Whatever drains from the solar plexus…well, it’s hard to say, but the stuff is absolutely vital, trust me. This hits home as I rise from my wheelchair at 9 AM in the men’s room at Peet’s Coffee. This maneuver, tried and tested over considerable time, feels surprisingly shaky. All I have to do is stand sideways to the toilet, grab the disabled safety bar against the wall and offload.
But something is amiss. The general robustness that I count on in such moments on my feet has vanished. Where can it have gone? Not that this enters my mind at the moment, so concerned am I with not falling. What does enter my mind is an extremely vivid, largely kinesthetic run-through of what would happen if I lost my balance in this very position. It all unfolds, on a virtual level, the sideways twisting, collapsing, joint-wrenching lurch to my left side. My thigh probably hitting the wall first. Some chance, currently being felt, of my knee ripping itself away, like breaking the green top off a carrot. The rest, the fall to the untantalizing concrete floor…all so unthinkable that I think long and hard and carefully, as I move myself into position above the toilet. All this for a pee. Thus, my life.
Or our lives. Jane, currently stirring sugar into my morning cappuccino, seems uncharacteristically daunted. Over the din of Peet’s she tries to explain the day’s challenges. To an outsider, church activities seem so benign. Perhaps that is the idea, in fact, the ideal of any well-run organization. Jane is talking about what it takes to get people to work together. And this morning, it seems to take a lot. She has a long drive ahead of her. To a conference site north of the Bay Area. Sufficient in caffeine, we have run out of time. We kiss goodbye. I feel her loss acutely. Perhaps I feel all losses acutely. Jane is only gone for a couple of days. One gets addicted to love, even domesticity. Both are returning, neither very far away. It’s just that I am slightly drained.
At home, I do what I do of a lost morning. I prop one foot against a raised garden bed and stare at the tomatoes. Unfortunately, this only reinforces my sense of the decline of everything. Late September, and things are declining. Such are the seasons. Mildew is creeping across the leaves of my tomatoes, and there are fewer of the latter. The plants have almost stopped blooming. Things fade.
Trouble is, things seem to be fading everywhere. The ocean is growing more acidic, I learned from a rare bit of reportage on the morning radio, geophysical news being in chronic short supply. And there is something Woody Allenish about my despair at the fate of mother earth, the irony of the little guy versus the cosmos. Except that this has to do with the little guy within us, all of us. Very little. And getting littler all the time. Can we destroy the entire world? And why should I sit around Menlo Park worrying about such a thing?
Furnaces. That’s what I’m worrying about. Not to mention water heaters. Thing is, with the expenditure of…god forbid…a large amount of money, my apartment fourplex could be a model of energy efficiency. The roofs, that is to say, the one on the residence and the one on the carport…all face the right way. Solar. Energy-efficient gas devices for heating air and water. Or maybe solar-heated water. A big, self-indulgent liberal jerk off? Certainly no way to run an apartment house. And yet, why not? If nothing else, along the way I will learn an awful lot about the economics of energy.
And energy seems so lacking on this particular day. Is mortality taking a little nip here, a small bite there? And all these books around the apartment that are not going to get read. I just know it…and face this fact often. As for the balance, it hangs in the balance. Keep walking, all physical medicine professionals tell me. Stand. Stand up and fight. Even when the fight seems to have gone out of me. Somewhere between sensing the decline of everything and knowing my own fragility. It all hangs in the balance. And if I don’t make an effort, the sense of balance is what goes.
Tomorrow, Yom Kippur, I find myself in the odd, unusual, vastly inappropriate role of pitch meister. That is to say, delivering the appeal to the congregation. Which is a wonderful, community-minded thing to do. Just that I’m hardly a congregational leader. I’m no one’s idea of a salesperson. And yet…it’s reality. It’s the next step. Honestly, that is all I know. Fate shoves us this way and that way. We check our moral compass, determine whether or not it feels like a good direction. Then what the hell? Destination unknown. That is the point. My eyebrows, that is the other. They are flying off in multiple directions, mad-professor style. Which may be what happens when you think too much about energy.