November 29, 2009

Now

"I will only drive down last week's road once in my life." --Carmen Joy King

Lately, I have been missing it. The moment. In fact, I have probably been missing it for most of my life. I know how it feels though, to be in it: a tickle up the length of my spine, a lightheaded sensation of giddiness, a sudden realization of fleeting happiness. It is an accumulation of all that was and all that will be, distilled down to the moment.

It's been awhile though. I was recently chatting with an old roommate of mine via Facebook and we spontaneously hacked out a plot line for a Reality Bites style film, but focusing instead on a bunch of friends fumbling through their early thirties: unexpected layoffs and financial crises; the isolation of single life; sexless marriages; the humbling responsibility of parenthood; passions relegated to hobbies; unstable mental and physical health. My friend and I were indirectly discussing our own group of friends and acquaintances, but we were also exploring the dangers of succumbing to the voice within that chides and discourages us from enacting real change in our lives when it is required. Too often, we resign ourselves to living out an "existence" rather than a "life."

I know that I have the ability to reinvent myself; I am my own agent, whether I believe it or not. At some point in the last few years, I forgot this reality and hit a concrete wall of lost opportunity. For a moment, I felt as though those opportunities were irretrievable. I lost a sense of the largeness of life--something that was second nature to me as a child, and again as a young adult. I put myself in a box.

As my dear friend Carmen Joy King points out, we can only drive down last week's road once. I like the immediacy of last week; it keeps me from looking too far behind. Last week just passed. This week is here. What am I doing right now that is not serving me? What part of my spirit, or my mind, or my body is stalled and needs a jump start?

I'm here, with a persistent heartbeat, fuelled with blood that propels me forward. I will only be here once.

November 21, 2009

Written in Skin

"Lord my body has been a good friend / but I won't need it when I reach the end."
--Cat Stevens

We cannot shed our bodies, like clothes, at the end of the day. They're always with us ... until they're not. However, those of us who have been fortunate enough to enjoy relative good health and physical ability often take our bodies for granted. We assume they will always be there, like Stevens' "good friend."

I've been thinking a lot about death lately. Having attended several funerals over the past few years, some of them the result of tragic, untimely deaths of friends and relatives, I have become more and more aware of a spiritual void in my life. When someone close to me dies, I find myself flailing without a filter, dodging a lot of thoughts and emotions that I can avoid facing on a normal day. I envy those who have some form of faith to turn to during these times. Words and rituals that offer solace.

Funerals rarely do this for me--at least traditional North American memorial services. We tend to wear primarily black and opt for summary, anecdotes, silence, a somber song, choked tears. I always feel the inappropriate urge to laugh, or scream, or chant, or dance, or moan. I desire a ritual around death that doesn't appear to exist in my immediate surroundings. I want to sing a dirge, but I don't know the words. I feel the need for something more authentic and of the earth than stark funeral homes, rows of mourners, caskets, and one-dimensional photos of the deceased.

The deceased. Passed away. I desire a new language for the dead. Something less gentle and polite, more in tune with the raw, heaving experience of loss. At the same time, there is also a place for silence. Something like the practice of the Liberal Friends of Quakerism, who gather in silent worship and speak only if/when they are moved to do so. I want to negotiate and understand quantum physics, the nature of energy transformation and the deceptive nature of solid material forms.

I believe I had a fleeting encounter with my grandmother after she died. I have had psychic readings and genuinely believed in them. I talk to the dead as if they can hear me. I talk to my own spirit (for lack of a better word) as if it exists outside of my body, an older and wiser entity than I. I realize that all of this could be a lie I tell myself. My own construction of comfort in the face of all that is unknowable.

In our chaotic and conflict-ridden world, I am grateful to have this freedom: to write these words without censorship, and to seek, articulate, and practice my own beliefs without persecution. Much like my body, this is something I have taken for granted most of my life.

Let this be an acknowledgement of gratitude, written in my skin.