up to my office door with a smile and a cup of coffee, or the way he knew exactly how to make magic come alive in a room with candles and music and the scent of something sweet, am I exiled to some island where single people walk aimlessly, occasionally bumping into one another, blinking and skittering away?
Or does this expansive time alone invite the possibility of delving even deeper – finally – into my own art and writing – or even simply becoming re-acquainted with my own quiet company – especially if I’m not on the internet or watching a movie?
I am aging. I’ll be 57 this year. A younger friend asked the other night when it was that I started to feel older, and it was hard for me to answer. It’s true that I don’t have the same energy I used to have. I used to be able to buck up with the best of them – haul on my boots and kick the shit out of whatever needed to be done. But these days, while there’s still practically nothing better than pulling on a pair of boots, I hesitate before I jump into WHAT MUST BE DONE, and I find myself wondering, really? Must this be done?
Is this me getting old or me getting wiser?
My body is certainly changing; my face looks older to me; there are lines around my eyes, and my sex drive is much quieter – occasionally surprising me by showing up like some long lost cousin – someone I’m delighted to see, but who may leave right after lunch.
Will these physical changes exile me to an invisible, loveless place? Or is it another opportunity to finally be where I am – again and again, this is the practice – to not effort so hard to be in a BETTER place, a more SEXY place, a more POPULAR place so that I’ll always be surrounded by people and thus imagine that I am not alone.
So you see where I’m going. I’m not a practicing Buddhist. I don’t have a practice of any kind, really, unless you count writing with my students 8 times a week, or my two morning cups of coffee, or how my cat Gray greets me at the kitchen door first thing; slides in, his cool fur gliding along my naked ankle, the way he knows exactly what I’ll do; reaching for his bowl, filling it with food and placing it on the ground.
Maybe I do have a practice after all. Or maybe it’s fist bumping into thin air. Maybe I’ll make that my special practice this year.
I wish you all the best in 2017, and I hope our paths cross, in the market, around the lake, here at my writing table, over a cup of coffee, on a Skype screen, on a beach in Yelapa, in the crowded, exotic streets of Kathmandu, or even in our dreams.
What a powerful message, Laurie. I feel the same, oddly, and tried to write about it last night. I hope our paths cross soon, too.
Your writing is always deeply penetrating with such soul and wisdom. I see myself in every line and in the spaces in-between what you write and share, it makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Wishing you a succulent and expanding New Year with all your writing wishes and dreams.
As I read your words this morning I smiled slightly and felt tears well up in my eyes. My husband of 21 years left me early in November. Cancer developed and ravaged his body with such speed and force. I was left spinning in a daze of numbness in an unreal world. I wonder, “How can I do this alone?” I’m 63 for gosh sakes! And the answer comes into my head, “One step at a time.”
Thank you for sharing your words. Strength comes as needed.
I keep writing and deleting because I don’t know what to say but I feel a need to reach out and touch you so you realize that when you feel completely alone, you are not. So this is that.
Oh Laurie, Yes. That small practice when the air seems thin and you feel a bit lost in the forest of aging and empty nesting and stalled sexuality and bumpy creativity. That’s the place. Thank you for saying it so beautifully.
Beautiful, Laurie. You’ve inspired me to think more deeply about my practice of being alive this year. Fifty-five, no children, no marriage; I am one of you, and it’s rarified air that we bump our fists into and it takes significant creativity and tenacity to feel ourselves relevant in a society that outsources elders. I just spent ten days by myself over the holidays thinking that inspiration would arrive naturally and wound up, on my last day of self-imposed exile, with a headache from too much sugar and a heartache as wide as the world. Time to find a way to matter before I become organic matter, inert and forgotten.
Like Gray, my cats continually offer me lessons–in the importance of daily practices, the enjoyment of small pleasures, and the possibilities of finding contentment in a world that is mostly kind but far from perfect.
It makes me happy to know that you’re there, Laurie.
Laurie, I know this space of which you speak. Your eloquence conveys those spaces between woman and art, women and parenting, women and men, women and sexuality and what space we hold with others and ourselves as we grow older. I will think on that tonight and bless you into this circle.
Those words are some fine whisky, miss.
I appreciate your experience, the way you tell it and the presence of your honesty & eloquence in my life. Thank you.
This is so quietly powerful. I honor your questions and how deeply you are listening to the answers that are coming from your beautiful soul. We are all practicing. Love Nina
Your words comfort me. They always do. I’m profoundly glad we’re connected.