January journal

I am sick again, for the second time in a month. Something in the cold/flu family, again, but not the same thing; the symptoms are markedly different. I need to make caring for my body less of a theory and more of a regular practice.

Where does my time go, these days? I’m not really sure, but I don’t mind. I am not idle. Some of it goes to the necessities of home and self: cooking, cleaning up, laundry, a little exercise (not enough). Because of these two episodes of illness I have made or ordered so much soup these past weeks. Chicken soup, beef soup, pork soup, soup with beans, soup with herbs, soup with greens, soup with butternut squash or celery root or mizuna, soup with noodles or matzo balls or just fresh bread alongside. I would say I am tired of soup only it feels so good when I’m not well. But I may lay off the soup for a while, after I recover. (But that’s what I thought last time.)

I’ve been writing, hard writing, on a piece I hope will be published in March. I put a lot of myself into that piece, which is maybe why I’m sick again. Does it drain the physical body, to dig into my emotional history? I say it does. I have seen science-ish articles that say so too, but I don’t really care; there are things my body knows (and yet I don’t listen). I can’t even imagine how much more real this is for someone with a truly traumatic past. Mine is mostly just the everyday sensitivity of living. It felt really good to write the piece. It felt like it mattered. When I finished it I realized who I’d written it for: my younger self, younger maybe only by months and not just years. She needed to read this, but instead she grew into someone who wrote it. I am satisfied with that.

I haven’t been drawing so much. I went to a friend’s house and her little daughter — one of these children whose eyes know everything — offered me pages from her coloring book, and we all sat together and colored. I was in the middle of wrestling with my writing and it felt amazingly straightforward to sit on a low pouf and make leaves green and enliven a butterfly with psychedelic combinations of yellow and purple and blue. Other than that, though, I’ve been visually depleted. I told Adwoa that it had been so long since I last created anything visual and she said, “But didn’t you just…?” and I cast back and said, “It’s been almost two weeks.” So that, to me, now feels like an eternity without painting. This is good.

This was what I did (more than two weeks ago now):

Sketch of Third St, Dogpatch neighborhood, San Francisco

And this, days before that, a lovely lady I had just met:

Portrait of M., by Lisa Hsia

I was thinking last night as I lay awake (was it the Sudafed? or the chest ache?) that in spite of all the clutter and all my activities and interests, in one significant way there is a minimalism to my life. I have the ridiculous good fortune to not have to worry about how to feed, clothe, or house myself; I don’t have to worry about a child’s needs or (yet) an aging parent’s. The only real question that faces me daily is about the meaning of my life, both to myself and in the world. I mean, this is the universal question, but it gets to be quite a bit more central in my life than in most. This situation isn’t without its angst, but I feel more sanguine lately (or is it the Sudafed? or is it that piece of writing?). I feel like I’m getting to something.

May you feel, today and all days, free, and loved, and capable.