Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another piece of my memoir

The world breaks my heart. It is so tender, so vulnerable. It just lies there, all land and oceans and underground pools. Or does it lay there, I am never certain... I want to hold it to my breast and feed it. I want to take its pulse and pour it a cup of Tazo Calm Tea--Chamomile, rose petals and lemon balm.

But I am too busy being perfect. Right now, I am thinking about how to impress you with my word gymnastics and how this book has taken over my life. Right now, I am thinking about whether the house is clean (my son's girlfriend is coming over) and what to make for dinner.

Roast chicken, wild rice, grilled asparagus—I tick off the healthy trio, knowing that I may be the only one eating it (they're all so busy) and that by 9:00 p.m., after the chicken has been picked to the bone and the rice stored in a Tuppperware container, I’ll be sticking my head in the refrigerator looking for more.

I want I want I want

I sell my words to a magazine I don’t read. I wake up early to do yoga and sit on my green sticky mat watching infomercials. I prowl the aisles of Whole Foods Market searching for something to fill this emptiness—wild Atlantic salmon, grass-fed-beef, quinoa salad.

Nothing satisfies.

There is some deep-belly emptiness blocking absorption, blocking light.
What to do? What to do?

“Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions,” the Yoga Sutras state. “Then the ability to understand the object fully and correctly is apparent.”

I roll the words around like marbles: The. Ability. To. Understand. Apparent.

It seems simple enough. There are workshops, talk shows, and hundreds of books containing maps.

At Barnes and Noble there’s a table by the window that I like. The booksellers don’t mind if I sit here all day; as long as I order something from the café.

I walk through the aisles, letting the books talk to me, pulling down the titles that glow from the shelves. I make a big stack and hide behind it all morning.

But after an hour or two, I get hungry – and they don’t have any real food—just brownies, bagels, scones and a chocolate cheesecake that I know won’t satisfy me.

I circle back to the Hungry Hollow Co-op where they know me, greet me, let me cash a check. I take a long time deciding between the tuna with muenster, organic greens and Bee Sting mustard and the BLT with Fakin’ Bacon, tofu mayo and tomato.

At the self-serve coffee bar I make a cup of tea. Spending so much time away from home, it’s nice to pour my own milk, to stir my own honey into the brew.

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know

My head starts to pound. I don’t want to kill time. I want to use time. I love time. There is so little time. It’s only twelve o’clock and I need another place to go. I get into the car and tune my radio to the Gary Null show. Gary is talking about absorption.

He’s discussing vitamins and the way some people have of letting things bounce right off their bodies like rock salt. He is talking about ozone, about cancer, about healing. He is talking about some people who never learn, and never change. He is talking about blood.

The world needs a blood transfusion—now. It lies on the sofa with an icepack on the back of its neck, watching Dick Cheney (lips dripping with oil) pretend he was not the President of the United States.

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, or so I’ve heard. Right now, it looks more like the edge of the apocalypse. But of course, that depends what channel you’re tuned to.

The world is filled with fortune-tellers. Katie Couric, Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, Rosie O’Donnell. People who say things that stick in your flesh like voodoo needles, things that stick in your soul like assignments from deities.

I am the miracle that might never have been

You’ve heard of the Hero’s Journey. A hero, born under "special circumstances", grows up completely ignorant of how special s/he is until—a fortune-teller arrives to reveal the truth.

“Amy will be the most successful of all of your friends,” my best friend’s mother said when I was 15.
“You will have a boy and a girl,” Dykshoorn predicted. “You'll be a world-famous author."
"Oh, that’s just Amy and her magical thinking,” my mother’s therapist says, dismissing me.
No one ever believes you until you pull the sword from the stone. But as it will turn out, magical thinking is what I do best.

“Are you alright?” the yoga teacher asks, squatting beside me.
“No. I don’t know. I feel dizzy. Kind of sick…”

It’s just that I have this tic, this Tourette's-like “Yes-no” that cycles through my thoughts, blurting, “This way is a very nice way.”
“Did he say something, Toto?
“It’s pleasant down that way, too.”
That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
“Of course, some people do go both ways.”

