“Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that is uncomfortable. I dare you.”
That’s what Michaela Coel said when she won her Emmy award the other day. I saw her series, I May Destroy You, and it fit the bill. It’s about Arabella, a writer who downs a spiked drink and is then raped in the bathroom of a bar. But more than that, it’s about a young black woman in London who writes a book (or at least tries), loves sex, drinks and vapes without stop, falls in love with an Italian and Italy, tweets constantly on her phone, insults people who get under her skin and then asks for forgiveness, has pink hair and no hair, and when faced with the choice of writing or party, chooses party.
Parts of her bewildered me, even appalled me. Mostly, I loved her. Coel wrote, directed, produced, and starred in that series. Talk about creativity!
If I’m a workaholic, Arabella is easily distracted. If I try not to react to someone, Arabella is right in their face. If I’m disciplined, Arabella’s ready to ditch everything for a laugh. If I’m careful with men, Arabella takes the blood-drenched tampon out of her vagina right in front of the guy she’s going to have sex with. And even as I watch her hurting and getting hurt, I think to myself: This is life. This woman is flesh, blood, organs, hormones, bones and muscle, everything.
Is it any wonder that, other than giving Coel a writing award, the Emmys all but ignored the best series of 2020?
We ignore gifts at our peril. I fly to Switzerland to teach next week, and my hostess offered me her family’s apartment in the Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland. It sounded perfect. I knew I’d be working hard, have worked hard till now, so what better than taking five days’ vacation in a beautiful area where I’ve never been?
There were lots of reasons why this didn’t work out, but if I were to summarize them, I’d say I fell victim to the what if’s:
What if I get sick and need to quarantine?
What if they change the covid rules?
What if I’m needed back home for work? (As if I’m that important)
What if I’m needed by somebody back home? (As if I’m that important)
What if my mother gets sick?
What if I miss this deadline or that meeting?
Here is a great idea, my intuition told me, a wonderful gift by a good friend. Experience has taught me that intuitions are a gift from the Buddha. You can’t account for them through history or psychology, they appear out of nowhere, undeserved, unearned, a treasure you find on the ground that says Pick me up and take me home!
And then the left side of my brain begins to batter the gift down to size: What if? How do you know this will work? You’ll hate being alone! Do you know what can happen while you’re gone?
The pile of what if’s gets heavier and heavier, with lots more layers of analysis and parsing, hair-splitting doubts and questions, and when it’s all over the gift has sunk under all that brain debris, can’t breathe, gives up the ghost.
One day I woke up as if out of a trance, said to myself: Are you crazy? and tried to change the ticket to enable those 5 days. But by then, even with no change fees, the higher fares made it impossible.
Michaela’s Arabella would have booked the right ticket from the get-go and never looked back. No what if’s, just hoping maybe for a hot Swiss guy and lots of wine.
Today was laundry and house-cleaning day. I gathered up the laundry and stripped the bed, creating more disorder in the process of achieving order, when the dogs started playing in the bedroom. They chased each other up and down the bed, Henry biting on Aussie’s tail and trying to pull her after him or else nibbling on her ear. At times Aussie, four times bigger and heavier than Henry, collapsed right over him, digging her muzzle into his neck, and stayed like that for so long I grew alarmed.
“Aussie, get off him!”
But as soon as she did Henry jumped up and grabbed her ear again: Do it again, Aussie! Do it again!
The house was a mess, pillows and blankets on the floor, the vacuum cleaner loud, the smell of cleansers and fresh laundry, and smack in the middle of it the dogs partied and partied.
Aussie, Henry, and Arabella. My new Zen teachers.
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