Apparently, we’re all – or at least most of us – still opening bananas from the difficult end. Despite the fact that we’ve been shown how to do it otherwise. But we’re creatures of habit. Literally. Social organisms that move through the world according to patterns of behavior we’ve incorporated into the very physical patterns of our cells.

The hand pulls back before the brain registers heat.

When my kids were small I took them to the science museum in London. There were holes in one of the walls and visitors were supposed to put their hand in the darkness to touch something. And to guess what it was.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And knew I was supposed to teach my kids to do it: Be curious. Be brave. Be trusting.

Ready, get set, said my brain. But my body said no. What does it really mean to be brave? Is it a matter of handing over the reins to the intellect and obeying a painful kick to the rib?

The body’s wisdom is illogical.
This is is a perfect fact.

This fall I tried virtual reality for the first time. We were supposed to walk out onto a beam extending from a high rise hundreds of meters over a busy street. I bent from the waist and peered out of the window. Put my foot on the narrow beam.

No.

I don’t want to teach my brain to override my body. I am inefficient. I will continue to open bananas from the wrong end. Because I am perfectly human. And I come from perfectly human specimens. Who do we think we are?

I’m from holidays
of blond, wood-veneered bureaus
weekend nightgowns and
tuck-ins, hospital corners
in the guest room that was my room

I’m from decorative
cinder block and roach clips
pools that have been drained
for years a parade of uncles
shaking the etch-a-sketch clear

with hands whose ridges
catch motor oil and resin
and hold the world tight
like desert heat in your lungs
when you run and keep running




This morning I lay in bed for a while. Saturdays are slow. When I looked at the far wall of the bedroom, it was as if I were seeing it for the first time. The texture of the paint over the texture of the plaster. The neatly-fitting edges of the fireplace insert. The eggshell white wall meeting the forest green wall in a deep corner, a shadowed seam.

I’ve slept in the room most nights for just over 5 years. I woke this morning as though I were staying in a new place. Or a hotel room. I don’t know what triggered the sense of unfamiliarity. There is always a tiny fear that the problem is actually that this experience is more the result of the sense of familiarity not triggering. But not in the moment. In the moment: wonder.

I thought about lying flung over a twin bed with my head grazing the green shag carpet of a rented apartment. A room with popcorn ceilings that made lulling shadows in the light of the pink nightlight plugged into the wall socket. Music coming from the other room, where there were sandalwood and paisleys, love beads and bongs. Soft laughter.

I imagined the world flipped on its head. Climbing over thresholds to move from room to room. Looking up at the furniture as if from underwater. Light fixtures rising like seaweed from the ocean’s bed.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that other people did this as children. Saw this world.

At the time, I sure felt alone.

I knew solitude
before I knew loneliness
I heard the world’s whispers
its shape-shifting points of view
unleashed, tucked-in at bedtime


My yoga practice this month has been limited to sun salutations and warriors. A single bridge in an attempt to return to my morning flows. What I thought was shoulder trouble, is really a problem with deep, small muscles in my back. I miss headstands. But this morning I was thinking that maybe time off from them has been good. Time to appreciate perspectives and purpose a bit more. A practice so rooted in routine can be something of a paradox.

Sometimes it’s important to embrace the unknown – to not know what is over the next hill, what is taking shape in the fading light…

This Sunday didn’t begin with a Dharma Talk. Which was disappointing. I’d gotten up at 05.15 assuming there existed some unspoken agreement based on a pattern I’d noticed.

I went back to bed. Maybe that was lesson enough for today.

I’m tired. I’m still not convinced that the burden I’ve been carrying the past two weeks is actually gone, but yesterday I allowed myself to slip it off my shoulders – to set it down.

And today, I ache. My shoulders, my head, my heart. The load of “what-ifs” and “but-thens” in the corner of the room like a nest of snakes.

Once my step-father took me to the river to fish, and I wandered along the bank downstream until I stumbled on a log – nearly falling into a nest of baby moccasins. That moment: that “what-if” might have been the first hammered into my brain. “I shouldn’t have to tell you not to…”

What if I dare to wander? These are the worries I carry, the what-ifs that accumulate when one doesn’t wait to be told, doesn’t stay within the circle that someone drew to include you in their muddy little realm.

Aren’t these the worries we all carry? Premature guilt? Premature shame?

After I crawled out of bed a second time and had a cup of coffee, I sat down to work on this week’s meditation prompt – worries and restlessness. I started thinking about the H.C. Andersen story about the red shoes.

I think I have my own pair of red shoes. It is freeing to take this perspective – that all of this restlessness doesn’t come from within me, but as the result of my grasping at something I want so intensely, so simultaneously single-mindedly and absentmindedly.

I’m fine. I’m just wearing a cursed accessory. I have no idea if I am reading Andersen with a Buddhist perspective, but it is a perspective that makes sense to me.

I’ve never walked on coals, but from what I understand, it is simply a matter of not stopping. You walk as quickly as you can, while the perspiration from you fear helps provide a tiny barrier to keep you safe. If you stop? You get burned. I’ve known this for a long time:

Keep moving and consequences can’t keep up with you. Keep moving and you’ll slip through their fingers. States’ lines. Names changed. A driver’s license is freedom. A pressing deadline, a permission slip – hall pass – enigma.

We moved a lot when I was a kid. And that is an understatement. We once fit 4 lives into a U-haul. A drugged cat wrapped in a bath towel bit my ankles all along Route 66 (and then some) – then we crammed ourselves into an already-occupied two-bedroom mobile home: 4 adults, 3 children and a vengeful cat.

Every corner filled with snakes.

The drive to always look for something better carves a very deep groove in the heart.

