Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Move On Up

The movers came today, two men dusted with tattoos. One was tall with a shaved head and a snaggle toothed smile, the other was short with sweet sleepy eyes. They spoke in slow thick accents I had to strain to understand. Until they came, I did not truly understand that I was moving, that I had deliberately chosen to break up the life I'd created over the past two years. Everything was dreamlike and distant, as if at any moment I could tell my boss I'd changed my mind after all, I'd be staying and he would take me back.  

As the movers carried the artifacts of my life out the door—the meditation cushion I'd bought with the best of intentions and then never used, the long couch for out of town visitors, innumerable boxes of books—I saw that I would really be leaving, that for me this city would fade from reality to memory, and in a few months this apartment would be the setting for someone else's life story.

Where are you moving, the tall man asked me.

Away, I answered, because I could not say China. He would have asked me why China and I would have no answer. No good answer. Not at that moment.

I wanted them to fill the awful hollowness of watching your life break up with words, good words about beginnings and endings, or at least small talk so I could befriend them and rest easy in my belief that all people are well-intentioned, bone friendly.

But they were movers not pastors, and they were not in the business of comforting people, they were in the business of moving, so they sweated and cussed as they walked my things out the door.

Fucker needs me to wipe his ass, the taller man said to me of the smaller mover before they left. Been doing this for three years, but it's like every day is his first day.

After they had gone, I swept out the dust that had accumulated in the hidden corners, unrolled my sleeping bag and took out a small duffle bag of belongings, exactly what I had when I arrived two years ago, before I bought cutlery and furniture and all the other things that shape a life. If you did not know me, you would not know if this was the first day or the last. I felt that helpless.

Then I sat on my sleeping bag and looked around. Most of my things had been packed for weeks and I'd been surprised by how little I needed them or missed them, surprised by how irritating it was to pack away a drawer full of things I cared very little about, only to find another drawer full of other things I cared very little about.

But now that my studio was empty, I cared very much. When I poured a glass of water, the clinking of the glass echoed, the thunk of the jug on the counter echoed. I would have given a lot for my never used meditation cushion. Not to sit on even, but because it would be a soft island on the hardwood floor, a splash of crimson to focus on in an apartment full of nothing.

Maybe it is because we come into life with nothing, and go out with nothing, maybe because truly, despite whatever else we may believe, we own nothing and are owed nothing more than our bodies, maybe that's why we spend so much time collecting junk like treasure, building ourselves thrones out of dead trees and dead animals, because we don't have the courage to face up to how little we can conquer:  precisely, nothing.

If there was a worthwhile epiphany in there, I did not embrace it. Instead, I fled to yoga class, the one where the instructor has a silvery voice and focuses on patterns of movement, the shift from downward dog to upward dog, rather than on the alignment of each pose, and fittingly, reads us bits of poetry at the end of class.

Here, perhaps because I was locked into a rhythm of movement, because I could not think about why I was doing warrior one or warrior two, but only execute each pose on the good faith that I was doing something necessary, it was easier to think about the last two years since college graduation.

Because I did not know that I had only two years, because I worried sometimes that this would be the rest of my life, I did not realize I had been given a gift, the gift of a long meditation. Yes, I worked, and yes I worried, but for the first time in eleven years I had time to myself, time away from a system that pushed mounds of homework into each corner of my life and filled me up with grade-neurosis, time away from my friends and family for better or for worse.

Mostly what I remember of the past two years is sitting in my apartment, the walk to yoga where I passed two iron leopards, the long winter nights of yoga practice where we  sat in the yellow light of the  studio and watched the sun slowly set, the walk back home that smelled of cold, long runs on lazy autumn evenings when orange and gold leaves drifted in dark puddles of water, Sunday afternoons at the grocery, and during all of that, I inhabited a silent space in my head.

In the silence it seemed like nothing happened, but then I would wake up every now and then and find I was questioning things I had never questioned before, things I took for granted, the value of learning Calculus, the reasons why I admired workaholics, the every day actions committed without much thought…what belief system did they stem from? Were they valid? Did I want to live like this?

I had no answers. I have no answers. But the asking, the very act of asking, surely that is worth something? At any rate, it is what my two years have bought me. I'd like to imagine that the next year and a half of travel, of wandering around the earth like a nomad learning languages and teaching English will bring me answers, but even then I am not so sure—I do not know. I do not know if it is even sensible to break up my life like this, if come 2013 when I return I will be jobless and broke, only that I am going to do it, I will fly blind into the night, and I will not be stopped. Not now.

The instructor ended class by reading Rumi.

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

Breathe in, she said. Now, breathe out.


  1. See?! I said you were ready for first person.

  2. It took seeing all my furniture get swallowed up by a truck to get me here!!