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The Tiniest of Spiders in This Troubled Web

weepingbuddha

The email from my massage therapist was brief. Their two woman massage clinic would be closing for two weeks during the Covid-19 outbreak. Massage, she pointed out, wasn’t compatible with “social distancing.” I can imagine them thinking as they made this decision “two weeks? four? two months?” because who can tell when, if ever, their clinic will reopen.

My musician friend who spends six or eight hours almost every day practicing for a few gigs a week in the best of times, kept checking her emails last time I saw her, looking for messages from her bookings telling her they were canceling: not enough customers to justify even the small amount she’d be paid, not enough customers to fill her tip jar when she wasn’t.

And I’m a medical exercise specialist–what one of my clients calls a “fancy personal trainer”–certified to work with exactly those people most at risk from the virus: older people or those with chronic health issues. A number of my clients have already chosen to go into self-isolation and while I am able to offer to “meet” with them remotely, not all are willing or able to do that.

All of us are part of a diverse group of people who don’t fall neatly into the usual definition of “gig workers”: independent professionals. Our ranks include massage therapists and personal trainers; yoga teachers and dance instructors; math tutors and freelance writers; artists and musicians. We are not salaried so will not qualify for unemployment. We don’t have status as employees so will not benefit from sick leave or family leave. We are small business owners but we work alone so even if payroll tax cuts were involved, we’d see no help there.

And while all who fall into this category have specialized talent, skill, or education, while all of us continue to hone those skills and advance our knowledge, we admittedly aren’t essential to anyone’s lives. Very few people physically need a massage regularly. Most people feel they can keep themselves active and healthy. None will suffer major loss if they can’t go out to a restaurant or bar and listen to music for some time.

We weave ourselves into the community on such a thin thread while trying to bring measurable good every day we put our energy, education and attention to the professions we practice and the people who benefit from our skills and talents. And when crisis hits as it has now, our thread is often the first cut, leaving us floating away like tiny spiders cut from their webbing.

We are irreplaceable. Yet we are dispensable. And when the world rights on its axis, we may be gone.

 

Villanelle For “The Black Dog” (version 2)

weepingbuddha

 

You’ll go through each motion, one by one,

As dark night gives way to blacker day.

You begin with “I’ll live,” as you’ve always done.

 

Pull the cord, raise the blinds, turn away from the sun.

Step into the shower.  Coat the  pain in wet spray.

You must go through each motion, one by one.

 

Clothing. Face. Don’t cry or mascara will run.

Room’s a damn mess. Make the bed anyway.

Mutter “I’ll live. I’ve always done.”

 

Don’t break the routine or the black dog might run

Up your back, clamp his teeth, rip the mask clean away.

So just go through each motion, one by one.

 

It’s not like you’re out buying pills or a gun.

Safety comes from not wanting to cause a display.

Keep on with “I’ll live.” As you’ve always done.

 

 You’ve been here before, seen how the thing’s done,

Studied the lines, know the acts of the play:

You’ll go through each motion, one by one

And repeat, “I’ll live.” As you’ve always done.

Villanelle For The Black Dog (First Draft)

weepingbuddha

 

You will go through each motion, one by one,

As gentle night gives up to brutal day.

And repeat, “I’ll live.” As you’ve always done.

 

Pull the cord of the blinds, turn your back to the sun,

Step into the shower, dissolve in the spray.

You will go through each motion, one by one.

 

“Get over yourself; go have some fun.

Can’t be depressed with a smile!” silly optimists say.

Just repeat, “I’ll live.” As you’ve always done.

 

It’s not like you’re out buying pills or a gun.

You’ve never been one to make a display.

You still go through each motion, one by one.

 

You’ve been here before, and at least you’ve begun,

Studied the lines, know the acts of the play:

Just repeat, “I’ll live.” As you’ve always done.

 

Yes, you’ll go through each motion, one by one

And repeat, “I’ll live.” As you’ve always done.

