The Real McCoy


“Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself”


I am sad.  I am blank.  I am moving through the thick air of the day. I grieve.

Nose to the grindstone.  Head above water. I’ve battened down the hatches.

The truth is I’m struggling right now and I’m finding myself to be the biggest opposition.  I have an inherent need to wrap everything up in a tidy package, tie it with a bow: life, in a nutshell.  I hate loose ends.  I close doors and don’t look back.  Pedal to the metal.  These hanger-on emotions don’t jive with my vision; they create dissonance and they cling, sucking my energy.

Each time I write, I am tempted to sum up the story, give it a twist and find the lesson. There are really so many good things to be found in life.  It’s a beautiful world.  I know this, I do.  And yet, the lessons aren’t there for me right now.  The irritation grinds at me, sandpaper on my spine, an eternal thickness at the back of my throat.  I can’t swallow.

But I keep going.  I function.  I laugh.  I empathize.  I care for others.  It seems there is something formulaic about how much you can put into processing your own emotions.  The higher the intensity with which you care for others tips the scale against the energy you can use for yourself.  There is a relief in this.  I wouldn’t know where to begin.

There was an epic blizzard on Halloween of 1991.  I was 13 years old then and lived in a very small town in central Minnesota.  There were many kids in my town but I knew almost none because I had attended a private middle school and had only just started ninth grade at the nearby public school.  There is a memory of that Halloween afternoon being like any other Halloween with the frenzied last minute costume preparations, but with an increased sense of anticipation.  There was a storm coming! Pumpkins sat on stoops and porch lights were turned on.  Kids flooded the streets near dusk to begin ringing doorbells, the waves of trick or treaters starting with smaller kids and, as each hour went by, the children got taller.  Just after dusk the heavy, huge flakes began to fall, lightly but steadily.  Quickly, the pumpkins were covered in snow and the little children were hurried home.  The older kids stayed outside and continued trick or treating and then eventually the excitement of the blizzard took over and trick or treating was abandoned for the fun of playing in the snow.  Kids threw snowballs and tried to run through the already deep snow.  They began building forts and costumes were quickly layered with a glistening layer of white.  There was something strangely magical about the streetlights causing the snowflakes to glitter and shine as they fell.  There was a silence in the air only punctuated by laughter.  It was an odd, beautiful moment when the thrill of getting more was suspended for the thrill of pure play.  It was like capturing an exact second of seamless, painless letting-go.

This is a moment I’ve reached for often.  Time and again over these last few weeks, I’ve brought to mind the look of the yard as it filled with snow, the whole earth glowing in moonlight and that innocence that comes with pure, unadulterated fun.  I’ve tried to empty myself of the heaviness; the load that follows me.  But there’s a nagging sensation in the base of my spine.  When I go back to that time – Halloween, 1991 – I realize that though these things happened, I wasn’t actually a part of them. I had never before been allowed to celebrate Halloween by dressing up and trick or treating and though I was given permission to do so that year, I felt old for the practice and foolish.  I briefly went out and then spent most of the rest of the evening watching the children out of our big bay window.  I noticed when the snow started coming down, saw it shine in the moonlight.  I heard the excited screams of kids playing in the streets, saw them run by.  But the truth is that the memory of actually doing is not mine.  I can not own it, though I can appreciate it.

There is no twist, no lesson here.  I’m in the thick of it.  But I know magic exists. I’ve seen it frolic by.

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