September 21st, 2015
I was coming up the stairs one morning, coming out of the Lex/59th NQR stop … I think at 61st. This was about three months ago. It was a rough time. I was finishing up my Masters program and was in the crucible. Finals, my Masters thesis, health problems, money problems, all of it was converging. So as I trundled up the stairs to class I was in mindhole. A mind-slough.
I saw people side by side making their way up, slow folks, fast folks, fat folks, lean folks. Legs and legs. Canes, puppies, big shopping bags. The traffic thinned out near the top until there was just one pair of legs ahead of me, those of an trim old lady wearing funky sneakers. I felt a breeze, a late summer breeze, a promise of the easing up of a sticky season of stifling city heat. I felt it as I climbed the stairs, but it didn’t really move me much, I was too sunk in my brain-bog. Then I hear, in a rich, almost lusty voice: “Ahh, that’s nice.” It wasn’t hammy, or too loud, or exhibitionistic, it was a genuine spontaneous expression of deep pleasure. It was the old lady’s voice.
I was startled. I’m embarrassed to say that I was even irritated; I was in my bog and wanted only external input that mirrored or confirmed my distorted mindstate. This sprightly old woman and her little bon vivant moment was an assault of daylight upon a pack of rats shrinking under a pile of damp blankets in an abandoned shed. It just hurt my eyes, made my mind scurry back deeper into itself.
But as I kept watching her legs, and as we both finished our climb up to street-level, I started to have a different reaction. First, curiosity. I watched her legs as if by doing so I could gain insight into how blessedly easy it could be for certain individuals, like this woman, to tap into pure existential pleasures. The simple universal pleasures of, say, stretching, having sunshine splash on your face, taking a deep breath and exhaling. Then I felt longing. I yearned to have the capacity to just spontaneously utter — no, not just utter, but feel — the way she had, too.
Then I remembered that I do, I do have that capacity, and I can be as spontaneous as I want to be. As is so often the case with what I perceive to be my obstacles, nothing was in my way but myself. I emerged from the stairs feeling the breeze across my face, arms, legs. I started my stroll, took a deep breath in through my nostrils, held it in, exhaled the same way, and knew myself to be a simple body. A body that, at any moment, could just be in that moment, as a body, feeling the pleasure of simple things. It was up to me when and how often to draw from this never-ending well of pleasure, and exult in the gift of being a breathing, sensing, sentient being. And practice this not just as a reprieve from the mind’s damp shed & cold bog — though it certainly works in that regard, as I found that morning — but as a vital end unto itself, one which can nourish our wellbeing, put our fretting in perspective, even alter our brain chemistry. Blessed life is so brief. We do an injustice to ourselves and, often by extension, those close to us if we don’t stop as often as we can to relish the modest, fleeting joys of existence.
All writing © copyright C. Way / Snailcrow.com 2015