“Eve, I love you!”
“Really? Why, Mom?”
“The song you wrote was so beautiful. I sang it to everyone and you should have seen people’s eyes—they shone, Eve!”
“Is that so?”
I never wrote any song for her and she doesn’t see people because the country’s shut down. What do I say, I wonder as she keeps on thanking me again and again for writing the most beautiful song in the world? The other week she thanked me for making the trip to Israel and hoped my trip back would be fine (“Best trip to Israel I ever took,” I texted my brother and sister. “Quick, too.”). And now she’s thanking me for my song.
“I wrote it for you, mom,” I finally tell her.
“You did?” she exclaims happily. “I will not forget this, Eve, ever!”
She’ll probably forget it right away, I think after we hang up. My mother is suffering from dementia and has delusions. But there are delusions and there are delusions. Thinking her daughter wrote a great song just for her makes her feel a lot better than thinking that Nazis are downstairs and coming up to get her.
I’m still in the stepping-back mode after the election. I need to regain that stability, and also some humility. I feel a lot better when I go deep into the wellspring of things, far away from rumblings and expostulations. For a short while, at least, I’ve gotten off the political train, with its emotional extremes, and I stay with what must get done next. Write this; get on the phone with another Zen teacher; go to meet Jimena with food cards later on (we’re meeting Wednesday rather than Thursday this week), etc. Thank heavens for the small jobs of living.
“What will you write about today?” someone asked me earlier.
“I have no idea,” I say, still feeling somewhat dull. “Nothing.”
But you know what comes up when I feel I have nothing to write about, nothing to say? Love comes up.
Tennessee Williams wrote: “[W]e live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”
Much of the time I’m surrounded by a sense of urgency, of excitement but also anxiety. These past months saw an overwhelming impulse to get online once again and find out what happened, the latest headlines, the latest polls: Did Biden inch up another little bit, did Trump inch down?
Only it’s not just politics or the election; I often push forward and try to cover lots of bases, one thing followed by another and then by another. I remain passionate; I still have my vows.
But when I stop and sit, when I decide to shrug off the jobs and assignments at least for a short time, when I don’t fill that extra time with reading or study, don’t even look at a dramatic sunset or smell the flowers or stroke Aussie’s beautiful black fur—I just look at the air. I feel it waving, and find love there. Not love of someone or something, not even love of life, just a sensation of the enormous generosity all around. I fold myself inside it, humbly and gratefully, and it fills me with love.
That’s how I feel today, Veterans Day. I light incense to honor the people who’ risked their lives so that I could be safe. So many don’t feel safe right now.
I went to give out food cards and a woman said to me in Spanish: God will bless you. God already has, I thought to myself, though I didn’t know how to say this in Spanish, my tenses are terrible. I got chicken, rice and beans from Jimena’s husband for dinner, and a woman brought us home-made bread.
I make a point of calling up my mother every day now rather than every other day, I realize my days of intelligent conversation with her are coming rapidly to an end. But I’m up for unintelligent conversations as well.
“Eve, did you speak to your father?” she asked me in yesterday’s phone call.
“Because he’s dead, Mom.”
“Really? For how long?”
“I think it’s 5 years this week, Mom.”
She thinks it over. “Oh,” she says.