Sunday, March 16, 2014

Patience is a snack-maker

Roll with it. Photo by kattebelletje
Patience knows she’ll trip if she moves faster than the confines of her shrinking, rickety body allow, so she grips handrails, deliberates her steps, and accepts elbows when they are extended. You never knew her young and assume she was at some point, but you wouldn’t be surprised to learn she’d been born old. She has that eternal way about her, the same as an ancient tortoise that floats effortlessly through its existence and seems to get a quiet thrill out of confounding expectations. You once asked Patience her age; she laughed the question away and told you to help her up out of her recliner.

Whenever you stop by she invites you in for a snack, and whenever you offer to help her make it (selfishly, so you can leave on time for your next appointment), she sweetly refuses.

“I’ve got it, dear. It will be just a minute.”

She gestures toward a kitchen chair and, reluctantly, you pull it out to sit. From that vantage point, with your foot tapping at a woodpecker’s pace, you watch the slowest snack in the world take shape. A sliced apple, first peeled; chunked cheddar; pepperoni sawed in pieces; cookies liberated from the jar on top of the fridge. Every kitchen implement is within arm’s reach, a mere tug or stretch away. Her extra-support sneakers squeak an erratic beat. She hums while she works.

Snack time. Photo by mac.rj, Flickr

There, with the late afternoon sun moving in a fuzzy patch across the linoleum, with the drowsy refrigerator snoring in the corner, with the nubs of the lopsided seat cushion burrowing into your skin, you breathe -- in, out, in, out -- until your rhythm joins the room’s, and you all exhale together, forgetful of the snack. The joy becomes the task itself, never mind the outcome.

At some point, she puts the plate in front of you. You don’t notice it appear or hear it clink. What you do see is Patience seated across from you (when did she sit?), hands folded, beaming. You smile back.

“It’s good to sit a minute,” you tell her. “I’m glad you came.”

She laughs, nudges the plate closer. “My dear, you came to me.”

“So I did!” And you, suddenly ravenous, reach for the cheese.

Prayer #274: “T.T.T.”

T. T. T.

Put up in a place
where it's easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
T. T. T.

When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it's well to remember that
Things Take Time!

{Piet Hein}


I want all bad things over.
I want all good things now.

I want the bus without the stop.
The rest without the nap.
The chapter without the page.
The party without the prep.

Life, however, takes time. Uses it, in fact. Consumes it. Violently, forcefully, carefully, casually -- no matter the how, it sucks in the hours and spits them out dejuiced, putting them toward a recipe I’ve never followed.

So I can tap or stop my watch all I want, but maybe I should keep watch instead: Play the sous chef who relinquishes control. Prep only the ingredients that sit before me. Pray the results are edible.


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The peach pit of desire: An anxious meditation on wanting to want

This is the pit. Photo by quinn.anya, Flickr

You wonder how you swallowed the pit in the first place.

Did it drop into your salad the day you ate your lunch out in the park and were people-watching with such intense focus that it snuck into your power greens undetected and waited for the free elevator ride down your esophagus? Did it crawl up the stairs from the kitchen the night you were restless with fitful dreams of romantic escapades and worst-case scenarios, and did it take advantage of your suctioning snores to slide down the hatch? Maybe, barring reasonable explanations such as these, you caught it from someone on the bus?

Regardless of its provenance, you're stuck with it. A peach pit. A ridged, rough, round peach pit in -- where else? -- the pit of your stomach.

You're never not aware it's there. The dumb, solid mass thunks without thought against various organs, making you pee, vomit, or double over without warning. You lose sleep, because if you lie on your side, it sits on your kidney; if you lie on your back, it bounces along your spine; and if you lie on your stomach, it pokes out far enough through your abdomen to form a divet in your mattress that you struggle to explain to guests and visitors.

Pit in the pit. Photo by Lauren(elle)n, Flickr

The peach pit has one of two routes available to it, and by extension, to you:

Option #1: It takes root. Then you have a large tree growing up through your esophagus and out of your mouth, and that tree will bear soft, fuzzy, sweet fruit all around your head that, when ripe, will beckon to be plucked. After this point there will be no avoiding it at social gatherings; people, even oblivious ones, will be able to recognize you're in bloom. This scenario sounds uncomfortable, but in fact you welcome it, as it means the strange fruit has amounted to something in its inanimate life.

Option #2: It doesn't take root. What then? You have to rid your body of this dud, and you know the process of expulsion will bring pain akin to childbirth. But you also know that the short-term suffering, however excruciating, will pale in comparison to the more subtle yet exponentially more terrible long-term agony of feeling that corrugated nugget rattle around your empty stomach for the rest of time, a hollow reminder of potential unrealized.

Either way, you're screwed. It's simply a degree of how happily so.

Pit in negative space. Photo by happeningfish, Flickr

Despite the peach pit's regular rate of recurrence in the general population, healing is self-directed and self-administered. The first step is admitting to yourself that despite the discomfort and uncertainty, you want the pit. Or, more accurately, you want what it portends. You want the energy your body is pouring into this surprise visitor to pay off. You want the tree, the fruit, the admiring nods. You want to want, and to have that want fulfilled.

But hope has a unique strain of masochism, and the peach pit carries it. Even when you reach the point you know the pit is stillborn, even when your brain is signaling your gut to get rid of the damn thing already, you insist on keeping it around just a little longer, just in case. You aren't ready to accept the truth, nor are you ready to make room for a new pit (no human can comfortably house two at any given point). You want to want, and to have that want fulfilled.

Sometimes you manage to direct the peach pit's fate. Sometimes other events or circumstances choose the outcome for you. The pit blossoms, or it passes, but eventually it will do one of the two, and your main role is to regard it as it does.

It won't be the first pit you swallow. Still, you always hope it's the last -- not because you want it gone, but because you want it to stay for good.

Pit rising. Photo by mattlemmon

Prayer #273: Clingstone

Don't let me strangle what is not mine to hold.

Don't let me grab and cling, grasp and clutch. Let's be classy about it. More composed.

Fat chance.

Better instead for You to pull my fingers out of this fist, one by one, until they splay beside each other relaxed and united in their capacity to bear an unknown weight. Then, gently turn my palms upward -- a firm twist at the wrist, Your hands warm against mine, to leave me open to all the good I can't predict.

For if I must be greedy, may I be greedy for the absolute best -- the love, the compassion, the depth of emotion that only a life fully felt can give.

And if I must be grubby, may I be grubby with the finest mess -- the questions, the wonders, the unscripted mudpies that only a life fully carried can grant.

One day I will hand this beautiful burden back to You and say, "I have held it as long and as high as I could. Please accept what I tried to do." Today is not that day. Today, rather, is when my greedy, grubby mitts learn to let go to receive.