“It is impossible to fail if we extend love. Whether or not the person accepts it is incidental. Our ability to love is what makes the difference.” —
Zen and the Art of Falling in Love, Brenda Shoshanna
Yep. Those were the last words of my yesternight. Right before the ghetto birds came out for their habitual cruising above the 101 and very soon after the single jolt of yesterday’s earthquake (which most of my kittens have slept right through), I was flipping through all of my current books for some line that would deliver me into my dreamworld. Something good: I needed something good!
“There’s a difference, I said, between making it and simply becoming hard,” Bukowski offered up. Nope.
“If I’m just a passing fancy, then I want to pass fancy,” chimed-in Lorrie Moore. Still not it.
Oh, I love me some insomnia! Usually, it rolls in during my life’s transitions, like an unexpected weather front. It normally takes me a couple of nights of its reoccurring to realize “Transition” is exactly the name of the ailment. But in the mean time, all of that self-knowledge that inspires my esteem, all that skill for meditation and counting sheep; all the certainty that in the end I’ve somehow managed to be true to my goodness (or at least, managed to be true) — it all evaporates like a single snowflake on a curious child’s mitten. The atmosphere gets dark, the head gets messy: Heavy shit is about to go down.
Soon enough the silence of my apartment gets overcrowded by an amusement park for ghosts. A traveling freak show pitches a tent.
“Where did all this come from?” I wonder, astonished every single time at how much a single life of a woman can encompass.
And I just can’t fucking sleep.
The only thing to do then — is do nothing. To ride it out.
Yes, I could think of all the places I have yet to visit. Or, I could recycle that one memory of a random San Francisco street that made me feel that I’ve finally come home. But the ghosts and the freaks nag me to jump on a ride with them, and it is useless to protest. Before I know it: My heart’s racing, I’m disconnected from gravity, and I cannot figure out if it’s sweat or tears that’s rolling down my face. I flip and I turn to get more comfortable in between all the safety belts and the chains; I yank my hair into some sort of a submission. But that too seems to be a moot point. So, I keep riding until exhaustion becomes my saving grace, and until the fire-red electronic numbers on the face of my alarm clock are no more than random equations of time.
Insomnia. Alas. It is the perfect time for regrets.
The only thing is: I don’t do regrets. Because when I do regrets, it means I’m suffering from shame. And shame, my kittens, is something I just prefer to never do.
Not in any self-righteous way and never at the expense of someone else, but I choose to be good, in life. Yes, of course: There have been mistakes, and those came with shame; and shame, my kittens, is something I just prefer to never do — again. And if there is anything that a choice of goodness can guarantee — it’s one’s safety from regrets. (But then again, I wouldn’t wish regrets onto my enemies either.) It is nice to reminisce, sure, to reflect on the so-called “lessons” of life. But to discount an experience or a person due to my guilt or pride; or to wish for their non-happening at all — via a regret — well, what’s the goodness in that, right?
It gets tricky though, on the rides with the ghosts and the freaks. All that tossing and yanking, and I get tempted to get off on the very first stop: Regrets. (The stop after that is usually Wrath, followed by Mourning.)
“Should I not have loved this last time around?” I thought as the freaks fumbled with the hinges of my safety belt. “Was loving a mistake?”
(I know, I know, kittens! I know better than that. I know better than that — in the daytime! But yesternight, all I could hear was the sniffling by ghosts and the conductor’s forewarnings of the next stops, each more daunting than the one before. So, yes: I considered regretting. (In the mean time, the freaks thought it would be really cute to start nudging my ribcage with their stumpy thumbs. Cute fuckers!))
And that’s where the digging through my manuals came in handy. My books of reference. My maps to self-discovery. Bukowski — that adored freak of mine! — testified to my two choices in life as suffering or boredom. Ms. Moore was ever so melancholic and lovely. (“What’s that perfume she’s always wearing?” I kept holding on.) Comrade Nabokov was not much of a consolation either; for he is all about mourning the loss of time. Zadie Smith managed to make me chuckle with her translations of humanity, but her people stumble around their lives like drunkards in the windstorm of history.
“I need something good!” I thought.
Aha! The Zen book! It has been shoved underneath my hard bed — a gift from the most recent love I was considering regretting yesternight. Out of sight — out of messy mind, right? But it just wouldn’t fit into a commercial size envelope that holds all the other palpable evidence of this lover’s memory; and it just wouldn’t sit right on the shelf among all of my other freaks of literature. So, in a hurried gesture, I’ve hidden it in my bedroom.
Thank goodness I recalled its existence last night:
“We cannot fail as long as we are practicing and that very act of brining an answer is success itself.”
Oh, okay. So, all of this self-discovery — while alone or with a love — is the very point of it all. And even this seemingly torturous night of riding with the ghosts and the freaks is a part of it; because it has challenged me to make all local stops of my feelings and lessons.
“Our ability to love is what makes the difference.”
Oh, okay then: To love — is never a mistake, and it does not belong among regrets. Because in love, I’m learning to be myself. In love, I am learning to be.
I held on, kittens. Last night, I held onto myself and I rode it out. And honestly, it wasn’t all that bad. It was good; and I needed something good.