Is it ridiculous to consider how one’s outlook might change if we burst into song and dance like the folks in West Side Story when confronted with emotion or distress?
I am not saying in tomorrow’s budget meeting I mambo while bemoaning the return on investment needed to purchase new cups for the breakroom, although it would be fun to see Finance and HR rumble ballet like the Sharks and the Jets.
But what if, at a moment when a deadline is shortened, a resource is taken away, or four hours worth of work find its way to the inbox at 6:00PM, a little soft shoe partnered with a quiet, reflective, reminiscent melody illustrating a not-yet-dead dream might make life ever so much more wonderous.
I am going to try it. Not my favorite song from the show, but your mood can’t help but change as you reach the end.
What if the afterlife were a sort of bardo (limbo) where your image is the very worst concept of how you see yourself and you are constantly tortured in a way befitting the thing you craved most and never achieved?
I know I would sit atop my grave similar to a first cousin of Jabba the Hutt with a bit more style – perhaps a hat – and a flair for the dramatic. My gelatinous, lumpy body heaving with each breath, barely able to move. I imagine being covered with hundreds of mouths constantly being filled by as many hands shoveling McDonald’s sausage and cheese biscuits into each inflamed set of lips.
“Strange, isn’t it? To have dedicated one’s life to a certain venture, neglecting other aspects of one’s life, only to have that venture, in the end, amount to nothing at all, the products of one’s labors utterly forgotten?” ~ George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
My torment would be watching the living accomplish all the dreams and ideas I held inside, never finding the strength to begin and never developing the energy to commit.
Lincoln in the Bardo has left me with these images and one question: “How have you lived your life?”
I don’t know if anything will change, but I want to focus on the ‘good’ and ‘better’ parts of myself because trying to address the ‘negative’ usually results in heightening my awareness of the ‘bad.’
“We must see God not as a Him (some linear rewarding fellow) but an IT, a great beast beyond our understanding, who wants something from us, and we must give it, and all we may control is the spirit in which we give it and the ultimate end which the giving serves.” ~ George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
When asked by my supervisor, “What do you want to do next?” I not only had no answer but told my supervisor I was happy to not ask myself about “next.”
I spent a lifetime driven by “next,” and I currently want nothing more than to remain steady and content with who, where, and exactly what I am.
To be honest, I may be afraid to ask the “next” question. I am nauseous about who or what might escape when ‘want’ or ‘need’ pull focus. I hypothesize that at this exact moment “next” has little to do with work.
The answer to my “next” lies in discovering the unknowns created through a focus on relationships and saying hello to dreams.
Much like the cosmos, I am energy that releases light when interacting with the universe.
Come Friday, the energy released to complete work, to clean the house, and to engage others leaves a diminished light. I embrace the opportunity to close out the world and silence the noise and need of the everyday. I become like dark matter and do little other than exist; I am unashamed.
Renewal is found in long-term bed stays and silenced phones. Energy sources can be a Netflix marathon, meditation, but mostly from the pages of a book.
I can feel the air leaving my body as I stretch to tie the laces of my shoes. Keeping the laces straight is the priority because the sideway-sitting bow is a signature of the overweight. This morning ritual is just one of many where my breathing is labored, the chest heavies, and mortality whispers its goodbye.
I seem to lack the strength to sustain the changes needed to build towards a longer life. I cling to the refuge of faith to keep me safe, hiding and ignoring my responsibilities to honor a body that, through 40 years of abuse is finally saying, “Fuck you! I give up too.”
Our lives are like layers, moments of time peeled back to reveal a new truth and a clearer understanding of who we are and our future. If we paid attention, were honest with our discovery, then at some point, we must arrive at that final layer protecting that last truth.
At 48, I am at that final layer. The visage beneath is not unfamiliar to me, its existence ignored through changes in homes, jobs, friends, and faith.
Now, two choices remain, continue to ignore, or reveal and embrace the future. I pick at the layer like a scab, uncertain, but happy.
There are moments so small and so unexpected that their occurrence startles me with a warmth that epitomizes joy and love. These activities are random, personal, and filled with meaning for everyone involved.
In the last few days I experienced several small surprises:
A man in front of me paid for my soup. “I like the singing, Merry Christmas.”
Scatted on lawns of a few homes a sign simply stating, “Be Kind.”
A shift worker brought each staff member in my office a bag of candy.
There is no reason we/ I can’t enjoy/give sweet surprises beyond the holiday season.