I was once a rock

I’m still watching the volcano in Iceland. It’s very active, but is now on somewhat of a pulsing rhythm, quiet for a few minutes, then tossing its cookies high into the air in a fiery shower. Then quiet again.

To be accurate, the “quiet” of which I speak is only the absence of lava sprays above the rim of the crater. The molten magma continues to boil furiously just out of our view. It’s an incredible process, as the Earth gives us a glimpse of its mechanism, its life force, its straining to be free. Boiling rocks is not a concept to which most of us can relate; the heat and energy required to accomplish such a thing is incomprehensible to a human.

I find it utterly fascinating that such power and magnificence is regularly churning beneath my feet. It creates the gravitational pull that keeps my feet planted here, keeps everything virtually bolted down to the planet. It fascinates me that most humans walk about the dried vestiges of long ago eruptions like this, without any clue about how our seemingly solid ground has arisen. Even the most environmentally conscious of us rarely contemplate the billions of processes that must be present to keep us…here.

When I go into more spiritual and esoteric places, I rarely define myself as an environmentalist. I’m not drawn to anti-nuclear movements, or even anti-pollution activism. It’s not that I’m indifferent to those issues, but like many other movements I find a lot of the present environmentalist efforts fairly non-diverse, and fairly judgmental about how and why people don’t recycle and have their own compost heaps. There’s a class cut in the movement, and that doesn’t resonate well with me.

I do become passionate about public policy that impacts the environment, particularly with regard to poor and marginalized communities. When power plants are constructed near or in poor communities, or coal sludge is dumped in public waterways, or sewage plants are allowed to remain in disrepair and affect public waterways…those are justice issues that I follow closely. When the public water supply in a major American city is infested with lead, I pay attention. That’s environmental justice, and that is more where my attention is drawn. Flowers and fresh vegetables are just great, but if you have died from contaminants in your water, you won’t be around to enjoy that.

So. I have to split off from what is frequently fanaticism regarding “the environment”. The environment is multi-faceted in my estimation – yes, there’s air and water and soil and trees and all that. Climate change gets a somewhat mild response from me, because I tend to believe the planet is going to do what it wants to do, with or without our help. I definitely don’t think we should purposely make things any worse, when we are perfectly equipped to make them better, but I also recognize the greed and corruption associated with available solutions. Who among us can afford to purchase fresh produce in an urban living arrangement? Who among us can afford an electric car? Who has a choice about spring water, as opposed to tap water? People with disposable incomes, that’s who. Everybody doesn’t have that, so I lose patience with the more rabid environmentalists who summarily judge others’ levels of participation.

Regardless, I do grieve the absence of environmental justice throughout the world, and in this country specifically. Access to the environment on certain levels is simply not available to certain castes in our society. Most people can’t see that, but when I look at urban landscapes that are devoid of green spaces, abound in food deserts, have intentionally invariable design with no beauty, no creativity, no color…then I know there is no environmental justice there. Access to beauty and impractical things should not be relegated to those with wealth.

There is a rhythm of life, and it is muted in so many places at the moment. As I said, even this volcano in Iceland has a rhythm. The drums of indigenous people have a rhythm. Everything has a rhythm…and most of that is the heartbeat, the pulsing of the life force. When a person dies, the rhythm has ceased, the blood no longer pumps through veins, the heart no longer beats. There is silence.

Many people abhor silence. It makes them anxious. They sometimes feel as though something is just on the verge of happening, they are waiting, hovering, anticipating the occurrence of…something else. Something more. Something unknown that could be not good…or very good….we know not what. For me, it’s usually waiting in hope that I will get what I want, or an outcome favorable to me. Mostly, I am waiting for control.

When I am feeling out of control, I am usually feeling that someone or something else is in control of me, and that’s the source of the discomfort. As much as I want someone else to make certain decisions, I am usually wanting to abdicate only the responsibility and not the choice. I can own that. We humans are funny creatures like that – don’t control me, but if I make a poor choice, it’s because you didn’t control the situation and it’s your fault. We seem to want it both ways, and that’s just not happening.

I am contemplating where I want things both ways, and my track record is pretty stellar. It’s not a successful one, however – Universe 17,346,988+, Me: 0. One would think I’d learn. Maybe I do, but it’s the addict brain that says…try one more time. This time it’s gonna be golden! At least it’s entertainment value.

That part of addiction is heartbreaking, and exciting, all at the same time. The art of the game, the thrill of the chase, the razor edge of playing chicken with your life. Knowing things can just as easily end in disaster as glory, and never satisfied with either outcome. There is always another. Always. Nothing is enough, not you, not the effort, not the disaster, not the reward. Nothing.

When I listen to addicts telling their stories, about where they come from and what happened, and what it’s like now I’m always fascinated with the very common experience of feeling not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not enough on some level. Never feeling like we “get it”, never feeling like we’re in synch with the rest of the world. And we keep trying, keep feeling that if we change one thing, do one more thing, get one final thing, it will all be right and we’ll be in step with everyone else, feel like we’re …OK. But that doesn’t happen, and many people lose every thing in their lives, sometimes even life itself. Losing cars, homes, jobs, families, sometimes dragging other people to ruin with them, sometimes dying. But there’s always one more try left in us, and we have to do the recovery thing to fend that off.

The funny thing about addiction is that feeling of having one more good effort left in us never leaves. In recovery, we get to understand that we’ll never win if we try it again, but it never really leaves. It sometimes comes out in other ways, like…I’m just gonna wait until tomorrow to file that tax form that’s due tomorrow. It won’t take long…I know I can finish it before midnight. Do it now? Oh, let’s not rush or anything!

