So, yeah. I’m at a Bougie little place called The Bannock Café in a town called Merritt, B.C. Okay I am practicing sarcasm, but truly it’s a lovely place with lovely accommodating staff, albeit very far from the plan of the day. Like a scene from a movie, Tess chimes in. We have calmed down a bit, from the harrowing passage driving 70 km/hr on the Coquahala, where the speed limit is 120, making NO new friends, friends, hazards flashing while Tess reads me from assorted internet sources the possible problems that could be causing the engine light to flash and the van to choke and jolt at any acceleration beyond, well 70 km/hour. The hour of gridlock leaving the Greater Vancouver area was already what I consider to be an inauspicious start to the journey, given that I had awoken at 6 to run and pack and get on the road in time to land Tess at her GF’s place in Kelowna, in time for them to drive back to Calgary in daylight. Today was to mark day two of my three day summer holiday. Three days in which I almost didn’t work! I am going to say that it takes a lot of work to take time off work. For me it does, and I am not sure it is merited (a pun I am going to endeavour to use as often as possible in the next 1500 words). I LOVE my work, so that is the great big bonus here, but I also know that it is GOOD FOR BRAIN to actually shut it off once in a while, and truly recreate, OR for kicks, sweat blood while you hover over your brake preparing for power loss on a heavily trafficked freeway. It’s kind of like a day at the beach, but different. A scene from a movie where things go wrong but it’s really divine intervention leading you on a magical journey. “Cut” I yell. “CUT! I have been cast in the wrong movie. I repeat, “WRONG movie here.” I am pretty sure magic feels more witchery less fuckery.
We made it to a service center and for a wee 600 we are going to have the spark plugs changed and ready for us today, which should be a holy miracle and maybe it is one, except the tears on both ends of the phone indicate otherwise because Tess’s friend can’t drive in the dark and can’t wait for her, which means that for me to keep Tess for the weekend I will have a reluctant traveler, missing her GF time, and I will have to pay for a hotel because I don’t have camp for two. Sigh. No one is dying and no one is going to jail but this does not feel amaze balls. I am probably due for a new car, and a few other related take-aways.
I tried this time, by George (George is quite the witness) for your sake, inner child. I didn’t do that tricky thing where I promise you time off and then I just get one more thing done. Okay well I did that, but only for the first few days, and then I actually really made it happen. And I was responsible too. I recently had the vehicle fixed and serviced and checked over for good measure. This shit just happened with reckless disregard to our needs and well laid plans, as shit is wont to do.
It’s funny (funny peculiar not funny haha) to contemplate how vastly ignorant my today self is of my tomorrow self’s predicaments. One of my favourite bits of Covid comedy is an interview between a woman’s 2019 self and her 2020 self hashtag you might want to get a dog and invest in zoom. Because we just don’t know what the good old movie has in store for us. The plot is twisty, and just when we think we have the happy ending in the bag Glen Close’s hand comes out of the bathtub making one last grab for our throats (Fatal Attraction).
Life has been tight for so many of us of late, the spirit draining out of those early humour finding days as we persevere through this storm that should be a storm but feels like the new weather. And so I ask:
What would my 2020 self tell my 2019 self? How would I help her?
Well I would give her a big ass hug. I would tell her that I was so proud of her for caring so much. I would tell her that the things she is worried will fall apart won’t but that other things will. Tragically and painfully and unforeseeably. I would tell her that she is stronger than she thinks and I would remind her of her capacity for joy and how it continues to grow. I could give her the knowing wink. The dog will be okay and that Vic is not exaggerating about the world shutting down and no you won’t be going to the pub to celebrate getting through that family ordeal because it will in fact be closed. I could wait for her in the café before she gets the news of Richard’s death and sort of prop her up or hold her hand. I could tell her to keep the happy news to herself because there will be less explaining to do you know, when it suddenly isn’t so happy anymore. I could find her an icon of hell in a handbasket. Or make her a handbill. Or simply post it on a billboard and be done with it.
There are things that I have had thrown at me that I would not want to know, because knowing them would only extend the hurt, and kill the joy of so many other moments.
But at the end of the day, we aren’t here for the moments. We aren’t here to grasp the fleeting and hope it makes up for the death and destruction, as controversial as that may sound to the life is about the moment advocates. We are here to undo the death and destruction so that the joy can expand to take its rightful place in eternity.
