Well this is nervousing. Yes, I made up that word; go with it.
I previously stated that I would not write another book. Technically I’m sticking to that, as when the remark was made I was speaking about non-fiction, which is all I’ve published to date. However, I’ve been working on a novel for the better part of a decade in bits and pieces. I hesitantly asked my marvelous Facebook friends if they might be interested in perusing the Prologue, and I was so flattered by the response that I’m going to actually put it out there!
So here it is. If you like it, I would love to know that. If you hate it, I would not. xoxo
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
— PROLOGUE —
There is one thing I know to be true about life. It goes on.
54 Thursdays ago, I identified my favorite place on Earth: under water. Not in a 20,000 leagues under the sea or a watch-the-pretty-fish-swim-round-and-round-the-aquarium kind of way. Instead, I lie on my back in the bathtub for what feels like hours, submerged such that the only part of me outside the water is my face.
I remember the last time I lied there, behind three closed doors so as to block the majority of chaos swirling around me. I floated within the cocoon of foggy quiet and, within minutes, the inner monologue began.
I’ve never had success with meditation. It’s not for lack of trying. But here’s how that exercise looks when I embark upon it: I get into position, close my eyes, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, wonder what time it is, breathe in, wonder who just texted me, breathe out, wonder if that text was important, breathe in, get annoyed with the dog barking next door, breathe out, feel my toe itch, breathe in, think about how much I need a pedicure, breathe out… And we’re done. It’s ridiculous. I’ve sampled a variety of approaches, including attempting to meditate to the sound of Deepak Chopra’s voice—a deep, soothing sound that could likely lull nearly anyone into a trance—however, instead of following suit and becoming one with the spiritual world as Deepak advises me to meditate on the notion that “all is well,” I find myself focusing not on that fact that all is well but on the thought that his voice is so nice. And then I wonder what it would be like to have lunch with him. Breathe in. I wonder what he had for lunch. What does he think about juicing? Breathe out. Does he really take all those supplements every morning? Breathe in. And massage sesame oil into his skin every morning? Breathe out. Because that does not smell great. Breathe in. I know. Breathe out. I’ve tried it. Breathe in. Are we done yet? Breathe out.
When I lie nearly submerged in a tub of water, it’s almost as though the liquid ear plugs allow all these sorts of superficial questions to flow quietly down the drain until all that’s left are those that my spirit most desperately wants answered.
What happens when you find yourself in a situation where you truly no longer have a choice? When the choice not to choose—which, actually, is a choice—cuts more deeply than simply choosing to choose? When you realize that what you’ve known along has always been right. And that to no longer pay attention to that knowing is worse than dying. Because by doing so, the best parts of yourself would be snuffed out while the rest of you continued to breathe. And there really is no worse way to live. The moment when you acknowledge and become one with the fact that the pain of living the lie is more excruciating than any other pain could possibly be is a pivotal one.
When—after floating for an indiscernible period of time—your inner monologue reaches that point, the voice inside is suddenly so loud that you can’t escape it. When nothing, not even the water, can drown out the sound of your soul screaming. It’s like you truly are 20,000 leagues under the sea, somehow able to hold your breath for longer than anyone ever deemed plausible, yet not—until that moment—aware that you’re doing so. And once you become aware, you realize that this ability could leave you at any moment. Kind of like when you have a dream in which you’re flying, and in that moment that you realize that you’re dreaming and flying, instead of embracing it and taking control, you jolt awake to prevent to possibility that you’ll instead crash to the ground.
In that brief moment when you become aware of your surroundings and the survival mechanism you’ve honed to keep you safe there, the silence of the deep allows the screaming to be heard as if for the first time. It’s as though you’re tied up, Houdini-like, lying on a bed of sand and seaweed, and you can only imagine what it would feel like to break the surface; to exhale, to be free and able to breathe honest air. To see the shore, and know that you can swim toward it. To be willing to do anything not to have to trust that you can again hold your breath for an indeterminate amount of time while lying wondering what might float by next.
I’ll tell you exactly what living that way is like. It’s knowing full well that you’re bound and gagged at the bottom of the ocean, and it’s not a dream. It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s thick. It’s like miles and miles of vertical mud. And you don’t really know what’s between where you are and the fresh air and seagulls that you believe with all your heart beckon above. You know what’s around you. While you may not like it, there’s comfort in knowing what’s there. You also know what beckons many leagues above. But you don’t know what it will take to get there. You don’t know exactly how many miles north you will have to swim, how long it will take to do so, how much longer you might have to hold your breath, and whether or not you can hold it for that long. You don’t know whether you’ll be fully alive or too beaten and bruised to enjoy much of anything when you emerge on the other side.
I know what that life is like. And I chose to close my eyes and say goodbye to that place and all of the comfort that lied therein. It was time to say a prayer, and ascend.