Everything Must Go

Each day, reluctantly, I slip more deeply into this year of releasing. Everywhere I turn, a new facet of it faces me.

I strive each morning to pour myself into words and hold my presence there, crush the letters against me, smearing them on my body. I keep trying to build piles of every sensation I can get my senses on and distill them into marks on the pages of my journal. But when I look down, I see my fingers clutching nothing.

When I was growing up, they told us that a life amounts to what you accumulate over time: money and objects and affections and achievements and the admiration of people. Of what you manage to have and manage to hold. Of all my worldly possessions. (So essential to compile and share that they even standardized them in wedding vows.)

Now I watch my life—ways of making sense of the world that I’ve spent decades trying to gather tightly in my hands—as it slips through my fingers. Of course, none of this is really new, but in the past I’ve taken it all so personally, as a sign of life rejecting me because of my inadequacies.

But lately I begin to perceive that life can’t be held. Nothing can.

The problem isn’t losing; everyone loses everything eventually. The problem arises from not knowing how to let them go.

To capture has only ever really meant to squeeze the life from things.

Now, sitting at this black oval dining room table, I put these words down like record tracks, like grooves in black vinyl. Now I know they’ll only come alive again when you breathe them out through your eyes and mouth. They don’t belong to me—or you—except briefly.

Brief as a breath plumbed deeply only once, then released as all things that live have to be: children lovers seasons trees knowing hopes morning colors, laughter and terror and tears and hates and loves.

All of them I need to release. The room I sit in will disappear eventually into whatever form it needs to take. Everything has to. Even me.

All writing and all reading and all living are only recycling. Existence is always a fire sale, the universe perpetually slashing prices: Everything must go.

I used to think that was another way of saying, “Nothing matters; there’s no point.” But these times are teaching me to read it another way. Everyone and everything is precious. Everyone and everything is flying by. And all elude my best attempts to seize them.

I’m making an effort now (and, let me tell you, often failing) to just love them. To just love every last bit, down to the bone and the marrow and beyond, wherever that is. Words are my way of doing that; I hope you each find yours. And for the gains and losses like mine—substantial on both sides—I’m trying to find my way to counting myself lucky, then waving them goodbye.


Everything I Feel is Okay

I feel angry and even sometimes that I want bad things to happen to some people: the people who ignored all our warnings about where this country was headed; the people who sat on the sidelines because they wanted the perfect candidate; the people who enabled those in power through their actions or their inaction.

I feel helpless and hopeless. I feel afraid.

I feel silly and ridiculously optimistic.

Sometimes I feel in a rush to get things done. Sometimes I feel that I don’t want to do anything, that I just want to stop and lie in bed or sit in a comfortable chair. A nice, ergonomic Eames chair. And everyone, including the people I love, can fend for themselves.

Sometimes I feel endlessly tender toward family and  friends, and then that feeling expands to include everyone else in the world, even those who would wish me harm. But almost instantly I feel that everyone else is on their own, and I can’t help anyone except those closest to me because I haven’t the material or emotional resources.

Sometimes I feel certain that, with all these conflicting feelings, I must be losing my mind. I feel inadequate and useless–a terrible person. Cracked and broken and past any hope of repair.

Sometimes I feel proud and brave for having endured the difficulties I’ve gone through so far in life. That then turns to feeling I’m being dramatic because other people handle these same situations just fine, so I must be weak deep down.

Sometimes I feel arrogant and judgmental, and then I feel guilty and ashamed for being arrogant and judgmental. And in the next moment I feel base and lustful, wanting only food and drink and sex and other pleasure. Then I decide that this only makes me alive and appropriately human.

Sometimes I feel that everything’s ending, and almost simultaneously I feel that everything’s beginning again, and I feel terrified for everything and everyone that I love and might lose. And soon I feel incredibly fortunate because I’m sure that all those I love will be fine.

If it’s a good day, I eventually come to myself and remember that these are only feelings, flowing from the different parts of me, from the ways those different parts are trying to come to terms with life’s uncertainty.

And I remember, too, that uncertainty is nothing new; it is our constant state. But all too often, that’s easier to forget. When we don’t have daily bulletins about a rampaging disease and death and economic trouble, we can pretend that those maladies will never belong to us. That we live in some magic land, like the one the old folks in the film Cocoon travel to at the end, where we and our loved ones will never grow old and never die.

On those good days, I realize that feelings are information. That they’re often less about the state of the world than the state of my psyche, and all of them are okay. I remember that the measure of my life won’t be the fleeting feelings that wash through me, but will consist of what I choose to do with them.

Today, I’m trying to choose compassion, compassion, compassion. For myself. For everyone and everything else. And for all the tangled and confused bits of me trying to make their way in this ultimately unfathomable world.