I haven’t been sleeping well. Though I suspect few of us are these days. This weekend several of the local lakes were declared to be “safe”, then on Sunday two men fell through the ice of two different lakes. On the other side of the country, an environmental activist fell through and died.

I know that “liminal” has become one of those overused words, but the truth is these liminal spaces are dangerous. The in-betweens and the uncertainties and this continual sense of being on the edge.

Flight, freeze, fight, faint or f#%&. But before that, the suspense, the suspension of our own unconscious flow. Heightened awareness is exhausting.

Even with the yaktrax this morning, the asphalt is dangerous. There’s a light dusting of snow over the ice. The small plow pushes snow into the street and spreads sand on the sidewalk. Leonard and I walk on the other opposite sidewalk as we all go about our business. I want to run this morning, but don’t dare. I’m too unstable, too tired. I won’t be able to catch myself and find my balance if I slip.

A time-out would be nice. Is nice, when I allow myself this. Last week my youngest son visited and told me there is another possibility to the “Flight, freeze…” scenario: submit. Startled and frightened dogs sometimes do it. It’s not the same as playing dead. There’s no deception involved. It’s a matter of softening.

We are so sure that surrender is a bad thing. I’ve been thinking that there is a reason so many religions demand it. We need a time-out from our own will. A reality-check in the midst of all the prophets. Surrender to, acknowledge this moment and its omnipotence. And the next.

I move carefully from Warrior 1 to Warrior 2 and anticipate the pain in my left shoulder. I move consciously into Humble Warrior.

For no apparent reason my practice has taken several steps back. I’m trying to concentrate on ease of motion, rather than range of motion. To return to the beginning and find first a small space of release and flow, before trying to widen the arcs of my reach. It seems like an appropriate metaphor right now for everything in my life, perhaps.

After the flow sequence, I settle on the cushion and breathe. I visualize rough seas calming into a mirror-like surface.

There was a time I loved the teacups at amusement parks. Swing-sets and carousels. But just after my first son was born, I found I’d changed. Something in my body had changed and a spin in a teacup left me feeling hungover the rest of the day. Anxious, nauseated.

There’s something to be said for the carefree way children move through the world, thrilling at shadows, dwelling on twisted dreams. Playacting the bright ones. Through the magic of performance, they have real emotional experiences that are safely controlled, and parallel to what they know and accept as the real world that is outside of their control. Most children are fully aware of the difference.

I think we grow into our delusions unnaturally: Fake it ’til you make it.

I think we have a tendency to cultivate an unconscious faith in the world’s appearance. We move away from wisdom. We cling to our concepts of what we want the world to be. We tear ourselves apart trying to hold onto what we perceive to be the center while everything moves in the directions they move – as it all does – as it all will.

There’s something to be said for submitting while the world moves around us.

To choose to be care-free again? Playful instead of willful?

Humble Warriors, all.

It is rare that I drive. Technically I haven’t had a car in nearly 8 years. Part financial choice, part environmental effort. I have the privilege of living and working along a rail track, in a country that has good mass transportation.

And I have access to borrow or rent cars when I “need” them.

But I have been driving quite a bit since the pandemic began and the government asked us not to use public transportation.

I can’t say I’ve missed driving. But I have missed being alone in a car. Having lived either in apartments or with other people all my life, it has been the only place I could belt out a “good” rendition of Cabaret in my fantasy production. Or have a really, really good cry.

I don’t cry enough anymore. But yesterday, on the way to work, I did. It took me by surprise. It usually does. It’s like an unpredictable spring well that needs emptying now and then, and you never know what’s going to tip it over the top.

Before Christmas, I did a bit of screaming. But that’s not the same thing at all.

Yesterday the principal asked all of the teachers to discuss the events in the United States with the students. I didn’t teach until after lunch, and I was still puffy-eyed when I got to class, so I was happy when they said they’d already talked about it in their morning classes.

But then one student asked me if it was emotionally difficult for me — since I no longer live there. I said it was emotionally difficult for me because I no longer live there.

I tried not to talk too much about my experience as an immigrant, but I did tell them about listening to the New Year’s speech last week. The king’s — my king’s — annual speech always begins with the choir singing God Save the King. Which, in my mind, has been hardwired from childhood as My Country, ’Tis of Thee. It is always extremely uncomfortable to hear. It’s like an accusation of treason. My grandfather fought in WWII and was involved in the Korean War. He served 25 years, then worked as a postman for another 25 years. He was angry when I said I was moving to Norway. On weekly phone calls, he did his share to keep me up to date on politics. Kept me informed on his senator’s dealings. Made sure I voted and would eventually “come home” to the “greatest country in the world”.

