I was 25 years old. Married to a beautiful lifemate whom I couldn’t have dreamt up, yet who was a living dream. Paul, our first-born, only two months old. A grad degree. A job (a shitty one, albeit, but it was a start) that paid the bills. Going for my PhD.
I was living my life, though, like it was wartime.
Life in Wartime
It had been that way since I was 10 years old, when my parents divorced. School had been a hellhole of bullying and pointless regimentation to make me a properly functioning citizen. At age 25, I told myself I was properly functioning, but I didn’t believe it. What I didn’t know till decades later was that I suffered from anxiety, depression, and latent gender dysphoria.
Always looking over my shoulder for the next assault was the norm for me. I hated the world I lived in but played its game to prove something to myself (though I hardly knew what that was). I was a house of cards poised to crash at a nudge.
Then It Happened
My shitty employer canned me for pointless, dysfunctional reasons. That was actually a blessing, but I felt like it was the end of life for me. I was paralyzed. I had a child. A wife. An overactive intellect and frustrated artistic ambition.
And now, I couldn’t even do that. I had no income to pay the bills. No prospects. Turning to myself was the last place I could go because I had turned on myself each and every moment, trying to be a warrior but unable to reach deep into myself for something—anything—that could rise to the occasion.
I sat on the front stoop of our little apartment and cried helplessly, Pam at a loss as to why this temporary setback had so unhinged me. A month later, I’d get another shitty job that, within less than a year, led to a much better job with benefits, a solid salary, and the chance to grow our family.
Yet, I Couldn’t Move
Why budge an inch, anyway? My spiritual and emotional landscape was cratered, with incoming shells, shocking me into further frozen panic.
We all get that way. And we live in a culture that denigrates paralysis. The prize that was myself was gone, sucked away by banshee ghosts of the slavish ambitions Papa Culture told me I had to pursue. If only I could …
That was never in the equation. I hated myself and the blessings that had been showered on me. I didn’t deserve them, for I had smoke-and-mirrored the game, and now the jig was up.
What did it take to love myself? Jump the next hurdle in my path? Sustain another grenade blast that deafened me to what my heart really yearned for?
There was no magik in any of it. But at age 25, I had no inkling that I was already magik. Nothing about me had hinted enchantment since my earliest years. This was no way to live. Yet, I leapt from one foxhole to another, trying to find someone who could tell me the war was over.
Where’s the Magik in Telling You This?
I need you to know that everything I needed was already with me—that, paralyzed, I was free. That you are, too, when everything comes crashing down.
That’s the magik I’m here now to tell. I had to go through countless other bouts of paralysis till I dared embrace who I really am. Till I saw through the cocoon of loathing I felt for myself, the world, everything. In telling you this, I’m not claiming I’ve won through, that the war is over. That life isn’t hard. That I’m now pain-free.
Avoiding Pain Isn’t the Point
The point is that I exist, when I have no “right” or “destiny” to even be alive.
I’m a completely gratuitous instance of the cosmos reflecting on herself. She doesn’t need me to be here to do that. But she does it anyway.
So, I figure, why not take a chance on that?
I’m here. Why hardly matters. I am. Why not celebrate that I’m here?
Reckoning my burden or calculating the odds against my survival
(let alone the odds against my ever being here in the first place)
has never once helped me.
What has helped is daffy-hearted giddiness at the prospect of me. Of you. Of any of this.
Who am I to change the world? Do I need specs, a game plan, practice?
Or do I just do it, and it happens, this thing called life?
The Next Words
I can’t tell you the next words I’m about to write, but words still come. So do paintings, bakes, and ridiculous gestures that make up a life.
All are a promise of gratitude.
I’m grateful for you. For Pam. For my children. For the current silly job I have and for the absurd thrill in the tummy I get at the prospect of baking something new.
No archaeologist of future millennia will find my bakes and wield them like a talisman to solve whatever paralysis their world faces. I’m not here to save the present or the future. I’m not even here to save myself.
I’m Enough. So Are You.
Even being in the crater, while bombs explode, shows me I’m here.
It sounds trite to say that life is a gift. But it is.
And so am I. So are you.
I’m stepping out of the crater now. I have a present to open, right here, right now.
We all are.