on the messier parts of life


I have a looming migraine, so this will be rushed and less coherent than usual, or perhaps it will be more brilliant having been pushed out knowing that time is short. This is anyone’s guess or gamble. In any case, as with so very many moments in my life the past week, days, hours have brought turmoil and tears and – mostly – deep pain and betrayal I naively didn’t see coming (though, in honest retrospect, hardly should have surprised me). I sit here with a migraine aura slowly narrowing my range of vision, wondering why it is that the Boethian Wheel of Fortune* always seems to turn at a quicker pace in my life than it does in others’. But I’m prescient enough, too, to realize that the wheel, being what it is, always does turn and my fortune tends to set itself right, sooner if not later, and if I just keep breathing long enough I’ll be clothed and fed and loved and secure enough to believe for a moment or two that life isn’t completely a futile experience.

But today my life is messy and rushed and complicated, and while under regular circumstances I’d find myself overwhelmed and tearful and fighting against the injustice of it all, this afternoon I’m simply exhausted. I’m tired of trying, not in the sense that I’m not going to try anymore, but in that I’m going to sit here and be tired for a while and admit it’s okay to be tired sometimes. And while I’m resting I’m going to slough off what isn’t working, reinforce boundaries I’ve allowed to grow weak out of compassion, be overly kind to myself, clean my room and make it even more cheerful than it already is (because that can never be the wrong move), do the things that remind me of who I am (most of which are undertaken alone, like writing or seeing old movies in the dark or walking for long stretches of city blocks in the cold).

So much of my life is in transition right now – one job ending as another begins, a thousand worries about a million things, tussles over children and money, violations of trust and love, relationships in turmoil if not decline. But I also look back on my life, and I think of how many transitions I’ve been through: less than two years ago, I was on an Amtrak train to Penn Station, with two suitcases and $62 in the bank, the only thing waiting for me in Manhattan being a futon in a fifth-floor Harlem walkup. I didn’t have a job or a plan, just a free place to live for a few months and hope that things could be different if I were given half a chance to make it so.

Some days I think the decision to move to New York was the most foolish one I ever could have made. In retrospect, it was certainly risky, perhaps the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I can see now why so many people were concerned if not actively worried about me. And there are other days when I kind of just marvel that I did it – I did it! – and, yes, I did it with the help of many, many people more generous than I ever could have expected.

But I also did it because during messy, rushed, and complicated times I was able to (sometimes more gracefully than others) ride it out, keep putting one foot in front of the other and breathing, and that’s all I can do now, pretty much. And it’s all I’m going to do. That, and find some ice to put on my head.

*I’ve been working as a research assistant for a book about Confederacy of Dunces, which has me re-reading the book, which means the Boethian Wheel of Fortune is now in the forefront of my mind.