Once again, this is not the blog post I’d planned. That one is shelved for a bit. It needs to ripen, to “grow some balls” as they say (yes, I know that’s a male reference and I say I’m a feminist but it fits and if the balls fit, wear them) and partly because this post seems to need to come out of me right now.
Words are all like children, aren’t they….relentlessly tugging and announcing themselves without apology and expecting to be heard and sometimes not seen just because they are who they are, because they are they for life. That thought sent my mind reeling.
Why do I have to listen to them? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? And who the hell are they anyway?
I often find myself walking around with dialogue in my head. It seems to walk faster than I do, runs actually. Races. Every single word. I know. I can see that look on your face. “She hears voices” you say, “Conversations.” You might even utter a few grunts. “Okay then”. But it isn’t what you might think. I really do hear pieces of conversation, words that feel as though they are tripping over hurdles in a race to find a sentence, a respite where they can sit after a long race. Breathe. Gulp the Gatorade. Move on. That’s what they do. Whether they win or not, they move on, so why let them go unceremoniously? That’s what we all do, or should – just keep moving on. We, together, are a writer, an artist. A messenger. Lately, the words have been revved up at the start line, waiting for the gun to go off. They hear the traditional Pop! of the pulled trigger and leave the line up in good form instead of tripping, falling across each other and piling up in a boring or danger-riddled heap as they’ve done many times before and will, undoubtedly, do again from time to time – maybe even more than I’d care to admit. Watching them isn’t always pleasant.
Words and I go way back. We researched and entertained in the 60’s, wrote poetry in the 70’s and crafted a few songs (perhaps we post the story about the studio engineer at another time, a story in which we share a part of our secret life, the fascinating places we’ve been, and the stops that made the whole trip worthwhile). In the 80’s we had a brief love affair that ended up on a page that was published in a magazine that few people read. It was a wonderful story that wasn’t ready to be born. You realize at some point in life, not everything will be born into this world, perhaps into another but not this one. Everything is somewhere and it is ours for the taking. But maybe not right now. We still train. We still run the race. And while we should expect to win. What would be the point in expecting to lose? But we can’t win every time and maybe not even most of the time, but we must continue to put one foot in front of the other and Go! That’s the magic and the secret of it all. Just Go! Because one glorious day, we are the winner. Even if it is for one moment only, there is a space in between the last second of the race and the one in front of us, where we know we can live forever. We are golden and we know it. Nothing beyond that matters, certainly not the times we became part of the debris on the side of the road.
Problem is, I was doing crisis management for a very long time like many of us have been. In case you are unaware, crisis management feels like running on a cement path when you need new shoes. Your ankles swell. Your feet get bloody. It takes a very long time to finish. No excuses. Just distractions. Other events (shiny objects are often irresistible). Battles on the field. Side games (Veterans of Family Wars). High temperatures and inclement weather. Life, but not necessarily the one you planned on. I’m a woman of a certain age. Many of us have travelled a crooked path merely because of our anatomy, birth position, family dynamics or personal history. Some of us should have been chess players, not runners, but we followed the labels we were given because of the time we lived in. Changing labels just wasn’t doable for one reason or the other – not then. Maybe now. A bit. But not then. If the hat fits, that’s what you’re supposed to be. We were caretakers, healers, replacements or backups for other people’s lives. These weren’t all bad hats to wear. They just weren’t running hats or dancing hats or hats you could wear at the top of a mountain, and they never had words on them. They only had numbers. And numbers, as you might guess, can be crippling for a true runner’s soul. It’s a nice way to measure, but it isn’t who you really are.
I don’t think there is a point to all of this except to say that I’m a runner in a sense. A marathoner. I don’t have the long legs of a runner but in my own way I’m in the race again. I’m writing out loud. I’ve always written (I might have told you before but there was a time when I repeatedly carved my name into a dresser, lived in a childhood spent with illness, isolated for hours and hours always crafting my escape from a room filled with a color I didn’t like) which is what I was saying earlier but I’m feeling it more, showing it more, letting the truth come out instead of forcing it where I wanted it to be. I am less frightened by what both you and I might find. I’m back in the race, paid my entrance fee and I’m thinking “What the hell”. I’ve learned to buy the right shoes before the soles begin to shred. I’m not one bit concerned about which hat I wear. I carry medals in my pockets, two Catholic medals from my mother, a small rose quartz Buddha bead and a cross, not a crucifix. I still cherish my childhood rosary beads and the saints but I no longer practice Catholicism. They wouldn’t want to hear what I have to say. I practice being in the midst of life and being thrilled about whatever I see. That’s my religion. The Church of The 5K. I’ve learned to go the distance. I believe that angels are real, not those iconic winged images we all have become accustomed to seeing but human and animal angels, beings who show up when we thought it was impossible to do so and those who leave quietly when we are both done. I believe in getting down into the weeds now and then, looking for worms, digging in the dirt for remnants of lives and resurrecting them, giving them a second chance, a forum. I am better at crisis management than most people know. I was put on that path unknowingly. I stayed on that path and as the light began to rise each morning that I ran, I was able to see more of the distance, the choices and the map of freedom. That’s how I began to discover the side roads, the alternative paths. I have visited the main road periodically, and each time I bring with me richness from the East, from the West and I am a different runner, lighter and more free. I’m a messenger, a time traveler with a well-documented passport. Isn’t that the true function of words and pictures? To be the tools of the messengers? The written and spoken badges of where we’ve been and who we’ve spoken to?
It turns out that crises management can be a fruitful practice. We learn to think on our feet (those shoes become so important), to invent solutions, mechanisms………salvations. What we can bring away from the experience(s) and cherish is a chest of power tools – how we carry them on the road is up to us – a pair of sunglasses and that favorite runner’s hat that has only one brief word on it. LIFE. Huge. No explanation. No graphics. Just LIFE. The numbers eventually fade. That’s really the only point. The numbers eventually fade. One foot in front of the other. Count the steps out loud if we have to. Do Jimi Hendrix on air guitar. Don’t forget the water and the lip gloss and bring some trail mix. We definitely need trail mix. Fix the broken things we see on the side of the road, comfort the broken spirits, and feed the stray animals. Pray for them. Breathe in the air even if the dust makes us choke. We’re not standing still. We’re taking control and we can handle anything. If the crowd isn’t pleased, we’ll run another race and they can run their own. This one’s for us. You. Me. We have words to speak to the injured runners and words to shout to the crowd and we have words to say when we reach the finish line…. “We did it. Me. You. Yes!” We are no longer “there”. Now we are “Here”. One foot in front of the other.
(From my conversation with L)
“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck!” …Rumi