The Centre

Day Two of Thirty Days of Writing

Photo by Kat Fossell

From my rented rooftop, the moon is in full glow again tonight. It’s supposed to be waning, but it’s a light that just won’t turn off.

My eyes are having trouble adjusting as I sit waiting for the story to pick back up. Where to start after everything has ended?

After my miscarriage, after my partner left, after I packed my things and went back home, I was once again condemned to the basement. I kept walking, day in and day out, going further and further. I started to cover at least six or seven miles a day. My little sis, A, would come with me sometimes and we began the process of getting to know one another again. Everything felt new, like there was a whole world I’d never seen, and my body felt each day as if it was remaking itself.

I would still wake up on the couch or the floor downstairs, my chest tight, my fist gripping a pillow as if it were a life vest. In those first moments of consciousness, my body still confused, I would weep and sob, as quietly as possible so as not to disturb anyone. Grief would wash me in its wake this way, and so I continued to pushed off sleep as long as possible.

I began reading ferociously again. I decided I would get through at least fifty books in 2016.

But even with all the walking and the quiet talks, even with my extended periods of staring up at the corrugated ceiling panels or out the sliding glass door into the shallow wood, I knew I was missing something that could not be found where I was looking. I was missing the thread. Where did my story continue? I had closed all the proverbial doors. It was time to open a new one. But which one? And where was it?

My mother and grandmother practiced Buddhism. A strange thing to do in the Midwest. I’d grown up attending meetings with them. The meetings are largely based around discussion. I’d always liked the feeling of the meetings, the ability to just sit and talk about what was going on in one’s life, the way we all relate to one another, the way the concepts of the philosophy of Buddhism play out in day to day reality. I was falling in love with the word practice. It felt like I needed to relearn every aspect of my identity and trial and error was the only way to do so. Did I want to go back to smoking cigarettes? No. Was I going back on my coffee binge? No.

I started drinking a lot of smoothies and eating fruit. I’d never been a big fruit person but the light sweetness of pineapple became one of my favorite tastes.

When my mother started gently prodding me to attend a meeting with her, I agreed. She’d never been one to push religion on me, and since my father was Catholic, I’d attended Catholic school and gone to church as well as learned about the philosophy of Buddhism. The experience had left me ambivalent to organized religion. I have always considered myself spiritual, or sensitive, or in tune with the universe, man. The universe is hilarious, if you get its sense of humor.

I have my own code of ethics and values. I believe strongly that everyone should develop their own, and that no one has the right to tell anyone else how to live. A belief I often hang myself with since I so often tend to give advice. But when someone asks, I offer.

The meeting was early on a Sunday morning. Not a great time since I was trying my damnedest not to sleep unless it was light outside. I was diligent. I set four alarms which I didn’t end up using because I couldn’t fall asleep. So at 8am I showered and downed some coffee. I felt like a mess. I knew I was going to have to see people I hadn’t seen in a long time, people that had known me since I was a child.

My hair was half dyed blonde. I was skinny from not eating and sleeping and I didn’t have many clothes, and not any nice ones. When I looked in the mirror I thought: Why do I feel like I should look presentable today? It wasn’t as though the Buddhists would care. I shrugged at my own reflection. This is what they get. This is what I am.

I had begun to be more comfortable with that since getting pregnant. I was beginning to realize just how beyond caring I was at what anyone else decided to think of me. It was a little frightening. It made my recreation of self more daunting. I was going to have to throw out everything I’d been enacting because of other people’s opinions and ideas.

My mom and I arrived at the meeting a few minutes late (as usual). We sat cross-legged on the floor next to one another. I began at once to feel that special glow of comradery in my belly. I looked around the room at the other familiar and not so familiar faces. Some people were perched on chairs and some on the floor, everyone chanting in unison. Some faces were concentrated, lips moving furiously. Each breath taken was heard and as the chanting continued, each minute brought the room closer to synchronization. The air began to hum; a melody I had forgotten.

The room swelled with the noise, the vibrations echoing through me like little earthquakes. It felt like a cotton-ball was stuffed in my throat. I wanted to join in but all I could really do was hum faintly along with the rhythm. There were tears in the corners of my eyes. The scroll enshrined in the butsudan glared down at me. I glanced at the lotus compass tattooed on my left forearm. The singing bowl rung out like a gong. It was time to think of those who had passed away. The image of my grandmother, always cloaked in a sweater too big for her, holding a ceramic mug of coffee and milk. The little curled up body flashed before my eyes again. It’s okay, It’s okay, It’s okay. I told myself. My mother had told me that I’d said that during the miscarriage, like a chant.

There was a thick red oriental rug on the floor, over the standard grey carpet of any Midwestern home built in the late nineties. The butsudon, or altar, sat on top of an antique chest painted turquoise with lotus flowers dancing in each paneled door.

A compass and a lotus in blue and purple ink. A reminder of the wise women who had raised me, a link to my own eclectic heritage. The idea had been to move from my center, but where was my center now?