How Not to Run Away

So much about this world hurts.

I was at a doctor’s office for work yesterday where a little boy screamed that he wanted to stand out in the hall. His entire family was with him, & they all yelled at him. He may have been special needs. His mother told him she was going to take him to jail.

And the hurricane. So many people, so many animals, living through the days after all of the stuff of their lives has been sucked under. The family photographs, the hard work, the homes they won’t go home to.

I visited the old state asylum last week. It pulled me into a vortex. Although I felt scared and haunted, I also felt possessed and compelled and devoted to every story of every person who ever endured a life in the bricks of that castle. I bought a brick. I bought a book. I bought a lamp from the sixties. I read from Anne Sexton’s “The Death Notebooks” in the basement of the building. We drank cider in the old laundry facility, ate chips in the former wood shop. I came home unable to work on my book, unable mostly to even breathe without crying.

I eyed the receptionist, indicating the dysfunction in the waiting room. I sent $20 through Together Rising, to Houston. I saged my asylum haul & myself. I stayed away from alcohol, cleaned up my diet after vacation, did yoga even more reverently, meditated in the still of the morning. And all of that felt meaningful, but not even close to enough.

I don’t know if anything I do will ever be enough to blunt the sharp edge of all this terror, sadness, melancholy. But I only want to blunt it, nowadays, if I can look at it squarely. I need to be here, now.

Empathy has been strange for me, a sort of journey really. I’ve always had this quality and only now have a name for it and a sense of understanding about its nature. When I was little I could feel the emotions in a room even when they went untalked about. Perhaps this was brought on by my parents’ arguments, or maybe just a general sensitive, inquisitive writer-nature. But I felt the nuance, the grey area, and it haunted me. Writing was the way to make sense of it or make the nonsense beautiful.

Then came motherhood, a new energy requirement. Then came wine. Too much sleep or too little. Real Housewives. Overexercise. That kinda stuff, the stuff we do to numb ourselves, drop out, relax, forget, forge connections with others over our shared means of escape. As an empathic person, these mechanisms have destroyed parts of me. They are not benign, not for me and probably not for anyone.

We have lives to live. Feelings to feel. Tough shit to face. People to help. Situations to wonder about. Passions to explore. A new generation to guide. Light to shine. And we cannot shine that desperately-necessary light if we are so fucking hell-bent on dimming it just to tolerate the parts of our lives that our intuition is begging us to leave or fix or burn. Rather than immediately throwing up our hands at discomfort & scrambling to escape it, shouldn’t we ask why we feel the deep need to escape in the first place? Why is it so dark in the recesses of our psyche? What if, rather than crouching in a dank corner with our iPad and a stem glass, we just brought a flashlight?

I went to a bar last night. I ordered soda water and lime. I drove home.

I’m not saying I’m a teetotaler. (I’m not.) Or an endlessly charitable person. (I’m not.) Or someone who dives right in & does the work. (I’m not.) Or even a great mother. (I’m trying.)

But I want to see everything. The lovely and the unlovely. The magnetic and the repulsive. The glorious and the tragic. Because life is all of that and all the in-betweens. I want to do things to enjoy those things, or to be enriched by those things, or to contribute to those things, not to run away from other things.

So much about this world hurts. But I have faith that I can bear to look at it.


So I wrote a list (I am a very listy person) in my journal of all the things I love to do that love me back. That don’t require booze. That are not distractions or buffers. That are not harmful to anyone, or to me. That feed my dharma, even in the abstract. Things like touring museums / seeing old places / looking at art / walks in the woods or on the shore with a friend or a kid or my husband / real, real, real conversations about meaningful, esoteric, sparkly things / handwriting / going to shows when the crowd is small & supernaturally high-vibe / looooooonnnnngggg yoga practices that force me to be in the present moment so that by the time I’m in corpse pose I truly feel the high of purity / talks (& Balance Pan Asian bowls) with my sister / coffee shops with books inside and rain outside.

What do you love in a pure way? What absorbs your soul? Do it. We all need you to do it.

Because it helps all of us to be here now.


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