Stiff as a Board
Today, like every other day, I wake up stiff as a board. Today, unlike every other day, I wake up next to Timothy, neatly arranged on the wall side of the bed, between the big Bhutanese thangka of the universe:
To sleep together, or not to sleep together? It's actually both simple and complicated. Simple: You snore. Stay away. Complicated: that's not so true anymore. Simple: married people are supposed to sleep in the same bed. It's a sacrament or something. Complicated: Fuck supposed to. Fuck sacraments. Simple: the distances we form in our waking lives can be resolved by simple otter-closeness in our sleeping lives. Complicated: sometimes distances are important containers for figuring out the truths we need to figure out.
This morning, unlike most mornings, Timothy gets up from my bed, goes to walk Chloe in the damp morning woods, and comes back with chilly ears. Yesterday night, there were tears, and somehow these tears carried the I Ching quality of a storm clearing old tensions & dangers. This morning, I find his warm armpits, and tickle him.
Over breakfast, we talk about the senior philosopher search his department is in the midst of: how approaching people who are effectively married to their current departments (via tenure) is like proposing an affair. Is activating the dissatisfied, what-if aspects of their minds, so that what the asker sees is not necessarily the sanest & most grounded sides of the potential candidates. Hey there, hot stuff. Are you getting all you deserve out of that old place? What's your name, who's your daddy, is he rich like me?
It's the time of the season for loving.
That's a song Kristin had on pretty much infinite repeat, as we drove around Atlanta in her black Passat on various quests, fifteen or so years ago. Sure thing - the time of the season for loving is all the time, but the important questions seem to be: what kind of loving? loving who? loving how?
Always coming home to the same questions: Can I work with this situation to keep growing through it? Is it possible to love this person / this place / this whole context, in ways that open me up, or is it time to move on?
Those questions take on a special kind of sauce when I think of them in the context of the seventy or so billion lives I know I've led, as everything from a sea cucumber, to an antelope, to a despot, to a concubine, to this particular six-foot package of pretty much everything, with freckles, astigmatism, a great vocabulary, and a mighty restless heart. Here's a Waylon Jennings song I love to sing in a hearty voice while driving the dog around:
What makes me want to roam
We arrive at the dog park, and at first it's impossible to even get Chloe in the gate, she's so glued to the fence, watching other dogs. Once in: yeah, she sniffs some butt, but really, it's the running she's after - the straight-up charge of her four fast paws on the ground, somehow chasing the other dogs, but really just running free, a beard of froth hanging from her mouth, completely turned on by her whole dogness. I get that.
A whistle from a train
Marvelous Mir, who I met in Philadelphia, dedicates a video to me & to all those who bear the burden of a gypsy soul. A gypsy soul looks back on the endless voyaging of samsara, and sees not the cemeteries swelling with its corpses & the oceans swelling with its tears, but the call of the open road. There are good reasons for travelers not to stop for long: the locals don't appreciate goats grazing on their golf courses, or chickens disappearing from their coops.
Still: stopping. Stopping and growing at the same time. Traveling with the flavor of stopping. Not stiffening around always moving on, around never having to explain myself. Not-stopping means never coming home, or else it means defining home as a quality I carry with me.
I seek out places I can't call home, make some show of trying to learn the local customs, get offended, and leave. Get killed, and die. Make some show of not giving a rat's ass about the local customs, get chased out. Become a charismatic rebel, and leave of my own accord.
It's worth taking these dynamics out for another spin on the dance floor. Shoop! What happens if I try dropping the storyline of seduction? What happens if I'm not so interested in the dyad home / not-home? What happens if I inhabit this being completely, wherever I am?
This morning, unlike most mornings, I wake up next to Timothy. He's warm, and familiar. I'm warm, and also familiar, though if I'm honest, I can't begin to claim complete familiarity with either of these beings. What a curious creature. I wonder what she, what he, is thinking?
Susan Faludi's Stiffed winks at me from the library shelf. Hi, Susan! I remember your article about Shulamith Firestone, who was a brilliant feminist leader in NY, until she got eaten alive by the sisterhood, went mad, and never left her apartment again. An argument for carrying the quality of home with you is: you can leave your apartment. You can go anywhere. I've lived those lives before: the repudiated leader, the disillusioned follower. I don't need to do those things again.
What, in the interests of de-stiffening, do I need to do? Well, the thing I said this morning would be a good guide: it's not some fucking thing I need to do, it's some fucking thing. Some easy & ecstatic expression of the deep union I am between knowing and doing. For that to happen, minimal planning, much listening.
By not holding to fixed views,
That last part of the Metta Sutta is not about rejecting embodiment - it's about surrendering so deeply that traveling & not-traveling, staying married & leaving, waking stiff & waking groovy are all seamless expressions of this one creature with her clever paws & burning heart & feet on the ground, doing the play of What Is.
This morning, like every other morning, I wake up with the fully present possibility of living well. I can choose. Here are the old patterns of exile and recrimination, longing and its obstacles. And here are the new patterns: knowing, loving, staying loyal at a deep level wise enough to know how to wander & how to be true.
Rumi knows how I can be a tiger, forming wants and hates that stem from looking to the fractures in the world, and not its wholeness. Rumi also knows that burning heart that shifts to kindness: Here, walk in my shoes. Here. Feet on the ground. Paws soft. Belly soft, heart soft. Even in the places that scare me, even in the non-home places I so stubbornly seek out, needing rejection as proof that wandering homelessness is all there is.
The dissident daughter finds herself talking with the economist about how he flunked kindergarten. She finds herself talking with the warrior about his shoes. To the anorexic about the horse that saved her. The dissident daughter wakes up and finds herself mother, lover, sister, wife, bitch, battleaxe, teacher, student, sticking nowhere stiff as a board. Dancing, in fact, between and through these all.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.
108 Names of Now