Do you ever have those mornings when you wake muddled and wild? Any memory of the dreams that left dried traces of tears in my eye sockets evaporated instantly--all I caught was a wisp of nocturnal chaos: a man I once knew well, crying in a crowded building while he talked on the phone to his therapist, about how he had lost his child in a crowd, and didn't the therapist know that he was a good, responsible parent who had never before forgotten his child? The therapist turned out to be the elevator operator, I realized as I raced past and overheard him talking, who was dressed in white head to toe, and wearing a phone headset while he brought people to their floors. I changed course and ducked into the elevator to hear what he had to say to this distraught man. I had a few things to ask him myself. And I let go off the hand of my small son, and promptly forgot him; he was left to wander the floors, looking for me. I was in my old office building, naturally; there were magazines to read on every floor, and dazzling photographs of impossible beauty hanging on the walls, but there was also the addition of the Saks Fifth Avenue wooden cage elevators, which required operators (and on which I was once stuck between floors for several very long minutes.) I woke in a gummed-up panic of loss, still tired, and fled from my bed.
Inchoate dreams. Watery brews. Turned inside out. Far sight lost. I think I know what it is that disturbs my sleep--withdrawal from a long vacation with my two sons; anger that I lost half of their childhood in joint custody (but in so doing gave them both of their parents); anxiety about heading to a profoundly foreign part of the world; a snowbank of tedious paperwork on my desk. But I hadn't fathomed how deep go the roots of disturbance, how far back into darkness long undisturbed.
The morning was full of warnings, signals that I had better move carefully through the rest of the day, and do a few things to avoid coming more unravelled: slow down, pull in, be quiet, think, and let go. Let go of all that old anxiety about having been an insufficiently attentive parent. (I was good enough; they are fine.) Let go of anger, confusion, pain over every relationship that ever collapsed. (Relationships, like all living things, have natural life spans....just because something ends doesn't mean it should never have begun.) Let go of that old habit of doubting every decision I ever made. (That's only because, for the moment, I am not at peace with where I am now.) Let go of fear of venturing into strange lands. (I am afraid I will lose something, something important, like...myself. But so what? That might be good.) I will drink my hot tea, then meditate a while, as that always realigns me. Of course, I thought I had let go--and I had, for a while--but that's what happens, the old things reach up out of the loam and seize your dreams again....
I sat down to write this, because I wondered, does everyone have mornings like this? Does everyone have nights like that? Of course. But still, I wonder, why couldn't I have been born into the tribe of The Always Happy, as I think of them, the people who maintain their equilibrium no matter what, the people who always turn their faces to the sunny side? Is there such a tribe? Or has it, too, come undone? And to you who think you are alone in such confusion, I say, no, here I am too. Here, from time to time, we all find ourselves.
As soon as I started writing, I found my glasses.
They turned out to be hiding in plain sight.