Walking. With Apophenia.

56° F. Heavy fog.

Daybreak walk at Cove Island Park.  723 consecutive (almost) days. Like in a row.

I’ve finished Amy Liptrot’s book “The Instant.”  A book where I wasn’t feeling it, not feeling it, nothing here, time to put this down, wait now, here’s a line, and now two, and then down the chute we go on the luge track.  Reminds me of a tweet by Tracie Collier after reading “Bomb Shelter” by Mary Laura Philpott: “She writes in a way that makes me want to hurl my laptop over a cliff.”

Back to Liptrot.  Who knew that I had Apophenia. Well, hold on. It’s not even clear that I’m adept at Apophenia. I’m probably better assessed by a psychologist (if I had one), as a lame, half-assed Apopheniac.  But we digress.  Here’s Liptrot:

Apophenia is the tendency to find patterns. It can be a disorder but, for me, finding patterns is sustaining. Unbidden, certain objects glow with relevance. I find the moon everywhere. This heart-shaped box contains not just a few shells but all the weeks and conversations and regrets of a friendship. We are meaning-making machines. I use all these little personal myths and totems to hold myself together: things to search for when I’m faced with overwhelming choice and freedom.

I use all these little totems to (try to) hold myself together. Yep. About right.

I’ve turned right at the Park, walking counterclockwise. Noting that I’m walking counterclockwise. Again. Did you know that you always walk counterclockwise around the park?  723 days, and you walk in the same direction every time.

I keep walking.

Have you ever seen anyone else walking clockwise in the park?  Come to think of it I have not.  Not one time? Not one time. Maybe because you are a half-assed Apopheniac.

I stop walking. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It seems selfish to talk about such a mundane breaking apart in a world where real wreckage lies scattered everywhere. Instead, I try to carry the sadness around quietly, so as not to take up too much air with it, to leave space for the far more significant sadnesses of others. How do we appropriately mourn the passage of time when it’s passing beautifully, safely, but not for everyone? And how do we honor milestones that happen while we aren’t looking? The first toddling steps, taken at home with the sitter while we’re at work, or the first baby tooth, lost at preschool. The last time we saw someone, not knowing it was the last. All I know to do is acknowledge the fortune of having milestones to celebrate at all. I can celebrate people whose accomplishments mark time in my own life. I can accept that firsts and lasts are both glorious and breathtakingly sad, especially when they sneak up on us. I can watch and listen for losses I can do something about, and then I can stand by someone’s side, make a phone call, give my time, cast a vote—anything I can do, as often as possible—to try to make sure fewer parents suffer the unthinkable, that more people will bear only the most ordinary losses. And I can try to contain my emotions when they hit me like a wave in public, the way they did that late-summer afternoon while shopping for peaches. If you happen to catch me moping while gazing upon my firstborn’s favorite food, know that I’m pulling myself together. Really, I am. I’ve just slipped for a second into my own tiny, self-indulgent grief. And if you, too, are thinking, I thought I had more time, for any reason—a loss large or small or so eclipsed by refracted rays of joy that you’re ashamed to call it a loss at all—come stand quietly by the fruit with me. We don’t even have to talk, unless… well, would you mind telling me to turn my oven off? It’s so easy to miss the moment when things begin to burn.

— Mary Laura PhilpottBomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria Books, April 12, 2022)


Notes:

We create worlds

We create worlds. As soon as you decide to project your misery onto someone else, you start building a grudge world. Every time you visit it, you lay another brick. I think some people build grudges up in such detail that their grudge worlds become too big and too real. They stop living in the actual world and begin living full-time in a universe built by resentment and anger. The grudge turns into something dark and obsessive. And when a person confuses a grudge with a real problem, they may start making real-world decisions using grudge-world logic. They think they really hate people they don’t even know. I don’t want to do that. I play around sometimes in these made-up worlds, in which I cast myself as a hero and a snippy person at a party as a villain. The conflict I imagine between us stands in for how mad I am about so many things I can’t do anything about. But I think I would prefer to live here, in reality.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Sometimes I don’t know how any of us go on. Sometimes I fear there’s no way our species will survive our own self-destructive choices. Sometimes I feel so I gut punched by the backward deal of the universe — that if you’re really lucky, you get people in your life to love, and then, over time, they will all either leave you or die — that I am angry at life. Actually, not sometimes. Always. I always feel that way. I don’t always actively think about it, but it’s in there.

At the same time, I am always looking for some gratitude, warmth, or hope. I often have to really search for it, but when I see something that makes me feel joy — even just a tiny odd hardly anything — you’re damn right I applaud it. Way to go, adorable cat on a leash! Thank you, server who brought my hot pizza! Kudos, writers of a TV show that made me laugh! Hallelujah, sunshine after a week of storms! Yay for good hair day, yippee for hot coffee, huzzah for an outfit that puts bounce in my step.

If I can scrape up some evidence of a thing made beautifully or a gesture made kindly, then can believe, for a few seconds, that this world is careful and kind. And if I can believe that, I can believe it is safe to let the people I love walk around out there. It’s my own attempt at foresparkling, seeking out hints of good, even planting them myself, so I can believe there’s more good to come. It might all be superstition, just mental magic, but why not try?

So I say yes for things that offer some pleasure. Yes for people who choose to be friendly. Yes for any glimmer of light through all the darkness. I mean that yes. I need it. Seriously.

Mary Laura Philpott, Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria Books, April 12, 2022)


Notes: Book Review NY Times: Is it Possible to Body-Block Our Loved Ones from Pain? Alas, No.  The Washington Post: Worry much? You’ll relate to Mary Laura Philpott’s book.

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