“Maybe you’re coming down with something.” She helps me to my feet. “There’s a flu going around...”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Thanks.”
Back home, I curl into a question mark on the sofa. Matthew brings me a quilt and some water. I throw up into a saucepan.
What does this have to do with buying houses, or being an artist? Everything is connected to everything else. Keep watching.

“It’s just a midlife crisis,”
my friend, Julia, says at the Barnes and Noble café where we like to meet.
“Just?” I laugh. “You try having one!”
“I won’t have one,” she smiles, taking a sip of her decaf, low-fat latte. “I have low expectations.”
“You sound like a monk: Expect nothing…”
“I am a monk. I’ve been married for almost thirty years.”

“You have to decide how you want to meet this,”
my friend Catherine, who is also my acupuncturist, says.
I tell her I’m considering a mini-facelift, just a little liposuction, and maybe some bio-identical hormones.

Catherine has this way
of arching an eyebrow and looking through the layers to the center of a thing.

She has this way of folding her hands on the desk between us, of being infinitely patient with me.

“This is a natural process,” she says. “Something is coming to an end; something else is beginning. The question is: Do you want to interfere or do you want to support it?”

I know the right answer here.

I know that “everything has a front and a back”—that everything we do has a positive and a negative effect; and, that life is beautifully, perfectly balanced. I know that anything we do to the body—anything we swallow or rub into our skin—stimulates a response from the body: an equal and opposite reaction. There are side effects to everything.

It’s just that I really don’t want to get wrinkly.

I don’t want my breasts to sag and my chin to get soft. I don’t like that, lately, I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves and that, without my reading glasses, I can’t exactly tell what’s on the menu. And frankly, this extra 30 pounds that’s settled on my waist (I’m told it’s an “estrogen belt”) is really pissing me off.

“This is a blood deficiency,” Catherine says.
I nod. “I’ve always been anemic…”
“Well, yes, from a Western perspective, you’re anemic. Working from the Chinese, blood volume is the issue.”
“Blood volume?”
“There’s not enough blood in your body.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Your liver is starving,” she says.
“I’m sorry?”

How can a person not have enough blood and still be walking around?

“We can build more,” she says. “With leafy greens, Chinese herbs, and lots of water.”

I go to Whole Foods. I buy collard greens and kale and a jar of blackstrap molasses. I drink so much water I gain five pounds. I rejoin the gym, determined to walk. I imagine a band of sweatsuit-clad angels following me with a cosmic liposuction device—which, though it won’t build more blood, might help with the cellulite. But I don’t get far before I’m caught in a tidal wave of hot flashes. Sweating and exhausted, I turn back home.

According to Chinese Medicine, I’m at the beginning of my Wisdom Phase—the end of the seventh seven-year cycle of my life. But I don’t feel wise. I feel desperate – a winged thing trapped between two panes of glass.

My children, almost grown, are slipping into the pocket of their own lives, scanning college catalogs at the kitchen table; the world of opportunities - study-abroad programs, summer institutes in dramatic arts, academics, sports…

My son considers international business, law, neuroscience.

My daughter, two years younger but more certain, is interested in one thing only: Film.

My friends are traveling, moving, trading up. Even my parents are starting over – getting a divorce, selling the house. “You’re kidding,” friends say. “Why?” I don’t know, I tell them.

I haven’t spent a great deal of time with Mom or Dad lately. I know it has something to do with freedom, with kindness, with self-esteem – and my mother’s determination, even now, to heal her life.

“How do we know what’s real?” Katie asks when I pick her up from Philosophy class. As if I knew. She buckles her seatbelt and I throw the car into gear.
I think about how everything is made of waves and particles. I think about how, sometimes, the Universe seems perfectly orchestrated and other times, so random. I think about…

“Mommy,” Katie asks. “Are you listening to me?”

“Sorry.” I rivet my attention to her conversation – this idea, this boy, this book she’s reading. But it’s hard to hold onto the thread - I am always being interrupted by a new thought, another driver, a bird swooping toward my windshield. I get interrupted all day by the telephone, the alarm clock, a teenager, parent or husband.

I dream that I’m following a bee. It leads me up and around a spiral path that narrows as we climb. Lining the walls, there are small bedchambers, open to the path like dioramas. As we pass, I peer inside. Each chamber contains a bed; in each bed, a child. “You’ve come!” they greet me as I pass, one after another.

