Last Sunday standing in church singing, tears rose in my eyes and burned as I refused to blink. I started to think about lunch, about what we'd pick up -- a rotisserie chicken? Moby Dick's kabobs? and they resolved.
It happened again.
And then a third time before I realized I was choosing to concentrate on the shirts of the people in front of me, their hair, the background to the song lyrics, the tops of the trees through the high windows rather than let myself feel.
Crying involuntarily, in nice clothes, wearing mascara, in a crowd is different than crying in my house or car with a chosen person over a chosen thing, sure. But what struck me wasn't that it felt inconvenient to cry without tissues in a big room where other people weren't crying. The thing that struck me is that I was feeling a sudden release from the worries ticking through my mind -- summer's halfway through, have to pick up a prescription, two year old won't stop writing on walls, must be my fault, when will I find time to work on the story I'm writing -- and I was dodging it because thinking of burritos felt tidier.
I think of myself as pretty willing to process/emote even when it's ugly. I have no interest in being a person who can't let go of her composure and sense of control, yet there I was in a sanctuary (def: place of refuge or safety) choosing to avoid.
At this stage of life, mid-life we'll call it now that I know four men who've bought porsches and two who've bought jeep wranglers -- the childhood dreams realized -- I'm finding it pretty easy just to pay attention to what's in front of me.
There's a lot in front of us.
And it takes time to stop and take our own pulse (60 seconds of silence, really). It takes time to write through a gnawing sense of angst til we hit the root. It takes time to expose a tender part -- the need we're suddenly struck by, the loneliness of the day, the thankfulness for all the green and smell of sweet grass that saturates us in the rain, the questions about if these rolling days of monotony are enough. And then it takes more time to reckon and wrestle with the realities.
The other day I walked in from the car and lay face down on the rug. Even though it is summer, even though this week we've had lazy afternoons lounging on couches reading, that day, in that moment, there were too many needs to meet --
Mom, come on, come get me some cereal.
I can't, voice muffled in the rug
No, literally I cannot.
You guys will have to take care of yourselves.
Mom! We need you to COME.
Someone can make the cereal.
Mom, come ON.
I can only lie here.
Someone pulled on my leg. Someone put a grubby little finger in my eyes to lift my eyelid opened. Someone tugged my arms, and eventually they wandered away because there really isn't much to do with someone who won't move. They ate cereal. They argued and yelled and played nicely and yelled and played nicely and threw a toy down the stairs. Maeve probably picked that moment to go draw little people in crayon on the wall of her room (I only discovered them last night). And I kept lying on the floor in peaceful protest.
It takes time even to lie on the floor. And even on the floor, there's some urgency (or many) still nagging -- the deadline looming, the fact that I've been mixing half and half and skim milk for days for the kids and just need to buy whole milk.
I've been thinking about rest, not just sleep but rest from doing stuff, meeting deadlines, ticking items off a list, incessant running, talking, keeping up. We need some rest here at mid-life (and quarter-life and three-quarter life) while we watch our face break into creases we didn't expect to see until our 50's (why didn't anyone tell us about the 30's?) and slide into our new cars (porsches, or as the case may be, new minivans). I need some rest, the playful, real kind. And when my eyes burn, I need to let them burn and listen, even if that leaves my face smeared and nose red, which it will, because even that -- any sort of admission -- opens a kind of rest.
Today I am resting. I'm on my way to the bay to visit friends. A sweet friend is playing with my kids, and even in the humidity there's a breeze and cloudy sky. Sitting at an outside Starbucks table (I'd imagined a picturesque coffee shop on the water for my writing pitstop, but instead I'm in a strip mall...) I'm tempted to lie down right here and now on the pavement in my new posture of refusal to *go*, and rest for a few. Maybe I'll wait for the bay...