And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”
There doesn’t seem to be a magic formula. It’s funny that what soothes me can also break me, and what breaks me can also soothe me. As a young child, I was terrified of being lifted against my will, shrieking and digging my nails in, and then spun around in the air. Sometimes it was the loud music that shook me to my core and had me hiding under the covers in my bedroom. These days, I rather like the sensations of letting go – to be lifted and whirled around – on a wooden or steel track. Or maybe it’s the music – I’d rather feel it pounding through my temples and my blood, to sing a humming song to still me. I wouldn’t hide if I knew it would always catch me in the breath and make its way into my heartbeat – until we’re one and the same.
I used to “rock” from sometime not long after birth until my later childhood. Sometimes it even happened as a teenager and in my 20s. “Rocking” was what my parents called my intense tossing and turning that used to literally move my crib across the floor. Or maybe that’s the way it was with my father who was also reported to rock his crib as a baby. I also used to whine and hum a specific tune that I can still conjure up today. If I was feeling particularly needy, I’d use that tune to whine, “Mommy, mommy, ma ma mommy.” I can still do it. Just ask me next time you see me. (I can also hum a pre-programmed tune from my sister’s old recorder instrument)
Sometimes it hits when I lie down or when I stand. Asleep or awake. Sometimes there’s no safe way to be or stay. The hum of the air-conditioning or the growing heat of the pellet stove. They can both soothe and choke. I’ve never been able to stay calm during forced calm situations. Massages or hot baths, low lights, candles, and soothing voices. I always want to scream or jump up, or turn on the cold tap, or blow out the candles.. Yet I can be calmed in the tiniest of ways – a hand on my heart and a song with just the right amount of piano and strings. Nostalgia for what was, and excitement for what will be. It’s not the present that can calm me right now.
This “present” is hardly a gift, but it’s hardly unusual. Pandemics happen, and racism, brutality, ignorance, and fear are ancient. Our country is not the only one to find such unrest, but I can’t imagine we’re not the laughingstock of the world at times like these. Unrest is an underwhelming word to describe the now, but unrest is how we seem to move through it. The true gift of the present would be the ability to stay calm, or at least find the still minds and slower heartbeats and vivid clarity to do and to act. We don’t all have to be fighting the battles all of the time, but in the least, we shouldn’t have to fight the battles within ourselves. How can I fight for your freedom, if I can’t even fight for my own? I can’t get through the murky unrest of my mind – everything there is lit up and loud and gasping. Much how I see the world right now.
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York Times’ effect on man
Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”
I’ll do anything to soothe the unsteady heart and drumbeats. I’ll do anything to change what terrifies me into what soothes me – a rocking hammock, steady in the flow, a deep breath, the rhythmic in and out blow. I can hug a dog, sing a Tom Petty song at the top of my lungs, donate money, and catch someone I love’s eye for a smile. Solid milk chocolate that makes an audible sound when you break off a piece with your teeth. And oh, the snap of the strawberries in our garden, picked maybe a half day too early for perfection, but oh, they’ll get there. They ripen.
Sometimes, in the demon parts of the night, I can’t get my mind and body to rest. I have steady hands that hold cameras without tripods for 14 hour days. I have a body that can house humans, with stamina, and I as I settle down to sleep, I feel him settle into me. I fret over global pandemics, aging, and losing loved ones. I sink into the sighs of my steady hands, growing steadier heartbeats, inhales and exhales; the life inside me fighting with me, not against me.
I stay calm for long, but the murmurs and echoes run deep within my skin, and beat within my heart. I stay calm for long, but the distant beats call to me, of unrest and terrors; unfulfilled promises and remnants I can’t release. The calm in the storm is the shelter within you – always safe, dry, and warm – with secure roofs and walls built to last. I am the storm, but I am also the shelter. I house him within me, surrounding him with light and love and whispered promises and lullabies. If I am the storm as well as the shelter, I take refuge in my own life and light.
I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday (FTSF) for a new prompt. This week’s awesome topic is “Staying Calm..” How do you do it? Or can you? You can link up your own post HERE.