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.
On Saturday afternoon I run out of sun. So I move my lime green yoga mat to an odd diagonal patch remaining on the walkway to do my chavasana. Even this winter sun warms me where it slants between the liquid amber branches and falls on my legs, my bare feet, my face. For long, quiet moments I surrender to trusting. I think about how lost I’ve let myself get in resisting what is. I don’t berate myself, though. This is hard, I tell myself. No wonder you lost track. This is not the first time this awareness has managed to swim to the top in the last two weeks. I know it might sink to the bottom again. But wouldn’t it be sweet if I could just find my way to trusting this now and its unfolding? Wouldn’t it be dear to just let joy and sweetness arise again and again and again?
I spend a lot of time being angry right now. In between bits of grace are wedged, brief moments when I feel like myself, foreign to me for decades in this childhood home. Quick, unlooked for seconds in an afternoon when joy arises, five minutes before we have to leave for the vet when I stand beside the kitchen sink sipping my first hot tea of the day, and I am fully me as the hot spearmint goes down my throat. I sidestep three times, cup cradled at my chest, to stop and drink in the view, as well, the western sprawl of valley and foothills. Or awake in the middle of the night after checking to be sure my mom has not removed her splint, when I lie in bed and hear the owls talking outside the open window. Or right now, typing standing at the kitchen counter to ease my sore hip, while Frank Sinatra sings Christmas songs. “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love,” he sings, and I want to believe it, this year more than ever. Maybe tonight we’ll watch Love Actually. And may all our new year’s dreams come true.
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 suspect there may be a kind of science to becoming whole—to moving toward healing, through healing, toward the me I want to be more often. Just like I believe there can be a way to write an essay that is a little bit like doing math, and not in a restrictive way, but in building it by pieces, using a structure for discovery that can become a kind of scaffold we hang things on. And things come because there is a scaffold waiting for them. Sometimes for me this process, this psuedo science, is about breathing, or about beginning again and again. Sometimes I make a sound, tiny and dear, that comes from some secret core of me, and I hear the love and the tenderness the sound is sending me.
[Editor’s note: piece from our spontaneous writing group—the words we had were breathing, beginning, science and sound.]
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.
Hope is elusive. I have to remind myself I do not believe it is too late for us to save the world. Before, I used to know. I used to remember. Today I whisper hope, for me, for all of us. May we let the world crumble around us, trusting we can put it back together again—different, better, more fair, more everything for everyone.