Derek DelGaudio does a one man show called “In and Of Itself.” In it, he uses magic skillfully in the telling of a story about the seen and the unseen in the human experience. He says (not a direct quote, but I’m close), “When you look at the sun, you can’t really see much. But if you turn away from it, everything is illuminated.”
We’ve been looking at the sun for a long time. Reaching for it as though that reaching were a virtue. I think a lot of our obsession with success is cloaked in the metaphor of reaching for the sun. “Get more clients,” “Grow your email list,” “Live your dream!” There’s nothing wrong with succeeding, or fulfilling your dreams. But we get carried away and end up mistaking the sun for what it illuminates.
We run and run and run…reaching for the light, trying to make ourselves bigger so our pockets will hold more of it. We try to gather more light per the five steps we just learned about in whatever webinar we just watched. We keep checking, looking up directly into the sun — thinking if we train our vision on what we want, it will manifest. When all we’re really doing is going blind.
Get the sun behind you.
Turn away from the sun, and everything will be illuminated.
Turning away from the sun, I have my dog who coughs himself awake every morning, deep explosions of death breath, clearing his lungs so he can start his gentlemanly day with us. We walk down the sidewalk, him and me. We know the drill. I change directions when he’s bored. I sometimes carry him home when he’s tired. I run with him when he’s up. I don’t let him pee on people’s garbage cans. Only telephone poles and trees. Our walk is illuminated. He is illuminated.
Turning away from the sun, I have my mother-in-law. She is ninety-two years old with dementia, living in the same phrases, the same seven stories. She tells them and retells them. They are guardrails keeping her in conversation. They are bodyguards against the terror of right now. She tells them and retells them — same physical gestures, same words, same rhythm, same point. She tells them close to my face, tugging on my forearm with a strong bony finger to make sure I’m listening.
And all I want is for it to stop…for please dear God not again with the aunt at the cemetery, or the mom at the back of the classroom, or the thing that her grandfather always used to say and why. All I want is sun and more sun. But this is what the sun is illuminating. This is what it’s showing me: the precious human contact with a very old woman, pulling time into a longer length, stalling, puttering around, forgetting.
“Mrs. T, let’s take your blood reading,” I say, and for the next fifteen minutes, I have to wait while she puts her shoes on. If I try to help, it makes her furious. She struggles in the other room, moving at a snail’s great grandmother’s pace. Grunting as she reaches down, she finds the edge of the shoe, emitting percussive death breath of her own with each part of this simple endeavor. She brings the shoe toward her foot. She lifts her foot. She places it in the shoe…every action so fraught with difficulty it’s like she’s moving furniture.
And she is. She’s moving the furniture of her ancient, fragile little body — a body with an inexplicable, ox-like tenacity for all its ‘weakness.’ She’s still here. She’s still here and she’s pissed.
When I turn away from the sun of my ambitions, I am here too, with her, in her kitchen. And it’s beautiful because I’ve stopped waiting for something better. I was supposed to sing at Carnegie Hall. I was supposed to write a Tony-Award-winning musical. I was supposed to make shit happen. I had bigger designs for my life.
As it turns out, my life had even bigger designs for me.
I am here to experience the sun, and the turning away, and patience and attention, and kindness, and the whole, sacred, unfathomable mess of the illuminated world.
May all beings benefit.