Tuesday, May 29, 2007

on wormholes and midlife crisis'

I wrote this last summer thinking I would publish it but never got around to it. Following a lively back and forth with a very interesting person on topics ranging from Einstein to Al Bundy, I decided I may as well post it here since I'll never get around to polishing it for submission anywhere.

This is a true story about one woman and her mid life crisis. It is not a dramedy, a tragedy or an ironic-sex-in-the-city-homage…..edy. This is pure science fiction, told with an objective and dispassionate eye worthy of Mr. Spock himself.

Around the time of my 39th birthday I was a teacher, wife and mother, vaguely dissatisfied with my life. One night, I came across a traversable wormhole. Although I didn’t see it at the time, I believe it opened up at 2 AM on an unseasonable warm night in November while I sat up waiting for a response from the doctor on call and trying deep breathing to still my heart which had started pounding out of my chest at a rate of 200 beats a minute.

A wormhole for those of you who are not physics fans, is a theoretical bridge between areas of space. Wormholes exist in solutions to Einstein’s equations and are thought to be extremely unstable. Most known solutions of general relativity, which allow for wormholes, require the existence of exotic matter, a theoretical substance which has negative energy density. But back to my beating heart.

It beat on through the night and continued without letting up until after the Dr. declined to return my call. From that day on, my life was never the same. I lost 30 pounds, was plagued with heart palpitations, double vision, joint pain, vertigo, skin rashes and my body declared an all out war on food. I took extended sick leave and stayed in bed – only occasionally journeying to the couch or bathroom – for a year and a half.

I can’t tell you the exact time I saw the wormhole opening, although I do remember having a phone conversation with a woman who told me “ you’ve been on the Hero’s journey, now it’s time for you to go on the Mystic’s Journey.” This was initially tough for me to swallow. I had always been what you might call “spiritually challenged.”

I think of developmental stages like wormholes. They are only open for a finite amount of time then they close forever. There is a time to introduce algebra, potty training (the wormhole for potty training might open again in your 80’s or 90’s – hence Depends) and yes, a time to reconsider your entire life, ie to fully embrace a midlife crisis. Let me tell you folks, when you can’t get out of bed and you shit your food out right after you eat it, it’s not hard to contemplate rethinking your life.

I started (and maybe will end) with yoga. My then husband would drive me to class where I would participate for part of the time and lay down and sleep for the rest. I read about someone who had cured chronic fatigue this way and I thought cool – yoga it is.

I started to practice yoga every day.

I fasted and introduced foods one at a time to figure out which ones would make me sick.

When my vision would allow me, I read every alternative health book I could get my hands on.

I meditated.

It became clear that my body had tricked me into looking inside so I could change my life. I came out on the other end an entirely different human being. Kinder to myself and to others, less likely to go for the joke at all costs, less interested in living my life for other people but more in love with humanity and more willing to marry myself to the whole human predicament. I am grateful every day for getting sick because truthfully, I’ve never been happier – still a mom, no longer a wife, still encouraging the dreams of my students but now putting mine first.

Here’s my conclusion: Midlife crisis’ are good. We are all afraid of the unknown, the wormholes, the dark tunnels with no end in site and nothing but a tiny flashlight to guide our way. We fill the void with things and distractions and never see our way clear to moving through them to see what’s on the other side of the unknown. I want to spend the next half of my life cultivating fearlessness, embracing the question mark, opening my heart, learning and loving ….and yes, I bought a sports car too. After all, when but during a midlife crisis can you do that?

I love this poem

To Have Without Holding
Marge Piercy

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
you float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.