My parents named me wrong. “Lisa Marie” comes from Elvis Presley’s daughter, and I’ve not a lick of rhythm. With a name like that, dreamy and ethereal, I should waltz or glide or at least shimmy through my days. Instead, I mostly trip. A lot.
Dancing is an art that requires letting go. First, you build the muscle memory. Then, you trust your limbs. Instead, I stumble over expectations – my own and others I imagine. I am a coiled-spring ball of focus, nearly brutal in intent, my fist white-knuckled on the slender neck of time.
My choreography of minutes is completely without rhythm. I pile lessons, plans, and schedules in precarious heaps that block out all the light. Rushing, always rushing. No one moves fast enough for me – not the lady in aisle ten, the red sedan on Rt. 2, not my kids, or the dog, and definitely not my husband, a man who actually sees the world he lives in – and takes time to enjoy it. I inhale coffee like a demon and cry when the computer freezes, as if it were a personal cosmic curse.
For many years, I’ve tried to be a robot. Robots never tire. They never need a nap, or an early night. Robots don’t need hydration or protein or a good, dark chocolate. Robots finish the laundry and the dishes and they get the kids to dance on time. If a robot were a writer, its novels would all be epics, perfectly crafted, twice a year. A robot never rests.
Now my gears have gotten stuck. Five months after hitting my head, I still have post-concussion syndrome. My brain doesn’t work the way it used to. Even simple tasks like pumping gas or paying bills require extra concentration. Writing is like running through the dark and crashing into walls.
Let’s face it. If I were a robot, I’d be on the junk heap, wires crossed and fried.
Instead, I’m on the coast of Maine, watching the tides move in and out. They are slower than I imagined, taking hours to shift from high to low. Nothing rushes them. They have their own steady and inviolate rhythm. The fish and crabs and lobsters, the gulls and herons and cormorants, all depend upon the grace of tides.
Maybe Isak Dinesen was right in her creed that “The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” For months, I’ve tried to push to the other side of loss. I’ve cried at every stumble. Now, I am delivered to the ocean, to the rhythms of the sea. I sway in the cove-shore hammock, my daughter nestled close. I roast marshmallows at the fire pit, and squish them in s’mores. Such sticky, gooey sweetness would ruin any robot’s gears.
There is a still point in every rhythm, a silence between beats. Without that pause, there’s nothing but cacophony, an endless burst of noise. That’s what I’ve been living. I’m not sure why I fight the stillness, why I push away the waiting. Maybe it feels too much like surrender, a loosening of the reins I’ve always held so close. Maybe I’m not sure what could happen in the pauses, what might open up or change, or what might blow away.
Robots seem invulnerable, but they cannot feel the sun. They haven’t any rhythms. Without muscle memory and a letting go, they cannot learn to dance. My rhythms, such as they are, have always been in language, in the cadence of my writing. Post-concussion, those beats and trills are difficult to summon. I need hours to do what used to take me minutes. I am still trying too hard, still tripping on myself. I haven’t found the hidden truth buried in my name, some ethereal lightness or deep and natural grace. Still, I’ve always been a dreamer. Maybe dreaming by the ocean is at least a place to start.
How do you find ways to slow down in an express-lane world? What is your secret for choosing s’mores over circuitry? And, what does your name say or fail to capture about who you really are?