A friend who suffered a family tragedy sent me the following email: “On the whiteboard in my office, I have written, WAIT. It means: Why am I talking?”
There was more, but this struck me deepest. Why indeed am I talking? Or perhaps for me it’s: WAIW. Why am I writing?
Our brains fire up so quickly with ideas and activity. Yoga, pack and move books out of a room, take care of unsettled dogs, plan the program for Bernie’s February 17 memorial, teach, write. Life goes on following its own momentum and most of the time I follow blindly, mindlessly.
And then the photos come. Photos of Bernie from early years when I didn’t know him at all, from when he grew up in Brooklyn, his many years in Los Angeles. Reminding me that I didn’t even meet him till he was 46, and that was years before we became a couple. He had a life long before me, just as I now have some kind of life after him.
You search that face in those early, early years for some hint of what was to come. Peruse the photo of the teenager hoisting his young niece on top of his shoulders or holding his children when they were small, see a happy, family-loving face. And then the photos of someone looking more in than out, someone following a deep inner vision, a quiet, personal voice. Or was it a question he always kept inside?
Did he know what was ahead for him? Greyston, the Zen Peacemakers, grief upon a wife’s death, hundreds of people joining him at Nazi concentration camps, grandchildren, a life of fame but no fortune, ending with a major stroke and mornings that began with him sitting up on the edge of the bed and looking out the window, causing me to wonder what he thought, what he wished for.
Of course he didn’t know what lay ahead. Do any of us want to know?
I tried to go on with the evening after seeing the photos as though nothing happened. Called a friend, but the talk got slower and more distracted, finally hung up and wondered, why am I so tired?
WAIT. Why am I talking?
Most of the time I don’t want companionship. I have zero tolerance for small talk and even less for nostalgia. I saw a friend some 4 days ago and that’ll be it for seeing friends till the end of next week. Rarely do I want to share about how I feel inside; often, I don’t even know how I feel inside.
So—why am I talking?
Walks in the woods are good, if only Aussie didn’t run away. Even better is cavorting with the dogs on the floor. Bypass the brain, bypass the words, bypass the need to express to someone something passing by so fast you barely see or feel it, only a gasp here and there, a small blow in the heart.
A rainy day outside, brown leaves below, gray skies above. Trees motionless, though they expect big winds in the afternoon. Take my place among them, be nothing but a landscape, unobstructive and still, visible if you look, invisible if you don’t.
Leave it at that.