Dancing outside the lines

I used to stop to take photos of beautiful things when I passed by. I used to turn around. Lately I'm always running. From work, to work, away from something, toward something. My brain is like a hamster on a wheel and my car is where it spins. It's my rolling sanctuary, my therapist on wheels, my concert hall and my freak-out chamber.


Miles move thoughts in increments, and my car draws concentric circles around home: like centripetal force, home pulls me back and pushes me away and I am the water trapped in the bucket while the child spins in fascination. The first revolution or so, on familiar roads, some of the water spills in tears. As I loop farther and farther, thoughts spin out according to their densities and I can see the layers of my life, some clear, some opaque. The unfamiliar roads are a tiny adventure to cure the wild wanderlust and the music keeps the hamster wheel spinning, lyrics laid like sountrack and bass propelling me on with it's swelling energy.

I've carried my soul lightly for so long, like a firecracker or a helium balloon. I remember the first time I floated up to the ceiling while my body lay stone still and I learned separating self from self builds a fortress of protection around your true self, only the hull of your discarded physicality taking the brunt of the pain. Emptiness creates a vacuum, though, and other souls get sucked into the vortex like pieces of paper against the filter. Now I have become the centripetal force that pins relationships and stifles them in the scream of the oxygen-less air. My body is greedy for something to fill it with. This is what pulled religion up tight against me in the whirlwind: the need for something to live for, something to be. And now that faith has fled, here I am so empty and so full all at once, pain swelling so high and fast it threatens to crack my ribs or split my breastbone. The debates and the reasoning and the logical fallacies, the ipse dixit of paternalism and the granite face of heritage...they are each a puff of air adding to the tension tearing me apart.

I've worked with people who've exploded all kinds of ways, just the way I will be soon if I don't change, and I know putting something back together is much easier if you surgically sever the burgeoning taut bloom of the dying dreams. Letting yourself explode means a bloody mess for the survivors to clean up.

I've examined myself like a germ under a microscope. Turned myself around under the lamp, like a faceted stone whose full face you can never see all at once. Choosing which side to present has become an instinct born of long practice.

I'd let out as much line as I could, and here I was walking on solid ground and bouncing around above the tree tops all in the same moment, as if my soul might escape the atmosphere and buoy me out of this world. It was like a teardrop hurled against gravity, a soundless wail towards heaven. Life has given me lead boots that hold me to the spinning planet and the line between body and self was fraying fast.

I began to reel myself in. Whether my body was a cage or not, I could not face the dualism for another waking moment. It was love myself again or die. It was make space for me or lose it all. It was time to claim my own home.

It's a beat up soul that has lighted on the roost as soundless as a feather. Gravity has compressed me again and I fit within myself and it feels like pulling on my favorite college hoody and wool socks after a long hot summer. The children must still be liquid beings, too, airy things, and they wrap around my new shape and grin with that saturated joy that is possible only in the safety of childhood. My emptiness is no longer consuming them and I watch them puff out with their own wind and I feel proud that they will walk the earth more lightly than I have.

Like the end of a race or at the bottom of a skislope, I'm breathless, sweaty, I'm limp, spent with the work of prospecting for whatever the moment gives - joy or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I pull into the driveway and prepare myself for voices and faces and messes again, like the cooldown after the work-out. Only a few hours till the click of the lamp and the darkness of my new reality. I lie stone still under the down comforter, listening to my own breath, looking straight into the darkness. Warmth seeps out of me as I smile - even though no one can see me - air escapes in a last sigh, and I fall asleep without popping pills or swigging beer or soaking my pillow.

And this -
warming yourself
feeding yourself
bathing yourself
acknowledging yourself
validating yourself -

it doesn't mean you're selfish, it means you're wise. For who ever put their fire out in order to light another's? Who is ever happy with others who cannot stand to be alone with herself? Who can give without receiving? Who can live without this most basic form of love - the acceptance of the gift of your own life, however it turns out, as the happiest accident and also the hardest labor? You can't live on mouth-to-mouth because the oxygen is already used up. You have to breath your own air, walk your own path, and find enough love to tenderly cradle those still-empty places without scrambling to pour something else into them. 

And that is how I've come home.
Here in the smother of my own silent embrace, I slowly discover I've belonged all along.


I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
Well, darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it... 

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine. 
(Indigo Girls)