Bodies

A coworker that I quite like is leaving my place of work.  The new position is at a large exciting company, doing the work that she really wants to do, and she’s been with my current organization for four years.  She’s ready for a change, and I understand.

Today she showed me a picture on her phone of a painting she had just completed for a friend.  It was physically the largest work that she had done – the canvas was 4’x5′ I think – with the face of the Buddha dissolving into luminous mist.

I asked her about giving up a physical piece of work she had created.  When I’ve been creating, the work I’ve done is always disembodied.  I can give away however many copies of text I create and still keep it.  Theatre is different in that the work is born and gone again and again for every performance until the run is over, and then it’s nowhere and nothing.  But a physical artifact you made that leaves your home to live somewhere else – that’s different.

She said that she got what she most needed from the painting by the act of creating it.  It’s a piece that reflects peace among churning, which was exactly what she needed while she contemplated this next stage of her career and chapter of her life.  It’s also a piece that was the most literally rigorous that she had done so far, due to its scale and to the texturing on the paint that the pixels on her phone couldn’t convey.

I thought about how much of my time is spent being essentially without a body beyond my eyes looking at screens and my fingers manipulating buttons.  My body reminds me of itself by noting that my neck is sore, that I’ve been grinding my teeth (waking and sleeping), that the ligaments in my wrists are working and need a break.  It reminds me of its presence by telling me that something is wrong.

Walking helps, and yoga helps, and sitting still and marveling that breath is possible helps.  Maybe the trick is to find more things to do instead of things to look at.

Oddly, my cat is amazing at reminding me that I have a body, in pleasant and not-so-nice ways.  (Reminds me a bit of this piece I just read: My Cat Saved Me From Depersonalization Disorder.)  Sometimes it’s the way that she just assumes that my lap is available to make a nest in with a confidence that I frankly envy.  The matter of fact way that she pushes her head under my hand because it gives her pleasure.  That she purrs and breathes and radiates heat.  Other times it’s the nips and the accidental scratches when I haven’t trimmed her nails enough.

But I can’t get away from the dichotomy of “my body is an animal that wants warmth and comfort and food and touch and sunlight and food and sometimes wine” as opposed to “I am an animal.”

Is the Buddha an animal?

There have been times that I would have been more than happy to dissolve into mist myself.

Starting over

I’m starting this again after three years.  Which feels like trying to walk again, everything alien and contrived and overextended, even this early in the game.

I need to get back into the pattern of writing and pretending that I am writing for an audience.  But it is so very strange to look back at entries from even just a few years ago.  I recognize the voice still but tire at the lack of capitalization now.  Smacks of high school me (even though I did it up through only the recent past… we always like to pretend that our past is further behind us than it is).

Speaking of high school, college, early years out of college, that swath of what felt pre-adult: today was the first evening after living by myself again that I felt restless.  That I didn’t have an immediate project at hand (building furniture, busily looking at furniture online to buy, work project, etc).  I felt bored and boring, but the effort of reaching out to anyone was too much, especially when I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I tried watching Grey Gardens (I’d never seen it) and couldn’t focus.  I tried listening to a podcast while wandering around my apartment seeing if there were small tasks that I could do, and there wasn’t, really.  A book felt like giving up to solitude a little too much.  A few potential writing topics loomed and still loom and I don’t feel ready yet.  It is now light past 7pm which makes the evening stare me in the face and dare me to do something meaningful with my life, at least for another 90 minutes.

So I went for what ended up being a long walk in semi-rainy weather, with songs stuck in my head and feeling vaguely wistful and melancholy in an unrooted way.  I thought of all the other long evening walks in semi-rainy weather that I took before dating Kevin, walks that felt somewhat meaningful for no other reason than that I had mixed emotions and was walking in wet air.

There was a moment on my way back, coming down Queen Anne hill and suddenly seeing Elliot Bay in front of me in the distance, when there was a shock of recognition.  You’ve been here the whole time, I thought.  And tears actually came to my eyes, seeing the water there, massive and steady and distant, a counterbalance that I had forgotten existed.

And then turning west onto the street where I live, somehow the sky had managed to go mauve and rose and grey and caught me completely by surprise.  I thought for a moment of taking a picture and realized that there would be no point.  The moment was here, the sky behind telephone lines and transit cables, and the camera would not see what I saw.  No one else would see what I saw.

Which is a reminder of how much other people (strangers on the bus, strangers huddled on the sidewalk with their belongings surrounding them) will see and never share with anyone else in this world.  Most moments can’t be shared.  They are barely even moments except for the thought that sometimes chimes during them of “No one else will ever see this exactly as I do right now”.  That is all that is memorable.

And that’s it.  I decided that I’d write something down about that on this blog to get me walking again.  I finally answered emails that had been left unanswered for far too long.

My life is not going to change; or rather, any one change is going to be tiny amidst the massive glacial changes that are already happening, and happening too slow. But I hope that this keeps going.