The Parable Series: Where Are My Damn Keys?

Public Domain Sketch

Public Domain Sketch

And so the parable goes:

There was a very wealthy man who kept all his money, jewels and gold locked inside a box inside his mansion. One late night, he wanted to go count his loot but couldn’t remember where he left the keys. “I know I had them in my house last I looked but I can’t remember where I put them. Now where could they be?” (Note that he did remember what a key was just not where it was–not a dementia tale here.) The house was quite dark, the fires already having been drawn down for the night, but outside the street lamp was still lit. So the man went outside and began searching and searching under the street light becoming more and more agitated as he looked. A friend saw him and came up, saying “What are you doing, old friend?” And the wealthy man answered “Looking for the keys to my treasure box. I can’t find them anywhere.” The friend began to search with him, both looking everywhere under the street light but finding nothing. At last the friend said, “I can’t see them anywhere! Do you remember exactly where you last saw them?” And the wealthy but keyless–and clueless–man replied, “Oh, yes, they were in my house. But it’s so much easier to look out here where there is such bright light!”

And so the parable ends.

Easy one, right? When I first read this parable, I felt slightly insulted to be presented such a simple puzzle. Well, of course, it means that we shouldn’t be looking for answers in the outside world just because that is easier. We must look only within for the key to the meanings and treasures of life.

Or should we? If that’s all the parable means, I think I have just cause to cry foul, because can all answers really come from within? Of course, many times I find myself reaching for the easy solution or quick fix that the latest diet guru or purple pill might provide when I know that this probably isn’t going to  mean I’ll become rich and skinny–or poor but enlightened. And introspection and meditation certainly have given me far more insight (by definition!) than self-help books.

But what about that friend? I keep coming back to him, the man willing to help our buddy under the street light. Didn’t he play an important role as well? Wasn’t his willingness to stop and take time ultimately likely to help the wealthy man “see the light”? I can imagine the next scene of the parable being the friend saying, “well, then, let’s not waste time out here. C’mon, I’ll grab a flashlight and we’ll go inside and look for the keys where you think you saw them last in the house, old buddy.”

Of course, looking for the easy answer outside won’t lead me to my deep treasures. But I’ll be better off with a friend with a torch than alone in the darkness looking only inward.

“Nothing Special”

Snow on Mountain

“I have been there and come back.

It was nothing special:

The river at high tide,

The mountain veiled by misty rain”

                                                                        Zen Buddhist saying

Beauty returns most fully when I stop looking for something higher. When the remaining grey snow piles blink at me as if to say “what are we still doing here on March 28?,” I hesitate in my gnarling about their ugliness and see they are as at sea as I. And the two cranes that flew over my car as I tried to hustle home on the always-too-crowded and frighteningly fast highway reminded me to breathe, reminded me that their path might be straighter and less crowded but their return home no less important.

In the study of Qi Gong and the Tao, I have never felt even close to knowledgeable, so I deftly if dumbly escaped thinking of myself as a “Great Expert,” as Ken Cohen refers to the first stage of learning–that in which you know a little so, therefore, you feel you know it all. I skipped straight to “Banana Head,” that phase where you realize that, as he says, “knowledge is limitless and human life is limited.” I know I don’t know.

What I have started to feel are moments within my ignorance, that I begin to catch sight out of the corner of an eye, tiny glinting sparks of the final stage of learning, the stage where all nature is once again part of you and you, part of nature, so that all entwines and all becomes so special that it is “nothing special.”

May I never reach that stage fully for I know I would then be a “Great Expert” and I might not see the inch long tree frogs under the birdbath who are so special that they are “nothing special.”

Oh, Whatever!

After a brief moment of thinking I should change my display name to match my main blog (tp make me easier to find), I thought “Nah, I really am skinnylegsnall”! So back to the original. Talk about too much overthinking. Must do the Spleen Healing Sound tonight.