Prayers and Curses

I ran before writing this morning. Heading out, we heard a songbird along the trail, and turning back I saw her in a beam of light from the trail lamp. A chaffinch. I think it’s another six weeks before they all return. Another three months before we see the sunrise on our runs. Until then, the crows squabble in the dark. And on occasion, a duck laughs and splashes.

A lonely chaffinch chatters.

This morning there is something tight in my center. A clenched fist shoved under my diaphragm, and I have to keep my mouth closed. I am still not sure how I feel about observing this separation of emotion and intellect. I know this is something I am cultivating for a reason. But often I just want to rebel against my intellect and scream. There is a steady stream of soft curses coming from my mouth these days and it surprises me. My vernacular is unnecessarily colorful, though impassioned. I used to tell my kids not to curse unless they needed to. That powerful words lose their cathartic magic when they are overused and worn thin. Yet, here I am now. Under my breath, on the breath, rolling through my inner monologues.

I blame the darkness and the cold that makes a body tense.

Leonard is curled on the rug. Part of his body slipped under the desk. He loves lying under tables and in corners. Like most dogs, I suppose. Why can’t I be more like him? To curl into the darkness and cold, tucking into himself. Relaxing. If I could I would head off to a dark cabin and light a fire and curl up with a notebook. Womb-safe.

There has to be some trick to accomplish that here. At home. In the every day. And the key isn’t as simple as learning to observe over-the-top emotions and recognize them as arbitrary hormonal swings.

I remember when I was very small, a man pushed me on a swing so high I feared I’d flip over the top. Instead I fell out and on my face. I am not sure if I remember my mother fighting with him, or if I’ve constructed the scene because she told me the man was my father and she’d shouted at him to stop. I have no idea why I would remember this scene. Whether it happened at all. My mother invented pasts for me. Like me, I suppose, she had a difficult time following a single narrative.

I’ll never know the truth. But I do know what it feels like to slam your nose into the earth. And that swings are a powerful metaphor for the loss of control.

There are prayers we say to comfort ourselves. And there are curses for that, too.


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