Blackouts & Daisies

Last week’s post received a lot of positive feedback. This intrigued me considering I had a hard time resonating with it as I wrote the words. It was a wreath weaved of brambles, a mere Charlie Brown decoration, sentences brittle twigs fastened into a single loop, twine callused and ropy holding it together in a shape nature never intended. But I forced myself to finish, because if I don’t subscribe to anything else, I subscribe to deadlines and meeting them. They are the hammer of fate that shatters the glasshouse where perfectionism lives. 

These days, I cringe before selecting “publish now.” It’s the fear of embarrassment my poorly shod words might elicit, like morning breath clinging to the inside walls of my mouth like old paint. I insist on finishing, and let it go. I hold the chick over the side of the nest and open my fist, not sure whether the tiny, hollow bones will instinctively fly, or hit the ground and burst into a million pieces. I look away from my words and hope for the best, knowing that some of the best lessons are the most painful of all.

I question whether I am seeking approval or acknowledgement from others. As much as I tell myself I’m not, that this is nothing more than being brave and showing the inside of myself when I’m not confident if I’m wearing pants or not, it’s human nature to seek acknowledgement if not approval. Even if no one agrees with me, it’s confirmation I am not alone in this world, that others are subject to the same crosswinds, the current of life, regardless if we don’t paddle in the same direction or use something other than a paddle to get where we are going. 

No human interaction whatsoever feels like neglect or abandonment, which is why some dogs would rather endure a lifetime of mistreatment, than no treatment whatsoever. We are all a social species, our communities lending a sense of identity and safety to each other. Anyway, to sum up last week’s post, the old adage must be true: sex sells. The trite in the middle is inconsequential when the beginning and end are juicy.

Since my writing class, I start my day by handwriting three pages in a notebook. This exercise is called “Morning Pages,” coined by Julie Cameron. This was a difficult exercise at the beginning. My hand could not keep up with my head eliciting a froth of anxiety. This development surprised me and frustrated me. The words breached the pages, clipped and broken, a jewellery box littered with busted clasps, garish fakes, and lonely earrings in search of their vanished mate. It will take some time to diminish the sea legs. Another “new normal” in the making.

I learned some valuable lessons this pandemic. Like any good crisis, it sifted the gold, separating it from the dirt. There is juicy fruit to be found underneath the bitter rind of any catastrophe, even long after separating from the tree that birthed it. To my surprise, I discovered I suffered from FOMO. Two days after the shutdown began, I took a deep breath seeing our city block lit at night like the tree in Rockefeller Center at Christmas, all of us rabbits tucked in our warm burrows, the streets and sidewalks reticent. After a lifetime of operating as my own island in the turbulent seas, it turns out I am a herd animal after all, proof I didn’t know myself as well as I thought.

After living with the creed, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” for the last twenty years, I’ve been quick to embrace the newly-hatched entropy. My new schedule became no schedule whatsoever and I accepted it. This is a great liberty to be afforded, but running outdoors writing have sparred this past year for the crown position in my day: the morning. As each day rushes to its conclusion, like a tuning fork, so too does the fuel in my tank. I work best in the early morning. After a lifetime of waiting patiently, athletics is no longer first chair in the orchestra. My writing practice has finally eclipsed it.

In part, the decision was stemmed from physical duress. My knees are tired of pounding the pavement. It doesn’t mean they’ll have the last word, but it does mean I take them out of the barn less often for a jaunt. A sabbatical from the miles might even pay dividends in the future. I’m safeguarding this belief for now, as the word count stretches its own exploration.

It sounds good in theory, but well laid plans are ripe targets for disruption. Last week I stood up from the love seat, and as I stepped away, my knee caught the corner of the coffee table, a short and rectangular contraption, designed with utility, lacking ornamentation, constructed using a thick piece of glass aboard a small, metal frame. The corner of the table met the soft pocket of flesh below the shield of my kneecap. It was a perfect fit, like a key slipping into its lock.

I hobbled forward, swearing. Nausea climbed my legs like bubbles in a freshly poured soda racing to the surface. I slid to the floor, ice cream melting into a puddle. Russ found me curled on my side, hyperventilating with my eyes squeezed tight. 

“Are you alright?”

“I. Can’t. Breathe.

 I think I’m going to pass out.”

“All that from walking into the coffee table? 

That’s what happens when you’re looking at your phone and walking.”

(Hard to argue that.)

My legs shook as I stood up. Pulling up the pant leg, a tab of loose skin hung from the pea-sized blush spot like a pop-top on a soda can. Cupping the knee, the flesh burned like a charred coal under my hand.

I looked over at Russ. 

“I can’t believe this is it. It should be black and blue after all that. 

Unbelievable.”

Russ rolled his eyes, but I’m still an Event rider at heart. Battle scars matter. Sometimes it is all you have left when the fireball is extinguished.

As I rubbed my leg, I thought about last summer, when I smashed the crook of my elbow on the edge of a wooden door. I was on the floor sitting on my heels,  my belly curled over the front of my legs, propped up on my elbows talking to my sister on the phone. When I finished, I sat up, my elbow caught the edge of the door behind me. 

Immediately, I knew I was in trouble. A cold sweat washed over me. I folded over my legs, my forehead against the carpet, as the velvet curtains of darkness descended. I passed out. I had this terrifying sensation of falling through the blackness. Even scarier, I could not distinguish which direction I was traveling. I was unsure if I falling down, or falling up. I only knew I was not in control of anything and was moving with incredible speed. Worse than all the above, I distinctly remember feeling panicked—I did not know who I was.

 I don’t know how long this lasted. Thirty seconds? Two minutes? Longer? Even with no idea of what was happening, the human instinct for survival is fierce. Somehow I knew my only choice was to fight. As I jettisoned through the pitch of space, I realised I was still attached to a body, but couldn’t move it. This was the answer. 

I fought the inertia. I managed to flip onto my side, breaking the spell. As my eyes opened, I had no idea where I was, or who I was still, and just as quickly, it all snapped into place. I lay there shivering in a cold sweat for another five minutes or so. I can only chalk it up to the depletion of running in a Texas summer coupled with whacking of my funny bone in just the right spot, just hard enough, to create a potent witch’s brew.

HA! Running is dangerous to my health after all!

I kid.

The business of living is a dangerous proposition for anyone. While my knees take a rest, I’m going to keep writing, and wipe the dust off my yoga mat. The studio reopened after thirteen months closed, almost to the day. The free-fall through the unknown is coming to an end. I open my eyes and lift myself onto shaking legs. Today, I am on the sunny side of the daisies, and that’s enough.

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