I could tell her a bunch of trite nonsense about when one door closes another opens, that everything happens for a reason, which is a misdirected reach for divinity —a divine plan that renders our suffering meaningful. But I know better than to suggest that Love is the architect of Pain. If I have learned anything in my life’s work it is that Pain is the architect of Pain, and that Love intercedes and heals. Love is the antidote and the condition in which pain cannot exist, and if we understand this we can get a lot more comfortable with pain and avoid bandaging it with trite clichés that add shame to injury.
I could tell her that she will have a new unsolvable problem this year, a real Nancy Drew mystery full of ghosts and villains and that it will be a doozy. I could assure her that one day it will all make sense and she will have the answers she needs and get off the hamster wheel of the mind because it won’t fix her heart now will it? But I can’t tell her what day that will be because it hasn’t yet come.
My Saturday self would tell my Friday self that she makes it safely to Kelowna, that Tess will get her ride after all, that it won’t be anyone’s fault. I would tell her about the six am run, the woman living in her van with her dogs and her baby who had just moved from Vancouver getting her workout in while keeping all of her creatures sustained, then running off to a job interview, and the solidarity she felt doing her push ups in the grass, side by side with this woman. I could tell her about the dreamiest beach day, the crash of waves like a primal drumming and the melody of children shrieking with delight. The black skinned women with the cascading hair and bikinis of yellow and red drinking from red plastic cups, the families in circles throwing balls, the mothers and grandmothers sharing stories and scooping up infants, all in and out of the water as the heat rose. The uncoiling and unwinding and undoing. How she felt intimately part of a single living thriving being wriggling free of a tight enclosure, swimming the rushing waves, reading of alchemy and miracles and dreams that choose the dreamer, slumbering in a heat haze.
I would take her to that table where she sat to watch the street musician only to find she had stolen it inadvertently from two men, how they talked about the world gone mad and the power of choice and one’s recovery from his divorce and then they bought her a beer.
I would give her the vision of herself sitting in her beloved client and friend Angie’s living room with the miracle baby we had envisioned all those years ago when she was grieving four miscarriages, now talking about the “upside” of Covid, and asking; What if the manifestation is not world wide fear and despair but a connecting thread through all of humanity, a way of uncoiling and unwinding and undoing as a single being in a choreography that spins grief into joy?
My holy self would tell my human self that she could forgive a little faster and a little more.
When I was eleven years old I was at the public pool with some friends and I had been diving off the shallow board feeling like a mermaid flipping and dipping through the tepid water and the cool air in perfect rhythm —until at some point I looked up at the higher board and felt inspired to give it a try. It wasn’t until I was a few steps out that I felt the wobble beneath me, the instability of the ground and the shock of my arms reaching out to find only air, the way a baby jerks its hands in a dream. I could not move. I could see the short distance to the end of the walk and the water below but I could not move toward it. Nor could I step backwards and set into motion the swaying ground and gravid air, and so I froze. And so did time. A small crowd gathered. Staff yelled things to me, kindly and with encouragement, offering to stand by with various flotation devices. Kids who were waiting a turn and initially impatient found compassion and became part of the rally. They promised me that I would not drown. The world just slowed itself down and waited gently and patiently not realizing that I was not afraid of the water, I was afraid to fall.
You see there is only one way out. We cannot choose the plot from within the movie, but we can choose to love our way out of it. When we choose fear we freeze, but even inside our freezing we are given a chance again. It is there for us, in every heart ache, in every falter, the suspension of time waiting for us to find courage, to choose Love.
What if the entire movie plot is that, LOVE reaching through our terror, surrounding us with arms and legs and voices and colours and families and mechanics and miracle children and men with beer, with waves and sand and yellow and light until at last there is no empty air around us or frightening space between us?
What if my eleven year old self brought all of those players together in a moment of emotional bravery and kindness? What if I joined together the beach goers into a hazy rapture? What if I healed the men with beer, and whispered the secrets of alchemy to Angie and little Everly?
What if pain is merely the ghost that believes it is alive?
There is a line from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that conveys what is intended to be absurd and ridiculous optimism, endearing in its unscientific wisdom that Love is waiting for us in the wings, in every foible and heartache, conspiring to prove itself.
“Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it is not yet the end.”
And that’s a wrap.
— Love, Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
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