Sit. When you can't sit, write. Stay with yourself.
So often, the hardest thing I do all day is simply sitting down.
My husband and I have been watching a movie on Monday nights when we have no new Stephen Colbert or Trevor Noah programs to watch. We have many rituals like this, built around our life together during quarantine.
Last night, at Katie's suggestion, we turned on "Sound of Metal," on Amazon Prime. (It's wonderful. Watch it.)
During the film, which plays like a documentary but isn't - it's a powerfully acted drama -- a heavy metal drummer suddenly goes deaf in the middle of a national tour. He's an addict and his girlfriend calls his sponsor, who finds him a place in a deaf community where he can learn sign language and adjust to this twist of fate. But he must follow the rules, the director warns. No cell phone, no contact with the outside world. He hands over his car keys.
Trapped inside of himself by deafness, hemmed in by the restrictions of the monastic rhythms of this new community, he has trouble adjusting. So, the program director, sets him a task: Every morning, make coffee and take it up to my study (a monk's cell with a desk and a chair and a single window).
"Go up there and sit," the director instructs. "When you can't sit, write. But stay."
That's the whole assignment.
Sit, write when you can't sit. Stay.
"I wish I could do that every morning, I say to matt.
"You do, he says.
"I should, I say but I find a million reasons not to.
"What reasons?, he asks.
"Dishes, checking Facebook. Organizing. If it gets really bad, I make a list. I run out to the store."
He nods. We watch the movie.
They are doing sign language. I show Matt how to finger spell my name. A M Y.
"I am an addict, Matt says.
"So am I, I say.
"What are you addicted to? he asks.
"Food. Facebook. Doing the dishes.
"Ah,” he says.
“What are you addicted to?” I ask him.
“Work, stress, speed…”
“Ah,” I say.
We watch the movie lead to its inevitable end.
“Good story arch,” Matt says.
Normally, I would correct his word choice. “It’s arc,” I don’t say. I am addicted to grammar, I think. I smile. “It was,” I say.
The next morning, I got up before dawn. I made tea and I carried it to the window where I like to read and watch the sun come up over the farm across the road.
I picked up the book that I'd left here last night and sighing with pleasure, I opened the cover. On the very first page, I saw something that I wanted to share on Facebook.
I picked up my cell phone. One thing led to another. I started clicking through portals the way someone with OCD taps doorframes. Click, Instagram. Click, email. Click Click click click on the news summaries from the Times, the Post, the...
I looked up. The day was here - I'd missed the sunrise. The snow was bright. The winter light grey. I sighed. Another day of boredom, another day stuck at home.
My body flexed toward relief. I leapt to my feet. I was standing in the doorway, keys in my hand, on my way to the market when my eye fell on the book, resting open on the side table by my reading corner.
"Ah," I said. (out loud). I peeled off my coat, put my keys in my purse, my purse on its hook by the door.
I came to the window. I sat. When I couldn't sit, I wrote you this post.
And here is the poem that I found in that book.
It seemed the perfect offering for our passage through the winter’s dark
Monet Refuses the Operation, by Liesl Mueller
Read it today as you sit In the dark, trapped indoors by pandemic and snow. Read this poem and celebrate the miracle that is (always) also going on. Here’s a wee excerpt, cut from the middle:
“I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. “
If you’d like to talk or workshop with me, these are my current offerings.
I wish you all the blessings of this beautiful time of year. Including the blessing of shortening days, the invitation into silent reflection.