Today I Will be Cultivating my Own Space

Sometimes I feel wretched when I write, I bellow into the empty room, “I’m not going to take it anymore.” Larry leans in the door, “Are you returning something to Amazon?” Is he kidding, “go away.” I reconsider, “and bring me some warm coffee.” He seems annoyed but complies.

This might have something to do with my predilection to write in bed, in rumpled pjs, computer balanced precariously on my lap, and endless cups of coffee cooling on the nightstand. I appear to be on vacation or more likely the epitome of laziness. It doesn’t go over well with my roommates.

They find excuses to wander in and out of my space, giving me the look, whispering about my lack of grooming, or worse making accusations as to my mental stability. Mind you, I have a regular job, this is my day off, but that doesn’t seem to matter. I am fodder for their own insecurities. I say deal with it.

Yes, I could be scrubbing the grease stains off the garage floor, tracking my UPS shipments, or dealing with the roaches under the kitchen sink, but today I prefer to write. Should I feel like a criminal in my own home? I didn’t think so. Every time I hear the front door close, I clap my hands, another one gone. I’d high five myself but that seems silly.

Sometimes I crave isolation as much as chocolate. I want to wrestle with my thoughts uninterrupted, listen to the Krista Tippett interview with Ann Hamilton, read a few pages from Simone Weil’s book on Waiting for God, and consider how they connect. Does this give you the chills? Me too.

This is how I write. I make connections. Leaning over my shoulder Larry scrutinizes my work, “I only made it through the first paragraph, you totally lost me, and by the way its too long.” The truth is his attention span is spotty, I’m secretly glad he doesn’t get it, and fourteen hundred words is not too long. He should read Dante’s Inferno?

Nevertheless, there are these incessant voices pounding in my head, assaulting me with the things I “should” be doing, and I do my best to ignore them. I decided in January of this year that I would only do what I “want” to do. That lasted about three hours. It had something to do with soap. That’s all I’m going to say. This continuous internal whine becomes softer as my focus narrows in on my subject.

I listen to Ann Hamilton talk about our common spaces and for some reason this feels ironic as I consider how difficult it is to maintain privacy, put the roommates on mute, or the general objectification one feels when occupying communal spaces. But Ann claims shared spaces can be a positive experience, life changing, even uplifting under the right circumstances. There’s a local fair going on in my head and right now I’m on the Ferris Wheel (This would be where I lose Larry, but keep reading, I’m only messing with him).

The rhythm of two things together, such as voice and material, can bind our memories like shoelaces. Textiles are the first house of the body says Ann. We know things through our skin but we can’t always express how they feel. The weaving that happens with threads and words is ancient. Simone Weil argues, “We should not be bound by so much as a thread to any created thing, unless it be to creation in its totality.” Reminds me of my Aunt Neva, working on her needle point, as she listened to Nancy, Vicky and I talk about our boy crushes. These images are woven into my memories like the stitches unto a cloth. A total flashback to the seventies and all she had to say was “stitch.” I find this idea intriguing, when I mention it to Larry, he only wants to know who I had a crush on?

Ann says, “How do we cultivate a space around us so we can live with the unknown?” I have to rewind because I totally missed the set up. Does she mean the future or the repercussions of the past? Simone writes, “To give up our imaginary position as the center, to renounce it, not only intellectually but in the imaginative part of our soul, that means to awaken to what is real and eternal, to see the true light, and hear the true silence.” Okay, wouldn’t that be like ripping a bandaid off an old wound? I like visualizing that the world revolves around me, but like Galileo, I’ve discovered the source and centrality of the sun within a much larger universal system. My insignificance is epic.

How do we reconcile the past peacefully with the future? We can’t because it is already woven in the fabric of our lives. I feel like a cotton commercial. There is something embedded here but it is alluding me. Where is Courtney Martin when you need her?

Ann says, “How does experience feel on your skin.” She says life is an associational process, experience is at the pace of the body, moving as we absorb knowledge. I’m doing it now, juggling the family, listening to Ann and Krista, reading Simone Weil, the feel of the soft blue sheets on my skin, the overstuffed pillow at my back, and the way the light streams through the french doors. Oh my God, I love, love, love this. I will never be able to explain how much. There must be an emoji. 

Ann talks about the intimacy of voice and how she feels a connection to Krista just by listening to her podcasts. I feel exactly the same. Chills… I think I tweeted Krista about doing coffee once, she didn’t respond, maybe I should leave her a voice mail.  “Hearing is how we touch at a distance,” Ann quotes the poet Susan Stewart. I have to tweet this right now. See this makes Larry crazy and I love it all the more.

I hear something about intensely individual and intensely communal spaces. How do we manage this? I put on head phones, dark glasses, and a hoody. They just know…  Ann says that creates a filter. I say good.

The next thing I know Krista is talking about all the energy we expend trying to hide the things about ourselves that we find unacceptable. Is she reading my mind? She says this is why we fear people with disabilities, because they expose the things we try so desperately to hide, and it freaks us out. I love the way her mind works.

Ann talks about taking risks in public, expanding your ability to try new things, even if you look foolish. Now there’s an idea. I hear Krista talking about the experience of time, resist rushing off to the next thing, living in the present. I tell Larry, “Krista should really interview me, my blog is all about living in the present.” He says he’s cutting off my coffee. I can’t repeat what I said, but it doesn’t matter, I’m so excited my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts.
The dog wants to be fed. I stomp down to the kitchen, two scoops, run back to my room. I hear Ann say something about the biggest question? How to be together? We have to be aware of the way we impact others but also the way our spaces influence and define us. Simone Weil writes, “a sense of beauty, although mutilated, distorted, and soiled, remains rooted in the heart of man (woman) as a powerful incentive…If it were made true and pure, it would sweep all secular life in a body to the feet of God, it would make the total incarnation of faith possible.” I read somewhere, that in your home, you should love everything your eyes land on. Thank god I love dust, clutter, books, and my people. This is my faith.
Then I hear Krista quote Simone Weil’s definition of prayer, “absolutely unmixed attention.” I’m in total shock. I had no idea that Krista read Simone Weil or that she would be quoted in this interview. My fingers freeze over the keys. I glance at the worn book next to me, the iPhone broadcasting this interview, and then to the sky. I squeal with delight at the way the universe works. Larry rushes in with a fresh pot of coffee. He looks worried.

Ann says, “I’ll take that.”

Tell me about your spaces? 

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