here on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out and say simply, very simply, with hope, good morning.- excerpt from maya angelou, 1993 clinton presidential inauguration
good morning, as maya angelou cast it, is not a greeting but an imperative. it is the self saying to the self: this is a good morning. it is the self willing this day to be good.
this is no small task on some days.
and how, on some days, that small, simple phrase does require grace and hope. how that lovely phrase lies heavy like a stone on the floor of my belly, refusing the current that would lift it up and out my lips so i can hear myself say it. heavy so i know of its presence. heavy so i long for it to become a bubble instead, rising to the top.
there are days when it does indeed rise, more so now that my morning perspective has changed. these days, as i begin to shake off my sleep (if i could, i'd do it like my dog shakes off a bath—top of the head to tip of the tail), i hear schoolchildren shrieking as they play in the small yard outside my apartment while waiting for the bus; i see leaves trembling in my neighbor's tree as the wind slides past; i feel 55 pounds of pit bull sleeping by the bend in my knees. i am here, finally. we are here.
i've waited nearly three years for the ability to walk out my front door and take a walk, and it is marvelous—no less so despite the sloppy logistics of getting out the door and down the steps with a stroller full of toddler and a dog. my eyes and my mind marvel at the details: storybook victorians on my street that is imperfectly shaded by trees in almost every front yard; slouching college boys smoking marlboros on crumbling porches a few blocks east; the unimpressive dog park, usually empty, below the bridge that takes us into downtown; tattoo parlors, urban-style convenience stores, dirty-book shops with blacked-out windows, mothers in their late 30s wearing blunt bangs and platform boots, coffee shops, juice bars, and men who look at me as if i'm just another college girl.
mostly, i feel like the college girl i was when i last lived here a decade ago.
yesterday i ran into an old college friend while walking home from the park, and i told her as much: i feel young here, perfectly at home amidst the thirty-some-thousand college kids. she said something like, "ohhh i don't. i'll have to see how i feel." she just moved back too. at first i hoped that she would eventually feel what i do—because who wouldn't want to feel young like a college kid? then i realized, well, maybe a lot of people. so i hope she ends up feeling content, however that may be.
when i walk around my neighborhood and the town, i remember, nearly precisely, who i was, how i felt, and what i did during my college years here. i'm still her ... save the addition of a few wrinkles, a heap of fatigue, better income, and a small human to nurture. my heart and my mind have remained steadfast: ever angsty and dreamy.
in conversations with my self or with friends, i used to proceed as if my heart and my mind were two parts of me with different agendas. it came naturally, perhaps further encouraged by an education thick with poetry and literature. now, actually quite recently, i've realized that when i speak of the heart, i'm actually speaking of feelings. feelings are complex ... and i smirk as i type those words, because complex is a miserable failure at expressing the truth of it. feelings can be guided by thought, and they can also be spontaneous. so how do i recognize the difference? and should i? i've spent most of my adult life trying to figure out how to weigh my thoughts against my feelings and vice versa. mental micromanagement is a thankless urge. dare i attempt to transcend it, to allow all the shapes and colors of my mind's productions to exist together.
what a beautiful word. diversion and deep breathing will help bring it to life. in practice this means i must stay busy and stay still. can i be my own guru? can i teach myself to stop pressing my nose against the glass of every moment and instead walk through the door and be in it?
i had a boyfriend a decade or so ago, a little red ant who always finds his way through the cracks in my consciousness, bringing me crumbs of memory and realization. my morrissey-haired singer-songwriter who called me snow bunny when i wore my grey, soft, fuzzy sweatsuit, which was often because it felt like wearing a cloud. a few days ago i walked past his college house, just a few blocks from my apartment. i looked up at the top-floor window to the bedroom where i once i presented his christmas/birthday gifts ... a beatles coffee-table book and something to do with a cell phone; i turned to the maple tree in the corner of the large lot and smiled, with a twinge of heartache, at the spot where my kaiser would lie, his chocolate fur blending with brilliant, warm fall leaves covering the yard. i remembered expectation. and how its weight eventually broke our backs. we were both too young to carry it.
life without expectation is impossible. the goal, then, is to be mindful of what to expect and when. i've been told often enough that i'm too hard on myself, at least by people who can see. all people are not seers. this is fine. all people can't fulfill every need of mine. i'm learning that slowly and painfully. even more slowly and painfully, i'm learning which things (a word i generally deign to use in all its nonspecificity) i can live with and can't live without. not much about me—or you, you, and you—is changeable. we are long formed, with an inch or two of wiggle room for adjustment—like this desk from where i'm currently typing, nestled in the only spot where it would fit in my dining room. its previous life was in my nanni's house as a sewing table, the kind where the machine hangs upside down underneath the lid waiting to be flipped upright and put to use. in flipping myself upright, i'd like to put expectation to better use: to expect forgiveness to flow from myself—to my self and to others.
today i awoke with good morning as a stubborn stone in my belly. i didn't bother to will it up and out. i let the morning and the afternoon be what they would. the hours were not kind to me today. i forgive them. i'll forgive myself too, for those unkind hours were not without provocation. i'll do it because it's the surest way to feel the pulse of this new day, growing older but still alive. what i have is now: here, in my own space that i waited so long and risked so much to have, among my own things, and with the only two creatures i am certain my love will never fail.