Sleep. I really could use a good night’s uninterrupted sleep. Sometimes I wonder if my life doesn’t balance out somehow through sleep. As though I have a preferred, set point of stress that my body will work to maintain. If my days are relaxed and pleasant, my nights will be filled with pinched dreams and ominous atmospheres.

They say that our memories are not recorded like video snippets in a file system somewhere in our brains. But rather: each time we “re-member” we construct a new version of the memory. I wonder then if each incidence of a specific memory is significantly altered from the last without our noticing? Without us having an ability to notice. It must, right? This is what we know to be true. And not only are we not able to be objective, but that our subjective truth has no through-line in time. It is immediate and ephemeral.

We re-member rather than dis-member our memories. Our stories.

A few days ago I was captured by a video clip of a dancer. Utterly charmed. I shared it with students as a way to illustrate some of Laban’s ideas about dynamics in movement. Then I had a dream. And now I can’t look at the video. Or think of the video without becoming physically and emotionally upset. Something – some gesture, some facial expression: a smile – stitched itself into an atmosphere of a childhood memory while I slept.

A present memory and a much older re-memory are bleeding from a nightmare into my days. I suppose this is where the idea of repressed memories comes from? As though the present sends a hook down into the past and pulls up a fragment of a story along with the will to make sense of it.

This dark and stormy night. Fill in the blanks. But I know that – I believe that – there will never be a way to know the objective truth of a re-constructed memory. So I let it be. I admit I am tempted to try to name the atmosphere, a bit like recollecting a taste – the sweet, the umami, the mouthfeel – to shape it into something that can be put safely in a box. Identified and controlled. Like an ingredient in the recipe that makes us who we are. In this case: This darkness. This ambivalence. This vague childhood fascination of knowing there is an unknown something present in the energy that is as explosive, rich, and mesmerizing as death.

Is this a wisdom that only exists in the lifetime before rationalization becomes a habit? A trigger for sense that ushers us to a different kind of innocence/ignorance? A mature and willful distance. The illusion of control that we are so afraid to lose.

If this atmosphere of my memory is real, maybe it has no name because I had no name for it: for a sense memory connected to a psychological process but not to language. So it slips around the traps in my mind and flows into moments of my day, unexpectedly. Darkly.

And I am still fascinated. Like touching a wound. Like sticking a finger deep into the bloody gash to expose the mystery as… mystery.

Here is something as dark and textured as mushrooms. As sickness and birth and sex. Something true that cannot be contained.

And here is the rub: how to let it be. How to know that there is this dancer’s smile in the world and know that it will rush over me as sticky and ambivalent as menstrual blood – and just let it be, making no attempt to tame all this wildness with a story?

Nothing is a clear shot. Or at least if there is such a thing it is a rare. And maybe it is an awful metaphor no matter what.

Metaphors are interesting things. How often we use them when the vehicle of the metaphor is something we’ve never actually experienced ourselves. Making it, what? An embedded metaphor in a way? An effective way to remove the idea further from the body rather than bringing it back to lived experience?

I woke up cold this morning and pulled on long wool underwear and rain pants to walk Leonard around the block. At 4:30 it is still completely dark now. I am surprised to pass three men in work clothes, plodding along through the suburb carrying plastic grocery bags. Heads down. Not in a group. Three individual encounters. Leonard stays quiet and calm, so I consciously breathe.

Home again. And in the library with a cup of coffee. I find my butt slipping off the desk chair. “Butt in the chair”. It’s not a metaphor is it? “Difficult to keep your butt in the chair”. Just write.

But the truth is, if you are still wearing you rain pants your butt will not stay in the chair.

E. is laughing at me. With me. Leonard stretched over the little rug with his eyes closed.

This is my life. A random, mundane moment. Sometimes I would think I would trade all the highs for more of these relaxed moments – before the news-site headlines creep into my thoughts, before anyone needs more from me than I can provide with a slow stroll through a damp morning and the opening of a treat-cupboard door.

E. brings me coffee. I slip off the plastic pants and am suddenly mindful of the texture of the wool underwear. It is such a silly thing – this illusion of comfort and the connection to something so simple/difficult, to a past culture that I have never experienced and can only imagine where every morning is as cold and damp as this one, but warm with breath of dogs and sheep and maybe a goat. It’d be fun to think this was some sort of genetic memory. But I am sure I have seen too many films, read too many books, wished for a life other than the one I landed in.

What would it be like to wake and move a body through a series of motions – lift, twist, tug, heave – without dwelling on horrors halfway around the world over which you have no influence. What would it be like to have to focus on the immediate, present, physical world. The daily tasks repetitive motions, rituals of will: order, comfort, sustenance. It’s it a form of prayer? A metaphor for what we wish for the world? A vicarious effort to make things better for everyone, by staying alive – contributing? By tending what we can touch?

Scott Peck wrote a book long ago and tried to define love strictly as a verb. It changed the way I thought about my life. About the people who “loved” me, and my responsibility in loving. I am thinking about compassion. As a verb. Maybe the term compassion fatigue is all wrong. Compassion isn’t what is wearing us down.

What is wearing us down is helplessness.

The world is too big. Our reach?… is not a metaphor.