Living in thought limbo is like rooting feet to pavement as a bus barrels towards you. The past couple of weeks have turned us inside out. Or outside in as laws demand.
As a conference producer, I felt the oncoming chaos in great waves of cancellations and scurrying to fill empty podiums for two San Francisco events. Control, necessary to connect all the moving parts of any live event, spiraled away with every phone call, keystroke. Find a speaker, lose three. Then came the Los Angeles County order to shelter in place, and postponement freed me from the frenetic pace of the search. Exhale.
Until, New York. Inhale and hold, newscaster’s grim reports, New York Times reality checks, empty shelves, daily meetings with my New York based co-workers. Tiny cosmos growing smaller, isolated. I’ve listened and not written a word until today March 22, 2020. What is there to say? When so many are talking, dying. Perhaps thought limbo is simple numbness. Worst fears realized and so the brain slows to find a pattern in the anti-melodic pace of the communication onslaught. Even reviewing these words as I write makes each feel limp with wishy-washy ideas.
While not writing, I stocked the homestead. A history that has known hunger and struggle tugged vigorously at nerve endings. Never-again, was my thought at age 12, standing in the food pantry line as volunteers put jars of peanut butter and blocks of welfare cheese into our monthly allotment. Keeping close tabs on budget, pantry and needs are habit. Now tested, all I can think of are the women who stand in that line now, little ones hungry at home. A human condition repeated.
What I miss most as I pen these inadequate words, is a sense of control. Any human who has survived chronic abuse knows that control is power. That hungry pre-teen vowed to control her future. Age twenty came and I became a rock journalist. Thirty arrived and I became a mother. Forty marched in and I became a professional writer, author, manager, producer. Decades passed and I kept as much control of my family’s environment as humanly possible.
Five, the fingers on a hand no longer outstretched but limp at our collective sides. Five decades spent believing in a higher power and my own ability to control. Melting now, into a waxy remembrance and bright illumination of the reality that it has all been a parlor trick, smoke and mirrors. A lesson on letting go, incrementally of the control that was never really mine/ours.
The gestures we make as we move forward, whether reactive, inactive, in empathy, or in self-service, are the only human authority.
First words, like toddling steps teeter awkwardly from the page. Inch forward now, inward, outward, together.
Blessings for good health, and human kindness,