We come to the top where the path ends at a huge golden doorway: I press the door open onto an enormous room – its domed ceiling glows with sunlight. On the floor, a golden carpet in the shape of an arrow lays shimmering with light.

Go in, a gentle voice whispers. I step, cautiously, mincingly, onto the carpet. I shivers with life. Gasping, I realize: the carpet is made entirely of bees! I hesitate, not wanting to hurt them, to crush them.

Go on, the voice urges.

The carpet begins to move, sliding across the vast wooden floor. Pulling me forward, its vibration infuses me from head to toe, piercing my heart with wonder. Behind me, a crowd has gathered, all of the children have risen from their beds, cheering me along.

The carpet stops before a second door, thirty feet high and laced with symbols of a language I do not recognize but can somehow read!

I pull open the door onto another chamber, more vast than the first. Its walls are blue white marble, carved with narrow stained glass windows that soar floor to ceiling.

Here and there, the walls are inlaid with silver and gold. The whole room blazes with bright white light. Drenched with awe, I stand in the doorway and start to laugh. I laugh so hard that I wake myself up.

As I open my eyes, a voice whispers directly into my right ear: Follow the bees!

Voiceover: (Several voices, whispering)
Where is she going to start?
Oh, for heaven sake, it makes no difference at all.
She can’t just start anywhere!
Of course, she can. It’s… Stop pushing, there’s room for everyone. Stand over here. Good, now everyone can see…


Julie said...

Oh, Amy. I went all the way from beauty, to tears, to laughter, to out loud giggling, to seeing myself, especially in the estrogen, liver, blood thing (since my SO is an acupuncturist treating me for wood knocking down earth, or something like that, can't ever keep it all straight). You have such a beautiful rhythmic way with words. Love you, dear.

Elissa Stein said...

Your writing takes my breath away. You couch your angst, pain, ambivalence with such beauty it takes a moment to feel the strength of your words.

Rebecca Elia said...

Amy, this is so beautiful--all of it.

As you went up your golden spiral, I got shivers--the good kind. Did you know that Artemis' priestesses were linked with bees? Shivers!
Yes, follow the bees. We'll go together.

Katie O said...

i love your book. it sounds like the lighthouse book. it moves where it wants to move when it wants to move there and it doesnt wait for a reason and it hasno silly transistions or unnessarary edits... =)

even though you describe you angst very very well. i dont think you should have to feel it so i will share a story:

once upon a time daddy picked me up from jakes house and talked to me all the way home while all i wanted to do was feel bad about how adam didnt love me.

i knew that if i listened to daddy he would distract me from the completely full, and totally not empty feeling of rejection or invisibility.

and then i i realized that if he distracted me i would be distracted and i wouldnt even remember the full feeling that i was trying to feel.

so i let myself be distracted and i completely and totally listened to daddy all the way home and i thought each thought that he spit at me all the way through and that was when i became downstream.

as full as feeling full of angst feels... there are other things that feel full too and when you feel them you wont loose your fullness you will feel new fullness and forget the old fullness and move downstream from completeness to completeness and never slip underwater.

good morning.

Sheila McCann said...

While I was reading this I felt like the words flowed in such a way that I was winding through a kalidescope of experience and then I got to the spiral staircase part. I can relate to the experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Although I am projecting the kids leaving part. I am wondering if you are a stream of consciousness writer? Follow the bees indeed! They seem to be moving you toward your future :)

Amy Oscar said...

Julie, Elissa and Rebecca - Love you, too!

Katie - you are my light.

Sheila - Im not sure what a "stream of consciousness writer" is. I write in many forms. For this kind of thing, I work in a journal, then transfer to computer, then edit and edit and edit. Then, transfer to the blog where I edit some more. I experience this kind of writing the same way I experience quilting or collecting. I gather pieces together and line them up, best I can, letting the raw edges show and not worrying about exact matching. Does that answer your Q?

Trish said...

"I gather pieces together and line them up, best I can, letting the raw edges show and not worrying about exact matching." :) It works. Awesome! Beautiful!