I have never regretted giving up my citizenship. I have seen enough of America to know that if I were to lose my job and Norway send me back (as they have some people) I would be without resources of any sort. A Ph.D. in a bloated field that, if I were lucky, would land me some adjunct positions that might pay the gas to get me back and forth and between gigs every day. But at my age — and with each year that passes, even that is not something I could count on.

I worked at shelters while I was an undergraduate in Texas. I’d lived brief periods of my childhood 4 adults and 3 children in a single-wide trailer. Slept on army cots in walk-in closets. At the age of 23, having no family, a professor kept me off the streets for six months while I found a new job and saved up a deposit for an apartment. I know what my situation would be as an older woman with no resources. I know the catch 22s of the system there. Once you fall out, it is nearly impossible to get back in without significant help.

I made a practical choice. I work my 9 to 5, pay 44% taxes, and have necessary health care and a secure-as-it-gets pension. I won’t risk that in the name of patriotism. No matter how guilty I feel.

When 9/11 happened, I didn’t feel guilty about being here. I was still a citizen, but I felt displaced. My friends still in the States, from California to Kentucky to Michigan all wrote to tell me about how “we” were feeling — assuming I was outside of the “we” affected. When Norwegians consoled me, it was difficult to shake the feeling of being some kind of fraud. I didn’t know how to feel. Which feelings were “legitimate” for me to have, and which I was appropriating. I kept hearing my grandmother calling me a drama queen.

When the children were murdered here on July 22nd, 2011 a lot of my students told me how “we” felt about it — sometimes describing the cultural framework of Utøya, not considering that I’ve lived longer in this country than they’ve been alive. Or that my own children were in that age group that was most intimately affected.

Recent years have been even more difficult. No longer holding legal citizenship, and no longer recognizing the culture I knew, it’s almost like having an out-of-body experience sometimes. Hovering over an old life. Like a character in Sartre’s No Exit. Or like watching loved ones heading for a car wreck, helpless to intercede.

Distance helps you find different perspectives. While different doesn’t mean more correct, but I do think it means more complex. It’s why there are grants for emerging American writers to live abroad a while before returning to write about their home country. I thought that having grown up in a white-trash dysfunctional family, I was savvy to the “real” America. But being here, I’ve learned things about the hidden realities of the culture I thought I knew.

But lately, I think I am having the same kind of epiphanies that so many Americans are: every myth I was taught in school — from the Cherry Tree to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — has been turned on end, toppled like theater scenography. Part of it is just a matter of maturing, I guess — a matter of crossing demographics and cultural boundaries. The fact that social media has made diversity more visible to many of us.

A huge part of it is the BLM movement.

I don’t think I am finished crying about Wednesday’s seizure of the Capitol Building. I don’t think the chapter has closed. The hand-wringing and helplessness seem both familiar and not. This out-of-body experience seems like something many of us are sharing right now.

There’s the scene in the Wizard of Oz: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

I feel like the curtain has been drawn back and I still am waiting for whatever is there to step out of the darkness.

And yet — here I am — at a safe distance. There’ll be shock waves, for certain, even so many miles away, with so many borders between. But still — too often it feels like self-conscious rubber-necking.

Is it my family? My friend? My colleague there? Is this my pain?

I was beginning to fall asleep just after dinner last night, but forced myself awake hoping for a good night’s sleep instead. And right before bed I checked my phone to see if any of my students had received positive Covid results. And, yes, to see how many of the Republicans in the United States would be objecting to the election results. And, yes, I wan’t alone in anticipating an actual coup attempt. Or an actual coup.

There are very few moments in my life where I felt or was aware of a kind of quantum leap in my own maturity. But I do remember when I realized I no longer romanticized drama.

Surely I am not the only person who as a kid half-wished to experience an earthquake, a plane crash, or (from my position of privilege) a riot. I remember feeling deprived for not having a Vietnam war to protest. A cause to wear – like a costume. A purpose that would brand me – years before branding was a thing. An experience that would give me and my life a kind of legitimacy.

I suppose having kids helped me understand mortality – and that imagined experience is not experience. And that, despite my fondness for stoicism and Buddhist detachment, life shouldn’t be like watching a movie. You can’t choose to leave the theater, and you can’t forfeit your responsibility.

You are in the room.

I’ve never talked to anyone about this. But I figure we all have been brought up with the same Aristotelian narratives: adversity gives our lives meaning. It makes us significant. It makes us protagonists.

We long for our lives to have an arc, don’t we? Think of every “grown-up” who ever told a young person: you have no idea what real life is. As though we require a satisfying story to justify our existence. As though our experiences aren’t real until they are set in a set narrative framework and everyone applauds. Or gasps.

I know there are people who haven’t felt this. And because of them, I’m convinced that being seen is synonymous with being loved. It’s why unloved children are attention-seeking.

