M51 Spiral Galaxy (Purple Dots are Black Holes), NASA picture
“Stars, in your multitude, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness with order and light.” ~ From Les Miserables
“For there were countless numbers of stars: each time we looked above we were astounded by the swiftness of their daring play” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Don’t misunderstand. I love what I call the mystery of life, the continuous ebb and flow of the lifestream upon which we all move. I love how life intrudes and intercepts, provides moments of beautiful grace, complete surprise, even unexpected sadness. All of these things, these emotions and episodes are what make us human, which is why when I find myself just moving along without any real sense of purpose, I feel so terribly disconnected.
During these times, I am unable to read because I cannot focus. Writing is hard because I have to search so hard for words that normally flow with ease from my fingertips to the page. I find myself lying in bed, watching movies without really paying attention, ignoring telephone calls, allowing my e-mail to go unread for days at a time.
And the worst part is that these moments come upon me unannounced more often than not. There is no single precipitating event, no confrontations, no arguments, no bad news. Rather, it’s the absolute nothingness that seizes upon me and leaves me feeling adrift.
“Though my soul may set in darkness. It will rise in perfect light, I have loved the stars too fondly To be fearful of the night.” ~ Sarah Williams, from “The Old Astronomer to his Pupil”
I’m not talking about being depressed, about my incipient lows over which I have little to no control. This is something different. It’s not sadness, not an ache, not even emotional pain. It’s nothingness, which sometimes, is much worse.
It feels like a black hole, that space phenomenon that exudes massive gravitational pull. When an object becomes sufficiently compact, like a dying star, a black hole is formed, a region of nothingness in space. A black hole is cut off from the rest of space time.That’s how my emotional nothingness feels: as if I have been cut off from regular time, like I am standing off to the side, watching everything that is going on, but not participating, not interacting.
I know that as with everything else in my life, I will work my way out of this. Unlike the matter that is sucked into the black hole and moves inexorably towards the Event Horizon, I am not being pulled helplessly. For me, it’s just a matter of time. For me, it could be something as simply as getting a good night’s sleep and awaking without a headache.
Let me leave you with the beautiful words of poet Mary Oliver. More later. Peace.
The Spirit Likes to Dress Up ~ by Mary Oliver The spirit likes to dress up like this: ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders, and all the rest at night in the black branches, in the morning in the blue branches of the world. It could float, of course, but would rather plumb rough matter. Airy and shapeless thing, it needs the metaphor of the body, lime and appetite, the oceanic fluids; it needs the body's world, instinct and imagination and the dark hug of time, sweetness and tangibility, to be understood, to be more than pure light that burns where no one is -- so it enters us -- in the morning shines from brute comfort like a stitch of lightning; and at night lights up the deep and wondrous drownings of the body like a star.
Photograph by L. Liwag
“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~ Unknown English Professor, Ohio University
Well, eldest son did it. He walked up there and took his diploma, and the school Superintendent pronounced them graduates. The ceremony was a fast-paced deal that lasted only an hour and a half, as compared to my daughter’s graduation which seemed to go on and on and on. The venue was good too, open, roomy, not squooshed up against the person you are sitting against, so I had no claustrophobia problems.
Aside from immediate family, his cousin who is graduating tomorrow came, as did his friends since childhood, Gordon and Tailor. I made Eamonn stand for pictures with everyone, and he was actually pretty gracious about it.
The only downside was when I was trying to move up a row (because of course every seat in the row that I selected was being saved), and I scraped my thigh on the arm of the end seat. I have a nice, big black and blue spot on my leg, but I don’t plan to enter any hot legs contests anytime soon.
As far as people being overly rowdy and loud, it wasn’t too bad. The school’s principal had already made a few announcements prior to the start of the ceremony in which she said that if the noise became too loud, she would step back and stop handing out diplomas, and she kept her word. Twice she stopped the procession until the crowd calmed down.
It’s such a shame that she had to make the announcement in the first place, and that she had to follow through with it, in the second place.
“What is the most important thing one learns in school? Self-esteem, support, and friendship.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams
“I’ve been making a list of all of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who is dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
The reason that I like this quote so much is because it is essentially true. What do we take away from high school? How to conjugate a verb in French? How to find the square root of an isosceles triangle? What the Monroe Doctrine was?
