• emilyinprague

Perihelion

Updated: Jan 10

January 9, 2020


Is January 9th too late to write an end-of-the-year/ decade synopsis? The kids just went back to school today, for dinner we ate thawed Thanksgiving turkey casserole, I’m up late catching an episode of a new Netflix show I meant to check out all break. It’s three days past Epiphany (or my brother’s birthday, if you grew up in a family where your big brother was born on the 12th Day of Christmas), and four days past making a personal epiphany, one of a handful that revolutionized me in the past year, give or take nine days.

January is now well under way, and I have yet to make a New Year’s Resolution. Resolutions/goals/ plans/ prescriptions for personal improvement aren’t what I need this year. Oh, there is certainly renouvellement in the air, a re-newing-ness that’s undeniable and energizing and galvanizing me to throw myself into all the projects, offer myself to the Universe in a way that says not only “I’m here for It” whatever It may be but also “I got you and You got me, too.”

Friday promises a new moon. As January promises a new calendar year, each new moment ushers us, with its flashlight and its soft-soled shoes, into the promise a new life. A Life whose crimson-upholstered seat may be slightly Coke-stained or a little squeaky, but at least we get to put our butts in that seat for the first time, every time we settle in for the show.

The show will be as new as the Zen we bring to the watching of it. The unfolding begins Each. New. Moment. Want to learn to knit? You can RIGHT NOW. Drink less? Unless you just took a sip of your beer, well then, guess what? You just started that new habit. Got it in mind to do a back flip on the trampoline, finally make it to that quirky little town with the old motel and the swimming hole, or take a trip with your sister and get a tattoo? Everything you want to do starts in this very instant.

Do the next right thing, said my reiki-ist this afternoon. Jenn, you are gifted and a gift. I heard Do the next Write Thing. I interpreted, Don’t wait for the Call for Submissions, the agent, the contest win, or anybody’s sanction to Write the Thing. To Do the Next Write Thing. Start writing it by putting one word after the other and climbing the ladder of words one rung at a time until you can poke your head out amongst the stars. — I know I’m mixing my p.o.v here. I know. Just let me get this down, OK?—

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, viewed from the International Space Station in 2014.Credit...JSC/NASA

Monday, or Epiphany, was also the point of perihelion when the Earth’s orbit brings it closest to the sun. This is quite possibly the best definition of personal epiphany one could come up with, astronomically speaking. Epiphany: the day the Three Wise Men arrived to visit Baby Jesus. (Or Andrew Waters’ birthday, lest you need reminding.) Epiphany: a discovery made about oneself; the closest approach one can make to Deepest Understanding, to thine own Self, without burning one’s wings.

My discovery? The Journey that we writers send our characters off on reflects the very journey we embark on as we set out to tell our stories. Our challenges, our hurdles, our blind spots, weak moments, triumphs and resolutions, mirror theirs. DUH. Meg Hayertz, you are a mad genius and an enlightened teacher. Now everything comes clearer. Out of the darkness, a returning to the Light.

If you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet, skip this next part.

— I am not a Super Fan. I have seen each of the original three installments exactly once and the second three exactly never. JarJar Binks is so annoying, I’d rather drink vinegar and piss Kool-Aid than watch anything longer than a Taco Bell commercial voiced by him or anything that sounds like him. So when I plug “Star Wars Rise of Skywalker”, I’m speaking as a movie lover who goes for the popcorn and stays for the Han Solos.

Here’s the thing: Rey moves me. She’s my favorite superhero, more than Skeeter in The Help. Moreso even than Wonder Woman. I find her so empowering. I tried her whole Healing Hands, Feel-the-Force thing on my hubby this weekend and it worked. And when she brought Kylo Ren back from the Dark Side, I double fist pumped the entire movie theater. Hooray! Can we has that, 2020? Some major Dark Side conversions, please. The moment brought tears to my eyes and not just because of its wholesome goodness and eternal optimism, Good-conquers-evil malarkey. If we count back to the point of cognition, my life basically began at age six when Andrew (Epiphany Baby, remember him?) and I went with our best childhood friends and their mom to see “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” for the first time, and there I sat, 42 years later at the end of the year, end of the decade, in a darkened theater in the middle of a blue-sky-Texas December afternoon with my two younger children and watched it all come to an end. I didn’t say I wept, I said I had tears in my eyes. I’m not being melodramatic. I’m not saying Life as we know it is now over. I’m just saying it was poignant and made me feel somehow complete.

