#34: Everything I learned, I learned in the kindergarten bathroom.
I had an epiphany in September while sitting on the toilet in the kindergarten bathroom at work. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I just needed a time-out, and the padded safe room was taken. September was the rolling combat tank of 2018, and every time I looked at it, I forgot how to breathe: two shows that were far stranger and bigger than I was used to, and a circumstantial and unavoidable reunion with the ex I hadn’t seen or spoken to since our hurtful end nearly one year prior. I’m exaggerating only a little when I say that these events, each coming one after the other in a 3-week chunk, felt like incoming missiles screaming chalky chemtrails over tall, stone walls. Every time I thought of what was coming, my hands turned sweaty, I got the shakes, and I all I wanted to do was run into the woods and hide in a log with the bugs until October.
I thought of this all day every day for weeks.
The day before the first missile was set to arrive (the reunion with the ex), the internal buzz was so chaotic that I finally put myself on a time-out in the kindergarten bathroom where I admonished myself soundly (but quietly). “What the hell is wrong with you? Pull your shit together, P.”
And then, while staring at the back of the stall door, my knees nearly to my chin, two thoughts came to me in the intuitive bend of voices that weren't mine:
1) It’s going to be whatever it is, and then it’s going to be OVER; and
2) It’s going to deliver something you need.
Awkward, uncomfortable, painful… whatever any given moment brings, time won’t freeze there. It will plod steadily along in 60 second increments until the day is finished and the next one starts, because that is the only thing Time knows how to do. Maybe there are exceptions, but I think you’d need an advanced degree in quantum mechanics to find them.
I have survived 44+ years of awkward, uncomfortable, painful moments with an uncontestable success rate of 100%. Why would this one be any different?
The second thing that came to me – that the night was going to deliver something I needed – requires a brief talk about pronoia. Not PARAnoia. PROnoia.
Pronoia is the belief that the universe (You can call it God if you want, but I don’t think it cares much what you call it.) is benevolent, loves us, and is conspiring to bring us mad amounts of joy. I first learned of pronoia from Rob Brezsny several years ago. He wrote:
The concept of pronoia proposes the hypothesis that life is a vast and intricate conspiracy designed to keep us well supplied with blessings. What kind of blessings?
Ten million dollars, a gorgeous physique, a perfect marriage, a luxurious home, and high status? Maybe.
But just as likely:
Gifts you hardly know what to do with,
Challenges that dare you to free yourself from the debilitating aspects of your suffering,
And conundrums that dare you to get smarter.
More recently, I’ve been hearing the same idea reincarnated in Natalie Roy and Kristin Hanggi from C.R.E.A.T.E. (Community Reclaiming Every Artist’s True Expression) and their podcast at The Create Series. In nearly every episode, at some point and within some context, someone utters the words, “Everything is for you.”
The power of pronoia is that if you believe that the universe loves you and wants you to be joyful, and if you believe subsequently that everything is for you, you approach inconvenience, frustration, and pain much differently than you would if you believed the universe wore cleats and had a temper. You might still be inconvenienced and frustrated, and things might still hurt, but you won’t walk away from the hard stuff empty-handed, you won’t turn bitter, and your gratitude vibe will go supersonic.
Pronoia – and “everything is for you” – has been the meaty crux of my internal work for most of 2018. And sitting on a toilet in the kindergarten bathroom, I finally got it. Not only would the reunion with the ex be fleeting and of itself, it would actually deliver something I needed, something that I didn’t even know I needed. I became so deeply curious about what that something would be that not only did the urge to hide in a log in the woods until October pass, but in its place, and quite out of nowhere, settled a general, positive, and very welcome sense of anticipation. What gift did the universe have in store for me?
The switch was so quick and brought such relief that I started to giggle.
And that’s when a tiny pair of kindergarten-sized shoes appeared just under the stall door at my feet. The handle jiggled. A blonde ponytail dangled upside down and brushed the tile. Two small hands with chipped pink nail polish pressed flat against the floor, as she peeked into my hiding place with scrunched eyebrows and purple glasses that slipped to her forehead.
“Hi,” I said.
She grunted a little bit as she righted herself and shuffled to the next stall. “Mrs. Cline told me to hurry and come right back.”
“Okay,” I said.
And then I was done, and everything was fine again.
I tell you this story, because it was one of my very favorite and most helpful moments of the entire year, and maybe it would be helpful for you, also – the messages, anyway. Not so much the image of me on the toilet. The fact that the mind can shift so unexpectedly and beautifully from a kindergarten bathroom makes it just absurd enough to stick.
Incidentally, all missiles launched in September turned into cartoons before impact. The reunion was exactly what it was, and then it was over. The night delivered what I didn’t know I needed. Both shows happened – one with more complication than the other -- and then they ended, even the complicated one. And my survival rate of 100% remains solid and uncontested.
May it be true for you, as well.
Also in 2018:
The first mother-son camping trip by a river in Wisconsin. It was hard and hot and loaded with bugs, but important and good and repeatable.
The brief honor of care-taking a sick butterfly my son named Polka-Dot.
The welcoming of 7/8-year-old Vinny Cat into the fold.
The completion of the shitty first draft of the book I started in October 2017. It needs a complete rewrite, which I’ll coax out in 2019, but this is the farthest I’ve gotten on any lengthy manuscript, and I’m proud of that. (Photo intentionally obscured here so you can't zoom in and read the true shittiness of the shitty first draft.)
A solo road trip to Colorado with my 3-legged dog. (He has 4 legs. But only 3 of them work.) I got witchy under August’s new moon where I burned and buried hatchets in the mountains.
Then I came back and learned that sometimes hatchets resurface, and you have to burn and bury them again. Just like wounds that have to be healed and re-healed and cords that wind and unwind. It’s all okay, I guess. Maybe it’s like the spiral of a nautilus shell, and you pick up something new each trip around. (An idea I believe I culled from my wise friend, Kara, at Joyful Resonance.) Regardless, what else are you going to do with your time?
2019: More of the same, I predict. With an added bonus: Album #3, set to begin in January.