Dear 2010, and the nine years that follow:
I am bracing myself. I step over the threshold to meet you with awareness of my own fragility, shadows hovering, and a crystal ball that seems to be on the fritz. My machinery is in disrepair and I am past due for a talented handy man. I am in want, and I am in need.
Symptoms continue to recur and worsen: my sensing skills, my intuition, my relative-calm-to-mask-my-truths; all are slowing and obscured, filling with cloudy drink, something that spreads, seeping into muscle and softening bone. I have Drano under the kitchen sink, Drano in the bathroom cabinet, Drano I purchase at every supermarket and drugstore. But Drano will not do the trick.
* * *
I imagine donating my body – in entirety – to science, eclipsing the selfless contributions of those who merely offer an organ or two. Something of an experiment, and what have I got to lose?
Kindly remember, however – I am alive in here. There is consciousness, even on the bad days. Nonetheless, I submit myself for exploratory procedures and adjustment, which are bound to produce some sort of positive change. Place me on a conveyor belt, and slide me beneath the latest medical marvel combo-X-ray-sonogram-MRI. Scholarly healers will observe as one pokes, prods, and pretends to know what he’s doing.
Onlookers mutter among themselves, authoritative in white coats, detached and clinical as they peer down at me in an old-school operating theater – very Ben Casey – as everyone seeks to identify and document the points where toxins have infected the organism.
I am, naturally, the organism. And they, proudly, announce the offending attackers as though the discovery is monumental: fear, frustration, anger, loneliness, despair. I roll my eyes beneath my lids; this is stating the obvious. Can no one offset this glum and predictable prognosis with the fact that humor remains intact? Or at the very least, sarcasm? Shouldn’t that be worthy of a mention?
I am numb and furious, finding myself stripped of words again. It is different this time, but I’m sick of it. Tie me up, tie me down, close me in, but do not silence me! I want to scream at the medicine men and guardians in all their diverse uniforms. Are you charlatans? Can’t you see what’s going on? Do something!
Causes have been noted. Locations, recorded. Diseased regions are cordoned off like areas for tilling or lying fallow.
So, the medicos explain, negative emotions have lodged in every artery that pumps hope, spreading into tissues and major organs.
Fine. Then where is the laser to aim at the soul-killing spots tucked inside a cavity or floating in a lung? I will sign permissions – just zap the damn memories, the conditioning, the splintering, the unanswered questions. Once freed from that, I guarantee I’ll provide a splendid finish, wriggling out from under your antiseptic sheets and unflattering lighting, crawling through feeding tubes and machinery if I must, and then I will leap off the gurney and communicate with clarity and enthusiasm.
All involved may bask in the credit as much as they like, not to mention book deals and speaking tours sufficient to renovate their mountain homes and replenish depleted retirement funds.
* * *
Somewhere, heads are shaking. They insist on repeating no.
Here is my alternative: I shall close my eyes and feign sleep until sleep comes; I shall dwell between dream and wakefulness; I shall rest between states of being until I am strong and learn a new language that will empower me to heal myself. I am not Snow White, though I ate of the poisonous apple. Now I lie in slumber, waiting, not for a prince but a laser, an operating theater, a way out.
Of course, I am not really asleep.
* * *
Our country squanders timber and fire.
Once, I had my own fine stock: pine and oak, ash and fir, twigs for kindling. I learned to build fires smartly, taking care to place each log so that air could pass, the flame would flourish, and not die out. I learned young, in a cold place, and my fires crackled and spit and sustained me.
The temperature is dropping. My blood circulates slowly, through clots and clogs, clouds and chill. A small stack of logs sits by the side door. Once gone, there are no more.
* * *
Hello? New decade, are you listening?
Your sisters, the years that have passed, granted unexpected hours of abandon, bodies singing together to quell what ached. Love struck me down, then plucked me up, and I was grateful. But my legs are burning, my channels are clogged. Could we write the future together, now, sweetly?
Perhaps this is the cure for a woman’s ills: no to the scalpel, the scan, the laser; no to the gaze and scowl of physicians staring from behind their glossy expertise as they gut the flesh and muddle through our histories.
Instead: yes to spirits and limbs tumbled together, agile enough and fearless, even if only in this – one more flight of fancy.
* * *
I do not make resolutions; I seek the counsel of a single verb. I call upon it as support, as inspiration, and as agenda. There have been many over the years – focus – to gather priorities and achieve, believe – so I might accord myself optimism, and act – for all the power of execution that strides hand in hand with thinking, and being. Each verb guides, arms, motivates, befriends – so I may be more.
Some consider being as inert, as the antithesis of acting. We act on our own behalf, we act for the betterment of our children, we act to light our path, to obliterate our obstacles, to retrieve emotions we require to care for each other. We act as the person we would like to present. A performance. In that guise of a variable self, I may become her. And so, action serves as a fine companion for being, and their synergy is resplendent.
I am hesitant today, and sluggish. I have not unearthed my verb for the new year, much less one shiny enough on the eve of a new decade.
Perhaps my verb is as foolish – and as wondrous – as to be.
* * *
Are you there? I need you to understand: my sons will become men in the three thousand six hundred fifty days of residence in your house. This is a natural progression. They need timber and steel, mortar and brick, fire and air. They are growing beyond my embrace, beyond the narrow certainties of mothering.
Watch over them; they are destined to perform good work, and even the work of angels – one, through science, and the other, creating beauty. But they cannot do their jobs alone, so I ask that you grace all our children with your capacity, so they may each live as they see fit. We who are adults will do our part, shaping the future in our hardy palms, in the moments of a heightened present.
Oh, I know. You can’t reveal your secrets and now as I am waking, more lucid than I would like, aware of the shape of the shadows that chase me, my crystal ball desperate for its tune-up along with everything else, I still have a promise to keep. To greet you with a smile and a toast, as we are properly introduced in a few hours.
For now, word-weary, it is time to close out the year and the decade, time to dress, time to celebrate, time to enter the future – and whatever we can make of it.