Be cool, brain.

It is not a thought, it is an energy: It starts right at the center of me, just under where my ribs meet, and swells upward through my chest, buzzing into the base of my throat. It is a mix of anticipation, possibility, fear, excitement, and nausea. It is the millisecond at the top of the high dive between the moment you’ve really committed to the jump and the moment you begin to fall. It is in me but is not me. Every time I have followed that feeling, it has led me somewhere holy.

I felt it while I wrote that essay about my mom a couple of weeks ago. When I followed it, it seemed like the words were formed somewhere else, and all I had to do was write them down.

I felt it once at Costco when a lady browsing the same giant stack of sweaters as I was answered her phone and broke down into tears and shouted at the person on the line, and I wasn’t really listening, but whatever it was seemed bad. She hung up and hung on to her cart, which held her up as her legs looked unstable, and she made a noise that wasn’t really crying but was more like gasping for air and moaning in pain at the same time. It was at that sound of grief that the feeling rose in me, and I followed it and it led me to her. She told me her son was sick, her son was mentally ill, and he’d been arrested and they were trying to find him a bed at a hospital that could treat him, and they were supposed to hold him until they found a bed but now they called and said they’d moved him to jail and she was here and not there and there was no bed yet, and he needed medication that the jail wouldn’t provide and what would happen to him there?

“Oh, God! I don’t know what to do!” She was looking at me even though she was crying out for something better. And I realized that I was saying the same thing in my head. Oh, God! I don’t know what to do!  Continue reading “Be cool, brain.”

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Third person, limited

When my parents moved in with us last year, I expected there’d be adjustments. I knew we’d have to set expectations about how often we’d eat together, how we’d handle shared household expenses, what temperature to set the thermostat. My dad was already ill, and I knew it would be difficult to see the healthy picture I had of him replaced by his sicklier current self. I thought my mother and I might clash occasionally–the last time we’d lived together for more than a few weeks at a time, I was sixteen, and there was plenty of clashing. I didn’t know the half of it.


When my family gets together, we tell stories about when we were kids. They are familiar and funny, but they are not just entertainment–they’re designed to tell us something about who we are to each other. I love these stories and their secret meanings. I love the way they let us love each other through our most annoying spells and most irritating qualities.

We tell about that time at the beach that I licked an ice cream treat straight from the dry ice chest and got it stuck to my tongue. (Translation: book smart doesn’t always mean smart-smart!)

How once, Tracy joined my friends for a  Pictionary game and drew a monster with TWO eyes for “cyclops,” or the time she gave the following clue at Taboo: “Please, sir, may I have some more?….but my leg is broken!”  (Translation: endlessly lovable but not great with the literary references!) Continue reading “Third person, limited”