All procrastinators are not addicts, but sometimes I wonder i the roots are the same…bump things right to the edge, right to almost certain disaster, to the brink of near heart failure, but the thrill of snatching that victory from the jaws of defeat at the literal last minute is better than any drug. Those other times, however, when the victory slips away…that’s not so much fun. But there’s always a next time. Always.

Right this moment, I’m struggling to not beat myself senseless about my procrastintion and slobbiness. And…using that word “struggling” has gotten to be a little provocative for me. When you’re drowning in the ocean and the Coast Guard comes to rescue you, the rescuer will usually tell you not to struggle, or you’ll risk their life as well as your own. Just go limp and let them run the show. Most rescue situations are like that, requiring one to give up control and let someone else take the reins. We don’t much like that, but…if your life is at stake…maybe just this one time….

Some of us can’t give up control even when our lives are at stake. As I’m watching this volcano still erupting in Iceland, I remember a guy who lived in the shadow of Mt. St. Helen’s before it erupted in the 80s. He was an older guy, had been living there all his life, and it was home. He loved it, and didn’t want to leave when they ordered mandatory evacuation. He stayed – it won’t be that bad, the predictions are probably wrong, I’m not going. So he didn’t go, but really he did, because he’s dead. It was a choice. I guess he was done here.

I have always wondered at people who love something so much they’d rather die than live without it. Sometimes I feel that I have never loved anything that much, and wonder exactly what that means. I had a friend not long ago…she and her husband retired rather early, in their 50s I think, and had saved wisely in order to fulfill a lifelong dream of travel. They had begun taking trips to places they’d always wanted to go, and were excited to book a trip to Scotland. Once there, exploration of Glasgow was the goal, and so they did. Crossing a street with a roundabout, I believe, brought an unexpected end to everything. He was crossing the street, and looked in one direction for oncoming traffic, but it was coming from the opposite direction. A car hit him dead on, and he died on the scene. She was at his side, and was doing chest compressions to revive him, but he was gone. Her great regret was that she was not holding his hand when they crossed that street – they always held hands, but this one time, they were not.

My friend came back to the U.S. alone, without the love of her life, and she attempted to carry on. She lost a lot of weight, and the life seemed to have been drained from her. A pretty woman, with a quick smile, there was no joy left. After several months, she appeared to be coping, and was beginning to engage in simple activities, which gave friends hope that she was turning a corner into recovery. Until one friend got a letter in the mail, from her, instructing him to call the police to her home, because she was gone. He did that, and the police found she had taken her life with pills she hoarded from an ankle injury a few months prior.

She could not live without the man she married, her best friend, a part of her. There was nothing here for her. I have felt that way before, like there was nothing here for me, but have never had the courage – if that’s what it is – to end this life. When my friend took this action, I questioned my capacity for love, and still wonder if I have never loved anyone or anything that much. Not a place, such as an abode in the shadow of a volcano, or a person, such as one who has a part of me embedded in their soul. I just do not know the answer to that.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve never loved anyone so helplessly, so overwhelmingly. What I’ve thought was love, I’m not sure any more. When I’ve been nearly hysterical over the rejection of someone for whom I though I loved, I wonder about now. That devastating feeling of wanting to die, but not being able to do so, not having the courage to do it because I don’t know if that will kill the pain is excruciating. I am racing around inside my head while on fire and I can’t do a thing about it. I can’t make them love me back, but even if I did, I know that I am inept enough at the craft to ruin it. There is a lot of noise, a lot of screaming, a lot of darkness, and no relief. I cry in my sleep. Tears leak out at random intervals. There is no color in my line of vision.

So dramatic. But so much pain. So very much pain. I just don’t know whether that is love, or my ego being dealt a mortal wound. How dare you not love ME? I don’t know if that is relegated to what I’ve always felt in terms of romance, in terms of desire, or at least desired partnership, but it’s what I’m most accustomed to. I just don’t understand why. I suspect the ineptitude is related to the poor relationship models that I was shown as a child, but maybe it’s more than that. I also believe it’s simple mental health issues, depression, anxiety, something not even categorized yet. Whatever it is, the result is always the same – I’m not fit for human companionship.

The weird thing about all that is…I’m considered a very good friend. I will do nearly anything for a friend. I always feel there’s a line there, a boundary, that can’t be crossed. If there’s a hint of something deeper than friendship, then I’m nearly obsessed with crossing that line, but never can. And that feels like rejection. That feels like some joke the Universe is playing on me. That feels like same thing, different day. I will never have the kind of love that is returned, that I cannot live without, that I would die for.

My heart is mostly romantic, in that kind of old-fashioned way. But, there’s been little room for that. Maybe I should just learn to write about it, and create that world on pages of a story. I think I saw a “Twilight Zone” episode about that once, where a writer brought life, quite literally, to his characters. He created friends and lovers, but he was married, so when the other women were at risk of discovery, he destroyed the pages on which he’d written them to life and they disappeared. The twist of the story, though, was that his wife – who he feared would discover his literary affairs – was actually one of his creations as well. She was just a page out of his imagination, like all the others. Ultimately, he was alone.

This is how I might escape this alone thing…just write another life for myself. I’ve never considered myself a good creative writer, just expository works. I’ve always felt like developing a character and a world in which it exists is a lot of work, and I generally tire myself out and want a result way faster than is prudent for the sake of the story. But maybe it’s time for a change. I will have to give that some thought.

Perhaps I can create a world where health care is simple to acquire and taxes, racism, bias, and crime are non-existent. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. It will be a utopian thought experiment, but I’ll have to be careful not to get bored with it. That’s the problem with utopia. With nothing to complain about, or fight about, or be outraged about…things can become awfully mundane. Back to the addict brain…never satisfied. Never.

Follow the yellow brick road. The poppies help. The rainbow does not.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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