In pain, tissues expand. It is just what they do to cushion themselves from further harm, to pad one irritated part from another. To isolate from pain. It works, but it works in a way that can be hard to reverse. When is it safe enough to contract again? Answer: never. Answer: there will always be some lost soul out there with such pain that it has expanded out into the whole world he traverses, with his bowl cut and his starved eyes, his Rhodesia patch and his birthday gun. So, no, strictly speaking, one would be forgiven for thinking it is never OK to contract again, to take down the armor of extra, to be safe again in the confines of the body in its naked, un-irritated dimensions. But no end of suffering lies that way.
Obesity is a way to keep padding the body out, putting the world at bay. The world is still touching my skin, but now through some alchemy of inaction and donuts, the skin is more distant from the heart, the liver, the bones, the womb, the stomach. It's out there, and I'm in here, a little further away.
The drugs keep the world at bay.
The food keeps the world at bay.
The inflammation keeps the world at bay.
The delusion of living in a safe, respectable place keeps the world at bay.
The gun keeps the world at bay.
I wonder about this Mr. Roof, 5'9" and 120lbs. He is the opposite of padded, and yet he is the current focus of expanding grief, hatred and concern. He has expanded into the minds of the whole nation; his expansion has been so radical as to obliterate nine people in its wake.
The Confederate flag expands over the Capitol in Charleston, even as the US flag is at half mast. A delusion can't be flown at half-mast: if it begins to come down, it falls apart. An expanding sense of wanting to isolate hate, but that is obviously nonsense, Hatred lives everywhere. Intolerance lives everywhere.
The words unspool and expand across the page. My breath expanding and releasing. Larissa and Sam, breathing and writing. Steadying my feet on this tightrope of words. Allowing body and mind to expand in that other way: the way that accepts contact and grows to meet it. The way that says, Oh, what the hell. What do I think I have to gain, keeping myself from touch? If it's here, I'm already touching it. If I'm already touching it, it's already OK.
Breath expanding to distress, contracting to this new way of sitting with the breath and the body. Body-mind expanding-contracting with the breath. It's all here, all now.
Yesterday I went into the West Lebanon Feed and Seed looking for something to distract and comfort Chloe, which really means - to distract and comfort me. Outside were the remaining tomato and eggplant starts - the tomatoes mildewy with strain of expanding roots in too-small pots. The eggplant were OK. All buy one get one free. I could stand and think, Beings are numberless, I vow to free them all, but I could not make myself buy one get one plague-bearing plant, and I did not say, This is absurd. Give me your orphans, already.
In the distractions and fetishes aisle, it was no better. A $25 fox toy? Really? A pink fluffy bunny with white ears? I could not. I could not. I kept feeling my mind expanding outward to the woman at the hospital who could not afford $25/session for fibromyalgia physical therapy. I walked out. No bunny, no tomatoes with mildew, nothing to pad my sad self from the world.
Then this morning, Timothy came home with a brown paper sack tied with yellow and blue curled ribbons, and it was a gnaw-rope with bones, from our friends John and Sunny, sending their best wishes. A boney gnaw-rope for Chloe, and I felt my heart expand. This was why I could not seal the deal, yesterday. I wanted someone else to be offering the kindness I needed. I wanted to let go of choosing and taste and shopping, and just get the hell home to where my undistracted distracted friend was laying, trying to remember not to bite herself.
Expanding like this says: it's not up to me to control my way through this situation. Sometimes I will come home so exhausted from sleeping nights on the couch near my dog, in range of her Very Large Array, that I will feel like all joy has died forever, and in that case it does not make any sense to do anything but go to bed and sleep it off, where a dream will come, in which my bald preceptor will appear, kindly asking if my circus performance will be this small boy burrowing through the ground for 417 minutes, hours, days, or years - and I will realize, yes - that IS the trick I've been preparing with such feverish intensity, welcoming people into the big tent, even as Mole Boy gets busy in the earth. He says it kindly. The boy is ready. All I'm doing at this point is hosting the whole thing, ready for the burrowing to begin. I expand to a sense of knowing that the digging I saw in another dream, just before hiring Chloe as a lunatic companion, is proceeding apace.
We are digging.
That is too many questions.
I want to spend more time expanding into full experience, and less time contracting into email, syllabi, tiny jobs that act as their own form of inflammation and keeping the world at bay. I want to spend more time on the icy couch, expanding my skin onto it, warming my way through the block of ice I was born to, and less time blaming others for not providing me with a comfier resting place. I want to be less of a brat.
There's a call to expansion in me right now - a sense that I should take my summer teaching money and convert it into training, certification. Taking what's Caesar's to learn to speak Caesarese a little better, to wrangle my way into the hospital rooms and prisons and schools where the action is. My teaching money - as though it already exists, which it does not.
The old, expanding restlessness is back - the one that sees a high, flat, volcanic plateau in Flores with witch-hat mushroom-cap huts and thinks, Yes. Take me from this world of email and out into the ever-expanding world of distance.
Distance is a padding.
Not-distance is a padding.
I want to be a stranger for awhile, to travel alone again with skinny bones and a fat pack at my back. To tower and lurk and flit, away from anyone who knows me. But this leg needs home to heal, and these malcontent urges are not grounded.
Keep digging, boy. The tunnel expands behind you even as the unknown opening at the end of your travails grows closer. Where will you come out? No one knows. Not you, not me, not all the people in the tent. But after 417 somethings, there you will be , having crossed the whole distance with your body's work. You'll be in the kitchen again, eating a sweet potato. Or in your bed, sleeping off the pre-storm death of a summer's afternoon.
You'll come out standing, to recognize with expanding clarity that absolutely everything you need has been here all along, if in disguise. It'll be OK to drop the gun, the food, the keys, the shovel, the drugs, the delusions, and you'll just be right here.
You'll be right here whether or not the interview works out, whether or not you go on that retreat, whether your dog runs like the wind, or hops like a three-legged bunny for the rest of her life.
You are there.
You are here.
Wherever you are, your heart of delusion and clarity is there also, expanding and contracting, breathing in, breathing out,
108 Names of Now