I’m fully aware this isn’t an original thought. But I believe it’s in the moments when we’ve circled around by way of our own reasoning/experience to reformulate cultural cliches, aphorisms, or proverbs on our own, that we are able to see each other as fellow humans. These are the moments when knowledge might become wisdom – and when it should become clear that wisdom isn’t a matter of originality.

I see the paradox in my own thinking: defining wisdom as a matter of realizing that other people think the same way that you do is very nearly defining wisdom as a kind of total immersion into one’s own ego.

But from another perspective, it’s a genuine relinquishing of the ego: understanding that you see things the same way that others have before you. It seems to naturally lead to humility – being late to the party on this one concept probably implies you don’t actually know it all yet. And you may not have really arrived where you think you have.

Can we be loved without being significant? Maybe the greater question is can we love while still believing in the legitimacy of significance.

I went to bed a bit past midnight last night. And have to admit (or choose to admit) to ambivalence: relief and hope on the one hand, a sense of anti-climax on the other.

Trump is no tragic hero. He’s not about to have his moment of anagnorisis, gouge his own eyes out, and wander off to an abandoned Soviet golf course in Kirghistan.

Maybe we make up our stories because it makes it so much easier to love the world. I think that’s what Aristotle as trying to say in Poetics.

“No one ever said life was going to be easy,” said everyone, everywhere.

Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity.

M. Scott Peck

Just a little disappointed this morning. I thought I heard an owl, but it was most likely a mourning dove. Silly expectations. It’s absurd that I would consider the owl’s call romantically haunting and the mourning dove’s annoying. I’m carrying all kinds of biases, and an unearned admiration for the rare.

There was a truck parked on the walking path in the park this morning. That was rare. And annoying. But I am loving these clear sky morning walks. I’m trying to remember what the physical therapist has said about keeping my spine in the center of my body and let my shoulders fall into place. I’m trying to trust that my bones know their places. To give up the illusion of control.

Like the undulations of worms and the pulsing of stars
My body is a suspension bridge
spanning manifestation and potential
Foundations move
in slow arcs reaching
backward for the new
Always singing through the tension

The moon begins a new phase tonight. What staggered, tripping beginnings this year. Stumbling into – or out of – I suppose. Kicking off the mud and the snow and wiping my boots on the rug. Finally a good night’s sleep! How that can feel like shaking snow off a coat and hanging it on the rack – ready to roll up my sleeves.

As promised at the New Year, there’s been a high pressure system for a while now. Clear skies show off a scattering of stars, and an unobstructed moon. And this means cold.

There’s a thin layer of ice on the asphalt when I have to cross the street. Otherwise I stay on the grass and relish each step. I struggle every morning to pinpoint the synesthesia. It’s like eating comfort food: the whole-body sensation of biting through. Sinking my teeth in. There is something nourishing about it.

About the time we get to the duck pond – and the inexplicable grill nowhere near a park bench or seating pit – the caffeine kicks in and the blood vessels in my fingers constrict, and the pain sets in. The morning cold bites back, I suppose.

Our walk back to the house is always quicker than the walk away. But this morning I did notice a rat in the dark. Near the skateboard park, scrambling into a drain, a rat the size of a computer mouse. Or a deck of cards. Unexpected. So much so Leonard didn’t even notice.

He’s too busy shoving his nose under the icy tufts of loose grass – turning them over to expose the wet soil. The hares living here must have just passed by. He’s excited.

I wonder why I haven’t seen a hare in months. What their routines are now that the ground is nearly frozen. I wonder if the ducks are bored in the dark. Can ducks see in the dark? They quack. This morning I think about the onomatopoeia in that: quaa-aack. Something set them off, causing a small ruckus of wings hitting the water.

True to my new year’s resolution, I’m allowing boredom to kick in on these morning walks.

I came home to google what rats do all winter. How they pass the time. I wonder if their little fingers ache. If they go hungry.

This wasn’t what I wanted to come from my newfound boredom. Rats make strange muses. And google is an all-too convenient diversion.

I write a poem. Not about rats.

We were supposed to be “back at it” yesterday. But the virus is spreading and we’ve gone back to a rotating schedule for digital and classroom teaching. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized the disruption of routine really isn’t much of a disruption. My days stay nearly the same. Even though they say to avoid mass transportation, I have no choice to but put on a mask and catch the train 5 days a week. The disruption is mostly emotional. Which means, the disruption is something I can control.

There are more articles on the news sites about how difficult this is on young people. This morning I have been wondering when we stopped talking about how resilient young people are and began encouraging their feelings of helplessness.

“Unprecedented times”. Every day is unprecedented. Every day is a personal trial for someone. We can deal with it all. And if it hurts – when it hurts – our anticipatory hand-wringing doesn’t make things easier. Perspective does.

Maybe the wisest Norwegian proverb is to not take on sorrows in advance.

The kids are going to be all right. On the whole, we’re all going to be all right.