Which brings me to another reason I shy from making Resolutions this year — I’m already doing pretty okay as it is. Not that I couldn’t stand to lose a few pounds, get better organized, or improve my credit score and my general knowledge base of current events. But when the guys on Queer Eye give their standard “you gotta like you” speech to the make-overee of the episode, instead of being all like, Oh yes, Queen. I gotta like meeee, sob sob sob, in my head, I’m thinking, I’m good. I like me fine already.

I don’t need Tan in my closet or Antony in my kitchen. I don’t need a makeover or a self-help book or a procedure or a pill or nothing. I just need to write my words, care for my people and my body, and save the world one batch of cookies at a time and no Resolution is going to get my words written. The only way for that to happen is to write them, one ladder rung at a time. Do the next write thing. Start right now.

So here’s what I learned this year. Yes, I like me. No, I do not need to make lists of what needs to change or get better or get undone. But what I did need more of, and didn’t know I needed it until I got it, was Permission.

Now you may be saying, Girlfiend, you are talking out both sides of your ass. You wrote that all you have to do to begin is just fucking start already, and then you say you needed permission?? Wtf?! Yeah, I know. But the key is, I didn’t know I needed it, which makes it different.

I wasn’t waiting around for anyone to tell me I was allowed to go to New Orleans and read my poetry in a room full of people while Charlie Mussselwhite’s bluesy-throated, bedroom-eyed daughter accompanied me on the slide guitar. I didn’t get sign-off from anyone to have major surgery and fight off Percocet demons and bruise two ribs and get multiple melanoma in situ removed and subsequently require and receive steroid injections into the botched scar the quackerjack plastic surgeon left on my right forearm in exactly the position an attempted suicide would leave an identical scar, so I’m marred with that for life. And nobody signed my slip to heal from those procedures and write a book about it and fly to Portland, OR, New York City, North Carolina once, Virginia twice, hike eight miles in Pompeii, snorkel in the Adriatic, fly back to New York City, and wind up here on my couch, three days past Epiphany and an hour and a half past my bedtime. What did I get permission for? To put my hands on my thighs during a simple yoga pose, and to KNIT MESSY.

If those two things sound trivial to you, you can go suck an egg. When you have tried your whole yoga life (35 years and counting) to achieve a basic Utkatasana and couldn’t because of your singularly characteristic anatomy resulting from your congenital birth defect, and you’ve been in pain and shame all those years, thinking Why can’t I do this like everybody else, not just in this class, but in the whole damn world?, and someone (Thank you, Lisa Clifford!) comes along and shows you a whole new way, basically saying it’s okay to support yourself, it’s a game changer. And it’s a reminder that sometimes we didn’t know we needed the permission until we received it.

I didn’t know I needed permission to knit badly.

I love to knit. I love the textures and colors of yarns, from cheap and scratchy to this rich tourmaline angora skein my sister gave me for Christmas last year which I have yet to unravel because it’s so beautiful I just don’t know what to do.

However, I am a lousy knitter. I can make rows back and forth all the livelong day and create for you the longest scarf ever and that’s it. That’s just about all I know how to do. And I don’t care. I like the clickety click of the needles and the accumulation of rows in my lap. I like that for about $6 a pop you can buy a lump of fibrous nothing and turn it into something. For years, making long, narrow somethings was good enough. (Last year I did teach myself how to do hats. I made one for each of the kids. They’ve never worn them.)

Then Haven came to visit me and brought her knitting and it was just this fat, chunky lunky series of loopdeloops and I said what are you making and she said a blanket and then she showed me how she buys bright funky yarns and makes misshapen squares and attaches them all together and abracadabra it is nothing short of alchemy. Her blankets are works of art. Folky, funky, comfy, chunky, messy, glorious loopy loved-on art. And isn’t what this year has been? And isn’t that what this life has been?

Happy Epiphanies. Happy New Moments.

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