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.