13 September 2013

Simple Math and Light at the End of Tunnels

Lately the thought arises "I came to Mississippi to die." Maybe the thought relates to my age. Maybe the thought would arise now even if I lived somewhere else -- Denver, New Orleans, Boston...  Hard to say.

I experience MS as a beautiful land. My awareness of insects, seasons, animals, trees, and the "natural" world generally is keen here, perhaps more sensually acute and stimulating than at any other time in my adult life. At the outset this first year was designated as The Year of Relationship Building. Little did I know then that the relationships would be between myself and the pecan tree in the front yard, the neighborhood cats, early morning birds and a baby grand piano in an Episcopal church rather than next-door neighbors, local merchants and school administrators.

In 2005, within two months of landing in storm-ravaged New Orleans, I had tossed what remained of my anti-depressant medication in the trash. I didn't need it any more. I needed what I saw in the people there, a combination of fortitude, good humor, creativity and sass. A mysterious joie de vivre that permitted (compelled?) them to walk through Hell with laughter in their bellies and a song on their lips. I didn't know where they got it but I wanted some of THAT!

"The Dance", 1909, Henri Matisse
I truly believe that every moment is made possible and is the direct result and sum total of every preceding moment. A different choice at any of the countless forks in the road I've encountered prior to this moment...and I would not be sitting where I'm sitting, doing what I'm doing, feeling as I feel. And though it is usually impossible to precisely track and explain any of this I feel pretty sure that in the absence of the New Orleans experience, I would label my current orientation as "depressed" and would be seeking therapy and medication.


I attribute my feelings of listlessness, bafflement and panic to the ways of thinking about this place and its people that I lapse into from time to time. It is a toxic thought stream and it produces dis-ease in my mind and body. It's like chemistry or basic math: toxic thought ---> emotional discomfort/cynicism.

When I focus on the dawn chorus of birds or the dappled light in the backyard when wind and light play in the trees or the smell and song of fresh baked loaves or the light and love in my students' faces when they "get" something they've struggled with....ahh, there is no listlessness, bafflement or panic in me. I am surrounded and suffused with light, laughter, energy....Love.

When I stand on the shadowy side of this phenomenon, it looks like basic math. "I feel bad because I'm thinking toxic thoughts." When I stand on the shimmering light side, it looks and feels like magic. "Why, what a marvelous coincidence: I was just thinking beautiful/generous/loving thoughts about __________ and a door of opportunity opened"

This week I revisited an email received three months ago from a friend in Brazil. I suspect I was standing in deep shadow when it arrived and, consequently, did not write a response. Standing now in a relatively brighter spot, I wrote back. She mentioned that she was no longer in a position to send me a plane ticket; I responded that I wish I'd known when she was in that position because I'd have been on my way to Brazil in a heartbeat.  She also wrote that a colleague was in search of a low-cost way to come to the U.S. to study English. I responded I would do some research and get back to her.

Within hours she wrote back, attempting to refresh my memory about an offer she made a few years ago. (I still don't remember it.)

The next day she wrote again with a report on inquiries she'd made on my behalf in the 24 hours since her last message:  work, lodging and social connection possibilities in Brazil.

My heart leaped and sang as I read. It felt like discovering an escape hatch.

That was yesterday. Beginning around 4 this morning, I entered a "not quite asleep, not quite awake" space. Something like lucid dreaming but closer to being awake than being asleep, floating back and forth along the awake-asleep spectrum. Busy thoughts accompanied by visual imagery:  I saw the little house mentioned in my friend's email and I saw myself walking barefoot in the garden...I thought of teaching English and piano in Brazil (a couple of the work possibilities my friend mentioned) and saw a pair of tiny brown hands on a keyboard.

I thought of writing about the "life of things"--the flora and fauna of Brazil--and I saw myself sitting with coffee at a window table in a Brazilian cafe. At this point in the waking dream, my mind spun into a more strictly writing mode: I began to think about adverbs and first-person voice and the impact of sentence structure on "tempo" of a story...

"Exuberance", oil on canvas, R. J. Newhall
I don't want to get carried away (why not?). As excitement began to percolate in response to my friend's email, I remembered that another friend has been touring South America since early this year. I stopped by her blog and dropped her a note suggesting I am thinking of coming to Brazil. This morning, she responded with excitement and cheer, generously offering to share the contacts she's made in Brazil and other South American countries.

I don't want to get carried away (why not?). I am looking back on the last 25 years of my life and seeing certain events in a new light, seeing them as directional arrows or portents to Living in Brazil. I am seeing color and hearing music like lights at the end of a dark tunnel.

Don't get carried away (why not!?). Send the resumes and letters of introduction to Brazil. Start researching (the kind of research I regret not doing before moving to Mississippi). Get a passport. Resume Portuguese language study (dropped 10 years ago...damn!). Take it easy, Miss Alex. Help this happen. Let it happen. Breathe.

I may die in Brazil. Or on my way to Brazil. But, ah, what a happy corpse I'll make.