I am waiting on some news. Both personal and professional. Nothing scary or life-threatening…as a loving friend of mine recently asked. But all in G-d’s time, or at the very least, not mine.
The chime on my phone notifies me of messages received and my response is purely Pavlovian. Hope rises. And when I check my phone and discover I still have no news, hope falls. I feel my heart literally sink just a little bit. Awful.
Radio silence. My friend Michael says it is normal. Winter. “‘Tis the season.” His words, literally.
I want to punch him.
He sends me photographs of the shore of Lake Michigan, taken from the Indiana Dunes. This is what quiet looks like. It is at once both sad and beautiful.
He is right though. It is in the silence that I find my center, that I soothe myself…even though it is the silence, the not knowing, that has me so uncomfortable.
I turn off my phone at dinner with friends. No ringing. No vibrating. No notifying. Silence.
I am completely present with the people about me. I am not thinking about what I do not know. I am happy and serene…until I turn it back on and watch hope rise and fall again. And watch myself respond with a level of emotion that does not feel at all congruent.
Next day, at work, I turn the phone off again. And when I power it back on later, I ignore the notifications alerting me to the messages waiting. Instead, I bring my attention to my friend Nora, who is sitting across from me. I am again happy and serene.
I feel empowered.
It feels a little bit like when I quit smoking, nearly 15 years ago. That first week, I was high on not smoking. That feeling of “I can’t believe I’m doing this…”
The weeks that followed, sans cigarettes, were not filled with that same awe and wonder. But that is a different story. And a different lesson. Fifteen years later I am grateful for a different identity – one of a non-smoker. And the absence of the yellow stain on my second finger that I could not scrub off – my personal breaking point, my bottom.
My bottom here is that I fundamentally understand I am powerless over people, places and things, and yet, I sometimes still find myself allowing the actions of others to determine my sense of happiness, security and well-being. I watch myself hand over my serenity. It is painful.
And it is in this painful awareness that I recognize I have a modicum of control over the anxiety I perpetuate. That I can dial down my discomfort by simply turning off my phone, or ignoring its messages until I am in time and space to better receive them.
That I can receive the same relief by staying busy, and by pointing my attention to what is right in front of me.
Like Nora. Like the Artist Date penciled in my calendar. Number 59. Chicago Cultural Center for the “Wright Before the Lloyd,” exhibit.
I am here just a short time – about 45 minutes. Just long enough to feel the fog in my brain clear, making way for new information, and for my whole body to exhale.
The show is small – photographs, sketches and placards covering either side of a long hallway. It is a journey of becoming. The transition from Frank L. Wright, to Frank Lloyd Wright. A seemingly subtle, but significant, metamorphosis.
I read about his mother, determined that her son should become an architect, placing engravings of cathedrals in his bedroom for inspiration. His uncle with wild long hair, unconventional fashion sense, and a memorable three-part name who served as role model. His work with Adler and Sullivan and the “mistakes” he made on the way to creating his signature style.
I notice that many of the buildings shown on this trajectory from Wright to Lloyd Wright are no longer standing. Either burned down or destroyed. Gone. Like the yellow stain on my second finger.
I think about my own trajectory, and the people and experiences that influenced my becoming the woman I always wanted to be.
The one who dances on red soil in Rwanda and glossed, wood floors in Chicago. Who has been invited in to the intimacy of rooms where life begins and life ends. The one who listens with her hands and her heart.
The one with her own signature style – cropped hair, second-hand clothes and super-fabulous shoes – the kind that strangers inquire about. Who takes herself to museums, operas and lectures – comfortably alone. And out for strong coffee and a really good piece of cake.
The one who has learned to soothe herself. To quiet her own crazy. To be responsible for her own wellbeing.
Post Script: I got a call on some of the news I’d been waiting on. It was positive and it made me smile. But it didn’t change anything. Not my thoughts. My mood. My beliefs. It didn’t make me feel “ok.” It couldn’t. Because in my heart I already was.