It’s not particularly late. I think it has just turned midnight as I began typing this sentence. I used to stay up much later than this to write, sometimes until the sun started to insinuate itself around the edges of my window coverings which, though I measured twice, never seem to be up to the task of blocking it out completely, and everyone knows there are days when then sun’s job is to be hidden.
But it feels late to me now. I tend to go to bed earlier these days. I tend to begin feeling I’ve depleted my fuel by late afternoon, and the evening is just a sham. Just rolling down the hill in neutral.
I got up because I needed something to eat and remembered that my wife had bought me Pop Tarts. She’d heard me complaining a while ago that I could never find my favorite variety (unfrosted raspberry) and turned that complaint into a quest. She also failed to find them, but got a couple of other boxes instead. One was the annoying cousin of my favorite, frosted raspberry, which tries like a little trooper but does not pass muster.
I walked into the kitchen. My wife keeps a series of strategically placed but relatively dim nightlights, including the one in the stove hood which does a decent job of illuminating the kitchen and so I begin my Pop Tart excursion under that degree of brightness.
It works out fine for the most part. I do not burn my hand in the toaster oven, once it’s finished its ominous time-bomb like ticking and rewards me with the old-school kitchen timer “ding” as I’m pouring myself a too-large glass of milk. I’ll drink it all, don’t get me wrong, but it is way more milk than two Pop Tarts are going to require. It seems to me that the toaster oven rang fairly quickly, which is likely part of the reason I didn’t burn my hand. It’s barely warmed through but I decide not to delay any longer even though they dubious tarts might actually pass as a pleasant repast if only they were a little more toasted…
But never mind, because right after pulling out the rack on which their molecular speed was mildly accelerated and transferring them onto a folded paper towel which will play three roles (conveyance, plate, and post snack cleanup), I stepped in a small puddle of cold water on the floor. Just a little reminder that my dog, while true and pure of heart, is a freaking slob when he drinks from his 3-Gallon Gravity Bowl™.
It does more than just remind me of that semi-gross, mostly-adorable trait. It cements a gradually expanding sense of being aware of the sensations that are rapidly revealing themselves and coalescing into the totality of the moment. I suppose, if you’ve ever stepped in cold liquid on a floor you expect to be dry, it won’t surprise you to learn this was the sensation that triggered the sense awareness.
Now I must decide between sensory overload or an opportunity to find Zen.
Because I could smell the barely warm toaster pastries now, as well as the reheated crumbs, remnants of past visitors to the large heating-box, these not completely presenting themselves as burned, but certainly not giving that “fresh bread baking” aroma. I’m aware of the coldness of the milk glass, appearing even more freakishly large now, the weight of it significant in my left hand, as I balance the paper towel and it’s recumbent treats. It is demonstrating the continuum of sensation in being both colder than the ground water and heavier than the main attraction. And for it’s skillful TED talk level rapid education I give it an appreciative nod.
I think back, as I prepare to quit the kitchen, upon the sound of the toaster oven as it was counting down its too-short business day, and that time-bomb image returns, though in my frustrated Foley artist’s mind, I realize it was the sound not of the old-style alarm clock, wired to sticks of actual red dynamite perhaps actually stamped with the black block letters spelling the word “ACME”, but rather the ticking of a clock buried somewhat in whatever container (in this case the toaster oven, of course, but resist the temptation to be literal for a moment) was to be its final mode of locomotion. A somewhat muted ticking, all the more ominous for its pianissimo.
And I move into my office, where I’ve already decided I would eat my (literal) midnight snack and now, I realized, where I will write about the experience of being shaken awake by the sensations through which I’m passing, and which are passing through me. It bothers me a little, because the feelings are always there, always in place and ready to be experienced, yet I so rarely find the time to offer the sensations the consideration they clearly deserve.
It is indicative of a shift, I suppose (hope, pray, wish upon a star for), from the malaise I’ve allowed to grow up these past days.
Alright the past week.
Okay, for a long, long time.
I suppose the question remains. I suppose the truth cannot be denied. To where, one must ask, am I shifting, and will it take me to a better place, or just show me the same clawing cloud of mind-numbing negativity from a different angle?
And my mind fixes, at last, upon it’s own sensations. Those it generates. Those it perceives from within the particle accelerator itself.
And therein, as ever, lies the rub. It is the pitiful, squid on a marble floor splat that is my brain devouring itself that is usually the anchoring sensation. The sound of my own brain ravenously playing Saturn to it’s sons, my thoughts, is generally the quickest snapper-backer I possess. By far.
Because that sound spells disaster. And that sound is ever so easy to hear because it is unhidden. It is not muffled inside of a box. It is not carried to me on a distant breeze. There is no music to drown out the wet deflation. Reddest of flags, that. Crimson, cardinal, coral, rose all the way down to ruddy and rufescent.
When the music stops those who are inclined to this sort of inductive rumination generally begin to speak in terms of chickens and of eggs. And they address, in these round- (or square-, or no-) table discussions, the primacy of one as opposed to the other. Which came first? The swirling maelstrom of utter darkness, which drowned out the unrelenting joy that music insists upon delivering? Or did the hushing of the sacred tones bring on the night?
The point, in the words of the great philosopher Joey Tribbiani, is moo. It doesn’t matter, like a cow’s opinion. [Ed. Note: In these current times of far greater enlightenment, we would as a society, no doubt, decry the writers, producers, sponsors of Friends, and perhaps Matt LeBlanc himself, for allowing that unsharpened tack of a soap opera actor to defame cows in such a shameful blah blah blah.]
It’s moot because it will reverse.
The music will return and the angst will become numbed by something eye-catching. A new thought for a new book, a topic that needs to be researched, a new lover, a cause, a… a trigger.
And the last sensation of the evening before I click publish and drag my autumnally arthritic joints back into the bed, is the decriminalization of the word “trigger.”
I use that seven-letter arrangement all the time to talk about the switch that fires up the furnace. That untended biting tone, that expression reminiscent of a call from the abuser’s playbook, those things clearly and chicly appear on the flashcard that reveals the word “trigger” when turned toward the class.
But I will let music trigger healing. And I will let healing trigger writing, and I will let writing trigger music and…
…and there you have it. The glory of mindfulness, even to the most mundane sensation, is that by simply waking the mind from its own cannibalism one can trigger art and beauty and salvation.
And so it has.