Change. It happens. It’s the way of things, of life.
Inside me something’s been pent up for something like forever. Tied up. Stifled. It’s some kind of energy.
Isn’t energy a property of matter related to its ability to perform work? You know, work. As in motion, movement. (I had no idea I had this physics stuff left in me. But don’t get your hopes up. Or, don’t get worried, whichever the case may be. That’s it for physics. Promise.)
Lately some kind of herculean pushing is going on inside me. As if something’s gotten way too small for the space it’s in and now it’s pushing to get the hell out. Sometimes its energy is desperately intense, like it’s buried alive, trying to claw or hoof its way out. Even when more subdued it feels like something growing that has run out of space: there is no way it can keep growing, or even stay alive, where it is, how it is.
IT wants expression. I don’t know exactly what IT is, but its medium is written. And I do have some hints about IT.
This whole buried alive feeling is getting reeeeeally uncomfortable. It’s amping up majorly. We’re at a Spinal Tap 11. Or “a todo full,” as we said growing up in Chile.
I’m curious about the box. The coffin. The majorly confining thing that feels like it’s killing me alive.
Thing 1 about that.
Something is afraid. It is trying to protect me. It has to do with wanting a guarantee of success. Or, better said: It wants to know I won’t fall flat on my face, because from its point of view? That would suck.
Suck how, I wonder—
Um, duh! Major shame. Crimson cheeks. Hide in closet kind of shame.
From its point of view it’d actually be better to stay stuck and stifled in the box than out and free and in danger of falling flat on my face in shame.
Thing 2: “What will they think” and “it’s too much”
These thoughts invariably come nipping at the heels of the push to express in a big way.
Ironically, all the hints I get about the IT point to ITs having to do with taking the shame out of being human. Hmmm! Curiouser and curiouser.
The IT wanting to be written has to do with saying things without pretense. Without prettying them up. Without uglying them up. Saying things as they are.
But in order to say things as they are or in whatever way they ask to be said, I have to get out of their way. The agenda of having me look good doesn’t fit. The hidden motives of teaching anyone anything, making a point, or having a cause don’t fit.
IT may very well allude to or come right out and talk about things people often feel they should hide. (And it’s so not about airing dirty laundry. No). But again: Hello, Shame!
It sure does seem that much (all?) of the reeeeeally hard and stuck stuff of our world—hate, war, prejudice, murder, lies and everything that separates rather than connecting us—touches on shame in some way.
Who would we be without our shame?
I know many people who would say that shame is what keeps us in line. Case in point: Watch the news. Notice the language used in relation to the “bad guys”. Or, adults saying to children: Shame on you!
But really: How IS that working for us? I’m beginning to suspect that line of thought. It seems much more true that shame keeps us hiding and small and, ironically, doing the things that make us feel ashamed.
In all this pondering I have noticed something odd: The people I find most beautiful, endearing, attractive, crush-worthy… and the stories that most speak to me, are not Pollyanna-ish Hallmark-y tales with pretty Hollywood endings. At all.
Rather, they share a quality of almost heart-breaking honesty and openness, usually or often about the very things that would shame me. They are at once incredibly vulnerable and incredibly strong. These people look life in the eye, no matter what looks back. They are as resilient as they are fragile. Their skin is as leathery tough and wrinkly as it is tender and soft. Their transparency is breathtaking. And they don’t care what others think of them. Or if they do, they don’t let that stop them. They go ahead anyway.
Which brings me to: Leonard Cohen. Whom I saw. Performing. On Saturday night. In person, people, in person!
And, um, Leonard Cohen? In case you’ve not been near planet Heidi for the past several years? Newsflash! I am in love with him. In love. Unapologetically and irrevocably: in love.
(Blushing-aside: In fact, halfway through the concert, pro’bly during Chelsea Hotel or Suzanne, I turned to my dear friend who was visiting and had gotten us the tickets, and told him that if there were, you know, any chance of, um, you know, with Leonard Cohen, that, well, um, we’d have to find him—my friend, that is—my camping mattress and sleeping bag so he could sleep on my living room floor for the night. Or something. He laughed and said, of course. Yah. Now that’s a friend!)
So where was I? Oh yes. About my love—
Leonard Cohen, exquisite lover of word and world, is my hero. Such accessible poetry. None of this intellectually aloof blah blah. He is clever, but never in an I-need-to-impress-you way.
But most of all I love him for not hiding his humanity from me, from you. He is imperfect and heart-breakingly honest about his foibles and mistakes. Which makes him all the more beautiful. He teaches me to embrace wherever I am at.
And he shows me how to age with the utmost of grace. Talk about vintage wine. Oh my. The man is 75 and he’d skip onto and off the stage. He was sporting his fedora, of course. His backup musicians were all stellar in their own right and when their moment came, Leonard Cohen was the embodiment of generosity: he’d take off his hat and listen, rapt, sometimes getting on one knee right alongside them. The man can listen.
The entire concert felt like some kind of a passionate, mysterious, sensual, divine yet oh-so-human prayer.
Thank goodness my days praying to inaccessible perfect gods are over. Give me human. Give me heart. Give my honest. Give me life, any day.
I’m left to ponder this: What if I cared what people think AND went ahead and expressed IT anyway? What if?!
“But what about that shame?” something asks.
“Awww, Sweetheart,” I say to it, “it’s OK. Here, give me your hand. There’s enough room on this human bus for every part of us. Stay with me as long as you need but how ‘bout you and me get the hell out of this tight box and start writing? What do you say?”