ice in a marsh

Plastic Rosary

Another holiday. It’s been a long time since the last blog post. Is that even what they are called anymore? Time seems to have changed again since the new year. New Year! A few years ago, I mean weeks, we celebrated. Then the wheel turned, and we were thrown into the everyday. January lasted for years; I wish it had gone on longer. Once you are in the dark, it seems you might as well stay there. Imbolc, the turn of the seasons, and February light changes. The birds feel it; they whistle to me in the mornings, reminding me that the light is there for a reason. The light hurts, because soon it will be warm, and people will welcome spring, and all that was learned in the darkness will be burned away.

The light. What is light, when all inside is darkness? There are moments, when some small disaster, really very small in the scheme of things, mingles with the bigger disasters, and the echoes of 4am questioning, to provoke a schism in things. A break with everything. Walking helps. Then you return. Yesterday, I thought, maybe I should walk to Canada, or Vermont, or Newfoundland, or anywhere really. Where are the long walks? For women, they are filled with danger. For me, the reality quickly tears down the dream. But doesn’t it always?

The realities that we are presented with, especially by others, but very frequently by ourselves, are designed to wreck, no not just hole the side of the boat, but sink it altogether. Even expression becomes a collection of clichés, like cheap jewelry worn to impress from a distance. What audience? Impress upon whom, for what exactly?

But nothing increases the feeling of being alone in the universe than a panic attack. I’ve been told that crying helps, but crying is a luxury. Wait! A phishing call is a distraction. But being under attack by petty criminals and not so petty does not help either. A course I followed recommended waiting seven minutes. Was that it? Some amount of time, and then the brain naturally will go down some other route. But then the sense of futility can increase. Even the worries are of no import.

And for what, these worries? I think of people I know, and whom I don’t know, with larger problems, miseries, fears, tragedies. I have a friend who repeats daily – I could be in Ukraine, Sudan, Gaza – like a mantra of misery. A pyramid of annihilation. Even on holiday days, of which this is one of the few in the USA. A rosary of comparison.

The writing class wants particulars. All grasping for a reason to get a grade, to be something. Some do this for no reason at all. Others have troubles to work through. Some think they are the next Hemingway. What have I learned? That writing is meaningless, unless sanctioned by publication? Is that like saying a patient is meaningless? Or a casualty? All causality.

I see now, that this misery born of panic, has deeper roots. Or perhaps it’s just easier to link all the terrible things together, a cheap rosary which cuts at your fingertips as you press on the beads. Bite down on the wood, feel the plastic break under your teeth. Soon it may be the teeth breaking.

Once, in France, I was talking to my tutor who scolded me. “Americans,” he said in a harsh tone, “all believe they have the right to be happy. That happiness is everything.”

I don’t remember what came next. I do remember thinking both that he was right, and that I was miserable, which he may or may not have realized. Miserable, no reason to be, except for the banalities of a failed marriage, and other stupid errors. He played French music to me, went through the intricacies of Serge Gainsbourg, a crash course in culture. Perhaps I wasn’t beyond hope. Or that the only solution is another story, and another story – all different, all human.

Americans were losing their humanity even then. Now barcoded like lettuce, invaded in our personal telephonic ID number by anyone who bought a list of possible victims, we take the holiday and look at sales, secretly missing the erasure of troubles that the ping of the new email brings during the week. Defined by our jobs, it’s no wonder that we spend time defending busyness, the Puritan streak still the widest, followed by cowardice.

This was not what I had intended to write about. There are other difficulties that could be analyzed, made more universal, spread about. There are other beauties that could be noticed, made more of, spread about.

I think I’ll go to the woods, and ignore 4am truths in between pain and panic attacks. Fear for my friends, fear for many things. If fear is the worst thing, as a character in a beloved book said, then escaping fear must come first. Or maybe sitting with it. It’s lonely too.

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