Fuck me, life and everything we do as a part of it is just so … absurd. Watching poorly attired people wearing determined facial expressions march through airports scoping out their seats competitively, desperately, pulling these rectangular boxes containing the essentials of their lives for a few days… what are we all doing?
I have moments like this when I take in everything around me and wonder if this can actually be real. It’s utterly ridiculous and yet… here it is.
Embarrassment is a weirdly useless response. I frequently felt it as a child, when shy, awkward and completely uncomfortable with any kind of attention. Eventually it became something I never considered – one can only be embarrassed if one allows herself. And it’s been a long time since I allowed myself to feel it.
Suddenly, though, in the face of not being able to live up to my own standards, burning out and disappointing others, I am crippled by a strange embarrassment that renders me incapable of knowing that to do next.
I was cautioned, “You can’t live another person’s life for them. You can help, but they have made their choices.” I should have listened rather than getting dragged in. Nothing I have done has amounted to anything, and while I trudge on through my daily life and its trials, I find myself feeling embarrassed for having taken the path I did, for not satisfying my own needs, for not heeding the words of caution I received. Now I feel hamstrung and crippled by my own silence.
I shove through bush and bed,
stumping along our house. Somewhere
I learned not to let the plants grow
too close, something about air flow, rot,
our home’s slow demolition by vine.
I wrap my hand around a dandelion,
pull into the tension, breathless
for the slight snap of roots, then harder,
until the earth releases it, or it gives up
its hold on the ground. I sunder
something deep, throw the plant
with its knot of dirt
to the driveway. The foliage
extends. A branch slaps back,
leaves an archipelago of blood
along my calf. Another, another,
I don’t know their names, just
pull with faith in the prior owner,
in her fertile excess that even my blunders
won’t undo. One white twig
feels hollow, comes loose in my hand,
but what of it was underground is red
as a crime, bent and beckoning.
The spring’s first accidental sweat
catches in the corners of my squint.
When I stand upright, survey
my labor, nothing looks better.
Photo by Viridi Green on Unsplash
–Dawn Lundy Martin
She said, I wish I prayed, I would pray for you. And,
we all wanted a shape of prayer in our brains, taking over
instead of it chomping on itself. Stupid little elf. God has
never come to me. We surrender in the teeming utterance
of materials soaked with sentences already made in air
and by machines. The country says Freedom, crushed under
its own dream weight. I did not make up this song. Design
Within Reach is having a “Work from home sale.” The coming
apart, the giant laceration across the sky, we all feel it. Look
at the fire, look at it, like all the rage of all the smallest beings.
Photo by Amaury Gutierrez on Unsplash
Maybe it’s not real “niceness” if you’re “bragging” about or even mentioning doing positive things, but my point is not to draw attention to my own actions. (I feel I have to balance out my impatience and negativity somehow.)
Mostly I wanted to highlight that it costs nothing to quietly compliment people. Whether it’s the dude in the elevator with a really stunning coat, or the lady in the airport wearing a gorgeous sweater but looking dissatisfied with everything, or the guy reading a really good book… what does it cost to break the silence (as much as I hate noise) to tell them that that they look fabulous and alive in the color they happen to be wearing, that they have a superb sense of style, or have great taste in books?
Sure, the person might not respond well. Breaking the silence and distance bubble and saying something personal is not the norm (depending on where you live, of course). But usually the person lights up and smiles and seems to appreciate that someone noticed. I wish the world were more like that all the time.
Are we living in a world that is louder than ever? There are the standard sources of noise pollution, but today when searching for a quiet space I realized just how loud the world, and everyone in it, is. So much coughing (people are coughing so freely and casually now as though we didn’t just come through a pandemic), the grating sound of scraping bowls and plates, louder-than-needed phone ring tones, people talking (yelling) in public when having their mobile conversations, people watching videos and listening to music without headphones so we all have to hear. And so many other examples that hit me with such sensory overload today that it has been virtually unbearable. It doesn’t seem like people are remotely aware of the sound they make as they trundle and thunder noisily through the world around them.
It’s funny that even when the catalyst for change is a fly-by-night con man, the impetus for change and fire it lights under you is real.
It is like being shaken awake, all excuses discarded in the face of needing to be sensible, you face everything you had avoided with urgency. It is easy to wander through life, even when you are unaware of doing so.
The lack of spontaneity sometimes feels like a collection of lost opportunities. But in fact reality delivers grace and acceptance. Foolish ideas like, “Maybe it will be different this time” or “Perhaps my caution is overkill” or “Maybe I will be surprised by…”, are seductive but misplaced. And not falling prey to them, you end up the stronger.
It takes distance to feel the relief, though, of not being taken in.