Routine in Revolution

A morning routine is a good thing to have.  Slipping from Quan’s side where our curves fit each other like strange attractors, I find yesterday’s clothes by feel – always a pleasure to slip into pre-worn clothes.  As February passes, opening the smelly cans for the three impatient cats who braid in and out of my legs (and the two older black ones who wait regally on the counter) and letting them out is done not entirely in the dark.

Opening the door, there’s a broad line of pink watercolor swathed across the east that goes a dusty orange and then crome yellow before the sun dances in the top of the trees.  It’s windy this morning, the trees creak in 5 degrees above zero.  Last week’s snow, rained upon and crusty, is fairly useless for anything.  If I do don my snowshoes and dive into the trees to escape the wind about my ears, the woods seem empty, not in a dark and mysterious way, but in a late-winter fretful restless way.  The driveway is a skating rink that’s a challenge for my mother’s 90-year-old unsteady pins, though the rest of us get our ‘ice legs’ like sea legs.

We all get cabin fever – cats, horses, rabbits, and humans – around this time of year (I believe the Inuits call it pablato – great word – when their wives go crazy with insideness) but it’s a fairly useless feeling in that neither spring nor spring cleaning are right around the corner; we will be dealing with snow and cold and tracked-in mud right through the end of April at least, and we won’t see signs of life until May.  Quan, married well and truly to the animals (with me as her occasional mistress), loves all times of year here and makes the best of it, but as much as I love Maine, it is easy to book me elsewhere in the late winter and mud season.

So my morning ‘routine’ comes as I turn on my heel, changing suitcases between Phoenix and Johannesburg, abandoning my family of people, animals, employees and logistical problems on our land to spread the word of connected anatomy and human potential across the globe.  You can hear my ambivalence; I love both – being the surrounded padrone at home and the lone adventurer abroad.  I love the quiet of Papa-San curled beside the computer as I peck at these keys, I love the grickle of the London cab, the babel of the open market, even the roar of the accelerating plane.  I love the challenge of a new group, though I hate the ‘routine’ of returning to the hotel room that soon feels emptier than the woods in late winter.  No way to have it all.

This brief visit home has the grace note of a visit from my daughter.  Children – myself included – have no idea how much joy such a visit brings. Seventy years younger than Mom in the slow turning of generations in my family, Misty can be induced to come for a night or two, but the siren song of her own life soon calls her away again.  I tend to the cats quietly, letting the two women sleep despite my temptation to wake them up, “C’mon, the day’s a wasting, who’s on for word games?”

But I let them sleep, and quietly get my Saturday morning tea going – heat the pot with the first water, pour the second over the loose Paramaribo tea Misty found for me in Paris, lift the ball out after three minutes, milk in the cup first.  (You know, that was an actual experiment: An English woman said she could tell the difference whether the milk was poured into hot tea, or hot tea was poured over the milk.  Scientists told her this was impossible, so they set up a double-blind experiment with both methods, and to their surprise she was able to identify accurately which cups had the milk in first as better tasting.  Turns out that certain milk proteins go a little sour when they get too hot, so that for certain folks with a sensitive palate it makes a gustative difference …  Proof positive that scientists don’t know everything about anything.)

Misty says she has to get back tonight for a study group, but I saw the boyfriend’s name written on her calendar.  Going to her flat sat me right back in my own college days in Boston – the thrown-together gnarly furniture, the temporary enthusiasms posted on the wall, the bathroom jumble where three girls do their face.  It’s a strange transitional time between youthful rebellion and self-pride.

Going to classes with her is likewise ambivalent.  So proud that she’s doing well and has taken to, of all things, economics.  Amazed, like all parents, at the developing independent human who came out of those diapers, those early drawings of a house and the sun, the teen’s fiercely bad decisions – and suddenly you are talking the merits of the stimulus package with someone who can hold their own, whose voice is yours and not yours, whose way awaits as yours waited, all unknown and yet so obvious in hindsight.

I am both sympathetic and critical of the professors, who are now way younger and thus fear me – you can see them subtly play to the one grey-haired visitor – and whose didactic teaching styles could use some of the flair I have developed trying to interest massage therapists in the arcane corners of anatomy.  An example here, a joke there – I rewrite their delivery in my mind as I sit in those awkward seats at the back, realizing how lucky I am to be in adult education where everyone chooses – indeed, pays – to put themselves in front of me.  Versus these professors, harried by their departments to publish or perish, scurrying from room to fluorescent room, trying to convey their life’s interest to class after class of women, half sullen or hung over, the other half more eager to please than really to learn – I don’t envy them.

Mistral and I had many years of difficulty, now I easily cry at how close we have become – a change predicted by my friends when I was so down.  We do our best by our children, but our best is so inadequate.  Though you wish like hell to spare your children from hell, their own hell is what they must pass through to become like you: an imperfect and struggling adult.  Wherever your parents are, take a moment to tip your hat.  They’ll appreciate it.

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One Response to “Routine in Revolution”

  1. Michelle Bellerose Says:

    Awesome post Tom, I super appreciate that you blog in this manner, it allows your students to take in your humanity, which counterforces being held in thrall, a posture no experienced student wants to strike… : ) LOL

    I suspect that consciousness develops through a invert/evert process. We take in ‘woundings’ via neurosis-formation around specific experiences that later unpack as attenuated and highly individualizing skillsets. Of course, we need to labour with our neurotic imprint (both somatically and psychically) to shapeshift it into something that works for us, otherwise we just hamster-wheel our lives, replaying the neurotic content that our unconsciousness wishes us to one day see for truth or pay the price for. Its that stark. So in this sense I suspect we contract with our parents, or those who parent us, to provide not just the affirmative experiences but the fly-in-the-ointment ones. These form the template out of which destiny is really forged, for day to day as adults we choose whether to reinforce our unconsciousness or drag it kicking and screaming into higher states of realization.

    So in this sense, even ‘good-enough’ parents must contribute some pain in the lives of their children (and vice versa) for growth to be achieved. And even ‘are-you-fucking-serious??’ parents give their kids some structure and function and tools for liberation (and vice versa)…. and this fact (and our niggling choices in the matter) lets us get cozy with nuance, nature’s ambivalence, the big grey…. because really shitty people can be one’s most treasured, loving allies. And your heroes can dance on your grave and shit in your cereal. This adjustment in egocentric for-me-or-against-me viewing is such a _huge_ gift… if only that it teaches us to reserve judgement, to think heuristically and on our feet.

    Thanks for posting!

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