I don’t normally discuss this
But the smallest action I take
Can build a new universe and toss me there
Into some strange game whose rules I can’t learn:
A fast-spreading contest happening in every corner
Of every land and every sky.
I want to jump up and escape the game
Soar high above it and reach a soft, glowing, competition-free zone
But I can’t
Because my brain won’t let me
Because I’ll obsess and obsess and obsess
And never let go.
Even if an upward tunnel sits right there, shining
I won’t see it.
That’s me —
Blind to the way out
Even if I built it.
Helpless God of my own world.
Say I’m meeting you for lunch.
I mean, maybe, if you’re a comfortable friend
Or my parents or something.
But what if you’re, say, a colleague?
What does that even mean: colleague?
Such an irritating concept
From a universe I didn’t build
Not on purpose, anyhow.
Colleague. In other words, not a friend
But someone in my world
Someone I have to meet for lunch.
I mean, huh?
But this sort of thing happens
And I agree to it because it could help me
And that very possibility
That very power the colleague has over me
Makes me fear possibilities
And not enjoy myself
Even if my pasta is handmade and sprinkled with just the right amount
Of pecorino cheese.
I should tell myself it doesn’t matter how it goes
So at least I can savor my lunch.
Maybe even order the lemon raspberry tart
Because who cares what the colleague thinks?
What could be more important than my desire
For a small, simple pleasure
That I might remember with happiness
If only I didn’t dread what I might say
Or not say
Or maneuver clumsily, hand gripping my fork
Like the ten-year-old child I never outgrew.
A friend once told me I should avoid eating with important people because of this
And I never forgot it.
Because she was right:
I never learned how to hold my fork
Or my body
Or, most important, my mind
Which still bleeds over everything
Like the ice cream I don’t order because I’d drop it
If I had to walk with it.
Walking with ice cream, with a colleague
And no table
Is way too much for me.
Well, OK, many people fear colleagues
But I fear all appointments.
What if I get lost?
What if my alarm doesn’t go off in the morning?
What if I’m sitting around my living room and just can’t motivate myself
To get my things together and walk over there?
Appointments are the jail of our world.
Without them, we could roam free
All day, hour after hour.
But then we’d be alone, always, unless we happened to bump into someone
And who would we bump into,
Who would even care about bumping into us,
If we won’t go out of our way to make appointments
And suffer, just a little bit, when the time arrives,
If we’d rather loll around, or wander
Than get ourselves over to the coffee shop at 10:45
Because someone is waiting
And our time is now part of the other universe
The one we wish we didn’t create
Even if it’s all our handiwork.
But that’s the least of it, really.
Sometimes I have doctors’ appointments.
They could tell me there’s a problem.
Let’s not even consider the big stuff
The stuff that would make me scream to another dimension
Hoping and despairing but still, please, hoping
That there is another dimension
Because that’s the only thing that could help
What about smaller issues?
“Your blood pressure is a little high; I’m concerned.”
God forbid! Please, universe, don’t allow it, not ever!
Would you like to hear how crazy I am?
I just closed my eyes and prayed that no such thing
Would ever materialize.
But people handle this all the time.
This world is too much for me
Or maybe I’m too much for the world.
Not in a good or arrogant way.
“Too much” in the sense that people mean
When they say: “Less is more.”
Some believe that darkness begets light
That happiness stems from unhappiness
That we savor the good because we’re aware of the bad.
That is way too sunny for me.
But I will say:
The way I am
This tightly wound spring of feared possibility
Creates magic from the smallest triumphs.
Thing is, I’m nice to myself, sometimes.
Super generous, offering the highest praise
For just getting by.
I made it to teach on time!
My body is here and my students surround me and, oh wow:
That in itself is amazing
When you’re me
And the world is the world
And you woke up
And took a shower
And organized your belongings
And got your body where it needed to be.
This is so weird, but sometimes I think:
Today was OK.
It was good.
Someone else counted on me
And I was there.
And this —
That piece I fulfilled for someone who isn’t myself —
Shows that I exist
Not just in my own head
But in the air beyond it
And in dimension.
If I can exist like that
I can be a little piece of God
Even if I’m not sure what “God” means.
Ideas are God, too.
Maybe, if all this is true, I can smile
Just for a minute
Just for a flash
That I have nothing to fear
Because I can trust myself
And this wild story I’m creating
Along with you
(Aren’t we all pieces of God in this scheme?)
And whatever might fall beyond our grasp
Or even our hope.
Then, of course, I’ll return to fearing what I see
But a moment so different is its own protected universe.
It can’t disappear
Even if it seems to fade.
Maybe, somehow, we can crack it open
Make it pour out and ooze beyond itself
Touching vibrations beyond its own time
And original heft.
I don’t actually believe that; I’m just making this up.
But the mind is real
And imagination is the best tool we have
To touch what we can’t understand.
***Image Credit: M Shields Photography, Lost At Sea, Oct. 5, 2013, on flickr.com