Being A Person In The World Is Hard. But Also Lovely & Amazing.
My ramblings from the sky. Boston Logan Int’l > LAX.
Thinking of doing this as a spoken word piece so please read it in your head like that. Maybe with music, like a kind of rap. Or maybe in “The Poet’s Voice” with violins in the background like you’re at some poetry slam and I’m taking too long on the stage. I don’t know. I’m just on the plane, toying with some ideas at around 30,000 feet…
Being a person in the world. Here’s what it’s like- it’s like you get into the wrong car and end up crying in the backseat because the driver has a thick accent from somewhere you can’t place and you’re nearly deaf and that combination is lethal. And he doesn’t know his way around the city (why drive a cab/Uber, you may wonder?) and you end up circling the underground parking lot of a rental car place instead of the hotel you’d specified. Your life comes down to a pinpoint of a thought, a prick so sharp that you wonder how you’ve survived being a person in the world this long. That thought is: Look what happens when I try and save a few bucks: I die in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot in the back of a Hyundai. And it’s not any kind of prejudice against Hyundai because you yourself drive one, and have for years now. It’s a Fuck me, this is not how I wanted to go.
But at the same time, you know you won’t die, or at least most of you knows you won’t die (not right then anyway) but the complicated person you are (which is no more complicated than anyone else who is being a person in the world) wants to convince yourself of this because in the same breath you say I hate drama, I want ease, Just get me to my hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, the other breath is inhaling the situation like it’s crack and even though you’ve never smoked crack (or meth, or coke, or any drugs) you know (all too well) the addictive power of these drugs and situations like this. I am a person who is very upset right now. Who can’t breathe. Who just might die here in this parking lot in the back of car being driven by a man who is lost. It’s like that, being a person in the world. Lost, all of us.
Although on various days, the alarm clock goes off and you can’t hear it. Or maybe you’re hard of hearing. Or maybe you didn’t set it in the first place and you stay in bed a few extra hours, or Hell, maybe all day, and then you feel guilty about that in all your typical person-ness. But on some days the alarm sounds and you know that the pain you’ve assimilated into your body won’t attack its own cells on that day, like maybe it’s chilling on that particular Wednesday in July or March. And on those days, being a person in the world is a little easier.
But really, it’s always something.
Some lady on the plane upset because you sneezed on her, really really upset as she knits and watches MSNBC on mute and rubs her left hand on her left thigh to get your germs off. And even though you sneezed, you are certain you didn’t sneeze on her. (Except the 2% chance that you did. And that’s also what being a person is like- never being 100% sure.) What can you say besides sorry? So you say sorry and realize that being a person in the world is fuckload of I’m sorries. So many sorries. Sorries by boat and sorries by plane (and by Hyundais.) So many sorries even when you’re not. It’s like that sometimes.
Being a person is like knitting. You kind of have to pay attention and you also kind of don’t. Sometimes you can get by like that. Half in, half out. Half there, half not. Half knitting, half watching the news. You can kind of watch MSNBC and shift farther and farther away from the bitch who sneezed on you on the plane until you realize that if you go any farther to the right you’ll push your husband out of his seat and into the aisle. It’s like that. Layered and complicated and full of yarn and you either love to knit or hate it.
It’s eating with a Bolivian in Boston. She’s beautiful and alone and a plate of gnocchi and perhaps a glass of white wine sit in front of her. And you wonder if the gnocchi are good. It’s always questioning if you are about to make the right choice. She says here, try one. It’s sometimes like that- you just say yes, yes, okay. Yes, yes, okay. And you reach your fork across the table to try a stranger’s gnocchi and why not? She says that she’s Bolivian but her grandmother was Italian and the custom where the grandmother was from is to eat gnocchi for luck on the 29th. You say But it’s the 30th. (That’s what being a person in the world means- you point out mistakes. You correct them.) Yes, but it’s close enough, the beautiful Bolivian in Boston says. So you all eat gnocchi and talk about the mystery that is dating and Boston and you think maybe I will always eat gnocchi on the 29th. I like that plan. Being a person means you have grand ideas like always eating gnocchi on the 29th, and that you make plans and promises when a little wine is coursing through you on a snowy night.
It can also be like this: you hunch your shoulders way up, as if that gesture will protect you from future pain.
As if any gesture can protect us from future pain.
And even when you share about your baby dying, and how you never talk about it, there you are talking about it. Being a person in the world means you say what you never do as you stand there doing it. And your shoulders stay there because in some way you think maybe it will happen again if your shoulders drop down and relax, as if they are the thing that is holding you up in the world. It means confusion. It means being wrong (especially about how your hunched up shoulders protect you or prevent pain.)
It means getting up every day and finding things to laugh at, things like how you are sure you did not sneeze on that lady on the plane. Now that’s funny- how much of a big deal she made! Then you laugh at yourself for the things you yourself make a big deal of and how maybe someone else is swinging their leg off their own bed and looking for things to laugh at so they can make it through their day. And maybe they think of you. Maybe you were the lady who insisted the sneeze landed on her.
Being a person in the world is kind of like playing the slots, maybe the Wheel-Of-Fortune at some bad casino in Henderson, Nevada, and realizing that you are never going to win, except maybe a couple dollars here and there, which you keep putting back in the machine.
It’s like going to bed and trying to remember one good goddamn thing that happened that day and remembering seven (oh, the thrill!) Or trying to remember one good thing and coming up with zero, zilch, nada, so you go to bed with the song zero zilch nada in your head. A song you made up.
It’s is like this: you make up songs and words and whole lives sometimes. Look at this life I’ve made up: isn’t it great? Or, look at this life I made up: I am a horrible garbage person. Somewhere in the middle is most likely what personhood most resembles, with the pendulum swinging more to the former. For most, certainly not for all.
Being a person in the world is fucked up and hard and terrible and wondrous. It’s lovely and amazing. It’s a movie title and songs- it’s like being in a song! Except when it’s not. When you’re trying to get your special needs kid to stop pulling his own hair out, to stop tearing his own skin off. Then it’s not like a song. It’s like a trap you can’t get out of until you do.
And sometimes you never do.
It’s like this: the world is a world of faces looking at you- hungry, expectant, broken, bored, believing, lost- and sometimes the face is your own. In the mirror, your own face believing and not believing, depending on the day. That’s being a person in the world. It’s like seeing the words “Back away fatty” on the fridge and getting insulted until you remember you wrote those words, your kids can’t read yet so no harm there you think. And it works, and you back away, and you think how easy it is to trick yourself when you are a person in the world.
Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October.