I had the dream again last night in which it’s you and me and him and her at a dinner party and the lighting is for grownups, but for some reason there are children in the room. I made meringues for the children for dessert. They came out fluffy and perfect and I wanted them to stay that way – the meringues – except, inevitably they deflated. “No matter,” my husband said in the dream. “They’re still sweet.”
The dinner party is awkward even though the lighting is good. Like the last time I dreamed us at an awkward dinner party, the lighting is mostly by candle with a touch of track over a brick mantle and the scene is set for adults, which is to say there are things nearby that may be broken.
She is in black as she always is. As for me, I picked out something new to wear just before arriving. I tried it on for my husband in the store, invited him into the dressing room. “The tag said the outfit was 3D,” I told him, but only when I take my glasses off am I able to see the shapes moving in the mirror.
Mindfulness is the clucking sound your tongue makes as you’re almost jogging along the paved road that surrounds your community — the view ahead is of the silken skim of the reservoir and the breeze is balanced with the rays of sun peeking in and out from scattered clouds — and you realize that you are alone and that your body today feels whole and that your mind is working in a way that makes you like yourself and you’re laughing for the fourth time remembering that scene in Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and this right now is the life you mean when you say, “I want to live.”
The clucking sound, though, is what awareness sounds like; what stumbling over impermanence sounds like — Because suddenly you remember the last time you said you wanted to live was that time last week with the tingles in your left arm and you cringe because your phone is not in your right pocket and you might be missing the call from school, the call that will certainly ripple the silken skim but without you attending it because your mind now is working in the way that makes you hate yourself and you’re not laughing anymore, in fact, you’ve forgotten Nathan Englander and nothing is funny.
The clucking sound, though, is what awareness sounds like; what stumbling over impermanence sounds like — Because suddenly you realize that impermanence is a most glorious word, the one you’ve been seeking your whole life, the one to describe peace on Earth, peace enough for me. Impermanence is the name of that curved line between yin and yang. It has a name!
Impermanence is the clucking sound marking in between; marking eternal ending and eternal beginning. It’s a spot. It’s a poof. It’s a landing pad where I straddle my legs and press my feet down and wait.
The other night I made a big bedtime mistake: I ate some feta cheese. I was hungry, and I can’t go to bed hungry, and I figured a snack of fat and protein would be a better bedtime bet than Cocoa Pebbles, which is what I really wanted.
You may have anticipated this, but I didn’t: That night, I was possessed by dreams of excessive thirst. My dreams are often rich and vivid, even moreso when my body needs something in the waking world. My sleeping mind was consumed by an overwhelming need to rinse the thirst from my mouth. I forget now if the dreams were the ones in which I drink from a creek or from a toilet bowl even though I fear the bacteria or the ones in which someone keeps offering me wine when all I want is water. At some point, though, I opened my eyes a crack and saw through the corner of the left one the plastic Playtex sippy cup my son had placed on the bedside table before he fell asleep in between me and my husband.
I reached for it; shook it to see what was left. Estimating only a few drops, I unscrewed the top for I knew that a labored sip through the tiny holes was not going to satisfy me. I gulped what remained.
And, surprisingly, it was … enough.
Enough to quiet the mind; enough to make it to morning.
It was that satisfied sensation I was reminded of today as the first drops of rain since last spring fell this morning — the first containing any real strength and sustenance, at least. As I drove up and along the hills of the Lower Galilee, I rolled my window down to let the breeze blow the drops in; to feel them tickle the side of my neck enough to make me shiver. I knew the sun was coming. I could see it ahead of me and to the left near the Bay of Haifa. I knew this wasn’t the downpour we needed. I knew this was only enough for a sip.
Carl Jung may or may not have said “Life begins at 40,” but a great many people on the internet want to know if it’s true.
I’ll tell you tomorrow.
Just tell me something first: How will I know?
Where shall I look?
What color is a beginning?
Does it smell like Thin Mints?
Does it taste like the Mobil Station near the Woodcrest Shopping Center?
Can I buy two for one and carry them both wrapped up in a paper napkin and stuffed at the bottom of my yellow handbag?
Tell me something.
What makes you think life didn’t begin on the 5th floor of Thurston Hall or on the corner of Prince and Mott or behind the mess hall at Camp Comet?
What makes you think life didn’t begin when you tried on your first bra or learned the meaning of the word lesbian?
It’s possible life really began — if we’re being serious for a moment — the day you understood life on Earth has been destroyed by an asteroid at least four times and will certainly be destroyed by an asteroid again.
It’s entirely possible life began when Stephanie died or when Jodie died or even before them when you were a little girl afraid of the dark and Bruce died and then visited you in your bedroom sometimes at night.
Life begins sometimes in a bowl of fruit. It begins in a pile of leaves left behind last Fall. It begins in a creek bed hidden by shade.
And so, tomorrow, I’ll tell you if life begins at 40,
but only if you tell me first how I will know.