I am on the phone with my good friend. She mentions in passing, on her way to another story, that she once did a documentary with Julia Roberts. I am standing in the back yard, and I watch my mother walk down the hallway inside the house, obedient with her oxygen, so the tension in my shoulders lessens. Two red-tailed hawks appear against the blue and fly slow circles above me while I listen to my friend’s voice. And all at once it is one of those moments, when everything aligns, and for several seconds I am not understanding words, only standing there, taking in the sounds. The hawks feathers brush against my cheeks, and I am at the center of it all.
A woman I know tells me she is underwater. Me, too, I think. Later, driving down the hill, I picture myself in aquamarine water, light dancing like the gemstone. I am fully clothed, upright, swathed in rising bubbles. My head is just below the surface, and right now, I think, I’m not even coming up for air.
I’m just trying to grow gills.
I am still resisting what is much of the time, refusing or unable to accept the reality I’ve somehow landed in. Reason doesn’t seem to help—my mind fails to convince me even though I am 100% certain accepting things as they are is the only way to move forward with anything even close to grace. But it is a thing of the body, this resistance, and all the logic in the world does no good.
[Words were reality and reason.]
I squat beside my red electric tea kettle in the windowed corner of my room in my mother’s house. I let the boiling water quiet before I pour it over the two yerba maté tea bags in my favorite ceramic cup here with the whimsical fox in her Christmas tree dress. (A barista in San Francisco once told me this particular herb doesn’t like boiling water.) The tea bags are the kind without strings or tags, and today they puff up and float to the top with their corners offered up to me, poking above the hot water, so I can grab them to dunk them without burning my fingers. This perfect offering makes me grateful, and I have one of those slivers of time when I feel like myself and am happy.
Between. Between this moment and the next one. Between what is making me angry and what will come when the anger is gone. We have this bounty of moments, this never-ending chance to begin again. And again and again. When I am failing it means I fail over and over, minutes apart. But I never forget I get to try again in the next moment.
I am on Zoom. Three people in a row say how thrilled they are at the progress we are making here in the United States, the protests, knowing black lives matter. I can feel their buoyancy. I sit still, stunned, uncomfortable in my skin because I feel so far away from them, on the other side of the world, on another planet. I am terrified, angry, anxious. Hopeful, yes—but nowhere near being able to touch “thrilled.” Later, I wonder if I was judging their excitement, naming it naïveté without knowing I was. Or was it only that while I believed in the promise of the protests I could not trust they would lead to real change? Or maybe I only need to be able to embrace the good when it comes, more readily, more fully than I do? Or maybe the distance and discomfort I felt was only because I live in all the shades of gray.
When I am mean to myself
my heart whispers to me
that whatever I am telling myself is not true
that I am okay
that I am doing the best I can.