What helps? Logan tells me 50,000 people drove to Lake Elsinore over the weekend to see the super-bloom. After the massacre in New Zealand last week, en masse Los Angelenos sought wild flowers. Nature helps. And helping helps. A neighbor locked herself out of her house – Max and I could feel her frustration rising like steam, fogging up her thoughts. We stopped, we stood with her and we listened. She came to a decision, we kept watch and waited until she returned from her next-door neighbor’s house with a spare key. To her credit, she’d prepared for this and found the solution herself. I think she just needed reassurance. It’s easy to feel invisible when you’re in need. And anyway, needs aren’t sexy or impressive, just human. Seeing someone else need something helped me tolerate my own needing.
Breathing helps. I meditate twice a day, twenty minutes a time – sometimes it’s glorified napping – but it is always restful. I took a Transcendental Meditation workshop six years ago and it is the best habit I have ever formed. Eckhart Tolle’s question of “can you feel your body breathing?” is a meditation without an expensive workshop required. You can do that right now. I write to an inmate named Earnest in Alabama who has been in prison since he was fifteen (he’s forty now) and he often describes the postcards and pictures I send him as “breath-taken.” He’s the most curious and positive person I hear from all week and though I shouldn’t need him to, he reminds me that I wake up without bars, taking, not taken from, my life’s breadth.
Laughter is like that glue medical professionals use to cohere open skin. It binds. In a mudslide, it makes the ground tacky and traversable. Amy Schumer’s new special, GROWING, is so honest and so funny it made the warring sides of me play nice and come together. THE JOKE, Brandi Carlisle’s Grammy-winning song, applauds the brave and gets even with the fun-pokers, the critics and the bullies who gave us our cuts and bruises. The joke is on them and the laughter, the connectivity is ours.
And here’s a few other stitches. Drinking two big glasses of water. Taking Instagram and Facebook off your phone for a week or forever. Making anything: a vision board, a cake, a painting, a poem, a cup of coffee. Cinnamon toast helps and so does the sound of a friend’s voice. Sweating, jumping jacks, push-ups, a hike, batting cages, kick-ball, lying in the sun, yoga can change your day instantly. I just made a list of accomplishments because I was focused on the hole and not the doughnut and it gave me back credit I withhold from myself. Just these words: you are pre-approved (thank you, Anne Lamott). Dax Sheperd’s EXPERTS on EXPERT podcast, especially the episode with psychological researcher John Gottman. If you are in love, looking for it, ever been in a relationship, Gottman’s empirical wisdom is ready instruction for how to live with love. Dirt helps me; potting, planting, weeding, digging. The documentary about Clark Terry called Keep On Keepin’ On helps. And time.
Some things are so inexplicable, painful or hard, stitches won’t work, only time. That’s the wild west part of being alive. It’s anyone’s guess at how long or how many tries it takes for change to come. But it does. You stop challenging yourself to a duel. You lay down your weapons. Surrender's white flag waves. Your grip loosens, the melody emerges and your feet, like the clumsy somersault of a tumbleweed, trudge on.