“There are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
Ever since I read this yesterday I’ve been contemplating its meaning- whether in the shower or watching Galaxy Quest with my son or even staring into the fridge wondering what I’m having for lunch.
Like the metaphorical eunuch, can I cut off my false dreams, painful thoughts, and delusional fantasies? Is this cutting off even possible? I’m intrigued. I’m scared. I’ve crushed some thoughts to my chest like an old rag doll – doesn’t matter if it’s coming apart at the seams. Doesn’t matter if it offers nothing in return for my devotion… I don’t want to let go.
Looking back, I see how loss was part of the journey and even sowed the seeds for future joy. Intellectually I get that. Emotionally, letting go can feel as if I am giving up on purpose. And yet there is something in me that dares to know the truth. Maybe the modern day eunuch questions his thinking and the thoughts release him. Maybe questioning is the fire that heats the blade. Maybe the eunuchs know.
It began the way most things do – with a stab to the heart. Dying that day wasn’t on my agenda. Not to say I wasn’t depressed. Of course I was… Yet, I’d somehow accepted that living small was safe. It was comfortable, familiar. It kept my disappointments to a minimum. If I cried sometimes, randomly, well, that was part of it. It was my life and I had no serious intentions of leaving it.
They said the attacker was lucky – a stab to the heart is hard to do. I knew that because I heard the conversation of the crowd that had gathered around my cooling body. Apparently, the ribs are a pretty good defense against things seeking to pierce the heart. Evolution or God… Our bodies seem to have a bit of wisdom when it comes to survival.
Floating above the circus of co-workers and rescue personnel, I noticed one individual who seemed calmer than the rest. Joyful. There was something soothing and grounded about him. I guess I glided over, because suddenly there he was, staring at me with piercing green eyes. Gray wisps of hair seemed to dance from his eyebrows and a crooked smile highlighted his somewhat crooked nose.
“Fergal O’Hara,” he said as he tipped a flat tweed hat. “Nice to meet you.”
Feeling a little off guard because in no way did my random after-death musings ever lead me to consider anything Irish, I gaped. “Are you here for me?”
“That’s right, my dear. Are you ready? We’ve got a nice warm body waiting. I wanted to give you a chance to get used to your new state, but…” He tilted his head. “You seem like a fast learner. Shall we go?”
Me a quick learner? The most I’d done since finishing community college was tread water in a job way below my abilities but that paid the rent. Barely. I was the 40-something living in McLoser Villas and sliding into Prozac and YouTube videos of rescued puppies.
As a medical receptionist at a podiatry office, I aspired to showing up. I had a quote from The Office TV show taped on the bottom of my stapler that pretty much summed up my feelings to a T. “I’ve always subscribed to the idea that if you really want to impress your boss, you go in there and you do mediocre work, halfheartedly.” Thanks, Jim. You get it.
In fact, the most exciting thing to happen at work was dying in front of it. Apparently, my employer’s wife thought I was “the tart” who was banging her husband, Dr. Donald Dong (his real name, I kid you not). My auburn hair was the one thing I had in common with Dr. Dong’s mistress according to a sobbing Mrs. Dong as they dragged her away from me. Her rage refused to see the other details that didn’t match and, well, there I lie on the cracked sidewalk in front of our office’s smudged glass doors.
“What do you mean you have a nice warm body waiting? I just left a perfectly functioning warm body… Don’t I attend some kind of after-death review? Or get bathed in healing crystal energy or something?” I’d watched enough B movies to figure that one out.
Fergal rubbed his jaw. “That’s not the way it works. At least for you. You’ve got a different assignment that needs your immediate attention. Now my dear, shall we see what it’s all about?”
Suddenly I felt cold. “Is there no going back?” I turned towards my body. Sure it wasn’t perfect. There was a bit of a squishy middle, my roots were growing out (why couldn’t I have died with fresh highlights?!), and yeah, my love life was a work in progress (I had just signed up on Match.com. Kill me now. Oh wait…), but it was my life. I wasn’t done, not by a long shot.
