Monday morning I woke up feeling blue. It would have been a perfect day to audition for a melodramatic film. My mad skill was crying on cue. Tears flowed like the rains of late, coming in waves, sometimes soft, and other times heavy drops that pushed those before them faster down my cheeks. It would have been easy to jump into the black hole and ride its walls down until my breath echoed, but then I would look up and realized how laborious it would be to get back to the light. I’ve done that before. The ascent is no fun. It’s only fun when it’s up a mountain, not a because of a breakdown.
A conscious decision was made, a choice. I don’t know where these feelings are coming from, but I know that no dramatic shift occurred between Sunday and Monday. The world is still in orbit, the dudes and I are healthy. We have a roof over our head, food on the table and we love each other. I can let these feelings have their way with me, or I can create the day I need.
Nothing happens to me, I create it. For real. Believe it, Cleo.
Each small victory, allowing a smile to emerge, noticing a blue bird with a berry in its mouth, seeing that the little dude needed a hug – just a hug, not a lecture – to make it all better, kept me on the rim of sadness instead of hitting Mach 4 as I plummeted to its cellar. I still felt its heaviness, but I felt it from afar. Or at least from right over here.
I wasn’t skipping around creating joy with each toss of glitter from my basket of merry, stripped toe socks peeking out of my pirate boots, my flippy skirt giggling as my braids slapped my happy face. But I wasn’t pissed off, short-tempered and seeing only that which I could stamp my feet about. (Oh, I’ve been there.) The day felt as in between as I did; in limbo, without direction but hell bent on an as-the-crow-flies journey to blech. Which is just on the other side of uggghhh. And the length of the flight of a spit ball from the world is coming to an end.
I would have preferred a super-sonic flight to Madagascar.
I soldiered on, hyper-conscious of the pull of sadness and the desire to not succumb. Had you driven by my house at about 11:25am, you would have seen me pacing alongside my car, my hands moving like the Italian I am not, as I tried to converse my way out of the funk. The only answer I gave myself was to be firmly present in the moment. To earn my way out of blech and into bliss.
I played hard with the dudes. Lost myself in their silliness. They invented new rules to a game, designed to avoid losing, and I let them. No attempts to correct, or steer or control. When they tussled, I let them work through it, reminding myself that they are finding their way in life through manipulating a game to their advantage. They slipped through happiness into frustration and back to happiness all on their own.
I didn’t make it about me. Or about doing things the right way. I let them be. It was refreshing for us all.
Then we (they) made a last minute decision to go to the pool and splash water in the face of winter. I didn’t want to get wet and cold, but the mantra of the day was to look uncomfortable in the face and say, Let’s kiss.
About 5pm we made our way home for dinner. Each step of the way I congratulated myself for remaining centered and unwilling to allow my funk to permeate the space of those around me. When we got home and unpacked the book bags, pulled out the homework and began our evening ritual, I checked my phone. A text and a voice mail from Mr. Wild Card.
My heart didn’t thump wildly. …He’s just a friend…just a friend.
He called to tell me that a meteor shower was due to arrive early on Friday morning, the 14th. Perhaps I would want to take the boys camping at Sonoma Lake to witness it, far removed from light pollution. He didn’t know if I camped, but that there ‘is a tomboyish element’ to me, which he didn’t mean in a bad way, but in a good way.
Oh, go on…
I listened to that message a dozen times. If he ever reads this blog I will need to move beyond being mortified and embrace the feeling of being vulnerable because of my honesty. Yea, I loved hearing you tell me that my tomboyish nature is a good thing. And I loved knowing that you heard about a meteor shower and thought about me. That you called while on vacation to let me know. That you were my reward for not succumbing to a blue morning, feeding it like a fever when it was best to starve it like a cold.
That night, after reading the first chapter of The Magician’s Nephew to the dudes (I performed it as if I was auditioning for Juilliard’s School of Storytelling.), I told them how much I appreciated their enthusiasm for the day. That their happiness was contagious. And that I loved them. Kiss, kiss. Good night. And then I did something I haven’t done in awhile.
