Sunday, March 23, 2014

One More Year

Guilt is fashioned in so many forms. No one is immune to it, of course. I often suspect that those who talk most about living "guilt-free" are the ones who feel most consistently culpable.

I keep staring at this slowly sinking pit in the top of my hand, where my bone has disintegrated like quick sand. And I feel guilty. I feel guilty for being the type of person who would spend as much time as I have this past month googling images of wildly expensive high-top sneakers. I can't stop running my fingers over the hole in my hand, thinking of how I joked about it, laughing nervously at first, and then hysterically to myself. The embarrassment of jokes falling flat.

I've never seen anything like this. That's what the endocrinologist said. And the look on his face. . .

I'm fine--nothing more than the universe offering me another opportunity to be pointlessly afraid. Useless fear. But I thought: what if I wasn't okay? What if the doctor's suspicions grew long spindly legs and walked right into my reality?

The hole in my hand: lacuna. And suddenly the black hole renders everything clear. It's hard to know what's important on some days. I often feel that living in Los Angeles is one of the most difficult--if thrilling--endeavors. Everything is opaque here.

But what if I wasn't okay?

The answer is made simple via the space in my hand. I inevitably started to consider worst-case scenarios. One year. That's it, give or take a few weeks. What would I do? And this is where the high-top sneakers came bounding in. They were immediately the source of my guilt, a symbol of my shallowness. I have thought incessantly about high-top sneakers--in between agonizing about European anti-Semitism and suppressing anxiety about unfinished essays--while trying to fall asleep on some nights.

My fingers, dipping down into the hole in my hand. And I realize how much time and energy I waste on things that are meaningless, all while complaining that I don't have the time to pursue what matters most. What if I had only one year--how would I live? What parts of my life would I discard or abandon? Would I write? Would I teach? It's an ideal exercise in deciphering what matters most.

I don't know if I would keep teaching. Maybe just in small doses. I do know that I would finish my "it's nearly finished" book on the midrashic impulse in art and literature. I didn't have to think twice about that. I also know that I would write letters to my son every day. I would write love letters to my husband too. I would travel. I would linger more carefully in front of my favorite paintings. I would drink just as much wine, but I would do it with the friends and family I love, rather than alone and in front of the blank screen of a computer.

I would not google high-top sneakers. Or any other sneakers. It wouldn't even occur to me.

I suppose there's no reason why I can't behave as if there's just one more year.