Yoshi told me it’s time to write. And I need that reminder today, this week, this month. A friend of mine with an amazing blog just posted about how there are always so many things she wants to say but by the time she gets to sitting down to it, most of the words have gone funny in her head. This is truly how it seems sometimes. Little phrases float through me at all times of the day but I don’t catch half of them.
I don’t want this 6:30 am sorrow
This is what happiness might feel like
I love you
Red tulips by the window
Yoshi stands in his back yard and talks to the ladybugs in Japanese while I sit on the phone and laugh. He tells me that if I was there, he would set me up in the hammock to write while he puttered and that we’d have a picnic. My loved ones are just too far away on days like these because sometimes what I want is them. Sometimes what I desperately need is their quiet presence in my day. I end up in my house alone, just contemplating the nature of existence—boring and futile to be sure.
It must be this late winter, early springtime thing where I am never quite sure what to do with myself. But, today it was sunny for the first time in a while, and warm and the way it made me lift up, and slow down on the morning walk and not push my curled shoulder into the wind made me hopeful about more things than just a Sunday. It’s almost time to take out my little red bicycle again, and yes spring will come. Some things are actually inevitable.
Here’s an Adrienne Rich poem I’ve been reading in the last few days since she died:
You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns’ first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.
This poem kind of saves my life. Partly because I am woman who is alone and who also wants to know precisely what she is for, and not just to be useful to someone else’s comfort. But also because I have been thinking so much about women lately, and the way we are treated and also how people of color in this country are treated and how all these things I was so convinced we’d already decided as a culture have suddenly, somehow, slid backwards.
I don’t know why there is a swift a deluge of hatred towards women right now but it feels palpable, like the air has suddenly gotten thicker and I can’t breathe properly. I am looking at men with suspicion and even fear. It’s like a drizzling rain that I cannot perceive out my window but know when I step onto the street, pervasive and inescapable in my efforts to just get from here to there.
This hatred mars the landscape, from Texas to the national stage. I can barely listen to the news. Planned Parenthood is now in a legal battle for funding in the Lone Star State because their state government has somehow decided it is their right to contend that funding for women’s health is not only frivolous but also amoral. The not so invisible elephant in the room of course is that they have accused PP of funding abortions. And SO WHAT?? Not that PP has been performing them. But if they were? How long have women been getting pregnant and not wanting to be? As long as we’ve been getting pregnant, that’s how long. And just as long, we’ve known ways to not be when we needed to not be. This does not mean that we don’t value life as being precious. In fact, maybe it means we value it even more.
As most people know, women, when educated and provided with birth control will take better care of their children, have fewer of them, be healthier, live longer and be more productive members of society. Do these people not want that? Is that why they called the Georgetown law student a slut? Is that why almost every woman I know has been raped or assaulted? But it isn’t just women’s rights here. That is just ONE example of a system that has become panoptic and unmitigated. Things I might have debated as an undergrad in lit courses or feminist studies units have once again become painfully salient to my generation.
For example, my best friend finally has health insurance and still can’t get the surgery she needs while the Supreme Court debates nulling the entire health care reform act. Another friend has to rush to the east coast to nurse her sister back to health because her sister’s boyfriend had nearly beaten her to death in their apartment while all the neighbors listened and did nothing.
It makes me afraid, to live alone and to be far from home. And I should not be afraid, to be here, to live my life, to do the work I know I am made to do in this world. Wouldn’t my father, my brothers, my friends, all want to protect me? Wouldn’t I want to protect them, from going to war, from dying, from living in pain? Why would I ever turn away? And yet, that is what it feels like is happening in this country right now, that we are all turning away because we cannot bear the sight of the suffering anymore.
And this is why love, in any form, is SO important. And so it is when my friend in Providence turns to me and looks me right in the eye, and pulls me close until I smile. And so it is when I hear Yoshi’s voice turn to the softest tender hum over the lives of ladybugs. And so it is when Gillian tells me how she’ll help me figure it all out, with my crazy siblings and my too big and tender heart. And so it is when my students get quiet and smile to each other, when I tell them how proud of them I am for their hard work. And the world begins to move again, as it should.
In Buddhism, we might call this loving kindness, or Metta. But I like to think of it even more so as Bodhicitta. This word refers to the consciousness of the heart and it deals with the idea of an intelligent and loving commitment to serving others. Bodhicitta, most simply, means you pledge to love until every human is free from suffering. This pledge is both intention and action, both passive and engaged. But this devotion requires reminders. Our little human hearts can get scarred and frail with fear and loss. We must continue to renew it in order for it to be effective.
So, here’s what I’ll do: I promise to love you. And I promise to love you again tomorrow, and the day after that, until you free.