I dared to dream about climbing Mt. McKinley. I spent two hours researching the climb, avoiding the stories of those who have met their end on its walls of snow and ice. McKinley is the world’s tallest mountain on land when measured base to peak – 20,320 feet. Mt. Everest measures 29,029, but sits atop a higher base elevation. Ultimately, not that I fully grasp this, McKinley beats Everest by about 4000 feet when factoring in the base to summit measurements.
I’m crying for my mommy facing either climb. But thrilled, nonetheless.
As I scanned the equipment list and the training regiments, I felt a fire light within. I need to keep moving forward. I need to be on that mountain. I need to be closer to the stars. I studied pictures of climbers ascending her massive shoulders and didn’t question my ability, my worthiness, to do the same. I looked at pictures of guides, their eyes staring back at me saying, You’ll be here one day, soon. In them I saw me. And in me I felt a deep need to brave the elements and the risks to experience the ultimate thrill of standing atop the world’s highest mountains.
That night in bed, I felt relieved to know that my desire to climb mountains wasn’t simply a reaction to The Genius’ betrayal and our divorce. I wasn’t acting out, looking to prove something to him or to me. My first steps weren’t taken in crampons; Mt. Whitney was my premier expedition and summit. But this aching to stand atop the Earth’s highest peaks is deeply rooted, and not born of some midlife crisis as I stand alone when only a year ago I was married. I fell asleep smiling.
The next day I received a first-time comment from Klik:
This may seem somewhat random but this video is really wonderful. It’s called The Overview Effect and it describes a phenomenon that astronauts returning from space experience, “where they are able to experience that which transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.”
I’m a total NASA nerd and especially with regards to footage and I’d never seen many of these clips. I feel like it really dovetails with much of what you’ve alluded to with regards to the blue marble and looking down on the Bay Area from Mt Tam. I have no stake in this film but hearing astronauts who’ve walked on the moon or spent time on the ISS talking about the transformative power of seeing Earth from above mixed with the footage in this film, I really feel like I get it, at least as much as is possible from my computer screen here in San Francisco.
Hope you enjoy it. Cheers.”
How about planned, calculated, preordained. Only you were the instrument through which the Universe shed its light on me, moved to share with me that which it knew I needed to see. I watched the video and, as I said to Klik in my note of gratitude to him for sharing it with me, I was a changed woman.
In the early moments of this arresting film, the mission of Appolo 8, the first space craft to orbit the moon, was described as a need to go out into the stars and learn more about the moon, about space. But the lasting, and most awe-inspiring revelation was not out there, but what transpired when the astronauts looked back here. When they Earth-gazed.
I’ll paraphrase the thoughts of those interviewed:
To have that experience of awe, to let go of yourself, to transcend the sense of separation…they were at some deep level realizing their interconnectedness with the Earth. A new level of self-awareness was born inside. To see the sun as a star in a black sky, to see the Earth as a planet, fragile, hanging in space, to witness shooting stars traveling below them, the dancing curtains of the Auroras like glow sticks cut open and dripped over the world, the traveling line of night versus day, the sobering sight of the ultra thin layer that protects us from death, from the harsh realities of space…to see all that, to Earth-gaze, is to realize we are prototyped from ancient stars.
We are stardust.
Instead of tears spilling forth from my eyes, I felt bursts of primal emotions in my core as I looked at footage of the Earth captured from the cameras of those circling this confection of a planet; a blueberry cream bon bon, loosely wrapped in white cotton candy.
Yesterday I woke up glum, probably because I ate too much chocolate the night before, and I’ve been premenstrual since prehistoric days, it seems. Or at least the last three months. And today that sadness is replaced by a level of appreciation I cannot yet describe for the gift of being alive on this planet at a time when the stars shine. Thoughts of the daily grind are balanced by the knowing that I am training for Mt. McKinley now.
From feeling a little blue, to small steps in the right direction, then a random video clip, to a tiny speck of stardust. It’s fascinating what can go down in one 24 hour period.
It’s all leading me up the mountain. To hear myself say, with legitimate conviction, I will climb Rainier and McKinley and, if I haven’t started too late in life, one day Everest is out of this world.
Somehow I know it’s going to happen. I wonder if those three owls have something to do with this…
Love yourself, Cleo