Posted by: MC | May 20, 2011

“I’m not done yet.”

My friend Murry is in a protracted conversation with esophageal cancer.  He knows all too well that his condition didn’t come from nowhere.

The president spoke yesterday to matters in the Middle East – to the changes signified with the public uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.  He spoke to Israel and Palestine– to that protracted conversation.  We all know that none of that came from nowhere.

Today I took a photo of a storefront in my neighborhood.  Barber Babes, a local small business for the past 3 years, appears to have folded.  There’s such courage in even the most edgy (and, I gotta say, creative) small business ventures of the recession.

Murry would like the poetry in this photo – the camp branding, its variously offensive and enticing cliché; the courage and optimism implicit in starting a business in the recession and the achingly disheartening reality of failure.  It’s the stuff of great country music – or if you don’t like country music, think of folk ballads or blues, of jazz or rap.  Whatever the genre, it’s a feeling Murry can pull out of guitar strings, partly because he knows the texture and gravity at the center of everything this storefront window represents.

I just got off the phone with my friend.  He’s in another hospital.  “They’re discharging me today,” Murry said.  Then he said, “I’m not done yet.”

We’re not done, either.  We’re pretty worn down as a country.  We’re variously worn down in these individual lives.  And still we wake up every day and give it another shot.  Sometimes the best we can do is breathe.  And if, like some of Murry’s days lately, that’s all we can do, we do that as well as we can because that’s our part.

Our president does his part, the women who used to cut hair at Barber Babes do their part; on and on and on.  Some parts being played out disgust or horrify us.  Some awe and inspire.  Some, maybe even most aren’t even visible to anyone but the people living them.  And, for sure, most of us neither recognize nor value the parts we play as they contribute to keeping the whole thing going.

I’m not sure what all of this means, or whether it’s even important to know.  But I do know Murry’s words are right.  He’s not done yet.  We’re not done yet.

There’s some truth in what my mama used to say when I wanted to go play but there were chores left to do.  “Well, I guess you better get busy,” she’d say.  Yep.  We need to do that.  But, here in the world of grown ups – of disputed lands and religious beliefs, of economy and bodies that sometimes fail – there’s something that needs to come first and all along the way.  We need to get better at noticing the quiet between the chores, between the fun.  We need to give ourselves respite in the reality that we’re still here and we’re still going.  Maybe we need to give a few minutes to noticing what’s working, what feels ok – even good, what’s going right.  We need a little rest between all the busi-ness.

The demands Murry’s body is making on him these days, the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East, the economic volatility as it plays across the days of everyday people – all of these things will be around whether we rest or not.  We’ll just be less able to deal if we keep pounding on them with what’s left of our already weary life forces.

Early this morning, I walked to a meet-up with friends.  Today will be the second of two days  in Portland, OR with blue sky and temps in the 70s.  The citizens of the Rose City are thrilled.  The rain has been particularly relentless this winter and even though the clouds will be back tomorrow, there’s no missing the reassurance people are drawing from the sun’s guest appearance.   Maybe we’re cheap dates; and maybe we’re resilient souls.  Maybe both.

Anyway, on my walk this morning I plugged myself into the teeny-weeny electric blue I-shuffle my daughter gave me.  My sandaled feet were feeling the chill of the 43 degree dawn, but the sun was out and making its promises.  The flowers were already outdoing the color spectrum and weaving into all of this were the mellow strands of Alexi Murdoch’s voice.

Your whole life is here.
No eleventh hour reprieve.
Don’t forget to breathe.

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