You have this body. A pre-assigned meat suit you were born with, that hurts when you bash it and feels good when you rest it and lets you taste cheesesteak and spot red balloons in that blue, blue sky. You can dance with it. You can run with it. Its finely tuned responses and firing neurons help you drive the car that someone else’s firing neurons helped invent. Amazing.
Then there’s your brain. Where everything really happens anyway. Nothing in the human experience escapes the story we’ve invented. As much as those stories torture us sometimes, the brain is also where all the great stories come from. West Wing, Friday Night Lights. David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell. Jane Austen, Milan Kundera. Each brain filters its stories differently and sometimes people write them down, giving us all access to endless variations. That’s an incredible thing.
But the brain is noisy. Full of agitated, hungry hamsters. That’s okay. You learn not to judge what goes through your brain because that’s a big, fat waste of a life. I speak as one who’s wasted a good 75 percent of her waking hours listening to the hamster brain. Hush, hamster brain. You can go to sleep now.
That’s why we all like sex so much, I think. There’s a moment, right at the good part, when your brain just…stops. It’s still. Almost the only time it’s ever still. This is amazing. It’s peace. For the six whole seconds before it starts up again, prodding you to remember that maybe you did that one thing wrong and your partner maybe isn’t the best person for you to sleep with and you have a deadline in two days… yup, there it goes. But for one minute, there was relief. Even grace. Sometimes love. It’s best with love.
Work. Work and money. That’s fun too, if you look at it the right way. People are always making amazing things. For work, after work, during work when maybe they should be doing something else. Everyone is creating. The smart ones are getting paid for it. Money is a game when you think about it. How you can collect enough of it to board planes and buy birthday gifts and eat toro sushi on dishes someone else will wash for you.
Then there are the monsters. The gremlins. The trolls. Most of them live in your head – worries that never actually happen, worries that do happen but weren’t nearly as bad as you thought, worries you never thought to worry on until they blindsided you on a Wednesday morning. Evil little gremlins that look like parking tickets, that cold you can’t shake, abuse, unbearable loss. But if you look at them and feel them and love the gremlins, as best you can, they evaporate. Not the illness, not the unbearable loss, but holding love in the midst of pain gives you just enough space to breathe again.
Here’s my favorite part – the people. The people you love. The people you hate. If you don’t hate anyone – and you probably don’t – there are the people who aggravate you or manipulate you or teach you how to hurt. So you learn how to get over that hurt. You learn that no one can manipulate you unless you let them. No one can hurt you unless you allow it. You resist that lesson because it means that maybe you didn’t have to hurt as badly as you did or for as long. But maybe you did. Because that’s how you learned. Don’t get caught in that particular hamster wheel. No regret. Keep moving forward.
Because you have the world. The great, wide world. Stuffed with elm trees and hot sand and endless stretches of concrete with grass poking out of the cracks. You can see as much or as little of it as you want. Every piece has its own microcosm, until it barely matters what you see and what you don’t. That patch of daisies on the corner of the cul de sac where you grew and lived and died has as much as the Amazon rain forest or the Great Wall of China.
Life is a playground. An astounding, incredible playground. I rarely remember this. Most adults don’t, I suspect. Kids do. Kids are full of joy and rage and live everything fully and loudly. Until we teach them to forget, because forgetting is how you get through a world where most don’t remember. Twenty or forty or fifty years later, you begin to recall what you once knew. That making things just for the joy of creating is good. That running around in a circle until you fall down is fun. That blowing bubbles just to watch them drift and float is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon.
You remember that nothing matters as much as you think it does. And everything matters more than you ever imagined.