Tag Archive | reflection

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.

 

Is Quitting Sometimes the Greater Good?

paper and  pen

As that old song goes “Should I stay or should I go?”

For the last five years or so, I have been trying to return to the writing that I walked away from when I stopped teaching after twenty years. Twenty plus years of not writing, then I began again. Stops and starts; small steps into a poem or blog piece here or there; frenzied thousands of words through the past three years NaNoWriMo and here I am: Where?

My writing may not be as bad as my eye and ear perceive it, but as I grow older, grasp for thoughts, words, concepts with more difficulty–my God, I’ve started using a Thesaurus–I can’t help but wonder what or who benefits by my trudging on. I found myself re-reading some older blog pieces and I can’t deny that rather than improving by writing more, I see less value, less poetry, less rhythm of word and thought three years later.

Yes, walking away from 72,000 words of one mystery and 50,000 of another feels like failure. But would walking away from 100,000 in another year be less soul depleting? My heart says I am on a useless journey; yet my ‘pen’ pushes on, another word, then another until a sentence builds and here I am again. But should I be?

At the crisis point in one of the mysteries I have been writing–and every writer who struggles with the “writer’s journey” and the 3 act structure knows that point comes quite late–my protagonist, almost sure she has been the indirect cause of a death, thinks that there is no reason she should stay in the old neighborhood she has embraced as home, thinks she could move on and be free of the responsibility, the guilt, the pressure to solve the riddle of the first death. But as she paces her apartment, listening to the sounds of the bar she inherited floating up from below, the music, the clink of glasses and bottles, the laughter of her neighbors, she knows she cannot go. She is home.

Late in my third act, writing may be my home, my pen continuing to craft a world, sentence by sentence. That might be my answer.

I’m just not sure it’s the right answer.

Born Sad

56298672 - nepal jungle

 

“She was always making jokes in class, kept us laughing all the time.”

“I don’t know that I ever see her without a big smile.”

“Some people are just born funny.”

They’re not talking about me.

Not that I don’t have a sense of humor that can range from silly to sarcastic to full-on giggle torrent. Sit me down watching an episode of “QI” or “Would I lie to you?” and I’ll drive my husband crazy, laughing with my headphones on. All he sees is a crazy person going manic while I’m listening to Sandy Toksvig or David Mitchell. It must be like being in the room while someone else is having a phone conversation–on LSD.

And I tell jokes or what I hope are jokes in my QiGong classes and I’d like to think the students’ laughter is more than politeness on their part–although QiGong students do tend toward the polite end of the civility spectrum.

But I’m not by nature a happy person. I am more likely to politely disappear into a private world where thoughts run more toward the unhappy stories I hear, the pain that someone must have felt when they were let go from a job or told off by a friend, the grief and loss of a pet or relative or even an object they held in value. I will think of these things and feel a visceral deep ache in my heart and gut despite not being personally affected.

And when the loss is my own, I carry my sadness forever. Not every moment of every day, not in a way that keeps me from enjoying a good dinner and drink or a beautiful walk, but somewhere in what might be called by some my ‘soul.’ The pain of the death of my beautiful caramel tabby almost three years ago will just, from seemingly nowhere, wrap a fist around me and I will hurt almost as deeply as I did the last time I caressed his fur.

I’m not speaking of depression, either, here. I have gone through periods of deep and lasting depression, depression that seems to have no cause, no igniting source, per se. So I know what that feels like all too well. No, this no antidepressant or talk therapy would change. This sadness is simply part of my being.

My life walks in a deep forest, the limbs dragged down by their mantles of leaves, the senses dampened, the sounds of insects humming in the dark, beautiful but always dialed down to a few decibels lower than what those on the sunny savannah might hear. The knot in the chain won’t be untangled; the chip in the vase not repaired; the broken heart remains broken.

Those of us born in sadness aren’t more intuitive necessarily or more sensitive. I know I’m not. We just see the world revolving with downturned lips, beautiful nonetheless.

I’m happy there are those who are ‘born funny.’

And I’m just fine being born sad.

The Parable Series: My Kingdom for…

Wang_Zhaojun

My student recently reminded me of one of my favorite of the Tao parables:

An old man had built up a very wealthy life, owning many fine horses, and one very fine son. One day the latch on the horse corral was left open–quite possibly by the very fine son, but we’ll let that go–and the horses all ran away. The townspeople were all so sad for the man and cried “on, how awful for you.” The old man simply said “maybe.”

A few days later, the horses suddenly reappeared and not only did they return, they brought a bunch of wild horse friends with them (you know how horses party). This meant that the man now had even more wealth because more horses, more wealth, right, not accounting for oats, etc. Now the townspeople were so happy for him: “Look how lucky you are! Not only did your horses return, you have so many more. You are such a lucky man.” And the old man simply said “maybe.”

Wild horses need to be tamed so the very fine son took on the job of teaching the wild horses to play nice. As he was trying to ride one of them, the horse reared up, throwing the very fine son off and to the ground, breaking the son’s leg in several places–a very bad break in seemingly so many ways. Once again, the townspeople cried out “oh, we are so sorry for you, old man. What terrible luck this is to have your son so injured. How terribly bad and unlucky.” And once again the old man (I wonder whether he was getting tired of the nosy townspeople by now) simply replied “maybe.”

The very next day, while the son lay incapacitated in his bed, the soldiers of the king strode into town: “The king has decided he isn’t all that pleased with the country next door and is declaring war. All able bodied young men, especially very fine ones, must report immediately for duty.”

Except for the old man’s son who was, although still very fine, not at all able bodied and was not taken off to die in the not very fine war.

My Ukrainian Jewish grandmother when asked about her health or her children or her very fine husband who was a diamond auctioneer (which meant she had a couple very fine trinkets) always just responded “eh. So-so.” Because one shouldn’t ever brag about one’s luck. What might seem a piece of good fortune one day might be a piece of dreck the next. Just ask a Mega Lottery winner. Maybe.