Life is an airplane ride — You never have to think about it. I’m terrified of flying, but it’s therapeutic for me to do it anyway when I have the opportunity (plus, then I get to go neat places.) I always dread the moment when I have to think about the airplane leveling out, when I have to process the feeling. But then I remember the lesson I learned one day when I (terrified) stepped out in blind, delusional faith and got a drink from the drink cart. The act of speaking to the flight attendant, taking the cup, sipping the drink — these tiny interruptions in my vigilance were enough to make me realize that I didn’t have to think about the flight at all. I could read SkyMall and arrange my carry-on items and fluff my paper pillow and never, ever think about being on an airplane. But if my brain clicked over and I did feel happy and safe, I could look out the window — I could think about it and enjoy it if I wanted to. If it were safe for me.
So these days when I’m alternating between distractions and utter emotional breakdowns, I just need to remember that while the distractions aren’t solving the problem, they are letting time and the confidence I gain by willfully diverting my energy solve the problem. My problem. Which, right now, is that I can’t solve anyone else’s.
Life is eating a bagel — Speaking of distractions, I had an extremely low day last week, followed by an extremely programmed day where I had to (ineffectively; I’m not as good at faking it as I used to be) go through the motions. I was very tired. Very tired of life in general. But I kind of wanted a bagel. An everything bagel with lox, lettuce, tomato, and a heap of smoked whitefish salad.
I’ve tried to switch over into a survivor mindset lately whenever possible: “I could be dead, so I might as well!” which sounds morbid because of the ‘dead’ part, but if you think about it, it’s really freeing. I might as well take risks, do what I want, stop doing what I don’t want. I have borrowed time. I might as well make a little monument with it, a little altar to remember what God has given me. And I guess it sounds silly for that to be a bagel. But in the old testament it was a pile of rocks, so maybe not.
Anyway, I got up the next day and with my brain switched firmly into the ‘off’ position, I went and got my bagel. And I sat with nothing to do — no book or computer — and just focused on my bagel. I focused on the smoky taste and how the poppyseeds hurt the pizza-burned roof of my mouth. I focused on the bite and then chew of the bagel’s texture. I focused on eating each bit of whitefish salad before it fell out of the back of the sandwich. And I looked around: at the hipster guy across from me jamming to the music to show that he knew what it was, the girl beside me eating with her earbuds in her ears, the chubby girl in the exercise outfit with her boyfriend laughing beside her. And things might not have been okay before then, and things definitely weren’t going to be okay after then, but while I sat and ate my bagel, things were nice.
And I could eat bagels all the time, in a manner of speaking. I’ve been trying. Going to the little French bakery in town and eating a macaron or two. Walking around the city. Eating dinner at my favorite deli and staying until they close. Taking a bath. Looking at funny pictures. Watching stand-up comedian after stand-up comedian, hoping that there’s still another on Netflix after each one. But then every now and then I stop, because it feels like a band-aid. I tongue the tooth that’s been hurting, so to speak, and the pain is as bad as I’ve ever felt. And suddenly I’m under waves again. I can’t even imagine a bagel.
So. I say it sometimes with sarcasm and sadness: I guess I’ll just eat a bagel! But really, I need to keep eating bagels, one at a time, and never ever stop to check the ache. Until maybe one day my solid, happy heart will surprise me.