As we get older, we tend to like coming home and sleeping in the security of our own, comfy cocoons. I figure in the last five weeks, I’ve had to sleep in ten strange beds, and variations of beds, (alone) in a variety of different places. No easy feat for a boomer since getting enough shut eye is essential to our well being. And let’s face it. A good night’s sleep is harder to get than… a seat on the G train at rush hour. Like the princess and the pea, I’ve had to stay honest and true to myself by suffering some minor inconveniences like this.
But stepping out of my comfort zone is a constant requirement, and everything is just more strenuous here. For example, moving into my place took a Herculean effort. I had to GPS it from Irvington to Brooklyn in gridlock, hope for a place to park without parking restrictions close to my building, and then make eight (I counted) trips that consisted of : a) unloading an item; b) locking my car; c) carrying heavy item about 200 feet; d) use other set of keys to unlock outside door; e) cart my heavy bag/ plastic tub up two flights of stairs; e) unlock apartment door; f) drop the stuff off; g) lock the door; h) head back down to the car; i) unlock the car; j) …w,x,y,z; REPEAT. Like Sisyphus rolling his rock up the hill, I have my Camu moments of thinking this undertaking is absurd, but they evaporate and the excitement returns.
Still… unconscious fears lurk below the surface.
During my first week in the apartment, on the night of the full moon, (December 12th at 12:00PM) I had a vivid dream of being pursued by a crazed and unruly rabble, fueled on alcohol, since I had the distinct feeling that all sense of reason was gone. And what really ratcheted things up was that everyone was naked. It reminded me of a funeral march of Jacques during the French Revolution, in a scene from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that suddenly turns in to a bloodthirsty, murderous mob.
Chased from one place to another, I was trying to out run them. But I was getting more and more tired, and there were fewer and fewer places to hide. Although quite terrifying, I managed to out maneuver them each time, and in my gut, I felt I was going to be OK. But the question remained: How long was I able to keep this up?
In trying to analyze this, I figured it was about raw, animal fear. Was I able to survive in this jungle of a city? After all, I am kinda high on the food chain as vulnerable, older prey. Will I be taken down, or can I keep up–out run its perils and survive? I have to keep my wits about me and stay present.
And yet, it’s all part of the adventure. The good and the bad. Time slows down when you find yourself in a new environment, and you’re much more present. Meditating helps foster this too.
The young woman I’m subleasing from has left a pretty good library of books. I’ve just finished Joan Didion’s memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, which explores the author’s grief following the sudden death of her husband of forty years. It begins with these lines:
Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.
Sobering to read at our age as we tend to bump up against death more and more in the guise of friends and family members dying too soon, and we see, too, our own mortality reflected in death’s face.
And then, interestingly enough, I followed up with The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. It’s a wonderful discussion of mythology and what myths can tell us about our own lives. When I came upon this passage, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I had a very visceral response:
People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own inner most being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
Enjoying the first night in my new home, I was sitting quietly waiting for my roommate to come home. Somewhat intoxicated with a feeling of bliss (and the pungent smell of pot that often wafts through the building) I suddenly heard from somewhere above the vibrato trills of a beautiful soprano voice practicing scales.
I gotta admit. I’m feeling the rapture from time to time.