Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Journeys and Dreams

A few nights ago, unable to sleep and reflecting on the many people I know who are at crossroads, I found myself thinking about a poem by Marty McConnell, a performance piece, really, titled "instructions for a body."  I love this poem, which is unusual for me because (shhh - this should not be something I admit so freely) I am generally undone by poetry.  I can see where the beauty and power is, but it is more as an analyst than as a experience.

I could quote the entire poem, but this section, the ending, is what is ringing in my ears just now: 
...tell me you don't matter to a universe that conspiredto give you such a tongue, such rhythm or rhythmless hips, such opposable thumbs – give thanks or go home a waste of spark 
speak or let the maker take back your throatmarch or let the creator rescind your feetdream or let your god destroy your good and fertile mind
this is your warning / this your birthright / do not let this universe regret you.
From the poem "instructions for a body" - © Marty McConnell, 2005
The use of the word "regret" instead of "forget" seems especially telling, and brilliant.  Don't we all, when we are considering our lives, worry that we will be forgotten?  We plan, and assess, counting our accomplishments and considering our legacy.  But, in truth, I am ever more convinced that it is better to live the smaller life that doesn't trample others in our wake, to make the hundred (or the one or two) small gestures each day that are kinder, more generous, more giving than we are required to be.  Leave the world, or the person you just encountered, no worse for your having been here, and strive to leave it all just a bit better.

What had me sleepless, surprisingly enough, was hitting a milestone in a journey I'm on.  I am three-quarters of the way through a year of reclaiming my body, and I've now lost 75 pounds.  The number shocks me.  I'm very proud - my weight has been the thing that kicked my butt for years.  I've far exceeded my original goal.  But this progress is something that feels more like coming home than like a rebirth or makeover.  The truth is that the entire time that I was carrying all those extra pounds, I felt as though I was inhabiting someone else's skin.  I keep repeating this story, and I'll share it here, too.  My good friend Kat and I were once talking about being overweight, and she said out loud what I'd often felt.  When you are heavy and your body feels foreign to you, it seems perfectly logical to think, "ugh, people think I look like this."  Which is, of course, utterly illogical.  You do in fact, I did in fact, look exactly like that.

But as the weight melts away, the woman I've always known was in there is the one that the world sees, too.  It's good.  Now that part of me is in alignment - I look more like the person I really am.  Which, very effectively, erases my body as a reason or excuse that I can hide behind.  And that, I think, reminded me quite forcefully that my life's guiding principles, which for so long were tangled up in the responsibilities of caring for and providing stability to someone I loved, are now all mine to choose.  What a realization to accept, both the acknowledgement that for years they were not, and the scaryexcitingfabulous fact that I am choosing, right now.

This next connection is tenuous, but I believe it's real - just as I was the woman carrying all of those extra pounds, I am also the woman who must own all of my choices and actions.  The ones I highlight on my resume, and the ones I wish I could wipe away.   "People think I am like this," is as illogical a thought as "people think I look like this," but I am relatively certain it guides some of my (and maybe some of your), decisions.  We are "like" the actions and choices we make.  My life, my legacy, will be the sum of all of those actions and choices and blunders and moments of small triumph.  My life will not be the life I intended to live - it will be the one I actually lived.

Which is why I was sitting in my pretty little house late at night, unable to sleep, hearing the words "dream or let your god destroy your good and fertile mind" on a slow, rolling repeat.  Here it is, people - life is short.  Dream.  Dream often, in small ways and in wild and improbable ways.  Find the path your feet are meant to be on, and walk it.  You can take breaks if you need to.

Best to all who happen this way.