If you remember this kind of information, you probably do really well at Trivial Pursuit and/or you have gone on to become a teacher. But what is my son taking away from high school?
A group of friends who have stood by him during the worst times of his life (so far) and the best times of his life (again, so far). Memories of some really great times that he would prefer his mother never finds out about, and more than a few regrets that he didn’t follow through on a few things (track, football).
He is also taking with him the following lessons:
- Mom knows if you are lying if you giggle too much
- It’s hard to explain why you were absent from a particular class if your mom dropped you off at school that morning.
- The school is serious when they say they will confiscate cell phones
- You cannot make the team if you never go to practice
- Yes, you have a deceptively charming smile, but that smile only works with some teachers, probably females
- Mom was right when she told you that you really would survive the second breakup with your first serious love
- Girls do talk to each other, so it’s probably not a good idea to date friends no matter how hot they are
- Asking your mom to type your paper that is due the next day at 9 the evening before does not put her in a good mood
- It takes money to put gas in the Trooper, and it’s probably a good idea to check the oil sometimes
- Your mother knows when you have been smoking in her car, even if you leave the windows down all night
“High school: Oh man. This is where boys and girls go from tweens to teens and become complicated and cruel. Girls play sick mind games; boys try to pull each other’s penises off and throw them in the bushes.” ~ Eugene Mirman
Okay, those are the fluffy lessons, so to speak. But he also learned some really hard lessons, like how much it hurts when your first love breaks your heart. And how hard it is to keep your word if you never meant it in the first place. Or how someone who claims to be a friend can stab you in the back without breaking a sweat. And how your parents can become real hardasses over things like curfews, and grades, and conduct notices, even though you don’t really understand what the big deal is.
I think that it is profoundly unfair that you first discover love at a time when you least know yourself in life. How is a teenager supposed to cope with all of the drama and accusations and breaking up one day only to make up the next day? How are they supposed to handle all of this angst and study for calculus too?
Frankly, when I put things in perspective, it’s no wonder that 11th grade becomes the make or break year for so many people. The pressure from their teachers is incredible because they are pushing students to think about college, and they are trying to cram as much information as possible into a brain that is essentially a sponge: and while a sponge can absorb a great deal, it also lets a whole lot seep out.
The pressure from worried parents intensifies in their junior year because there is college to think about, and if not that, then how have they prepared for a trade? And aren’t they spending too much time on the phone, and shouldn’t there be limits on the computer?
And the poor teenager is thinking “God, I wish that I could talk on the phone in peace, and I really don’t think that chemistry is going to make or break my career, and I’m responsible enough to stay out until midnight on a school night.”
And then comes the summer before senior year, and everything changes. By October, your senior is already thinking about graduation and getting an apartment, and you are wondering where all of the years went and praying that nothing goes horribly wrong in the next seven months.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
Eamonn made us tremendously proud today, but I have to admit that there were times when I wasn’t sure that he would make it. There were moments when it seemed that there was nothing more than Pooh fluff in his brain, and there were many nights when I would get anxious about his state of mind and just how much he was in control of himself when he wasn’t under guard at home.
But I really believe that the senior year is more for parents than it is for their teenagers. It’s nine months in which you can begin to accept the fact that you son or daughter isn’t 7 any more, that you are not the most important part of their world, and that they are thinking about life without you.
It’s a hard reality to face, and if you are anything like me, you don’t accept it gracefully. Even as your man-child or woman-child is thinking of new paths of discovery and a brand new chapter in life, you are reconciling yourself to fate and the need to close a chapter that has ended much too soon.
I hope that Eamonn figures out what his great adventure is going to be. I hope that he never stops dreaming, and trying, and loving, and living. I wish him star-filled skies at night, and red-orange sunrises that will take his breath away. I want for him all of those things that are possible, and even some that may not seem possible. I wish him joy, and I wish him love, but most of all, I wish him a life that is filled with hope.
Hope for better tomorrows, a world more at peace, people who are more in tune with their environment, friends who will be there at 3 o’clock in the morning if he needs them, and the immutable knowledge that home is always waiting.
And in the words of the incomparable Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”
More later. Peace be with you and yours.