Two Saturdays ago, before even opening my eyes, I woke to the really terrific thought: Today, I don’t have to be anyone but Seema Reza. It sounds so goddamned self-congratulatory, I know. The day before, on Friday, I had two entirely different groups at two hospitals in two states, with no time to spare between them. It’s not that I wasn’t myself during those groups, it was just that I had to sort of curate myself. There’s a performative aspect to trying to get a room of people to buy in, trying to make sure my energy level isn’t so overwhelming people feel uneasy or so underwhelming that no one is motivated. Then I had dinner with a sort of new colleague/friend–and you know how new friendships can be: lots of “on,” lots of explaining who you are. So when I woke on Saturday with a stretch of time to myself, and the opportunity to enjoy my own company, even though I was (and am) behind on a hundred things I have to do, even though I disappoint myself and exhaust myself and disparage myself, I was so so glad. And waking to that gratitude was a gift of its own. I thought about it while I drank coffee, read, went to a yoga class, walked through the city with headphones on, sat alone in some lectures on Minimalism at the National Gallery of Art while making little observations to myself about the other attendees (and maybe taking an open-mouthed nap during part of it). For myself, for a time, I was enough.
We have talked here, and maybe in person at length, about being unreliable narrators about ourselves. How we often look at ourselves through the lens of our pasts, the things we are ashamed of having done, or the things we are no longer able to do. The people we no longer are (good & bad). If without all of that disappointment, or nostalgia-riddled regret we really saw ourselves, what might we see? It’s a repeat of everything. Oliver: Attention is the beginning of devotion. Baca: I practice being myself and I am amazed by myself. Dillard: How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. If you really feel uncomfortable with how you’re spending your life, maybe change something? But be sure you’re looking at your actual self, at an actual week in your current life. Andy Grammer was on NPR last weekend talking about the video to his song “Fresh Eyes,” which I never liked all that much until I saw it. We’ve watched it in some groups this week. The moment when people are turned around to see themselves in the mirror is everything. Don’t get hung up on how surface-level this particular help for the homeless might be. Get hung up on that moment of recognition. When I get to see those moments in real life, they make all the most exhausting days make complete sense.
If you struggle with entering this, consider writing about the work your hands have done in the past week. Who have they held, what work have they done, what food have they cooked, what tables and chairs have they moved? Leave nothing out. Just keep it going, the image of your hands moving through your beautiful, difficult, graceful life.
Oh, dears. I got a piece of writing in my inbox this week that was so good, about how sometimes we can’t see what effect we are having on the larger world, but we just have to keep working. Yes.