Thirty days to a new habit, they say. What about coming up on six months of global pandemic and election-time mayhem? What gets forgotten after you fall down the rabbit hole, before you somehow surface somewhere else later? When everyone is going through this same disturbing evolution, who or what remains behind to marks the standard fading in the rear view mirror?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t believe you if you said you did know something.
A year ago I would have drawn a different map of my life, although from nearby no one would notice anything had changed. Literally, even, as I live in the house I grew up in. The house my parents bought a little over fifty years ago now protects me from social non-distance, as it kind of always has. I learned to be a toddler hermit in this house as I longed for social opportunity and playtime with others.
One could make the argument that my life has a remarkable level of stability and sameness in its rural, small town setting. It’s a country within a country, when comparing rural and urban culture. I’ve enjoyed both, and am super-happy to be in my small town during this time of change.
There is a lot of time for thinking about connectedness/disconnectedness. Less than a year ago, looking at the end of a four-year term as a city councilor, I was considering a run for mayor – my second in the ten years of city hall-related volunteerism that I fell into after moving to Creswell following 20 years in the Portland area. Now, I’m happy with the mayoral candidates in place and am finishing my term on city council and resigning from nearly everything.
My gut says do this. My heart says I owe no one my time, attention and energy, but has love for all – or most; that what I rush to share with others is a gift that I need to spend on myself for a while. My body says it’s healthy and strong, let’s keep that trend up!
I felt connectivity through service, but leadership for women can be isolating. I’ve had friendships change as I’ve come into my own, as I’ve gotten my feet under me these last four years as a sworn public official, as the post-menopausal woman warrior I am morphing into. I have skin in a game that others see as a spectator sport, and my thick skin was worn thin and tender.
Relationships and roles reach capacities; big words like loyalty, compassion and kindness fall away under the daily battles between ego, self-protection, growth, gender and whatever other obstacle we find in the rocky, windy, narrow path. Transformation bowls over and past us with or without consent.
What is my context is if it isn’t as someone’s X, or a member of this council or that board or committee, or whatever? Who am I now, if none of this matters? We aren’t who we think we see to each other, and sometimes change happens so fast, we need to take a minute to assess our own selves. It might mean walking alone, listening to others less, keeping one’s own counsel, lots and lots of peaceful thinking, hopefully out in Oregon’s gorgeous woods somewhere.
We calve from each other like the craggy frontispieces of tidal glaciers rushing to the sea. Sometimes we’re the calved portions meeting their freedom in the cold, maybe-indifferent ocean; sometimes we’re the left-behind monolith from whom escape was always in the story-line.
Lately I feel like the glacier; a soiled, slow-moving river of destruction and beauty, making peace with the pieces of herself rushing to transform. Does the water remember the ice, the many laps of freezing, thawing, fresh, salty, rain, groundwater, sustenance for those of us plants and animals whose cells are made up of the recycled hydrogen and oxygen? Does it care about any iteration, other than just being whatever the conditions call the water to be?
Is water lonely for the shape of ice? Does steam aloft miss the heaviness of the lake?
The glacier might consider the loss as the concentric waves of displaced sea push out into open water. Interior pockets of blue ice-melt form into buried, invisible streams surgically effective at carving the fractures that commiserate with gravity, to temperature, to fate. Another lesson in detachment learned (although one must admit that expectations of the eventual calving were met), and a fresh, seaward visage decorates the glacier’s weighted, melting, flaky, shedding, temporary terminus.
The bubbly little fragments of bergie seltzer might enjoy their fleeting autonomy prior to melty assimilation without looking back, making no excuse, shaming no one. Off they go, aided by new form and natural law. Feelings don’t play a role, say the little ice cubes to the reduced river of ice as they bob and roll among the waves of the salty sea.
The bergie seltzer might also bubble out the message that change is constant and everyone goes away. Solid ice becomes conditional love aided by the calving process, and suddenly I am the calved portions, unretractibly gone from worlds in which I thought I belonged. (I do belong on city council and may serve again someday – this has to do with how I am relating to others socially, and it’s all connected.)
The doubling down of isolation this pandemic affords me (a natural state for me anyway), has allowed me to consider my relationship with fear. The harm I fear from others is really the harm I fear doing to others. I’m the bad player, perhaps, likely, sometimes, and so I don’t fight the calving, the expulsion, the momentum of the natural heave into a separate future.
I fear growing out of people. I fear letting them down. I fear one day turning to them and saying the thing that severs whatever cord – and I fear not severing the cord, fear the exposure of time-worn intimacy, the soft underbelly exposed and vulnerable to forces beyond my abilities to manage. I fear the constant failure to meet the unmarked goals of conditional, seasonal love. I fear the end of a failed experiment, where people agree to the glacier analogy and chose roles, comfortable in the tide taking everyone’s fragments away, comfortable in forgetting time. There is only forward.
The lessons we learn from each other don’t require intention, presence or a clue. They just happen, or not. Isolated in our bubbles more than ever before, we are faced with ourselves sans the lowest hanging fruit of distraction – each other; the dust gets to settle on what we thought were default perspectives.
Ah, the settling of ice dust and potential tsunami waves after the calving of glaciers. It took months to accrue clarity and distance; to enjoy the sloughing of things I tolerated prior to falling into the sea and gaining this new consciousness. I have detached from what I thought were pieces of myself, only to find that I am intact where I am.
A year ago someone told me my life would be better if I looked more like Grace Kelly. The glacier, my old friend, calved me from their world that day. Any risk in the ocean is better than being the ugly girl told how the world works. We know. I calved like a rock star, refreshed and renewed by the splash of melting ice dust on fractured pieces, not afraid of drowning or sinking, just leaping to find the more welcoming reality. The glacier always knew there’d be calving.
The dislodged remnants of the glacier never try to re-attach, right? I don’t think I’ve heard a scientific term for the accrual of frozen bits of calved tidal glacier piling up like scree at the water line. Doesn’t happen.
We move on, glacier and debris. Tides come and get you, as directed by the moon. Situational ethics fluctuate like temperatures, heating up and cooling off once-joined elements. People get cold. Egos feel the heat of a thoughtless sting, bleed out from a thousand cuts, a little more ice melted and gone from a once-attached heart. The glass was already broken, say the Buddhists as they lean into the moment’s beauty, functionality and temporality: the betrayal, the distance, the change of course were already in the stars.
Worlds morph. People say one thing and mean another. We grasp for a beginning for which there was no notice. I embrace calving glaciers and new cartographies and the importance of respecting my inner water wisdom. A lot of what I thought was rock was ice, real was hologram, love was tolerance, home was a piece of a glacier doomed to return to the sea.
Calved bits melt, join the sea, assimilate, disperse. All is well, I think we can expect, with the atoms as they shift from fresh water ice to salt water sea, from portion of massive glacier to a new lap on a big planet.
We are going to be ok, too, as we come and go from each other, finding our new footing. It’s okay to be the glacier, the calved bergie seltzer, the tide. It’s just ok.