Momentum. An object in motion stays in motion…
but the world is not a vacuum.

The eternity machine doesn’t really exist. Something is fueling the motion. There’s a guy in the back room getting paid less than minimum wage to keep the thing going – to maintain the illusion.

In Andersen’s Christian perspective, Karen cuts off her feet when she can’t pry them out of the cursed shoes. A sacrifice as payment for her sins. But I’m thinking, there must be at least fifty ways to take off your dancing shoes.

Right?

Isadora Duncun died when her scarf caught in the wheels of her car. It’s probably very unfair to Duncun that this fact now pops into my head.

I started looking for a new job again last week. I’ve been browsing the housing ads.
But it’s time to just dig in.

To go ahead and burn – to burn an ever-widening circle of my own in this damned over-grown field.

When I was a teenager I saw myself in New York City. That was it. After a childhood on the wrong side of the tracks in the OC (yeah, no one called it that), in the searing heat of Vegas, in the middle-of-nowhere Bakersfield, in the cold isolation of Kentucky… New York City was a metaphor for having it together. I’d wear fitted, linen dresses with suit jackets and dangerously high heels. I’d stride down the streets.


I made it to New York City in my early twenties. I put on a pair of dangerously high heels and I strode down the street. A homeless guy whistled and told me I had nice legs. I turned to smile and he said, “Too bad your face is so ugly.”


When I was about 8 or so, I had a babysitter for a brief time who had a house that I thought was a mansion. She had sliding glass doors, and flowing drapery – and a player piano. She played show tunes for me every afternoon after school. She knew all the words to all the songs. Her family had season tickets to the theater. It was all a metaphor for having it together.

“Putting it together, bit – by – bit”.


My grandmother took me years later to see my first actual stage production at a local university theater. Major Barbara of all things. By then I had been saying I wanted to be an actress for a couple of years. This was largely due to Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson having it all together on the big screen when I was a kid – all those films where everything went right .

I’d become thoroughly convinced that I was meant to be an actress as a tween, when I’d read Helen Hayes’ memoir/anthology Gift of Joy. I’d felt an uncanny kinship with her based on her fascination with the spoken language. (It never occurred to me that she was an extrovert and I am most definitely not.)

I only understood two-thirds of Major Barbara, but I was fascinated. My grandmother asked me if I could imagine myself on that stage. I said, yes. But I know now that I wasn’t imagining being on the stage – I wanted to be part of it all. Somehow. This make-believe space where we could create, recreate and watch the world from a safe distance, – and watch it all work out.

I still think there’s something magical when everyone already knows the words, but the performance makes every word immediate and raw nonetheless: when a room is filled with the breath of a hundred strangers, and the energy of every body preternaturally focuses on a single point of experience. Shared experience.

We are all children clapping for Tinkerbell.


How did I wind up here?

So very far from New York city. I haven’t put on a high heel in years. Instead, I have three pairs trail shoes, and two pairs of mud-encrusted hiking boots in the small “dog closet” in the entrance hall. I have four Stanley thermoses, and at least 5 foam squares called “sitteunderlag” to keep me from getting a bladder infection when we pause for coffee at any of the nearby mountaintops looking over the Jæren landscape to the North Sea. A far cry from glamorous. Who even knew about the cold stone/bladder infection connection?

Who even knew about the magic of reaching a cairn?

My instragram account is filled with trees. And more trees. On a bad day I go to the woods to listen.

This life is unexpected. I accepted long ago that I’ll never be able to dance like Lesley Ann Warren. But I also remembered that I can run.

I didn’t do a very good job of designing my life. I’ve become something of a beachcomber who collects what washes up with the tide and arranges it on the windowsill.

Where I live.



Bit by bit, putting it together
Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art
Every moment makes a contribution
Every little detail plays a part
Having just a vision’s no solution
Everything depends on execution
Putting it together, that’s what counts
…”

-Sondheim, of course.

Yeah. I know all the words. Maybe I do have it all together, after all.

I keep asking myself if I want to write a memoir. But isn’t that what I am continually doing?

Besides. There’s no one to verify a word.

The first time

a boy

wanted to kiss me

I made him do it

underwater.

That’s when I knew

I was amphibious.

from “Red-eared Slider, X”.
Powell, R., & Lodén, E. (2004). Mixed states = Rødøret terrapin. Stavanger: Wigestrand –
and selected poems, Mixed States. Phoenicia Publishing.

If I did write a memoir, I would write it with water, on water, in water.
Water makes the world simultaneously lighter – and darker.
It clarifies and it distorts.
Soothes and terrifies.

I’ve been having vivid dreams. Usually that happens when I’m depressed. But now I think it is menopause – this crossing over. Crossing through.

There is a place in Skagen, Denmark, where two seas meet and the sky is soft. Once I watched a friend swim there with seals. It’s dangerous, though. One helluva rip-tide.

Envy leaves a deep wound in the soul.

I dream about my sore hipbones, where my six-year-old wraps his skinny legs and holds tight – anchoring me. He is giggling while I try to pry him off, tugging at his long arms: Monkey child, I giggle too, but my bones ache.

And I wake to a different kind of ache.
It’s like I’m underwater most days – sounds are muffled. I push my jaw forward, trying to clear my ears.

Nostalgia takes me by surprise. It’s yet another concept I prematurely believed I understood.
Prematurely dismissed.

There are roses on my desk. The stems are refracted.
What’s underwater is magnified.
What is above is withering and should have been tossed in the compost a week ago.


Postscript: Weekly writing prompts at NothingButMetta4. I hope you’ll check them out. And I hope they are inspiring. #nothingbutmetta4