A few weeks ago I took the plunge and made a page for this blog on Facebook, prompting the existential question “Does anybody like me??” This angst was followed in short order by the realization that neither my parents nor my sweetheart are on Facebook, so perhaps I was investing too much of my need for affection in a medium of which those who love me most do not partake. It felt deep at the time. Then I stopped writing for a little while. Here’s why.
All I wanted to do was make it through the last week without compulsively vomiting, which I can honestly say was never a goal of mine until this year. I had a bunch of little commitments capped off by a festival liturgy I was conducting with sundry instruments and a cast of thousands. Live elephants would not have been out of place. I was crossing my fingers for a balloon drop, but was outvoted.
What with my illness this year, I am not as reckless as I have been in the past, so I planned way way ahead, leaving myself plenty of time to sleep, and eat wisely, and even do a little yoga. This was still a big undertaking but I had it under control. I felt great. Not a stomach cramp in sight (unloading on Lionel from the copy store when the worship aids weren’t right probably helped, but that’s a story best told in person).
The big day dawned hazy but warm, and I bopped off to work with four pairs of shoes to get me through the various stages of my day. I tied up a few loose ends first thing, when I’m freshest, and went to lunch feeling confident that the rest of the day would go smoothly. I ate my usual Greek wrap (and three cookies, which is NOT usual), and upon leaving lunch started to feel hot in the face. A glance in the mirror revealed a rash spreading up the left side of my face and neck.
Typically, I said “oh look, a rash!”, at which point a wiser co-worker shouted “GET TO THE NURSE AND GET A BENADRYL.” Turns out you’re not supposed to get big rashes on your face. Later another wise co-worker said “those look like hives”. I had never bothered to learn what hives look like because I DON’T GET HIVES. Until now. Psychosomatic Pfelice has a new ailment, everyone!
Fast-forward a few hours. I have washed my face and covered my hives and washed the makeup off again, and I’m at the point where it just looks like I used too much rouge, plus the Church is dark and I’m far away from the congregation. We’ve reached my favorite part of the mass: the beginning.
There is a moment, in liturgy and in the performing arts, when one is definitively done preparing. There is no time to ponder or deliberate or tinker. You’re just going. I love that moment.
I have a predictable (but hopefully satisfying) habit in writing of finding an ostensibly profound meaning in an ordinary moment, and then getting all emotional about it. This week I was so deep in the moment that I couldn’t write, or process, or find anything more meaningful than surviving and getting my rash to subside.
Social media, for all of the good it does and all of the love I have for it, has no place in that moment. Because that’s when we absolutely are: we’re not putting on a show for anyone. There’s not enough space in our brains for living in the moment AND composing clever 140 character quips at the same time.
I have made a life of meaning-making, so I’m not knocking it. But I am grateful for the experiences that knock me so flat that I can’t find the key to the secret meaning, I can only live them, and be and feel. Sometimes my body even sends me not-so-cryptic messages, like hives. In a strange way, I’m even grateful for that.
Maybe that’s why I have always stuffed my life so full of activity, because I want to find the level of crazedness at which the rest of the stuff doesn’t matter, when “followers” and “friends” don’t consume me, when I’m so driven that all I can do is stay on my feet and I am forced to recognize reality. I can’t process or find deep meaning or craft an appropriate public face when I am moving, moving moving, and like a dervish trying to stay on my feet.