Just the thought of starting over again was overwhelming. “I’m not ready for a new life! I’m just getting it together in this one!”
“Darlin,” he said as he leaned close to me, “You want the antidote to your life? A way to fill the hole gaping in your chest? Do you even see the metaphor of your death?”
He had me there. Even I had to admit that I’d lost my way and was going nowhere fast. Hence the depression and a freezer full of Chunky Monkey ice cream. When I was young, I had dreams. I wanted to study medicine. Or be an elementary school teacher. Or even a philosopher. Everything seemed so exciting. Instead, I somehow found myself working in a run-down office with posters of bunions, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails.
Yeah, I wasn’t setting the world on fire this go ‘round. “Okay, Fergal. I’m willing…”
“That’s all that’s required.” He gave me that crooked smile again and something in me relaxed. Death isn’t so bad I thought.
And then I felt a thousand volts coursing through my new body and the smell of ozone.
(This is part of a new novel idea, using the writing prompt from Sunday Scribblings, “antidote.”)
My theory has always been that at some point, something will arrive and reward my patience, my suffering.
At least that’s how I thought it worked. Except these days I’m feeling restless. I’m dreaming of mesas and blue sky. I’m wondering if I can choose differently. Deal myself a new hand.
The tickets to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico lay on my kitchen table. I bought them last week, knowing nothing about the area but intrigued by the name.
I walk to the sink and pour out my stale coffee. There’s a trembling in my body that I don’t recognize. Something did happen to me (or perhaps through me). My suffering isn’t gone but I don’t mind taking it with me.
“But it feels so real… this whole being human thing. And I haven’t accomplished anything. It’s embarrassing, really. Heartbreaking.”
“Oh, god, you really believe that matters! Hold on, I have to wipe my eyes.
“So not to be insensitive, but how long do you really think you have on earth? At the outside, say 90 years or thereabouts? Would you even want to be around longer? Never mind, not relevant. Bottom line, you are literally the twitch of a blink of a cosmic eye. There’s only one reason you’re here and everything else is filler. You can judge that filler as good or bad. Accomplished or tragic. But Life isn’t judging you and there is no prize for Best Human.”
“You make sense, but you’re a rooster so really, I’m probably just talking to myself.”
“If that makes you feel better. I am a rooster, true. But wise as the stars, my friend. Wise as the… But hey, you believe in concepts that make no sense anyway. Am I just a rooster? Appearances can be deceiving.”
“I’m so lost… Wait. What’s the one thing I’m here for then? Was that rooster speak or do you really know?”
“Being lost is fantastic. It just means your stories have less glue. And the one thing? Remember City Slickers?”
“The movie? Where Curly holds up a finger?!”
“That’s where I was going except… and here’s a hint… the one thing has nothing to do with accomplishment. NOTHING to do with it.”
“So find my one thing…”
“Except that it’s not a thing, right? It’s more a state, a north star. Makes sense? Just don’t compare your one thing to someone else’s.”
“Because I rock, I talk to roosters, and my one thing is more than enough. That about it?”
“If my beak was flexible you’d see me smile… but allow me to just say, hell yeah. You totally got this.”
The Waystation sat open for business
Someone had spray painted “PEACE” above a door of peeling paint
Dusty railroad tracks crossed in front, no longer going anywhere
I had reached this place as a last resort
It wasn’t my original destination nor was it familiar
Gold and billowy white were more my speed
I thought I was bound for finer things
With gentle, sublime music filling the empty space
Somewhere around Prescott I lost my way
I found myself following the coyote calls in the valley
The sigh of the wind among the pondersoa pine
And wound up in Chloride, AZ – sans my bags, my map, and even my shoes
But the view is grand
The sun warms my face
And the tracks remind me that all paths lead
… (thanks to Sunday Scribblings for the writing prompt, Guidance. It took me in a beautiful non-direction) (photo by BrandonStephenson)