Feelings of Impermanence
Every positive change in my life has required a loss. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, we live in a universe where all exchanges require reciprocal physics. Eating dinner is the act of alchemy - we use our bodies to transmute food for fuel and in that process, something is lost. “Life is change” is a platitude, you think, until you sit in the bathtub for two hours watching the water lap at your body and realize that time is flowing around you so that you are only ever available in the instance . And soon the water will drain, and you will dry your hair off with a towel, and the bath will be a memory that lives outside of persistent existence.
A memory is another kind of loss.
When I was around seven years old I wanted to experiment with way memory changed so I focused all my intent on keeping the memory of turning off a light in the bathroom, trying to memorize the way it felt with my finger sliding down slowly on the switch. Then I observed the time passing, separating me from that moment, prying me away from the instance. Two seconds. Five seconds. Half an hour. An hour. A day. A week. Trying to see the way the memory slipped through my consciousness and how time mutated it.
Twenty years later, I still remember a specific instance of turning a light off in my childhood home and struggling to hold onto the image. And the image has warped itself over time, because a memory itself is a kind of living thing, changing with every recollection.
When my last relationship ended and I decided to move back to Texas I remember crying on the couch in my Seattle apartment, mourning the loss of a life. I knew it needed to change, I’d reached a liminal point in which it was either transform to push for the things that I wanted, or continue to stagnate until the life I’d built reached its inevitable end. I knew then, curled in a little ball as my ex-girlfriend played some game about robots that I can’t remember the name of, that I’d never have that kind of relationship again. That I’d never feel the same way again.
I was right. I would never feel that way again.
But I only truly cried once about it, let all the water come out of me.
There are many moments that can never be replicated.
There are relationships that cannot be duplicated. That will never even come close. That’s the nature of living in a universe that abhors a copy. We live in a world that makes unique snowflakes that all perform the same function. Kills each star in a different composition.
I bought a table and two chairs and a lamp from Ikea today. As I was putting the table together, I remembered the last time I built furniture from Ikea - a bookshelf - about a year and a half ago. It was the first time I’d ever attempted it alone, as I’d always thought myself too stupid to do anything industrious.
It was the anniversary of my new awakening. When I’d pushed through my disassociation and realized that everything was teeming with the noise of life. That I could actually see the solutions sitting in front of me that for so long I had tried to deny. Sitting on my floor with a screwdriver, a jar of cherry Kool-aid beside me, I realized how long I’d been lying to myself. I could see the architecture of the bookshelf as I’d never allowed myself to before. I saw how each piece went together, to complete the whole composition, screws and washers and particle board. All of the things I’d told myself I was “too stupid” to see, I saw.
I cried and the universe spilled out of me. Everything I thought I’d lost, had been inside me all along.
That’s the secret isn’t it? In the perpetual flow of motion and matter personal loss does exist but the base matter for all potential possibilities is not.
I told Robert that this was the happiest day of my life so far. Sitting on a floor in my room, building an Ikea bookshelf by myself while drinking some homemade Kool-aid I made with splenda. He laughed, and told me that this was just the beginning. That I was unable to see it, but this was only a fraction of the happiness that it was possible to achieve. My baseline had been low. I was used to misery. I’d accept any of the scraps.
He was right: I have had many more days after that with, each with new angular dimensions of change and an increased overall happiness. The day we hiked with the puppies down a river trail and then ate pancakes at IHOP. The day I ate some acid and Robert told me he loved me and I actually saw that the love was a rainbow inside of me. When we ate roast chicken and drank chianti at a little table and fed Brie to our puppies and we kept smiling at each other and I realized each moment was a precious possibility for human happiness. That first morning in California, feeling the bright weather like a new set of clothes.
There are things I don’t want to lose. But one day, I’m going to lose them anyway.
That’s okay. It has to be.
I’m no stranger to feelings of impermanence, but I still want to remind myself to focus less on building pyramids, and more on building scenes, with sets that can be easily changed to express an emotion.
I don’t cling to the moment. Like dirty bathtub water, a feeling of fullness. I cling to the things inside me, the machinery of perception that allows happiness to flow through time and memory, those things that persist from moment to moment until I can’t persist anymore.
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